R Michael Broyde / A number of years ago I wrote an article addressing celebrating Thanksgiving according to halacha, which concluded that many halachic authorities accept that: 1) Thanksgiving is a secular holiday with secular origins 2) While some people celebrate Thanksgiving with religious rituals, this is unusual, and does not cause Thanksgiving to be classified as a Christian holiday 3) Jewish law permits one to celebrate secular holidays, but not with people who celebrate them religiously. The article concluded that according to most poskim (including Rabbis Feinstein, Soloveitchik and many others) Jewish law permits one to have a private Thanksgiving celebration with one’s Jewish or secular friends and family, so long as one does not treat Thanksgiving as a religious ritual or holiday.[1]Such conduct is proper in my view and I generally celebrate Thanksgiving, although as Rabbi Yehuda Henkin notes, I do so without any religious fervor and sometimes skip a year, as I did this last year, since my eldest son was married on Thanksgiving day.

Is New Year’s Kosher?

Print pagePDF pageEmail page

Celebrating New Year’s Day and Halacha

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta, and is a member (dayan) in the Beth Din of America

Introduction

A number of years ago I wrote an article addressing celebrating Thanksgiving according to halacha, which concluded that many halachic authorities accept that:

  1. Thanksgiving is a secular holiday with secular origins
  2. While some people celebrate Thanksgiving with religious rituals, this is unusual, and does not cause Thanksgiving to be classified as a Christian holiday
  3. Jewish law permits one to celebrate secular holidays, but not with people who celebrate them religiously.

The article concluded that according to most poskim (including Rabbis Feinstein, Soloveitchik and many others) Jewish law permits one to have a private Thanksgiving celebration with one’s Jewish or secular friends and family, so long as one does not treat Thanksgiving as a religious ritual or holiday.[1] Such conduct is proper in my view and I generally celebrate Thanksgiving, although as Rabbi Yehuda Henkin notes, I do so without any religious fervor and sometimes skip a year, as I did this last year, since my eldest son was married on Thanksgiving day.

Shortly after that, I was asked about trick or treating on Halloween, and I concluded that halacha prohibits celebrating Halloween by wearing a costume while collecting candy, since Halloween has a clear pagan origin and in order to celebrate a holiday with a clear pagan origin one of four conditions must be met:

  1. Halloween celebrations have an additional secular origin.
  2. The conduct of the individuals “celebrating Halloween” can be rationally explained independent of Halloween.
  3. The pagan origins of Halloween or the Catholic response to it are so deeply hidden that they have disappeared, and the celebrations can be attributed to some secular source or reason.
  4. The activities memorialized by Halloween are actually consistent with the Jewish tradition.

Since it was clear to me that none of these statements are true, I concluded that celebrating Halloween by dressing in a costume was prohibited.[2]

A few years later, I was asked about celebrating Valentine’s Day (February 14) from the view of halacha. I concluded that Valentine’s day has a clearly Christian origin but that the Christian origin has nearly completely vanished in our secular society. I argued that celebrating Valentine’s Day is quite different from Halloween, which also has lost much of its religious origins, and understanding the reason for this difference is very important. Halloween has an irrational component to it in which the form of celebrating can only be justified and explained by having it traced back to its gentile origins (dressing in costume and trick & treating). On the other hand, the mode of Valentine’s Day celebrations can be explained in our secular society completely rationally, grounded in such notions as sharing love, noting friendship and (perhaps most importantly) eating chocolate. Each of these values are not inherently religious or can be explained rationally, as the Rama (YD 178:1) requires for transposing actions with religious origins into secular practices that Jews can engage in.

That article made the following observation, which is important to recall. Even when a holiday is completely pagan in nature, halacha still recognizes that this does not make all modes of involvement prohibited. Rabbi Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Yoreh Deah 4:11(4)) is logically correct in his observation that:

Thus, it is obvious in my opinion, that even in a case where something would be considered a prohibited Gentile custom, if many people do it for reasons unrelated to their religion or law, but rather because it is pleasurable to them, there is no prohibition of imitating Gentile custom. So too, it is obvious that if Gentiles were to make a religious law to eat a particular item that is good to eat, halacha would not prohibit eating that item. So too, any item of pleasure in the world cannot be prohibited merely because Gentiles do so out of religious observance.

Thus, I concluded that eating chocolate on Valentine’s Day and even giving chocolate to another, so long as there is not notation of why such is being giving, is permissible, even if one disagreed with the analysis above and thought Valentine’s Day was still a Christian holiday. The same can be said for any activity intrinsically of value, such as a husband expressing his love of his wife, or giving flowers to a beloved — each of which would be a nice gesture all year round.

I concluded that it was the conduct of the pious to not overtly celebrate Valentine’s day, although bringing home chocolate, flowers or even jewelry to one’s wife is always a nice idea all year around, including on February 14.[3]

Celebrating January 1st and Jewish Law

January 1st as New Years day has a clearly pagan origin. As Wikipedia notes (link):

The Romans dedicated this day to Janus, the god of gates, doors, and beginnings. The month of January was named after Janus, who had two faces, one looking forward and the other looking backward. This suggests that New Year’s celebrations are founded on pagan traditions. Some have suggested this occurred in 153 BC, when it was stipulated that the two annual consuls (after whose names the years were identified) entered into office on that day, though no consensus exists on the matter. Dates in March, coinciding with the spring equinox, or commemorating the Annunciation of Jesus, along with a variety of Christian feast dates were used throughout the Middle Ages, though calendars often continued to display the months in columns running from January to December.

It is quite clear that on a historical level that Catholic Europe celebrated New Years day religiously for centuries. Indeed, consider the simple remarks of the Rama writing in the Darchei Moshe YD 148 quoting the Terumat Hadeshen. He states:

It is written in the Terumat Hadeshen 195 that even nowadays one who wants to send [gifts] on the eighth day after Christmas which is called New Years should send such [gifts] during the day before [December 31st] and not on the day of the holiday, itself. And if the day before the holiday falls out on Shabbat, one may send on the day of the holiday, itself as there is a matter of hatred [eiva] if one sends later than that or more before then.

While the Rama in the Shulchan Aruch (YD 148:12) does not quote this formulation exactly, it is clear to me that this is function of censorship within the Rama and not because the matter is in dispute. According to Rama, New Year’s day is a Christian Holiday (indeed the formulation in the Terumat Hadeshen makes it clear that we are discussing the eighth day of Christmas as much as New Year’s day) whose celebration must be avoided and can only be marked when long term life threatening hatred to our community will result if gifts are not given.

On the other hand, the reality seems to have completely changed. New Year’s Day – like Valentine’s Day and unlike Christmas – seems to have completely lost its Christian overtones.[4] Even in the deep Christian South where I live there are no indicia that connect New Years Day to Christianity. The “first generation” Hindu and Muslim communities in Atlanta – who would never celebrate Christmas – have New Year’s Eve parties. It is obvious that the status of New Year’s Day has changed in the last three hundred years.

Indeed, in contemporary America there is little religious content or expression to New Year’s Day. Few would classify it as a religious holiday, as there is a clear secular method and reason to celebrate New Year’s day, and thus it has lost its status as a Christian Holiday. Rabbi Feinstein notes this directly himself in Iggerot Moshe (Even Haezer 2:13). He writes with regard to New Year’s:

The first day of the year for them [January 1] . . . is not prohibited according to law, but pious people [baalei nefesh] should be strict.

This insight, written in 1963, is even more true nowadays. The Christian origins of New Year’s is even more cloaked now than a half century ago.

Modes of Celebration

My own sense is that the central question here is “what do we really mean by celebrating” and that this is a good tool to use to determine how we ought to conduct ourselves as a matter of halacha. Since New Year’s Day clearly has a pagan origin, the basic rule that we ought to follow is found in the Rama YD 178:1, who seems to rule that in order to permit engaging in conduct that might have pagan origins, one must show one of four things.

  1. The debated activity has a secular origin or value.
  2. The conduct the individuals engage in can be rationally explained independent of the gentile holiday or event.
  3. The pagan origins are so deeply hidden that they have disappeared, and the celebrations can be attributed to some secular source or reason.
  4. The activities memorialized are actually consistent with the Jewish tradition.

This method of analysis seems applicable to New Year’s as well, which clearly has a Christian origin. Each of the various activities of the day need to measure against that test. So, for example, I think that one can schedule davening on New Year’s Day on a Sunday schedule even as that “celebrates” the day in some way, as later davening time can be explained since people do not work on January 1, and sleeping later is a rational activity and thus that is permitted. So too, I think an employer who own a business is much better off as a matter of halacha giving New Year’s bonuses to workers than giving Christmas bonuses. So too, I think that one can go to an office New Year’s Eve party when one feels that such conduct is needed and part of the culture of the office one works. Assuming other aspects of Jewish law can be observed, I think that Rav Moshe’s assertion that avoiding such a party is the conduct of the pious is correct, and technical Jewish law permits such.

Conclusion

Jewish law has a clear method for analyzing whether secular holidays are religious, such as Christmas, and thus prohibited in celebration at all, or completely secular in origins (such as July 4th or Thanksgiving Day) and thus permitted in celebration. There is as well a middle category of holidays which have Christian origins but which are now celebrated secularly, and in such a case, halacha asks whether the mode of secular celebration can be rationally explained or the religious origins are fully hidden and have been replaced with a secular source or reason.


[1] See “The Celebrating of Thanksgiving at the End of November: A Secular or Religious Holiday,” J. Halacha & Contemporary Society 30:42-66 (1995).
[2] See “Celebrating Secular Holidays,” Emunah Magazine 28-32 (Fall, 2000).
[3] See http://ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v51/mj_v51i27.html
[4] This has nothing to do with the mode of celebration which I will discuss in the next section. Of course, celebrating New Year’s Day by engaging in public drunkenness or inappropriate parties is a violation of Jewish law – no different than celebrating Chanukah or Thursday nights in such a way.

About Michael Broyde

153 comments

  1. LongTimeReader

    Enjoying the article but I can’t find the footnotes.

  2. A Chassidic Rebbe once commented to his sexton “Happy New Year”. Looking at his Rebbe in bewilderment the Rebbe answered “ה’ יספור בכתוב עמים”

  3. For more context on the Shu’T in Terumat ha’Deshen, see pp. 115-116 in Prof. Elisheva Carlebach’s recent book Palaces of Time: http://tinyurl.com/d4sxyn3

  4. “so long as one does not treat Thanksgiving as a religious ritual or holiday”

    Shearith Israel in Manhattan has been treating Thanksgiving as a religious holiday — a Jewish religious holiday — since 1789. They omit Tachanun and recite much of Hallel. The very first Thanksgiving Day Sermon ever to be published was by Gershom Mendes Seixas.

    The poskim who ban Thanksgiving are probably unaware of this history.

  5. By comparison, Thanksgiving Day appears on the liturgical calendar of no Christian Church that I’ve ever heard of. So if Thanksgiving is a religious holiday, it is a Jewish religious holiday!

  6. “Dates in March, coinciding with the spring equinox, or commemorating the Annunciation of Jesus, along with a variety of Christian feast dates were used throughout the Middle Age”

    This continued in the British Empire — includng America — until 1752: The year incremented in March.

  7. My minhag for the night of December 31 is to learn the first mishnah in Rosh HaShanah, and to go to bed early.

  8. Rabbi Broyde has been accused in the past of misquoting sources in his articles and it appears that he has done so again. The teshuva that he quotes from R’ Moshe about New Years is not discussing whether one may celebrate the day. He is actually discussing whether one may make a wedding on that day or whether there is an issue of maris ayin. The clear assumption of that whole question is that to celebrate the actual day is obviously forbidden, otherwise there wouldn’t be a discussion regarding maris ayin of a wedding looking like a celebration of the holiday.
    Also as a side point, the …. that R’ Broyde skips over is R’ Moshe saying that pious people shouldn’t make a wedding on Thankskiving either, which R’ Broyde ironically notes that he did for his son last year.
    I would ask Gil to please make a note of this so that people reading the article aren’t mislead.

  9. Ploney Almoney

    Glad to live in Israel where Dec. 25th was just the 5th day of Chanukah and New Year’s is Rosh HaShanah.

  10. I think the comment by YU Student is wrong and missunderstands Rav Moshe. The marit ayin issue that Rav Moshe discusses is exactly whether one can “celebrate” in neutral ways and not whether one can appear to celebrate. That is exactly Rabbi Broyde section about modes of celebration. Skipping Thanksgiving on occassion is, as Rabbi Broyde points out in his original article, a suggestion of Rav Henkin and not Rav Moshe. FYI, the Thanksgiving article by Rabbi Broyde is considered one of the best articles written about halacha in modern America by anyone: halacha, hashkafah, and reality are well anylized from the vieews of three different world views of the Rav, Rav Moshe and Rav Hutner. A really fine piece worth re-reading regularly about how hashkafa influences halacha. It is on line if you look for it.

    Since “a YU student” opened with a personal attack on Rabbi Broyde, I will note as a YU musmacha that Roshay Yeshiva at YU accross the spctrum send musmachim to him with certain kinds of shaylot and his cell number is widely handed out to semicha students and musmachim when you ask a shayla in certain areas (like Choshen Mishpat or Even Haezer).

  11. I knew a rabbi from Boston who made a seder out of Thanksgiving. We were given sheets and at certain parts during the meal we had to drink a beer and make a comment on the Football game, and then give thanks to Hashem. It was quite fun.

    As far as new years goes, I was at a yeshiva in Monsey for a 2 week learning “outing” which coincided with New Years. Everyone I know discusse ed whether it made sense to drive down to Times Square or to just celebrate in the Yeshivah.

  12. Shachar Ha'amim

    “I knew a rabbi from Boston who made a seder out of Thanksgiving. We were given sheets and at certain parts during the meal we had to drink a beer and make a comment on the Football game, and then give thanks to Hashem. It was quite fun.

    As far as new years goes, I was at a yeshiva in Monsey for a 2 week learning “outing” which coincided with New Years. Everyone I know discusse ed whether it made sense to drive down to Times Square or to just celebrate in the Yeshivah.”

    That’s sad. In both instances everyone should have been wearing sackcloth and reciting the kinot that are usually skipped on Tisha B’av and bemoaning the fact that religious Jews are still in chutz laaretz.

  13. Isn’t it pretty clear that the existence of January 1st predated the Roman (and, of course, Christian) religious celebrations? The only question was whether it was New Year’s, but it did have a strong tradition as such from the beginning.

  14. “Isn’t it pretty clear that the existence of January 1st predated the Roman”

    No, the exact opposite. The calendar is named because of the celebration of Janus.

  15. 153 BCE is centuries after January was added to the calendar. (The calendar originally ran from March to December, with winter undefined, but they soon added two months.)

    They named it after Janus because he was the god who guarded the entrance of heaven. (Entrance, beginning of year, etc.) It doesn’t necessarily follow that there was a holiday on the first day from the start.

  16. I seem to remember a Rav Yaakov Emden at the back of Masechet Avoda Zara that seems to permit celebrating New Years.

    Ari Enkin

  17. “That’s sad. In both instances everyone should have been wearing sackcloth and reciting the kinot that are usually skipped on Tisha B’av and bemoaning the fact that religious Jews are still in chutz laaretz.”

    That is a good point as well!

    “153 BCE is centuries after January was added to the calendar.”

    Ok, I’m not sure what BCE means to you, but to me, it means before the calendar…

  18. mevaseretzion

    YU Student has misread the teshuva, though it is possible to see where he went wrong. See it for yourself here (last two paragraphs of Siman 12):

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=918&st=&pgnum=326&hilite=

  19. CHARLIE HALL:

    “Shearith Israel in Manhattan has been treating Thanksgiving as a religious holiday — a Jewish religious holiday — since 1789”

    1) that thanksgiving in 1789 was a one-time affair has no connection to the holiday that was established annually 1863.
    2) in 1789 (as well as all the earlier and later thanksgiving days) it was in general a quasi-religious holiday. not sure where you get the idea that it was davka a jewish religious holiday.
    3) not just shearith israel, but iirc mikveh israel in philadelphia as well continues to maintain that liturgical tradition

  20. “Since it was clear to me that none of these statements are true”

    not defending or condoing halloween, but i’m not convinced that statements 2-4 are indeed not true.

    also, i’m not sure why evidence of observance of new year’s parties by non-christians kashers it, when the same can be said for halloween.

  21. “Ok, I’m not sure what BCE means to you, but to me, it means before the calendar…”

    No, it means before the supposed birth of Jesus, as calculate (incorrectly) about 300 years after the fact. The calendar we use, however, is essentially the same Roman calendar set up centuries earlier.

  22. “Glad to live in Israel where Dec. 25th was just the 5th day of Chanukah and New Year’s is Rosh HaShanah.”

    during a visit a israel in the winter once i called my father and found him at home. i asked if was sick and he responded that he was off from work for christimas break. being in that week i had completely forgotten all about christmas. it was bizzarre (in a good way, of course).

    although i think i recall an article more recently that described christmas having made some inroads among chilonim as a commercial holiday for gift giving? (and certainly they celebrate new year’s)

  23. and on the subject of christmas, r. broyde goes through the major non-jewish holidays of attraction to jews, but he doesn’t discuss christmas. it seems preposterous even to consider it and self-evident that it is assur. just to note that christmas is celebrated by many russians as a secular winter festival (with a tree/plant).

  24. As always, I enjoyed R’ Broyde’s analysis and insight, but have one question. If rescheduling davening times (to a Sunday schedule) is an aspect of celebration, is it permitted to have a Sunday schedule on Christmas? Furthermore, would it even be permitted to have a Sunday schedule on Sunday (also a Christian holiday)?

  25. Furthermore, would it even be permitted to have a Sunday schedule on Sunday (also a Christian holiday)?

    Furthermore, would it even be permitted to not go to work on Sunday?

  26. Full Disclosure: Rav Broyde and I (and our wives) will be celebrating New Year’s Eve in Tel Aviv this week.

    ……but I hope to be in bed well before 12:00 am

    Ari Enkin

  27. Nachum S: I used to live in the Chaim Berlin neighborhood and can confirm that many shuls intentionally do not have a Sunday schedule on national holidays (the shtiebels are packed on those days).

    The issue is being tied to the secular calendar. Sunday is not.

  28. “Rabbi Feinstein is logically correct…”

    With all due respect, I don’t understand how any Torah scholar alive today can feel authoritative enough to give R’ Moshe his haskama (approbation).

  29. How is Sunday not tied to the secular calendar? It’s not a force of nature- come to Israel and you’ll see exactly how un-self-evident Sunday is.

    The Japanese, by the way, celebrate an entirely materialistic and non-religious Christmas. There was a big Christmas ad in the papers here last week, but it was for a place in Nazareth, which is heavily Christian. I suppose it was at least partially aimed at Jews.

  30. Charlie Hall: “By comparison, Thanksgiving Day appears on the liturgical calendar of no Christian Church that I’ve ever heard of.”

    And how is the fact that you’ve never heard of the very common and popular Thanksgiving services relevant to this discussion?

  31. With all due respect, I don’t understand how any Torah scholar alive today can feel authoritative enough to give R’ Moshe his haskama (approbation).
    ====================================
    Worthy of a post of its own, and I wouldn’t limit the topic to Torah scholars. Perhaps I would restate “Rabbi Feinstein is logically correct…” as “Based on what is stated in the tshuva, the logic seems compelling” – of course the real question is the opposite case, can one say “Based on what is stated in the tshuva, the logic does not seem compelling” (or can I only say that in the privacy of my heart)

    KT

  32. Nachum: How is Sunday not tied to the secular calendar? It’s not a force of nature

    It is part of the 7-day week, meaning it occurs ever Yom Rishon. As opposed to December 25th, which is tied to the secular calendar.

  33. WRT the aside about Valentine’s Day. It is questionable which Valentine is being commemorated, but the Catholic Church in Vat II (which demoted the holiday) assumes it’s the one buried on the Via Flaminia on Feb 14. That describes Valentine of Terni, killed in 197 CE or thereabouts. If so, he was killed because of a suppression of Judaism at a time when the Roman Empire didn’t consider Xianity a distinct religion yet. Assuming all the above were true, would it make the holiday less problematically religious in origin?

    -micha
    (New Years’ non-observer)

  34. Ploney Almoney on December 28, 2011 at 1:13 am:
    Glad to live in Israel where Dec. 25th was just the 5th day of Chanukah and New Year’s is Rosh HaShanah

    And where frum girls are cursed and spit at when they go to school???

  35. Agreed, the only mekor for a seven-day week is ma’aseh beraishis; and hence, the existence of a Sunday/Yom Rishon is based on the Torah and is tied to the Jewish calendar. (As a sidenote: The worldwide acceptance of the seven-day week is a step toward “l’saken olam b’malchus shekai.”)

    However, the distinction between Yom Rishon and the other weekdays is of non-Jewish origin. It is only because the Christians established a holiday on Yom Rishon that most of us (in chutz l’aretz) enjoy it as a day off from work. So, if sleeping late is a rational activity that celebrates a holiday, how can we schedule davening later on Sunday such that it encourages/condones sleeping late in celebration of Sunday?

  36. “With all due respect, I don’t understand how any Torah scholar alive today can feel authoritative enough to give R’ Moshe his haskama (approbation).”

    is this different than torah scholars today who feel authoritative enough to disagree with rav moshe’s psak?

  37. I know of at least one shul which schedules minyanim on their Sunday schedule for Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, but NOT for December 25.

  38. If rescheduling davening times (to a Sunday schedule) is an aspect of celebration

    I don’t think “Sunday schedule” is particular to celebration, since in most communities I have been part of, in the US and Israel, “Sunday schedule” is used for Tisha B’av as well. I think it is simply a result of days that let people sleep in…any day when most people don’t go to work would probably end up having “Sunday schedule”, regardless of mood.

  39. Shachar Ha'amim

    “although i think i recall an article more recently that described christmas having made some inroads among chilonim as a commercial holiday for gift giving? (and certainly they celebrate new year’s)”

    umm…I think you mean Chanuka

    “Hirhurim on December 28, 2011 at 9:42 am
    Nachum: How is Sunday not tied to the secular calendar? It’s not a force of nature

    It is part of the 7-day week, meaning it occurs ever Yom Rishon. As opposed to December 25th, which is tied to the secular calendar.”

    There are still jurisdictions in the USA which have “blue laws” around Sunday that clearly revolve around Sunday as a religious day of rest.

    “Hirhurim on December 28, 2011 at 10:08 am
    Ploney Almoney on December 28, 2011 at 1:13 am:
    Glad to live in Israel where Dec. 25th was just the 5th day of Chanukah and New Year’s is Rosh HaShanah

    And where frum girls are cursed and spit at when they go to school???”

    By the cousins of your immediate farfrumteh (and also fanatic and crazy) neighbors in Flatbush and Boro Park!!!

  40. In this post I show the New Year’s greeting from R. Elazar Fleckeles to Karl Fischer, the censor of Hebrew books in Prague. At the time I wrote that I wasn’t certain if it was Rosh Hashana or New Years, but now I am inclined to think that it was New Year’s since there is a note on it saying “novi anni 1822.”

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2009/10/about-r-elazar-feleckeles-and-r-bezalel.html

  41. micha,

    1. The feast day of S. Valentine was removed in 1969 by pope Paul VI in the motu proprio Mysterii Paschalis. Yes, this was based on a recommendation of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

    2. Persecution of Christians under emperor Septimius Severus was not motivated by suppression of Judaism (which also occurred under his rule) and they were not considered the same religion anymore.

    3. The Church commemorates on Easter and Xmas birth and death of a Jewish man. Does that make them any more kosher?

    4. Anyway, the origin of this festival of love is not connected with a christian martyr but with a pagan roman festival of fertility:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupercalia

  42. Ploney Almoney

    Hirhurim wrote, “And where frum girls are cursed and spit at when they go to school???”

    We can all agree that this behavior is NOT Judaism.

    ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ A significant Orthodox aliyah would serve to dramatically alter the religious and political landscape.

    I look forward to your aliyah and the contributions you will make to life here in Israel, Gil.

  43. “Hirhurim on December 28, 2011 at 10:08 am
    Ploney Almoney on December 28, 2011 at 1:13 am:
    Glad to live in Israel where Dec. 25th was just the 5th day of Chanukah and New Year’s is Rosh HaShanah

    And where frum girls are cursed and spit at when they go to school???”

    I cannot believe this comment of Gil’s. As someone who is more or less chareidi, you are deriding Israel based on the behavior of some of your fellow chareidis??????? Unbelievable.

  44. “I cannot believe this comment of Gil’s. As someone who is more or less chareidi, you are deriding Israel based on the behavior of some of your fellow chareidis??????? Unbelievable.”

    That’s ridiculous. It’s long been recognized that it is a genuine problem that Americans who are, or think they are Chareidi, are in for a rude awakening when they move to Israel and discover that there is no place for them as they are, and it’s a choice between choosing a path that they’ve been led to believe their whole life is religiously wrong, or the path of total ignorance and poverty for their progeny.

  45. MiMedinat HaYam

    since russians was mentioned, i was told that new years day was (and is) celebrated by russian jews, since it was the only legal holiday NOT tied to communist events.

    nachum l — rambam hilchot avoda zara discusses the origins of christmas and new years in the context of adam harishon thinking he was being punished by the shortening (lengthening) of the day, till eight days later, when he realized it was a “natural” phenomenon, not a punishment. which led to pagan feast of saturnalia, sylvester, etc.

    nachum s — i was going to agree with you about non jewish acceptance of seven day week coming from breishit (without necessarily your concept of “letaken olam bemalchut shadai”)

    however, issue of french, for example, who begin the week on monday.

    halloween — satmar chassidim in new square had a deal with the local school board for special education with no religious activities, etc. till the kids came home with halloween. so is that religious, or not? (which led to formation of separate school district, and supreme court litigation, etc.)

    blue laws, it can be argued, are not religious in nature today. the most jewish heavily populated county in new jersey has blue laws for convenience reasons, not for religious reasons. (possible counterargument — origins)

    valentines — so is tu be’av not celebrated because of valentines day, or because of effects of the elements that moved in to bet shemesh?

  46. All I’m saying is that living in Israel is no honeymoon. Ramat Beit Shemesh is the kind of place to which I would move, and look at what I would have to put up with.

    The “another reason to make aliyah” people tend to forget about this.

    And the idea that my aliyah could change things is ridiculous considering the minimal impact of my friends and teachers. Americans are ignored.

  47. I would comment more on our host’s recent comment, but I think this discussion has enough tangents already. RGS, want to post something on the spiritual dangers of aliyah so I could comment there?

  48. Ploney Almoney

    Micha,

    “Spiritual dangers of aliyah?”

    PLEASE….what are you neturei karta now?

    And Gil – Americans are not ignored here in Israel. That’s just silly.

  49. I think it’s more the case that people who are used to American charedi religious standards and are not gung ho Zionists have no real Israeli framework in which to integrate into, if they wish their children to have some form of gainful employment and to be educated in preparation for this.

  50. Most Anglos I know realized quickly that wearing a black hat doesn’t make them Chareidi and integrated into the Chardal world. The rest either moved to the right and joined Israeli Litvish circles or formed their own English speaking enclaves.

    Most american yeshivish people don’t feel very comfortable with news like this:

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/ultra-orthodox-leader-calls-for-boycott-of-idf-college-programs-1.403983

  51. MiMedinat HaYam wrote:

    “however, issue of french, for example, who begin the week on monday.”

    But, they still have a seven-day week and there is only one source for a seven-day week. There is no astronomical phenomenon that corresponds to a 7-day week.

  52. YU Musmach: I’m sorry but I didn’t follow your reading of the teshuvah. Can you please elaborate and include how you translate the text of the teshuvah so that I can understand where you believe I went wrong.

  53. For example, see R. Natan Slifkin’s recent post about Ramat Beit Shemesh religious segments: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/12/spitting-on-girls-is-not-main-problem.html

  54. NAHUM:

    “there is only one source for a seven-day week”

    as i’m thinking about this, it only seems to be true if you believe in 7 literal days?

    J:

    “I think it’s more the case that people who are used to American charedi religious standards and are not gung ho Zionists have no real Israeli framework in which to integrate into”

    my wife has a friend that wants to make aliyah but they haven’t done so because of this fear

    SHIMON S:

    “or formed their own English speaking enclaves.”

    does this work for more than 1 generation?

  55. abba’s rantings: “does this work for more than 1 generation?”

    Well, the total radicalization of the Litvish world is a relatively new phenomenon. Anyway, I think it is not totally far-fetched to see the future of Anglos and their children as some chareidi-light bilingual community on their own.

  56. SHIMON:

    are there really enough to sustain a community like that?

  57. R’ Shimon,
    And how will they answer the question, what right do you have not to bend to the will of the gedolim? BTW, I agree the concern is a real one, but I can’t help but think there will be a course change (either an explosion or an organically driven one), the current model can not hold bderech hateva. I often find myself thinking about the play “the crucible”
    KT

  58. I don’t mean NK-like stuff. But the depth of divisiveness in Israel is dangerous. Some of us are fence straddlers, and have kids who belong in different education systems. The level of assertiveness necessary to get services — or on a bus. Etc… The culture in Israel possesses a number of spiritual dangers we don’t have here in the States. No, in the states we have entirely different ones.

  59. “i, are in for a rude awakening when they move to Israel and discover that there is no place for them as they are,”

    While I’m sure most Americans don’t know anything about the available communities for them to move to.. (There are over 35 orthodox only communities/cities in Israel) The above statement is just not true.

    Besides the 32 cities/communities in Israel that are just wonderful to live in, there are hundreds of other places where Charedi people live and integrate just fine. A close anglo family in our town happens to be one of them.

    But these sorts of things will never be known about if you don’t make a trip to Israel to find which community would be right for you. And just looking things up on the internet will tell you little useful information in this regard as well.

  60. “are there really enough to sustain a community like that?”

    There most certainly are. Just visit/ live in Har Nof. They don’t have the problems that Beit Shemesh or Mea Sharim have.

  61. ” The level of assertiveness necessary to get services — or on a bus. Etc… The culture in Israel possesses a number of spiritual dangers we don’t have here in the States.”

    In truth, this is a problem of the Mercaz of Israel. Too many people in too small a location. However the far south, and the far North don’t suffer from these issues at all. (Though maybe a bit in Zfat? I’m not sure)

  62. joel rich: “And how will they answer the question, what right do you have not to bend to the will of the gedolim?”

    If we consider the number of bona-fide chareidim (US,IL and beyond)who go to college, use internet, watch movies etc. yet claim to follow Daas Torah, you question is simply ignored by them.

    BTW Maybe it’s time to stop using the umbrella description “Chareidim”. A chosid from New Square has little in common what a yeshivish-light lawyer or doctor from Five Towns.

  63. Btw, New Years is celebrated in Israel by everybody I know. Even though we don’t celebrate it, cause I’m grouchy and old. Enjoy the paradox.

  64. Another important issue is the pervasive corruption and lack of business ethics, which is, needless to say, utterly antithetical to spiritual growth, yet omnipresent in Israel amongst all sectors to a degree that far exceeds anything I have experienced elsewhere.

  65. > “I think it’s more the case that people who are used to American charedi religious standards and are not gung-ho Zionists have no real Israeli framework in which to integrate into, if they wish their children to have some form of gainful employment and to be educated in preparation for this.”

    >> It seems to me that a good and highly successful model for Yeshivish-Anglo-Olim is Moshav Matityahu. After 30 years of existence, has Moshav Matityahu yet become a part of the Israeli framework? Or is it forever an “American” transplant grafted onto Israeli society?

    And either way, why aren’t financial resources being earmarked to establish hundreds of such “Anglo” communities in Eretz Yisrael for the benefit of integrating tens-of-thousands of frum-American olim? Instead, resources are channeled into such misguided efforts as the OU’s annual “Emerging Jewish Communities Fair,” which espouses improving one’s life in galut by moving to yet another “dreamland” community in chutz l’Aretz. I kid you not! Here’s the OU blurb: “Pursue your *dream* of a professionally enriching, religiously and personally rewarding life in a community with affordable homes in a friendly, supportive neighborhood, where you can be a key person, helping to bolster the Torah environment.” In juxtaposition, when Nefesh b’Nefesh beckons “Live the Dream” I don’t think they have Overland Park, Kansas in mind.

  66. Shua Cohen: It is irresponsible to ignore major segments of a community because they don’t fit the ideal of transplanting themselves to a foreign country. Perhaps the tens of thousands of potential olim have friends who made aliyah and are aware of the serious problems they will have to face which they may not be equipped to handle. And please don’t pretend there aren’t absorption problems.

  67. ” And please don’t pretend there aren’t absorption problems.”

    The problems that exist, are minimal. As long as the family is well prepared, educated, and makes decisions based on what is good for them, and not based on what they imagine things should be like.

    I know someone who is having a tough aliyah, mainly because her husband turned out to be abusive and had an affair while she was pregnant. But I don’t think the fact that they moved to Israel is the cause. If anything, She is happy to be surrounded by “Family” (i.e. all the people in her community that she did not know before, who are willing and able to help her)

    It’s one thing to do the research and find out if it will work for you or not. Another thing all together to just assume it won’t.

  68. Another comment. Most of my best friends in the states eventually made Aliah. (all years before me.) I had assumed that when I made Aliyah, I would move close to them, since we were so close in America. However all of us chose vastly different communities in vastly different parts of the country. We are still close friends, but live in the communities that are right for each of us.

  69. The problems that exist, are minimal

    Oh, please. Are you really saying that only cheaters and abusers have problems finding jobs, learning the language and fitting into a very different culture? Maybe people have different personalities and some are better at adjusting. And some have skills that are more transferable and backgrounds that are more similar to those found in Israel.

  70. “Oh, please. Are you really saying that only cheaters and abusers have problems finding jobs, learning the language and fitting into a very different culture?”

    A. I did not say any of that.
    B. The country, while physically small, is culturally very vast. I was shocked as to how many different commmunities I had to look at before I could decide. Not becuase I couldn’t decide, but because so many different types of options fit for me.

    People come to Israel from all over the world. There are people here who only speak Spanish, Japanese, French whatever. Communities exist for every single type of person here. Not everyone can move to Beit Shemesh or Jeruslem and be happy. But those are also not the only options. I have relatives who live in Ranana for example, who have lived here for over 40 years, and can’t speak a word of Hebrew.

    America is not all New York, and Israel is not all Jeruselem or Tel Aviv.
    It’s harder to find a Job in America than in Israel.

  71. A. I did not say any of that

    Great, so we can ignore your comment about the abuser/cheater.

    People come to Israel from all over the world… Communities exist for every single type of person here

    You are certainly exaggerating out of an admirable love for the country.

    It’s harder to find a Job in America than in Israel

    What a strange statement to make. Perhaps that is true statistically but it will vary for individuals. I found a job in NY in one day. Is it that easy to find a job in Israel? I don’t think so. It depends on your skills, experience and contacts. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to support my family in Israel.

  72. > “Perhaps the tens of thousands of potential olim have friends who made aliyah and are aware of the serious problems they will have to face which they may not be equipped to handle. And please don’t pretend there aren’t absorption problems.

    >> You are SURELY aware that Chazal teach that there are three things so valuable that they can be acquired only through struggle: Torah, the World to Come and ERETZ YISRAEL!!!(Brachos 8b). With all due respect, your golus mentality shines through your comment and frankly I am shocked, especially by your pejorative accusation that one who espouses mass Aliyah in this era of Ikvesa d’Meshicha is “irresponsible.”

    If so many thousands of Jews “are not equipped to handle” the problems of Aliyah, than that is a serious indictment on the Torah commitment of this generation of Klal Yisrael in galut. By the way? Harder than the problems of MILLIONS of Yidden who transported across the ocean to America from the Pale of Settlement, poverty stricken at the turn of the last century (or even the Yidden coming across the Midbar from Mitzrayim?) Let’s face it: too many so-called “Torah” Jews in America are spoiled, whiney children. And you know which group of Klal Yisrael in the midbar that they are the spiritual heirs of.

  73. Shua Cohen: If so many thousands of Jews “are not equipped to handle” the problems of Aliyah, than that is a serious indictment on the Torah commitment of this generation of Klal Yisrael in galut

    Perhaps, but since most poskim hold aliyah is not an obligation, and you are even allowed to leave Israel in order to earn a living, I’m not so sure.

  74. SHUA COHEN:

    ” resources are channeled into such misguided efforts as the OU’s annual “Emerging Jewish Communities Fair,” which espouses improving one’s life in galut by moving to yet another “dreamland” community in chutz l’Aretz. ”

    agreed in principle. but realistically, i presume the costs to host these fairs is a drop in the bucket compared to what it takes to do what you suggest

    AVI:

    “It’s harder to find a Job in America than in Israel”

    depends on the field, no? and even if it’s somewhat easier to find a job in a particular field, is it worth the wide pay disparity in certain fields? (i’m not ignoring all the other benefits of aliyah, but since you mentioned employment . . .)

    personally i think that YU and even the high schools and year-in-israel programs should educate its students about what fields are more employable/better paid in israel. and the obstacle of student debt (this is problem in its own right, but more so to someone aliyah-bound). maybe even push to go to university in israel.

  75. > “Perhaps, but since most poskim hold aliyah is not an obligation…”

    >> The following is related by Rabbi Shalom Gold (formerly of the Young Israel of West Hempstead) in his article “Eretz Yisrael: The Passion of our Time” [Viewpoint, Sept. 2010, vol. 52/no. 3):

    The story is told of a Diaspora Jew who studied in-depth the whole range of opinions about yishuv ha’Aretz and then called and made an appointment with Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. He began to pour out all the knowledge he had committed to memory when Rav Auerbach said softly in Yiddish, “Es iz nisht vichtig” — “it is not important.” Our diaspora hero was devastated. In desperation he asked, “What does the Rosh Yeshiva mean, it’s not important?” Rav Shlomo Zalman replied: “Just open up a Chumash and read, and you will see that Ratzon HaShem is that Jews should live in Eretz Yisrael.”

    Rabbi Gold continues: “In this seemingly simple exchange Rav Shlomo Zalman expressed a significant and crucial dimension of halachah — the express will of HaShem has all the force and power of a Divine imperative.” Nu…go argue.

  76. R. Moshe Feinstein answered differently.

  77. > R. Moshe Feinstein answered differently.

    >> “There is also a great deal of discussion of halachic factors excusing today’s Jew from this mitzva [of yishuv ha’Aretz]. There are, after all, opinions that it is only a mitzva kiyumis (voluntary mitzva). This was the opinion of the late gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and some others. Well, tzitzis is also “only” a mitzva kiyumis. It might be worth contemplating the way we regard one who neglects the mitzva of tzitzis, or even one who does not wear an arba kanfos that conforms to the strictest shiur with tzitzis the most mehudarim. In a time of Divine anger, one is held accountable for a mitzva kiyumis as well.

    “And there are some who maintain that the mitzva is not binding at all today. This was the opinion of the late Satmar Rebbe zt”l and some others. Even if we ascribe great weight to this minority opinion, however, we must ask ourselves how we conduct ourselves regarding other mitzvos that are binding only according to “some” opinions. Do we not go to great lengths to be yotsai all the shitos? In the case of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the preponderance of opinion in favor of the binding nature of the commandment includes the Pischei Teshuva, the Avnei Nezer, the Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Chazon Ish…”

    (from “Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West,” by Rabbi Zev Leff of Moshav Matityahu, in “To Dwell in the Palace,” Feldheim, 1991).

  78. A final observation from Rabbi Leff: “The extent to which the Torah community, otherwise scrupulously careful with mitzvos, is involved in finding ways out of the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel needs to be examined.”

    An understatement, to say the least.

  79. Shua Cohen: But when there is no obligation, there is more room for discretion. Wearing tzitzis does not involve any personal difficulty, not to mention competing halakhic issues like obligations to parents and children.

    People who trumpet their success at aliyah seem to me like other chumrah-lovers who think they are the holiest people because they do some mitzvah differently, maybe even better, than everyone else and feel the need to lecture others about it. Hey, Shua, maybe I observe kiddush be-makom seudah better than most people in your neighborhood and that’s an absolute requirement according to all poskim, not just a mitzvah kiyumis. Should I go on and on about how it’s an actual obligation and people don’t properly observe it because they have the wrong priorities and are misguided, love the comfortable life and refuse to struggle a little for Torah? The people who make aliyah, recognize the difficulties involved, and don’t pressure others — in my experience the vast majority — are in my mind acting more appropriately.

    For what it’s worth, no less than R. Aharon Rakeffet agreed with me that I am currently exempt from making aliyah.

  80. > “For what it’s worth, no less than R. Aharon Rakeffet agreed with me that I am currently exempt from making aliyah.”

    >> This is the ikur: at least you asked an Adam Gadol and so your personal decision (if not your argument with Rabbis Gold and Leff) has a leg to stand on. But you know the truth: the vast majority don’t even ask because they don’t want to know the answer, lest that answer result in a cognitive dissonance — vis-a-vis a love for the diaspora and the lifestyle it affords — too great to bear.
    Kol haKavod to you that you did the right thing.

  81. You are misunderstanding people’s reasons. R. Aharon Lichtenstein understands it better when he attributes it to “eretz megurei aviv” — the place with which you are familiar, where your family and friends live. Moving to another country — a vast distance in terms of geography and, more importantly, culture — can be very traumatic. Not everyone has a personality that can handle it.

  82. And, for the record, I didn’t really ask R. Rakeffet. After his repeatedly nudging me I explained to him my reasons and he concurred. But I did ask a she’eilah when I was dating and was told to place finding the right woman above making aliyah.

  83. Ploney Almoney

    Gil,

    When the Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt, speedily in our days, will you make aliyah or keep your job in NY and fly in for the shalosh regalim?

  84. Ploney Almoney: Hilkhisa li-meshikha

  85. > “People who trumpet their success at aliyah seem to me like other chumrah-lovers who think they are the holiest people because they do some mitzvah differently, maybe even better, than everyone else and feel the need to lecture others about it.”

    >> I was going to take my leave of this thread, but decided that this most “ungenerous” comment of yours needs to be addressed. How about being m’dan l’chaf zchus and understand that people who have successfully made aliyah are not, chas v’shalom being holier than thou when they try to encourage others to follow suit. There are those of us who believe that massive aliyah is required to bring about the final stages of the geula; by encouraging/challenging all Torah Jews to do the Ratzon HaShem (as per Rav Shlomo Zalman), we will merit to see the geula shelaima “l’shana hazeh” in Yerushalayim, and not in some foggy future envisioned by too many who emptily recite “l’shana haba’a” at the conclusion of undless Pesach sedorim in galut. Shalom.

  86. Everyone thinks their mitzvah is the most important. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people about how their “pet” mitzvah is the most important. Not that it’s bad to have a favorite mitzvah — it’s actually a good thing. But people need to maintain a humble and broad perspective. It’s good to learn from more than one rebbe, specifically a very different rebbe. It gives you a broader view of the world and a recognition that there are many ways to see things, even within the Torah world.

  87. R’ Gil,

    You forgot to mention that the land eats its inhabitants. Calling Yishuv EY a “pet” mitzvah and comparing it to hidurim in kiddush bemakom seudah is like comparing Shabbos and Dreidel. The fact that a person is momentarily patur from Aliya doesn’t mean he should publicize rants that might discourage others from doing so.

  88. Shimon S: It’s that attitude that prevents honest discussions of life issues. All is good in Israel because no one celebrates New Year’s (which isn’t true, anyway).

  89. Yes, but it works both ways. Avoiding a NYE celebration (forget the reality) is a pretty silly reason for making an Aliya. But spitting in RBS is also a bad excuse for not making it.

  90. From R’ AL-
    One should be firmly and sharply opposed – both educationally and from the perspective of Jewish beliefs and values – to tiyulim or activities organized in a way that involves not observing the mitzva of sukka. The existence of formal exemptions from positive mitzvot is not the exclusive nor the only decisive way of gauging whether to perform them. We do not speak of actual evasive trickery (ha’arama) – itself a significant problem in halakha and belief – and this is not the forum to relate to it. Even not relating fully to a mitzva is problematic, even when it involves ignoring and not evading.

    A Jew must be saturated with an ambition and longing for mitzvot and not, God forbid, view them as a burden he is inescapably stuck with that he tries to cast off at the first opportunity. This point is at the root of the trait of “zerizut” (acting with enthusiasm and energy), rooted in the obligation not just to serve God, but to serve him with joy and exhilaration. …….Perhaps the central halakhic source in the Rishonim to clarify this issue is in the laws of tzitzit. They built on the discussion in the gemara (Menachot 41a) between the angel and Rav Katina. Both Rav Katina’s summer and winter garments were technically exempt from tzitzit. The angel chastised him, “What will be with the mitzva of tzitzit?” The gemara’s discussion makes it clear that Rav Katina was not violating the laws of tzitzit, but was evading the mitzva by using exemptions. Apparently based on this passage, the Rambam (Hilkhot Tzitzit 3:11) rules,

    “Even though one is not obligated to buy a tallit and wrap himself in it in order to affix tzitzit to it, a pious person should not absolve himself from this mitzva. Rather, one should always try and wear a garment that is obligated in tzitzit in order to fulfill this mitzva.”

    Other Rishonim expanded on this – to obligate not only the pious but everyone; and to see this in the context of mitzvot in general. The Rosh (Tosafot Ha-Rosh Nidda 61b) writes,

    “However, it is fitting that all God-fearing people buy a tallit with four corners to obligate himself in tzitzit, for it is a great and important mitzva. As we say in Bereishit Rabba (and, in a slightly different version in Sota 14a), ‘Was Moshe anxious to enter the land in order to eat of its fruit and be satiated by its goodness?’ Rather, thus said Moshe: ‘Let mitzvot that can be fulfilled by me, be fulfilled by me.'”

    KT

  91. and of course for those of us who have not yet made aliyah, R’ Al’s comments on shmitta should ring in our minds:
    . We, including both supporters and opponents of the heter, those who shop as usual and those who consult regularly with calendars and charts, are not meshamet (observing shemitta), but rather mishtamet (shirking our responsibility). I see no way to save the situation in the foreseeable future. At very least, however, we must sense the pain, just as Hillel felt the pain in his day. With no alternative, we will use the various heterim and means of circumvention, and we will bow our heads in humble submission to reality. But let us not resign ourselves to it. Let us admit to our failure and feel genuine distress, hoping that the Almighty will make good our loss.

    KT from someone who has failed so far

  92. Joel Rich: Thank you and thank you again for bringing to this forum Rabbi Lichtenstein’s eloquently penetrating words. And your humble “KT from someone who has failed so far” is a moving reflection of what is, in my own humble opinion, a far more honest self-evaluation than that which is (tragically) reflected by those who have happily dug into the diaspora for the long haul. Baruch Hashem, growing numbers are, however, coming the agree with Rabbi Gold that Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael should be the “passion of our time.”

  93. Shua Cohen

    You said “How about being m’dan l’chaf zchus and understand that… ”

    but you also said “Let’s face it: too many so-called “Torah” Jews in America are spoiled, whiney children.”

    So I say “How about being m’dan l’chaf zchus and understand that… “

  94. > but you also said “Let’s face it: too many so-called “Torah” Jews in America are spoiled, whiney children.” So I say “How about being m’dan l’chaf zchus and understand that…”

    >> Good point. I need to think on it.

  95. > but you also said “Let’s face it: too many so-called “Torah” Jews in America are spoiled, whiney children.” So I say “How about being m’dan l’chaf zchus and understand that…”

    >> Good point. I need to think on it.

    Offhand, I’d say that it’s related to experience. I make the assumption that R’ Gil, in calling enthusiastic aliyah advocates “holier-than-thou,” is using this pejorative without ANY basis in experiential fact. I for one have NEVER met an American Oleh with such an attitude. Idealistic? You bet. Holier-than-thou? Nah. On the other hand, I cannot begin to number the debates I’ve had with Diaspora-hardened bnei Torah who are in fact, well… spoiled and whiney. 😉 These numbers are, for me, “too many.” Hey…just follow the debate on the great “shidduch crisis” and what (to the critics) are the outrageous gashmiusdik requirements in a spouse demanded by hundreds of Orthodox young people. Where do these values come from? G-d bless America.

  96. To get back to the original post, what bothers me about the whole analysis is that it revolves solely around the question of whether New Years is “religious” or “secular,” and since it concludes that today it is more the latter* then it is muttar.

    But what kind of “secular” holiday is it? One completely devoted to drunkenness, frivolity, and celebration for its own sake, without a shred of redeeming virtue. (In contrast to say, Memorial Day, which at least represents a Jewish virtue of hakaras ha tov. Ditto July 4th.) Why in the world should a Jew with an ounce of yiras shomayim want to be involved in such a moshav leitzim at best?

    I am reminded of the famous teshuvah of the Nodah be Yehudah about hunting for sport. Even if not technically ossur, it is not something a God-fearing Jew should do.

    ___________
    * At least in America. In Israel they call it “Sylvester,” after St. Sylvester’s Day, a notorious anti-semitic Pope.

  97. MiMedinat HaYam

    back to original subject — does the fact that it was / will be “celebrated” this year a day later (due to “overriding” secular value of not losing a holiday day off) mean its not (completely) a “religious” holiday? or does the different day indicate different permits to observance?

    drunkeness, frivolity — st patrick’s day. i dont even think st patrick’s day has any religious significance, just a hoilday for irish ppl, which is extended to all (?) americans, besides irish americans. in ireland, its barely celebrated at all. in nys, the banks are closed that day, making it an official holiday.can we celebrate (march), possibly unlike valentine’s day.

  98. “Everyone thinks their mitzvah is the most important. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people about how their “pet” mitzvah is the most important. Not that it’s bad to have a favorite mitzvah”

    I’m sorry, but that is just a nasty evil comment. The building of the beit Hamikdash is not a “pet mitzvah”, and the building can not take place until most Jews live in Israel. This isn’t some random idea that may or may not be true, it’s straight halacha from the Rambam.

    If you think the beit Hamikdash is a “pet” Mitzvah, than that tells us everything that is wrong with this generation. Just man up and admit that you lie to Hashem when you daven shemonah esrei every day.

    If you want to win the lottery, you first have to buy a ticket.

    Regarding jobs: You got a job in one day, I was poached from one job to take another one.

    Regarding communities. There is no exaggeration. There is literally a community for everybody. I had the chance to visit over 20 different towns and communities. Only 3 of which ended up being a viable option for me. The diversity is amazing.

    The Torah promises us, that the land will spit out people who it does not want to have.

    “* At least in America. In Israel they call it “Sylvester,” after St. Sylvester’s Day, a notorious anti-semitic Pope.”

    Which circles is that true in? I’ve only heard people call it Rosh Hashana

  99. I addressed the issue of Sylvester in this video. It does not impact upon R. Broyde’s article, with which I fully agree, but does shed light on the issue. http://orot.tv/Article.aspx?id=122

  100. Well, to be honest, the secular papers always mention Sylvester- which is actually December 31, to be precise.

    Tal makes a very good point. Just because it’s secular doesn’t mean we have to celebrate it.

    R’ Rakeffet tells the story of a photo he once saw of many of the prominent early members of American Aguda, of German origins, suited up in black tie for a New Year’s Eve celebration. I suppose done right (and if there are no religious objections), it can actually be a fine, proper, and meaningful celebration. The Norton Anthology of English Literature has a particularly moving description of Auld Lang Syne in its introduction to its section on Robert Burns.

    Me, personally, I hope to be asleep. Sunday is a big day for me. 🙂 I remember people pointing out that January 1, 2000 was a Shabbat, so most Jews weren’t agonizing over the bug that never showed up.

    A little note about complaints about Israel (another example of how we can hear the parsha and even drashot on it and not really listen, considering all the claims about “eretz ochelet yoshveha” I see here): We have a number of friends who have made aliya (or even been born here) and left, sometimes with no intention of returning. No one blames them (usually)- life can be difficult anywhere, and everyone has their own story. But I never paused to consider before: No one that I know of has ever “kicked the sukkah,” to borrow from the Gemara, on the way out. It’s interesting that those who would be the most entitled to do so don’t; that some of those who’ve never tried (or seem never to have even considered it) do is a bit troubling.

  101. Shachar Ha'amim

    RMF’s view on mitzvas yishuv haaretz is certainly not the veiew of most poskim. It is a distinctly minority view. Most poskim hold that mitzvas yishuv haaretz is a mitzva chiyuvis. Some rishonim compare one who lives in chu”l to someone who is 1) only oracticing all other mitzvos; and/or 2) godless; and/or 3) an idol worshipper.

    to sort of borrow what Nahum stated above – you always hear about stories of people whose houses burn down (and family members get hurt or die) because of fires caused by shabbat candles, chanuka candles. Or their kids get burnt by the cholent pot or hot water urn. Do they not light shabbat canldes next week? not light chanuka candles next year? do they boil water on shabbat every shabbat afterwards?

    some mitzvot are hard. but the blatant search for excuses and kulot regarding mittzvas yishuv haaretz has no parallel with any other mitzvah and is a sad indictment of religious education in the diapora – and specifically the USA.

    Personally, I no longer wear a tallis koton. I don’t go around justifying it, or downplaying the mitzva or berating those who wear their reiduclously extra long tzitzis outside their trousers, or wear tzitzis in other situations wear tzitzis are not required. I just don’t wear a tallis koton all the time.

  102. I’m not sure that it is a minority view at all. We don’t see that the entire Jewish community throughout the ages made every effort to move to Israel, nor did they (outside of certain movements) even write about doing so that much.

    As R. JD Bleich writes in his article ‘Withdrawal From Liberated Territories as a Viable Halachic Option’, “The very fact that so many rabbinic authorities, both in previous generations and in our own age, neither themselves relocated in Eretz Yisrael nor admonished their followers to do so must surely consitute evidence that they did not believe such a binding halachic obligation exists in our day”.

  103. “I’m not sure that it is a minority view at all. We don’t see that the entire Jewish community throughout the ages made every effort to move to Israel, nor did they (outside of certain movements) even write about doing so that much.”

    There are multiple reasons for this. None of which has to do with the mitzvah not being required.

    1. The crusades destroyed any hope of Jews moving back to Israel.
    2. The Ottomans, did not allow it either.
    3. Until the Balfour declaration, there was the issue of the three oaths.
    4. Before 1920, a normal person could not move to Israel and make a living. (Forget a good living, they would not have been able to feed themselves)

    5. Regarding “writing about it” , I think you are mistaken. Rambam (12th century), Yehda Halevi(11th century), Ramban(13th century), Rav Nachman of Breslov (18th century),Yosef Karo (15th century), Ralbag (14th century) and many others wrote about it.

  104. 6 sources from 1000 years of halachic writing is hardly an impressive list. I think it is clear to any objective student of halachic literature that R. Bleich is merely stating the obvious.

  105. J, what rabbi Bleich wrote, and what you wrote are two very different things.

    R. Bleich only wrote that nobody pushed their congregations to move out of the city they were living in. You wrote a completely different statement.

  106. Read his article. If I appear to expressed sentiments that differ from his, that is only due to my shortcomings as a writer. The article can be found here:
    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/735801/Rabbi_Dr_J_David_Bleich/Withdrawal_From_Liberated_Territories_as_a_Viable_Halachic_Option

  107. J.:

    It’s never been easier to move to Israel than it has been in the last few decades (and was very difficult to do before). Curiously (or perhaps not so much so), the actual opposition to doing so arises only then. Certainly there were no arguments made *against* moving to Israel before then, apart from one lone inapplicable statement in Tosafot that everyone likes to cite (and no one did until recently).

    Note the context of R’ Bleich’s article. If I wanted to be cynical- and, as you can see above, I do- I would point out that until there was territory to give “back,” no one discussed whether it should be (similar to above). R’ Bleich is not one who feels it’s important to hold on to territory. Hence this side argument.

    Avi cited Yehuda HaLevi, the Rambam, Ramban, Mechaber, Ralbag, and R’ Nachman. You called those “six sources.” Um, if you’re gonna pick six, those are pretty major. We live our *lives* based on two of those six people at least.

  108. another explanation was offered by R’ J Morrison (slightly edited for the family nature of this blog):

    “Well, I’ve been down so xxxxxxx long
    That it looks like up to me
    Well, I’ve been down so very xxxx long
    That it looks like up to me”

    and perhaps the proper response should be

    “Yeah, why don’t one you people
    C’mon and set me free”

    KT

  109. And yet neither the Rambam or the Mechaber paskened that there is a chiyuv to live in Israel nowadays.

  110. Well, they both *moved* to Israel.

    And a lot more ink has been spilled trying to understand why they didn’t in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary than in trying to justify them. (Again, the justifications begin when modern Zionism begins. Shocking!)

  111. What is the ‘overwhelming’ evidence to the contrary? It should be noted that Reb Moshe saw the pro-‘chiyuvis’ literature and nevertheless maintained his position. In his haskama to Tzvi Glatt’s ‘Me’afar Kumi’ (which is dedicated to proving that yishuv EY is a chiyuvis), R. Moshe writes that the author was ‘mafriz al ha’middah’ and he reaffirms his position that it is a kiyumis.

  112. “And yet neither the Rambam or the Mechaber paskened that there is a chiyuv to live in Israel nowadays.”

    You are wrong about the Rambam:

    “Even more significantly, later in Mishneh Torah, Maimonides very emphatically
    extols the value of residing in Eretz Yisrael. He mentions that “the greatest scholars would kiss the
    boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, kiss its stones and roll in it dust” (Hilkhot Melakhim 5:10), and cites the
    Talmud’s promise that “whoever dwells in the Land of Israel – his sins are forgiven” (ibid., 5:11). In
    the next paragraph (5:12), Maimonides writes explicitly, “A person should always reside in the Land
    of Israel, even in a city of mostly gentiles, rather than living outside the Land, even in a city of mostly
    Jews.” Maimonides quite clearly affirmed the importance of living in Eretz Yisrael, and appears to
    apply this value even in his time, centuries after the Temple’s destruction. ”

    From http://www.mhcny.org/parasha/1043.pdf

    Also read this here: http://www.ravaviner.com/2010/04/obligation-to-make-aliyah-at-this-time.html

    Shulchan Aruch only says that you are allowed to not move to Israel if there is a danger there. That is all it says on the matter. (from what I was able to find on the internet) He himself moved to Israel though.

  113. I wonder what would have happened if Rav Moshe did not write that the mitzvah was voluntary. Would he still have been called a Gadol? I doubt it.

  114. Avi – R. Moshe also knew this Rambam. I wrote that the Rambam doesn’t pasken that there is a chiyuv. Nothing you quoted contradicts that. ‘Importance of living in Israel’ doesn’t mean there is a chiyuv to do so.

  115. Avi – What utter nonsense. R Ovadiah Yosef paskens that it is a chiyuvis and he is still regarded as a gadol by most who regard R. Moshe as a gadol. Contrary to your conspiracy theory, there is no charedi plot to get rid of the mitzvah of yishuv EY.

  116. Avi- that means that the Shulchan Aruch pretty clearly implies that there is a chiyyuv, no?

  117. Avi: The building of the beit Hamikdash is not a “pet mitzvah”, and the building can not take place until most Jews live in Israel.

    Do you have a source for this claim?

  118. J, R. Ovadiah has lost his Gadol status, at least according to people I’ve heard from. Because he was the chief Rabbi of Israel. He “only applies to some sephardim” is what I was told. By Americans no less. So, please give another example of the charedim accepting a rabbi who says that you have to live in Israel.

    However, out of curiosity… what does it mean for a mitzvah to be kiyumis? You mean like wearing Tzizit? Would anyone allow a yeshiva bachur to walk around without tizit?

    To suggest that the Rambam says that its not a chiyuv to live in Israel is absurd. He says straight out that you are not allowed to leave!

    But it really doesn’t matter. The only outcome of the argument would be that instead of people breaking halacha on accident, they would be doing so on purpose.

  119. avi: R. Ovadiah has lost his Gadol status, at least according to people I’ve heard from. Because he was the chief Rabbi of Israel.

    Yes, some people are childish. We don’t have to give their views on this any credibility.

    However, out of curiosity… what does it mean for a mitzvah to be kiyumis? You mean like wearing Tzizit? Would anyone allow a yeshiva bachur to walk around without tizit?

    If wearing tzitzis made it impossible to fulfill certain mitzvos, then maybe yes.

    To suggest that the Rambam says that its not a chiyuv to live in Israel is absurd

    It isn’t absurd and important commentators have suggested it. You might disagree with it, as did, for example, the Avnei Neizer. But please don’t denigrate the Megillas Esther for your personal rhetorical purposes.

  120. “Do you have a source for this claim?”

    Torat Eretz Yisroel
    http://www.amazon.com/Yisrael-Teachings-Yehuda-HaCohen-English/dp/B000GW851I

    Looking online, I see that Midrash Tachuma says the same thing.

  121. Avi – Not that I’m getting anywhere here, but there really is a big literature on this topic. For us to just start making diyukim in the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch as if this literature doesn’t exist is simply ridiculous. The fact that one is not allowed to leave has nothing to do with whether it is a chiyuvis or kiyumis. Everyone, even the Satmar rav, agrees that one is not allowed to leave, barring specific heterim.

  122. avi: Thanks for the source. It doesn’t sound right to me but I have to look it up.

  123. “But please don’t denigrate the Megillas Esther for your personal rhetorical purposes.”

    Fine, I’ll let the Rambam Heritage center do it, for the sake of sanity.

    http://www.mhcny.org/parasha/1043.pdf

    To pretend that Megilas Esther on this case is writing anything reasonable, it laughable.

  124. I’ll quote the relevant lines from the PDF:

    “Though the position of the Megilat Ester was embraced by some authorities, most famously by the leaders of the Munkatch and Satmar sects of Chassidim, who vehemently opposed the foundations of the Zionist movement on theological grounds, several other scholars resoundingly rejected his claims. The legendary Chassidic master and halakhic decisor Rabbi Avraham of Sochatchov, in his work of responsa Avnei Neizer, devotes a very lengthy essay (Y.D. 454) to this issue, and advances a different approach in understanding Maimonides’ position. His most obvious and compelling argument, perhaps, is that the temporary suspension of an obligation during the postTemple era does not warrant its omission from Maimonides’ listing of the commandments. This list
    includes all commandments that apply permanently, even those whose performance is practically impeded by the absence of a Beit Ha-mikdash. Any mitzva that requires a standing and functional Temple is nevertheless clearly deemed eternally binding and worthy of inclusion in Maimonides’ list of commandments. The suspension of its practical applicability results from a technicality, and does not undermine its eternal nature. Thus, just as Maimonides includes in Sefer Ha-mitzvot all the obligations and prohibitions concerning the sacrificial order, ritual purification, and other Templedependent laws, so should he have included residence in the Land, even if its practical relevance hinges on the Beit Ha-mikdash.”

    Why would you even bring up the Megilas Esther in this point? It’s so obviously false to anyone who doesn’t have a strong desire to stay away from Israel, and follow in the footsteps of the 10 spies.

  125. “Yes, some people are childish. We don’t have to give their views on this any credibility.”

    Ok, if you say so… so which “Gedolim” said its an obligation to live in Israel? You say they are childish, but they removed his gadol status. And when Rav Ovadia said that they should push off Lag B’Omer, they ignored him and said that his opinion on this is irrelevant.

  126. “Well, they both *moved* to Israel.”

    The Rambam did not settle in Israel.

  127. Avi – Have a look at this teshuva from Rav Henkin, where he argues against the Avnei Nezer: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20022&st=&pgnum=162

    He maintains that yishuv Eretz Yisrael is a kiyumis derabanan.

    See also the following, from his son, Rav Eitam Henkin:
    http://eitamhenkin.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/%D7%9E%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%AA-%D7%99%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%91-%D7%90%D7%A8%D7%A5-%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C-%D7%93%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%99%D7%AA%D7%90-%D7%90%D7%95-%D7%93%D7%A8%D7%91%D7%A0%D7%9F/

    Rav Moshe was not alone in his regarding this mitzva as a kiyumis, as the following article notes:
    http://www.yeshiva.org.il/wiki/index.php?title=%D7%99%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%91+%D7%90%D7%A8%D7%A5+%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C

  128. Avi wrote: The building of the beit Hamikdash is not a “pet mitzvah”, and the building can not take place until most Jews live in Israel.

    R’ Gil asked: Do you have a source for this claim?

    See Megillah 17b which explains that the middle Berachot of the Shemonah Esrei are in chronological order: “A hundred and twenty elders, among whom were many prophets, drew up eighteen blessings in a fixed order.”

    1) Birkat Kibbutz Galuyot comes after Birkat HaShanim [the exiles will be ingathered after Eretz Yisrael flourishes economically];
    2) “…and once the exiles are gathered in, the wicked are judged” (Birkat Din);
    3) “..and once judgement is rendered against the wicked, the non-believers are destroyed” (Birkat HaMinim);
    4) “…and once the wicked are destroyed, the glory of the righteous is exalted” (Birkat Tzaddikim); and finally
    5) “…and where is the horn of the righteous exalted? In Yerushalayim,” i.e. Birkat Binyan Yerushalayim and the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.

    So the ingathering of the exiles must occur before the Beit HaMikdash is built (which, parenthetically, occurs before the arrival of Mashiach; Mashiach neither gathers the exiles nor builds the Beit HaMikdash as is commonly stated).

  129. Who wants to celebrate the secular New Year’s anyhow? The difference between Rosh Hashanah and, l’havdil, New Year’s in the way they are celebrated and “customs” of each time is striking.

  130. Shachar Ha'amim

    “Shulchan Aruch only says that you are allowed to not move to Israel if there is a danger there. That is all it says on the matter. (from what I was able to find on the internet) He himself moved to Israel though”

    He also rules that a spouse who does not want to live in E”Y forfeits the value of the ketuba (i.e. huband pays out if he doesn’t want to go, or wife loses it if she doesn’t want to go). That particular source can also be read as stating that the spouse who wishes to live E”Y is supposed to seek a divorce.

  131. J, while I see the sources you bring argue that the mitzvah is rabanan and not deoreita, I don’t see where he says that this is the position of the Rambam. I also don’t see where he son says that the position of the Rambam is a rabanan kiyumus, but maybe I’m just missing the line you are refering to.

  132. J, again, while I am thankful for the source, and its nice to read new things, I am confused what you are trying to say.

    In the link you provided I don’t see any defense of the Migilas esther. Migilas esther says its only a halacha that applies during the times of King David. (and earlier) or When the beit hamikdash is built. The link here just off handly says its a Rabanan. It also only mentions that it’s a mitzvah Kiyumus according to Rav Moshe. But at the same time says that living in Israel is like keeping all of the Torah.

    So why do you think these sources argue that the Migilat Esther is the correct reading of the Rambam?

  133. I’m so glad this thread got hijacked by the aliyah missionaries. They’re the real people I’m afraid of meeting in Israel. They’re usually having a pretty crabby time themselves and console themselves that at least they’re not like THOSE people in the diaspora.

  134. Paging Aesop here…

  135. “Shua Cohen: But when there is no obligation, there is more room for discretion. Wearing tzitzis does not involve any personal difficulty, ”

    I just noticed this line, and I’d like to say that it is not true.
    As a child, Tzizit were always choking me, getting stuck in bicycle wheels, making me afraid to go to the bathroom etc. Not once did any of my rabbis or teachers tell me it was ok to stop wearing them. Instead they rightfully told me to try it differently, adapt to it’s usage etc. I was unable to do so, and for many years stopped wearing them completely.

    They were a complete burden to me, and yet nobody would say that it was “ok”, and it was “only” a mitzvah kiyumus.

    There is a strong hypocrisy when it comes to what people believe are “optional” mitzvot.

  136. You are getting all mixed up. I don’t need the megilas ester to argue that there is no mitzva chiyuvis according to the Rambam to live in Israel nowadays.

  137. Returning to the subject of the post, R. Yair Hoffman has written a response to R. Broyde: http://www.vosizneias.com/97840/2011/12/29/new-york-halachic-analysis-celebrating-new-year

    Without taking sides, it is nice to see that R. Hoffman took issue with R. Broyde in a respectful tone.

  138. existentialist

    And so at last, let us raise a glass and hijack this thread back to the topic and, with the sanction of the great rabbis, wish a Happy New Year to all.

  139. Gufa:

    The meaning of Rav Moshe’s statement in EH 2:13 (end of second-to-last paragraph) was debated above–does it mean it’s mutar to have a simcha on New Year’s or Thanksgiving, or does it mean that it’s mutar to have a New Year’s or Thanksgiving party? Contextually, it comes right after he’s talking about avoiding having a simcha on those days, but an analysis of the rest of the paragraph certainly makes it seem like he means having a party in honor of those days.

    However, in OC 5:20.6, he explains exactly what he meant in EH 2:13–he meant that it’s not ossur to have a simcha on those days, but it is ossur to have a party in honor of those days.

    (Not to gloss over everything else R. Moshe wrote on the subject. Later in that tshuva he wrote the issur on Thanksgiving is because of uvechukoseihem. Then in YD 4:11.5 he says to make a regular thanksgiving party is ossur because of bal tosif. And then in YD 4:12 he clears up what is often felt to be a stirah between these two tshuvos, but it’s really just how to have a party without being over either uvechukoseihem or bal tosif. In any case, I think, to just quote the Even Hoezer tshuva and say happy new year is avoiding a lot of what he wrote.)

  140. Avi – Sorry, I seem to have linked to the wrong article by R. Eitam Henkin before. The one I meant to link to is from Techumin, and is a further explication of his father’s shita that the mitzva is a kiyumis derabanan:
    http://eitamhenkin.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/מצות-יישוב-ארץ-ישראל-דאורייתא-או-דרבנן/

    One vital point about the Rambam’s shita brought up by R. Henkin that I forgot to note before, is that in Hilchos Melachim 5:7, he says explicitly that it is permitted to live in the entire world except for in Egypt.

  141. J, thanks, I’ll read it another time.

  142. Assumimg that Yishuv EY is a Mitzvah Chiyuvis is only one part of the issue. IIRC, none less than the Avnei Nezer stressed that a klitah tovah was a very important consideration. IIRC, RAL once commented that is better to live in the US and at least dream of making Aliyah than to live in Israel and constantly think of moving to the US.

  143. Yes, because moving back is the number one thing on the minds of most olim (or most Israelis). Please. That’s a new one, and a pretty weak one at that.

    I think the objection came because someone made an offhand comment about New Year’s in Israel (or lack thereof), and Gil automatically and immediately responded with a slur on the land. I seem to remember a whole parsha dedicated to that…

  144. Nachum-Perhaps, you should consider the fact that many bloggers here and elsewhere have families. It is easy for singles of any age to move to Israel. AFAIK, the sociological evidence is that families of pre school age children are the best olim, and that those with kids in schools have far greater difficulties in acclimating themselves to life in Israel.

  145. Nachum-reread what I quoted from RAL. I never said that moving back was on the mind of “most” olim or Isarelis. I merely said that RAL considered it as a valid consideration in determining whether to move in the first place.

  146. I never said otherwise. You are responding with non sequitors.

  147. Rabbi Broyde quotes Igros Moshe YD 4:11 (4) in his article above. The Bar Ilan Responsa project has this quote in 4:11 (3) for those who may be searching for the original.

  148. We must always remember that thanksgiving was started by pilgrims which was a gentile cult. It doesn’t matter how we try to attach it to only representing an ‘American’ holiday, its origins are based on gentiles. Sorry but no turkey for me. There’s plenty of Judaic and authentic American holidays to observe (like July 4th, Washington’s birthday, VJ Day, Veterans Day etc.)

Leave a Reply