Breaking news: Government to approve ban on air travel starting Tuesday for two weeks and We follow the Rabbis even when they could be wrong and Bookshop Sketch from Marty Amok! (originally At Last The 1948 Show) and Why Write "G‑d" Instead of "G-o-d"? By Yehuda Shurpin and 'You can't daven with Us' by Rabbi Chananya Weissman '' '
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement.
Breaking news: Government to approve ban on air travel starting Tuesday for two weeks
'We're going to do something no other country has done.' Starting Tuesday, Israel to ban virtually all air travel.
The Israeli government met Sunday afternoon to rule on a new travel ban strictly limiting air travel into and out of the country.
The government is expected to approve Sunday the near-total ban on all air travel into and out of the country, a day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held deliberations on the plan with the Health Minister, Transportation Minister, head of the National Security Council, the directors-general of the Health and Transportation ministries, the coronavirus czar, the head of the Health Services in the Health Ministry, the head of the Civil Aviation Authority, the Attorney General, and other senior officials.
"We're ahead of the whole world," said Netanyahu at the opening of the meeting Sunday. "No other country has done what we're going to do now. We are going to hermetically seal the country."
"During this week of closed skies we will vaccinate another million Israelis."
The plan to be brought to ministers for a vote Sunday will ban virtually all air travel starting Tuesday morning, with the ban remaining in force through the end of January. Under the proposal, the government will be able to extend the travel ban beyond January 31st.
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If adopted, passenger flights into and out of Israel will be cancelled, while cargo planes will still be permitted to land.
While travelers will be barred from entering Israel in nearly all cases, exceptions will be made for humanitarian cases on special chartered flights.
Travelers needing to leave the country will be allowed to fly from Ben Gurion International Airport only if they are granted special permission for "exceptional circumstances"
This past Shabbos, one of my daughters asked me why we have to listen to Chazal on everything - surely they could be mistaken? Just because they're the establishment, the majority, who says that they're correct?
It's an important question, and the answer has ramifications far beyond the question - in fact, it's extremely relevant to current events.
The Torah describes the case of the zaken mamre,
the rebellious elder who is punished for going against the ruling of the rest of the Sanhedrin. One might presume that this is because even if they appear to be mistaken, they are actually always correct, due to their being the majority of Sages, or due to their receiving divine assistance. But Chasam Sofer says otherwise.
Chasam Sofer raises, and then rejects, the idea that the Sanhedrin receive divine assistance to ensure that they are never mistaken (despite the fact that this was proposed by no less a figure than Ramban). His reason for rejecting it is that, as seen in the Talmudic story of the Achnai oven, no form of divine intervention is permitted in the halachic process — "[The Torah] is not in Heaven." The Sanhedrin are human beings, and they are thus, by definition, fallible. Chasam Sofer concludes that one is obligated to accept that the Sanhedrin can make mistakes. He further points out that the zaken mamre may be wiser than all the rest of the Sanhedrin, and may even have the majority of non-Sanhedrin scholars on his side. Chasam Sofer stresses that the zaken mamre may even be correct! He gives the powerful example of a lone judge on the Sanhedrin who is of the view that a certain food is not kosher, and is actually correct that it is treife food — yet if the rest of the Sanhedrin rules that it is kosher, he must not refuse to eat it!
Yet this zaken mamre - a great Torah scholar who is the voice of the silent majority, who may even be the one voice who is actually getting the halacha correct, is nevertheless liable for the death penalty for the "crime" of not abandoning the truth and following the Sanhedrin's ruling. Why?
The reason is simple, yet profound.
It is crucial to maintain a system of authority, because without it, you have anarchy.
If one person who knows better is allowed to disobey the courts, then everyone who believes that they know better than the courts will do what they think is correct. And then the courts and the legal system lose all authority. Which means that society will inevitably fall apart. Gone. Finished. Kaput. And the importance of a single truth does not remotely justify destroying everything.
That's why, in the famous story of the Achnai oven, when even a Divine voice rings out that R. Eliezer is correct, his ruling is nevertheless ignored in favor of the majority. The ruling of the majority must be followed not because they are necessarily correct - after all, in this case God Himself said that they were wrong! Rather, it must be followed due to the much greater importance of upholding the system of authority and preventing anarchy. Better for the system to occasionally get it wrong than for the entire society to collapse into chaos because everyone does what they think is right.
Stop and think about this for a few moments. This member of the Sanhedrin - this great man who has done so much for the Jewish People, who is upset that they are getting the halacha wrong and wants to make them great again, this brave man who goes against the mainstream and speaks truth to power, who is speaking the truth - is liable for the death penalty. Because by focusing on the narrow issue of his own certainty of having arrived at the truth, he has ignored the tremendous harm that he is doing to the very fabric of society. If you give license to disregard the system when you believe yourself justified, they you ruin the system. And if you ruin the system, the central body of authority, then society falls apart. An act which initially appears righteous can be devastatingly harmful and must be treated accordingly.
Bookshop Sketch from Marty Amok! (originally At Last The 1948 Show)
Marty Amok! was an Easter special episode of the Marty Feldman sketch show "It's Marty" and originally aired on 30 March 1970 on BBC1.
The Bookshop Sketch stars Marty Feldman and John Junkin. It was originally performed in At Last The 1948 Show (where Marty Feldman acted opposite John Cleese in this sketch).
Sketch is written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
Chabad.org, like many Jewish print and online publishers, is particular to not spell out the name of our Creator, even in English. Rather, we write "G‑d."
Here's why: Following the Torah's instruction to "obliterate the name" of idolatry in the Land of Israel,1 the Torah warns us not to do the same to G‑d. We thus learn that there is a prohibition to erase G‑d's name.2 Writing G‑d's name could lead to erasing or disrespecting G‑d's name, as will be discussed.
While it is clear that this prohibition applies to the names of G‑d written in Hebrew,3 the question is whether it applies to foreign languages, such as English.
Some opinions understand that this prohibition extends to all languages.4 Others limit the prohibition to Hebrew; however, they agree that one should avoid erasing G‑d's name in foreign languages if possible.5
Even those who do not consider erasing G‑d's name in a foreign language to be a technical violation agree that there is another issue to contend with: disrespect. All agree that the name must not be treated (or defaced) in a disrespectful manner.
To give some perspective, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, when discussing the laws of mentioning G‑d's name in a place of filth, explains the concept this way:
Names that refer exclusively to the Holy One, blessed be He, i.e., the seven names that may not be erased, may not be mentioned in such places [e.g., bathroom or place of filth] — even in a secular language, such as any name by which the Holy One, blessed be He, is called by any nation in any language (such as Gott in German, or Boga in Polish or Russian). No holiness attaches to the written forms of these secular names for G‑d and it is permitted to erase them. Nevertheless, it is debasing to mention them in a place of filth.
[To cite a parallel:] mentioning the name Shalom. This name, too, may be erased. Nevertheless, since it is used as a name for the Holy One, blessed be He—albeit not exclusively—it is forbidden to mention it [in a bathhouse] when one is referring to the concept of peace, as explained in sec. 84[:1]. How much more so does this apply with regard to the names designated for Him in non-Jewish languages . . .6
Why must one be so careful not to disrespect these foreign language names of G‑d? Because if one recites a blessing in a foreign language using one of these names, the blessing is considered valid. This is despite the rule that "any blessing that doesn't include G‑d's name is invalid,7" thus indicating that these foreign names are manifestations of the Divine name.
So even if you can technically erase G‑d's name written in a foreign language, you still need to treat it in a respectful manner.
Due to this, when religious Jewish newspapers were first printed in pre-Holocaust Europe, many adopted the practice to follow the more stringent opinion and hyphenate the name of G‑d, lest at some stage these pages be treated disrespectfully.8 This practice now extends to all articles, newspapers or magazines printed in Yiddish, English or any other language. However, in sacred texts, the name of G‑d is often spelled out in full, since the presumption is that such books will be treated with respect.9
Although some of these concerns may not apply to a digital copy or computer screen, we are still careful to hyphenate Divine names written in foreign languages online, not only out of extra reverence for G‑d's name where it may not be technically required, but also since it is very common, especially for Jews (because of Shabbat), to print out these articles to read later.
I do not fear the coronavirus. I fear what has become of so many of my people.
Last week I accomplished what few Jews ever manage to accomplish. I was essentially thrown out of a minyan.
A Jew can do any of the following things without being kicked out of shul. He can cheat on his wife; he can beat his wife; he can molest children; he can be a convicted felon; he can be openly gay and proud of it; he can intermarry; he can defend terrorists; he can violate Shabbos in public; he can talk to others the entire davening; he can talk on his phone during davening; he can spread lies and gossip; he can make malicious remarks about the rabbi; he can mock Judaism and make fun of the Torah.
If a Jew took out an idol during davening and bowed to it, most of the people there would be more amused than outraged. Their first reaction would be to record it on their phones and share it. Then they might try to do kiruv and save his soul. They wouldn't throw him out.
I managed to do something infinitely worse than all the above.
I uncovered my face.
We were outdoors, of course, because those who make the rules had decided that today it was just too dangerous to daven indoors, unlike the day before. It was a bright, sunny day, I was twenty feet away from the nearest person, and I was minding my own business. But my mouth and nostrils were exposed. There wasn't even a thin blue shmatta covering them, which would at least give the false pretense of preventing my diseased breath from reaching another human being.
During chazaras hashatz, when it is an especially severe violation to talk, someone approached me and said that if I do not cover my mouth and nose, "you can't daven with us".
One might assume that this enforcer was kicking me out because he deemed me a threat to the health and lives of the other participants of the minyan. Maybe he trusted those other experts, the ones who want everyone to be masked all the time, no matter what, because maybe it reduces your chance of giving or receiving some infected air ever so slightly. Surely a ticking time bomb should be asked to leave a minyan, while the aforementioned crimes against God and man could more easily be tolerated.
However, I know for certain that he did not consider my naked face to be a lethal threat, for he did not stand six feet away while laying down the law. He stood right next to me, contrary to health ministry guidelines, and did not exhibit the slightest concern about the air departing my lips and nostrils.
Hence, this wasn't a matter of science or safety, real or imaginary. It was a matter of principle. At this minyan we all play make-believe, and if you are not willing to play along, you are not welcome. If you beat your wife and children, that is none of our business. If you desecrate the Torah, we will look the other way. But if you won't cover your mouth and nose with a thin, useless partition, you can't daven with us.
A couple of weeks ago I published an article called Herd Insanity, in which I argued that much of the Orthodox world has become mentally ill. They are obsessed with minimizing their presumed odds of catching coronavirus above all other considerations. Their behavior is not guided by a careful analysis of relevant Torah or science, or by calm reasoning.
Everything has become a safek pikuach nefesh, seen strictly through the narrow prism of potentially catching the virus. As a result, normal human behavior has become categorically forbidden with one broad stroke of fear. Those who are unwilling to adhere to the most extreme prohibitions on normal human behavior are condemned as murderers.
Again, a Jew can commit virtually any crime against man or God without the reaction being so black and white. But kiss a Torah? Shake a hand? Stand under God's glorious sky and breathe the fresh air through two exposed nostrils, far from anyone else? You are committing genocide and can't daven with us.
Many people applauded my article, but others took umbrage with it. One woman wrote a letter to the Jewish Press in which she argued that not shaking hands is a geder so that we don't come to hug people. This is Torah? This is science? I suppose if people shook hands, then someone went for a hug, it might even lead to mixed dancing.
A rabbi responded with a confusing article in which he threw together a hodgepodge of Torah sources, claimed that every small action such as kissing a Torah or shaking a hand carries a small risk, and argued that eventually all those small risks add up to dangerous odds of getting the virus and dropping dead. He did not explain why we don't wear hazmat suits to further reduce our risk of infection, or why we don't walk around with calculators to determine the statistical chance of shortening our lives from any other potential threat aside from this one.
He also made the geder argument, that if we allow handshakes, we will eventually throw out all precautions. In other words, we cannot be safe unless we compel everyone to go to the absolute extreme; this is what the Torah demands of us! Of course this is neither paranoid, nor mentally ill, nor a corruption of the Torah. Some Jews left Egypt before the right time, he concluded, and look what happened to them – they were killed! Same situation! So mask up, avoid other people, don't touch things unnecessarily, and wait for redemption.
I referred to this as mental illness not to insult people, but to be charitable. Mentally ill people cannot be faulted for their behavior because they cannot think clearly or control themselves. It is a legal defense even for those who commit terrible crimes. It is far preferable for Jews who are urging extreme hysteria and paranoia, who are rushing to take a "vaccine" that is covered in red flags and doesn't vaccinate you against anything, who are afraid to kiss a Torah or shake a hand or breathe God's fresh air without a shmatta on both their nostrils, who call people like me murderers, who believe we cannot shake hands lest we hug people, who believe we have to mathematically calculate our odds of getting coronavirus with every small action we take...it is far preferable to consider them mentally ill than to accuse them of deliberately engaging in this behavior with a clear and healthy mind.
I stood far away from others on a beautiful day and unmasked my face. For this crime, unlike virtually any other, I was approached and told "you can't daven with us".
I do not fear the coronavirus. I fear what has become of so many of my people. They are destroying themselves and others. They have lost their ability to think clearly and rationally. They are living without a trace of spirituality and faith in God, even while they maintain the exterior trappings of "religious" life. They are filled with fear and anger when they see someone who is minding his own business but not playing make-believe. And they think they are saving lives.
I hope they are mentally ill – not something else – and that God heals them quickly.
I would like to daven with them again.
Rabbi Chananya Weissman is the founder of EndTheMadness and the author of seven books, including "Go Up Like a Wall" and "Tovim Ha-Shenayim: The role and nature of Man and Woman." He is also the director and producer of a documentary on the shidduch world, "Single Jewish Male," available on YouTube. His work is available at chananyaweissman.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com