Thursday, July 11, 2013

It's The Summer... Which Means It's Time Again For The Biannual Visiting Day BellyAche

It's comforting to know that there are some events  that are so certain to occur that you can set your clock (or calendar) by them.  One of those events is the annual letters/complaints in the frum media about camp visiting day.  This one comes to us from  A reader writes:

On the issue of visiting day in summer camps, for the most part, the men have been in favor of abolishing visiting day, while mothers and grandmothers are often up in arms over even suggesting something as horrible as not visiting their children. 
I am not going to take a side here. I will, however, share a shocking statement that someone made to me last Sunday, when I did not go to visit my children in sleep-away camp simply because it was too difficult for me to do so. The comment was, “Well, then, don’t be surprised when your kids go off the derech.” 

Huh? Dear Matzav readers, is this how far we have come? That my children will go off the derech because I did not shlep for three hours each way to visit them in camp? Have we lost our sanity?

Of course, his correspondent was being ridiculous.  Not visiting one's kids at camp on visiting day will not, in and of itself, send one's kids off the derech.  However, it does send a message to the child that s/he's not worth the shlep up for a few hours.

Personally, I find it difficult to understand how a parent can miss visiting day at camp.  Yes, granted, sometimes there are bona fide reasons for not going (medical emergency, must work, live an excessive distance away, etc.).  But to not go simply because you feel it is "too difficult" is, in my humble opinion, simply wrong.  It tells the kid that they are not important enough to bother yourself for a few hours.

My kids are older now, but when they were in camp, I made sure to make the shlep from the city to the country every visiting day.  Yes, there were times that I dreaded the trip itself, the traffic and the crowds, but I still went anyway.  It's important for kids to feel that they are wanted and appreciated.  Not going to visit on visiting day (again, absent some bona fide reason) just sends the message that they're not worth it -- even if that's not the message you're trying to spread.

And perhaps, the extra positive message that you send by visiting will help to keep them on the derech after all.

The Wolf

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Not Answering The Objection

A common debate tactic  (especially, I find, in frum circles) is the practice of not actually answering an argument or objection, but instead deflecting it.  Very often, this takes the form of "don't you think Gadol X thought of that?"  or  "surely he knew about your objection but if it didn't bother him then obviously it's not a valid argument."  Personally, I find it infuriating when people do that, as it violates any number of logical fallacies.

A variation of this appeared today in a column on Vos Iz Neias.  Rabbi Yair Hoffman, a regular correspondent on the site, wrote a long article advocating stricter observance of the halachos of Bishul Akum in restaurants.  Bishul Akum is the rule that a Jew may not eat cooked foods (with certain exceptions) that were not prepared by a Jew.  This rule was enacted centuries ago as a preventative measure against intermarriage.

All in all, Rabbi Hoffman's article was cogent and well-written.  However, at the end of the article, he says the following (emphasis his):

A counter-argument. One might counter that in a restaurant setting, it is not highly likely that bishul akum would result in intermarriage. While this may be true, we must consider that the sages who enacted the protective fences of Judaism were much wiser than we are. Aside from the respect that we must have for halachah itself, there are also farther-reaching repercussions to consider. The issue of laxity involving the bishul akum of household help is serious and has, unfortunately, led to some serious lapses.

Here, Rabbi Hoffman raises a very powerful counter-argument for loosening the rules of Bishul Akum in restaurant settings.  Yes, Bishul Akum may work as a preventative measure against intermarriage in residential and social settings, but if I'm dining in a restaurant, I'm not likely to go looking to socialize with the chef who made my steak.

However, rather than address the very objection he raises, he simply goes ahead and pulls the "they're much greater than us so we can't question/change anything" card.  Personally, I find that very unsatisfying.  Perhaps the halachos of Bishul Akum *can* be relaxed in a restaurant, as modern restaurants didn't exist when these halachos were codified.  Perhaps there are valid reasons to continue to apply these halachos to restaurants.  Personally, I'm not enough of an expert to have a valid opinion one way or the other.  But if you're going to bring up the objection, at least answer it with a well-reasoned rational answer.  Rabbi Hoffman, on the other hand, chose to answer it with "they're so much wiser than we are..."  I find that to be a very poor answer.

Again, I'm not saying that the halachos of Bishul Akum should be loosened in restaurant settings.  I don't know enough about the halachos to make that sort of statement.  But I do know enough to know that if you're going to try to head off an objection that your opponents may make, you should actually try to answer that objection with valid arguments.

The Wolf

(PS:  Just for the record, I don't know if Rabbi Hoffman's suggestions vis-a-vis Bishul Akum are correct or not -- I'm not an expert in these halachos.  My main point is not the article itself, but his failure to address his own objection/)

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

PSA: Bone Marrow Drive -- Help Save a Life (Brooklyn, NY)

I was asked to post this as a public service announcement:

 Save a life today at a bone marrow donor compatibility drive for

Mordechai Fastag לרפואה שלימה.

If you are 18-60 years old and have never been tested before please come in for a simple cheek swab test to check genetic compatibility to cure Mordechai who is suffering from Leukimia.

There are two venues for the test.  Both are in the Midwood section of Brooklyn:
For men @ Rabbi Landuas Shul corner of Avenue L and East 9th Street from 2 PM-11 PM

For Women @ 1325 East 5th Street Between Avenue L and M from 6 PM-10 PM

רחמנים בני רחמנים

Please have a heart and, possibly, save a life.