Learning Care With Others’ Property

A classic example of carelessness is not returning borrowed items. It seems to be an all-too-common occurrence that people lend sefarim out and never see them again! Unless the lender intends to forgive failure to return the sefer, this constitutes a form of gezel. Of course people do not purposely intend to steal, but such negligence surely stems from a lack of respect for other people’s property. Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l was a living example of how to act in this area. On one occasion he was filling in a kesubah and used the chassan’s pen and forgot to return it to him amidst the hectic nature of the wedding. TWO YEARS later he met again with the pen owner and handed him the pen .

Another area in which there is a great yetser hara to be moreh heter is using other people’s items without express permission. There are many instances in which it is forbidden to assume that the owner will be mochel for someone to use his item without asking first. The ease at which one can be nichshal in this area is demonstrated in the following story. Rav Leib Chassid was the famous tzaddik of Kelm. In his later years he went out for a walk on the road between Kelm and Tavrig. One day a teenage boy driving a wagon passed by and offered him a ride. Reb Leib asked him if the wagon was his, and the by replied that it belonged to his father. “Did he give you permission to take passengers?” Reb Leib asked. The boy admitted that he had never discussed it with his father, adding, “Do I really need his permission for that?” “Yes”, said Reb Leib, “since you have not asked permission you would be a thief if you took any passengers into the wagon. ” It is such sensitivity that is required in order to avoid erring in these halachos.

Excerpted from here.

What’s Wrong With Chassidus?

There is a book titled “The Hasidic Movement and the Gaon of Vilna“. I hear this book fulfills the promise inherent in the title, but have not yet seen it myself.

The blurb from Amazon:

Although hasidic Jews are today associated with mainstream Orthodoxy, Hasidism, during the year of its genesis, was bitterly opposed and indicted with bans of excommunication by the Jewish establishment. In The Hasidic Movement and the Gaon of Vilna, Elijah Judah Schochet analyzes the conflict centering on the hasidic movement in the eighteenth century and the role played by the leader of the opposition, Rabbi Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna. The reasons Hasidism was challenged are of value not only vis-a-vis historical curiosity but in terms of the nature of traditional Judaism, its religious priorities, and the perceived dangers inherent in the hasidic style of rabbinic leadership. Tzaddikim were singularly authorized to descend into sin’s domain to emancipate the sinner in cases of vice and iniquity, and these actions were viewed by the mitnagdim, or opponents, as “a dangerous flirtation with the notion of ‘sin.'” Schochet embarks on a fascinating foray into the misconceptions held by the opponents of the hasidim that fueled the tension between the two. Rabbi Elijah, known as the Gaon of Vilna, who was the outstanding rabbinic scholar of his time, emerged from his cloistered existence to confront and battle these seemingly ostensible threats from within the hasidic movement. However, there is no record of his having personally encountered hasidic Jews. Why, then, was he so disturbed by Hasidism? What threats did he perceive the movement posed? Did the excommunication of the hasidim by the Gaon of Vilna really occur? In The Hasidic Movement and the Gaon of Vilna, Schochet attempts to unravel the mystery underlying Rabbi Elijah and his campaign against the hasidic movement. Some aspects of the controversy between Hasidism and the mitnagdim still linger today, and Rabbi Schochet’s effort to explicate the eighteenth-century dilemma and its contenders allows the reader a more privileged glance at past tensions as well as an understanding of the players in today’s drama.

How Many Briskers Does It Take To Switch A Light Bulb?

Answer: What do you mean by a metzius of “light”? Vos shtait da? Does the thing give off a chalos light or not?! Fakert, if – and to the extent, the cheftza needs switching, it is no longer in the geder mesuyam of “light bulb”, so your Kashe is pashut narishkeit! Da’as ba’alei batim hepech da’as Brisker Torah”. Don’t make faces; only eineklach may do so. You chap? Ya? Nu nu.

Also, Der Tatteh never said nothing about this ‘switching lightbulbs’ zach. Except… someone once takeh told me he thinks, maybe in this inyan of an old bulb – or maybe about an old broom, Der Tatteh said in Yiddishe shprach – and this absolutely cannot be translated into Lashon Hakodesh, and I forbid it with a shiyur bakinyan, Medin Yerusha: “מ’קען זיין בעסער”. It was exactly those words with precisely such a facial expression.

The Torah On Peace and Non-interventionism

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Our Enemy

We recently read:

יא וַיְהִי בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם, וַיִּגְדַּל מֹשֶׁה וַיֵּצֵא אֶל-אֶחָיו, וַיַּרְא, בְּסִבְלֹתָם; וַיַּרְא אִישׁ מִצְרִי, מַכֶּה אִישׁ-עִבְרִי מֵאֶחָיו. יב וַיִּפֶן כֹּה וָכֹה, וַיַּרְא כִּי אֵין אִישׁ; וַיַּךְ, אֶת-הַמִּצְרִי, וַיִּטְמְנֵהוּ, בַּחוֹל. יג וַיֵּצֵא בַּיּוֹם הַשֵּׁנִי, וְהִנֵּה שְׁנֵי-אֲנָשִׁים עִבְרִים נִצִּים; וַיֹּאמֶר, לָרָשָׁע, לָמָּה תַכֶּה, רֵעֶךָ. יד וַיֹּאמֶר מִי שָׂמְךָ לְאִישׁ שַׂר וְשֹׁפֵט, עָלֵינוּ–הַלְהָרְגֵנִי אַתָּה אֹמֵר, כַּאֲשֶׁר הָרַגְתָּ אֶת-הַמִּצְרִי; וַיִּירָא מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמַר, אָכֵן נוֹדַע הַדָּבָר. טו וַיִּשְׁמַע פַּרְעֹה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ לַהֲרֹג אֶת-מֹשֶׁה; וַיִּבְרַח מֹשֶׁה מִפְּנֵי פַרְעֹה, וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּאֶרֶץ-מִדְיָן וַיֵּשֶׁב עַל-הַבְּאֵר.1

Rav Ya’akov Kamenetsky comments:

והנה מצינו כמה פעמים במקראות וחז”ל שדתן ואבירם היו שונאים את משה. ולכאורה בשלמא דתן שפיר שנא אותו ומפני שהוכיחו וקראו רשע, אבל אבירם מדוע היה הוא כועס על משה, והלוא אדרבא הוא רב את ריבו.

אבל באמת נראה לי דלמדנו מזה לימוד גדול, דהא דתן ואבירם היו אחים וכדאשכחן בבמדבר כ”ו פ”ט ובני אליאב נמואל ודתן ואבירם הוא דתן ואבירם קרואי העדה וגו’, ואם כן ילפינן מזה שבין אחים אם יתערב זר הם ישלימו ביניהם והכעס ישאר על הזר והבן.2

Rav Ya’akov’s “great lesson” is actually an ancient Middle Eastern aphorism:

I against my brother, my brothers and I against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers.

My Brother and I against My Cousin; My Cousin and I against the Stranger.

Rav Ya’akov’s actual phrasing seems to be drawn from language of the Rosh:

אל תתעבר אל ריב לא לך כי לסוף הם ישלימו ביניהם ואתה תשאר בכעס:3

  1. שמות ב:יא-טו – קשר [↩]
  2. רב יעקב קמנצקי, עיונים במקרא (נוא יורק תשד”מ) שמות ב:יג עמוד קלב [↩]
  3. אורחות חיים לרבינו הרא”ש ז”ל (ברוקלין תש”ן), ליום רביעי אות ס”ה – קשר [↩]

From Bein Din Ledin, here.