Sunday, September 23, 2007

So How Many Seeds Does a Pomegranate Have?

Okay. Sorry I missed posting it two weeks ago but this is too cool.

So it's like this. Everybody knows the age old question "how many seeds does a pomegranate have?" And every little Jewish kid at Rosh Hashanah knows the answer. Exactly 613 - parallel to the number of mitzvos of the Torah. Hmm.

But do they really have 613?

A Columbia University professor (likely for a statistics course) collected data by counting seeds from 206 pomegranates from all over the world. The least number of seeds one had was 165 (an Iranian one...hmm...) and the max number was 1370 (from one grown in the USA).

But the average number of seeds was remarkably exactly 613!

The entire study including all the data can be found here.

Hat Tip: existwhere?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chareidi Community Funding Terrorists

No this is not about the Neturai Karta but about the "mainstream" chareidi community.

It's like this. There are four options for observing Shmittah.

1. If possible use 6th year produce, use imported produce from non-Arab countries, or produce from the southern Aravah.

2. Otzar Bet Din

3. Heter Mechirah

4. Arab Produce

A sizeable portion of the chareidi community has decided to embrace (as in past years) the 4th option, even though options 1 and 2 are 100% halachiclly sound!

Option 4 is extremely harmful. Aside from putting Jewish farmers that are observing the Torah and Shmittah out of business they are providing revenue to mass murderers that will use the very money they make from this to build rockets to fire at Israel and to build bomb belts to use on Israeli buses - Heaven forbid! One has to ask how option 4 can be permitted hachically at all. It can't be. Public pressure must be applied to the kashrus organizations that use this method. Boycotts should be arranged. And the chareidi public must be informed about what is going on. I did see one Chareidi publication - Mishpacha - was promoting the option of Otzar Bet Din over the other methods and that is an excellent start. But more needs to be done.

Here is a link to a story posted on The Yeshiva World. At the time of this post no comments were posted there yet. It will be interesting to see the discussion that develops.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Reminder: In EY, Clocks Go Back One Hour Tonight!

Don't forget to change your clocks tonight. This will allow to fast to end one hour earlier. So tomorrows Tzom ends 6:11pm in Yershalayim instead of 7:11pm. Woo hoo!

Israel will remain 6 hours ahead of New York till mid-November.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shana Tova! - Remember to do a Pruzbol!

As you all know by now (if you follow PoP) the Shmittah year is just about upon us. One of the laws of Shmittah is that loans are nullified. 2000 years ago Hillel saw that people stopped lending out money because they were afraid they would never get it back since the loans would be nullified. Hillel's solution to this problem was the Pruzbol. The Pruzbol is a legal document that gives the court, the beis din, the right to collect the money for you. There is a disagreement among the halachic authorities when this document must be completed. Most say by the end of the Shmittah year but some hold it must be completed today!

The picture above this post is one text published by the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel in Hebrew.

The RCC publishes a Pruzbol in English here.

Here's another one.

Chabad actually has an Online Pruzbol form that they say to use as a last resort.

Shana Tova!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tishrei 5768

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. Please also note that there are many other shmittah calendars out there that may provide different dates that those posted here. These dates should therefore not be used "halacha lemisa" but for educational purposes only. You should however use this information to consult with your Rav as for the proper actions to take. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

Many items should begin being treated as having Kedushat Shevi'it this month including:

On 1 Tishrei

Corn (Fresh)

On 3 Tishrei

Butternut Squash
Cabbage (Red)
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Sweet Potatoes
Zucchini (Squash)

Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.

Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Tishrei

Corn (Fresh)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.


There are no items that will require biur this month.

Additionally, please note:
The following items are items are imported and not affected by the laws of Shmittah:
Kidney Beans
Kimmel (Caraway Seeds)
Peas (Dried)
Pepper (powder - both white and black)
Poppy Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds

Also Sesame is Godulei Nochri in Israel and not affected by the laws of Shmittah.

Also most Wheat used in Israel is imported. However there is wheat which is grown locally and certain bakeries specifically use it. Organic wheat is likely grown in Israel. Read labels carefully and ask your baker and then ask your local Rav for a final posak.

Oh, and one more thing! Apples - since they are in the above picture for Tishrei - they don't get Kedushat Shevi'it till Iyar, but they keep it till the following Iyar so this Rosh Hashana you don't have to finish the whole apple you dip in honey...but next Rosh Hashana you might need to!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Fun with Shmittah!

Are you ready for some Shmittah?

Well first let's get one thing straight once and for all. The word "problem" should never EVER be used when referring to one of Hashem's commandments and certainly not by anyone living in Eretz Yisrael regarding Shmittah. Shmittah is not a problem! It's a mitzvah! And what's more? It's a mitzvah only us Jews zoche (worthy) to be living in Eretz Yisrael this year can keep! Yes, by the use of exclamation points in this post you could tell I'm a bit "pumped" and excited about what begins in just a few short days! I just got back from an awesome shuir on Shmittah that cleared up a whole bunch of questions I had.

Do you realize you get a mitzvah for every bite you take out of something that has Kedushas Shvius? And you get a mitzvah when you treat that Holy produce the right way as well. You know what else? All those Jews sitting in Brooklyn, New York... no better... all those Jews sitting in Lakewood, New Jersey know less about Shmittah than your average four year old playing on the monkey bars in Ramat Beit Shemesh! Here is a whole important section of the Torah that these Jews just "don't care about" because it "doesn't apply." I don't know about you... but if Hashem gave us a few more mitzvos to do, and all we have to do to keep these mitzvos is change our zip code... ehh, nevermind. Just a thought...

Now for the important points. The halachos of Shmittah are detailed and numerous with many different opinions and many different approaches. I was thinking of somehow trying to summarize them right here and now but I tell you, the best summary I have ever seen online was written by Rav Asher Balanson of Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalim. It is an absolute must read if you are just waking up now and realizing that Shmittah is just a few days away. Aside from that it is recommended that you go into any bookstore and ask about books on Shmittah. Many bookstores have them all laid out on tables in front. And finally ask questions to your LOR. If you don't have a Rav to ask all your halachic questions now is a VERY good time to get one. And in Eretz Yisrael B"H rabbis are not hard to find.

Okay... now for the fun part. Various organization put out "Shmittah calendars." These calendars contain three important dates.

1. When a certain produce can be considered to have Kedushas Shvius.
2. When a certain vegetable or grain can be considered Sefichim.
3. The date that Biur must be done on the produce.

These dates vary for all different grains, fruits and vegetables. To understand what these dates mean read the Rav Balanson summary.

In any case I have obtained the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel's "Shmittah 5768: A Practical Guide" (which you can order for yourself here.) It was compiled by Rabbi David Marcus who I had the pleasure of meeting tonight. And I do recommend you get the guide!

So here's the plan. Here at PoP (and also at Kumah,) Bez"H before every Rosh Chodesh we will post the important dates that will become relevant for various produce that month. It should be exciting and we'll get to learn a lot more about how, when and where things grow. For example much to my chagrin I now know that both cashews and pistachios (that I would bring to NY to brag about how great the produce here are) are actually imported! (The good news about that is that this mean I can still bring them outside EY to NY.)

Anyway stayed tuned to this blog as a whole lot of produce can already be considered to have Kedushas Shvius come sundown on Wednesday night!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Aliyah To Lakewood, NJ, Hashem's Temple

Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!

BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!

What's got Pinchas so worked up? Well "a former Talmid of BMG" wrote a letter to the editor of the Yated and it was printed on page 88 of the 10 Elul - Aug 24 edition. In this letter the former Talmid continually compares Bais Medrash Govoah (BMG) to the actual Bais Hamikdosh! He ponders as he approaches BMG if he is feeling "what oleh regel felt like." At one point in the letter he calls those that live in Lakewood "choshoveh bnei aliyah." To this guy there are two buildings one can refer to as "bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov." And by feeling BMG is one of them, he concludes, we will merit for the other one to be built.

What more can I write but Berlin is Jerusalem Syndrome strikes again.

However there is a ray of hope. I happen to know for a fact there actually are holy Jews from Lakewood, New Jersey that are indeed making Aliyah (the kind where you move to Eretz Yisrael.) May the merit of these Jews protect those "lost ones" and the Jewish community in Lakewood and may it inspire them to wake up and realize that "Ain Torah K'Toras Eretz Yisrael!" And may they all become true "choshoveh bnei aliyah."

Hashem Yeracham!

Because Yated has no real viable website the letter in question is reproduced below in its entirety. Be warned though... it may get you worked up a bit...



Dear Editor,

We returned a few days ago from a bain hazmanim vaction in Lakewood, or rather, I should say a week's worth of recharging our batteries and basking in the light of the greatest makam Torah in America.

Although I have never written a letter to the editor before, I want to use this forum to share my feelings and deep hargashas with the choshuveh yungeliet who are zocheh to make up this makom kadosh, and the parents, who in large part are the ones who make it possible. I hope my words can serve as divrei chizuk to these all important members of Klal Yisroel.

We approached the buildings of Bais Medrash Govoah during bain hazemanim with great anticipation and emotion. I thought to myself that, in reality, we are approaching a bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah Shimcha olov; a place that is great, a place that is holy, a place where Hakadosh Boruch Hu is mashreh Shechinah, a place which creates a tremendous Kiddush Hashem - (I wondered to myself that, perhaps, this is a sample of what oleh regel felt like during the times of the Bais Hamikdosh as the Yidden approached Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdosh.)

It is in the halls of this makom kadosh that I was zocheh to learn for many years. Much of our ruchniyus, both my own and my family's, has come from these botei medrash. My rabbeim and roshei yeshiva were omel b'Torah in this very yeshiva for years. My children's rabbeim shteiged here. Leaders of our generation, roshei yeshivos and rabbeim, have grown in Torah, tefillah and yiras Shomayim in these very buildings.

I toured the various botei medrash. I reminded myself that in this corner we learned this mesechta, on the other side of the bais medrish another mesechta and on the stage of Bais Shalom a third. I remember where I was standing during Rav Matisyahu Salomon's first shmuess, and where my seat was for the Yomim Noraim…

We thoroughly enjoyed our bain hazmemanim, from the yeshiva davening, slowly enunciating each word with its own sweet taste, to learning sedorim in the various botei medrash, surrounded by Bnei Torah, yungeliet and bochurim learning with hasmada even during bain hazemanim, I found myself imagining how much more geshmak it much be during the zeman with six botei medrish packed with lomdei Torah learning with a bren.

Which brings me to the point of this letter.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that when Dovid Hamelech also davened, "Shivri b'vais Hashem kol yimei chayai... u'livaker b'haychalo," the he should dwell and visit the Bais Hashem, he was really davening for two things. First and foremost, he davened to dwell constantly in the Bais Hashem to feel the enthusiasm and the hispailus that only a visitor can feel and that can sometimes be lost on the permanent resident of the Bais Hashem. Dovid Hamelech was mispallel that he should never lose the hispailus and appreciation that only a visitor can feel. (In fact, the Chossid Yaivitz explains that the reason a visitor to the Bais Hamikdosh much leave through a different door than the one he entered is so that he should not lose the hispailus that he felt when he saw the Bais Hamikdosh from the first angle and seeing it again from the very same angle. Instead, each door should be seen only once, to create a lasting and breathtaking first impression.)

It is with this thought from the Chafetz Chaim in mind that I want to take the opportunity to share with those who are zocheh to be shivtie b'vais Hashem the feelings and impressions of a visitor, a mevaer b'haychalo. I'm well aware of the daily tirdos of the choshoveh bnei aliyah who learn in this bayis gadol v'kadosh, including babysitting, carpooling, playgroups, wives working full time, parnassa issues, etc., and the koach of hergel on top of it all. But I wish that each and every one of you should be zoche to fell the excitement, the magnitude, the awe, the hispailus, the love, and the longing the we, the former talmidim - those who were once zoche to be shivti babayis hazeh - feel when we are mevaker b'haychalo. May Hakadosh Boruch Hu help you feel anticipation and excitement each day as you enter this great makom Torah and walk its hallowed halls.

To the parents, in-laws and relatives of these choshuveh yungeleit, I would like to share the following. As we were leaving Lakewood, something I saw got me thinking. We all have different ways in which we are able to support out precious chavrei hakollel. Some offer financial help directly to the yeshiva. Others can afford to give financial help to their children and relatives. Others support yungeleit in the form of gifts and clothing, and yet others can supply emotional support, a compliment, a good vort, or words of appreciation to our young treasures who do so much for, and are tremendous zechus to, their families and the entire Klal Yisroel.

Whatever it is that we can do, let us do it proudly, with a deep understanding and great appreciation of the chashivus of Torah, chashivus of lomdei Torah, chashivus of a makom Torah, and while bearing in mind what Torah, limud HaTorah and a makom Torah does for us, our families, for Klal Yisroel and for our future.

May Hakadosh Boruch Hu bentch us that our appreciation and understanding of what this bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov means to us and Klal Yisroel should hasten the bulding of the bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov that we refer to in our bentching.

A Former Talmid Of BMG

Hat Tip: Yaakov

Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Secret Weapon of the IDF

All the nations of the world will see that G-d's Name is associated with you, and they will be in awe of you. (Devarim 28:10).

Menachot 35b interprets this verse as a reference to the tefillin worn on the head.

When the Gentiles see the Jews proudly attired in tefillin, they respect them. Tefillin cast an aura of fear over Israel's foes. Even demons and spirits will tremble in fright (Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5a).

The first letters of Shem Hashem Nikrah, "G-d's Name is associated," spell out the name of the letter SHiN. A Shin bolts out of either side of the head tefillin. It is the first letter of Sha-D-I. (Baal HaTurim).

"Tefillin are G-d's crown... Whoever dons this crown will become the ruler below, as G-d is the ruler above" (Zoher III 269b).

Similarly, Berachot 56a maintains that a person who sees tefillin in his dreams will soon rise to power. Berahot (6a) interprets "G-d's powerful arm" (Isaiah 62:8) as tefillin. "Tefillin grant power to Israel."

Accordingly, it has always been customary for Jewish soldiers to observe the mitzvah of tefillin with great care.

Text taken from Meam Loez on Ki Tavo p. 150. Photos collected from the Internet.