The following four subjects are:
I. Does a geir have to be tovel the keilim he owned before his geirus.
II. A pox upon people who ascribe base motives and willful naiveté to Gedolim.
III. When is the earliest you can make a bracha on Tzitzis.
IV. Profoundly Stupid things I've heard people say to Aveilim and Cholim.
When a person becomes a geir, does he have to be tovel all his keilim? The answer, of course, is absolutely yes. There is ZERO evidence from any rishon that he doesn’t. There is no obvious svara to say anything different. But the Avnei Nezer, as brought by his son in the Shem Mishmuel in Parshas Mattos and in his drashos for Sukkos, holds that he does not have to be tovel his keilim. Why? Who knows. Some say it’s because he didn’t buy or acquire them, he just had them from before. Since there’s no ownership change, no chiyuv was chall. I am told that in a recent geirus in Houston, Rabbi Nota Greenblatt paskened that he should be tovel his keilim without a bracha. I am torn between the awareness that if the Avnei Nezer says something, then it was said carefully and deliberately with Shas and poskim behind it, and an acute discomfort with taking this to be normative halacha.
Anyway, for you Gerers out there, and assuming that you trust the Shem Mishmuel, as opposed to those that say that the Avnei Nezer himself said to be tovel the keilim without a bracha, I have a fine idea. Sometimes, a caterer has to be tovel a whole carload of things, which might also be fragile or unwieldy. Here's an option: Just give them all as a gift to a man or woman who is becoming a ger. When that person is misgayeir, they will give it all back to the the caterer, and it will not need tevilla.
This really sounds like Kinyan Agav. You make a kinyan (te'vila) on the karka (Geir), and the metaltelim (keilim) are nikneh (muchshor) "bechol mokom she'heim."
I was talking to Rav Reuven Feinstein about what is being said on the internet about the EJF, and the many writers who ascribe venal, base, and selfish motives to the people who comprise and who support the EJF. I can say that his reaction was negative, and that he disagrees with those who say that he is being misled and bamboozled, or that he was distracted, or whatever other nonsense is being spread. He was just surprised that this is still going on. He thought that this kind of talk was already passe. I’m not a gadol in either middos or Torah, so my reaction is less civil. I hope that they either seek mechilla or that they see, as the Meraglim saw, the cost of malshinus. For those that are looking for mechilla: he's not hard to find.
What is the earliest time you can make a bracha on your talis/tzitzis? Of course, the zman is Misheyakir, as in OC 18, when you can discern between undyed wool and tcheiles, or when you can recognize a casual acquaintance from a few feet away. When is that? The shittos vary from 66 minutes before sunrise (Pri Megadim, but very few hold like this le'halacha) to 60 minutes before sunrise (see Taharas Yom Tov, VII, 92) to 35 minutes before sunrise (Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, LeTorah ve-Hora'ah, no. 3, p. 7). Of course, you should consult YLOR. But if you follow Reb Moshe, your should know that Reb Moshe’s shittah is that just like a blind person is pattur from tzitzis, Misheyakir depends on the actual, local, subjective misheyakir, and if it’s cloudy, then it’s later. Does this makes life much harder for us? Not really. Just wait until you’re sure, and then make a bracha. Also, three things to know: it varies between forty and thirty five minutes before sunrise on average days, and even the most cloudy day it will be misheyakir sometime before sunrise, unless there’s a total eclipse. Please note, also, that the determination of the zman for tefillin and the zman for tzitzis are not the same, since we pasken that mide'oraysa, there is a mitzva of tefillin at night, and it is just that Chazal took off the chiyuv for extraneous reasons. And don't worry about Rabbeinu Yona in Brachos and Tosfos in Sukka's shitta about what it means that Chazal "took off a chiyuv."
And now, introducing a special feature:
Profoundly Stupid Things I Heard from People Who Meant Well.
'A' and 'B' refer to the people having the conversation.
1. Conversation with a person recently diagnosed with Breast Cancer:
A. "I know what you are going through, my sister in law had the same thing."
B. "Thank you for your concern. And how is your sister in law?"
A. "Oh, she died within a year of her diagnosis."
2. At a Shiva House:
A. "Yes, (his mother) was a tremendous ba'alas bitachon. I once asked her how she dealt with the horrors she saw during the war. She answered that she had no questions: If Hashem did it, there is a reason, and we all have to love and trust the Ribono Shel Olam."
B. "You know, I've met people like that, and I think that the unsophisticated people, the uneducated, klein shtettlsheh people, they just accepted everything unquestioningly. The more educated people are the ones who threw away their bitachon."
(Oh. I used to think of her as a rock solid ba'alas bitachon. I guess she was really just a glassy-eyed cow.)
3. At another Shiva House:
A. "I don't know how I can take this...it's so hard to lose a father...."
B. "It's much harder when you lose your mother."
(I have to admit, these were not the actual words, but I was afraid you wouldn't believe me if I quoted her verbatim. What she actually said was "Wait until you lose your mother." I'm not making this up.)
4. At another Shiva House:
(background: A was sitting for his mother. When his father had passed away some years before, the chevra kadisha messed up, perhaps it was the fault of the local funeral chapel, or the chevra kadisha that took the Aron from the airplane in Israel, and they ended up eulogizing what turned out to be a nun's coffin in his Rebbe's Beis Medrash, as they realized when they opened the Aron for burial on Har Hazeisim.)
B. "Well, at least they didn't misplace her Aron...."
(Thank you, my friend, for re-opening an old wound.)
5. At a Shiva where, nebach, parents were sitting for their teenaged daughter.
A. At a time like this, maybe we can only say that (the daughter) was a gilgul of a holy neshama that came to this word to work out unfinished business, and when her neshama achieved its tafkid, she was taken back to Olam Haba.
B. I don't know about that. Reb Saadia Gaon says there's no such thing as Gilgulim, and the whole idea of Gilgulim was just made up because people couldn't deal with situations just like this.
(B, by the way, is a gifted talmid chacham, but a through and through Yekke/Litvak, although he's a big baki in Reb Tzadok.)
UPDATE APRIL 2013;
I was directed to the following article in the Wall Street Journal.
Reprinted with the author's kind permission.
For a Sick Friend: First, Do No Harm
Conversing with the ill can be awkward, but keeping a few simple commandments makes a huge difference
By Letty Cottin Pogrebin
'A closed mouth gathers no feet." It's a charming axiom, but silence isn't always an option when we're dealing with a friend who's sick or in despair. The natural human reaction is to feel awkward and upset in the face of illness, but unless we control those feelings and come up with an appropriate response, there's a good chance that we'll blurt out some cringe-worthy cliché, craven remark or blunt question that, in retrospect, we'll regret.
We're all nervous around illness and mortality, but whatever pops into our heads should not necessarily plop out of our mouths. Yet, in my own experience as a breast-cancer patient, and for many of the people I have interviewed, friends do make hurtful remarks. Marion Fontana, who was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years after her husband, a New York City firefighter, died in the collapse of the World Trade Center, was told that she must have really bad karma to attract so much bad luck. In another case, upon hearing a man's leukemia diagnosis, his friend shrieked, "Wow! A girl in my office just died of that!"Later, when Pete told him how demoralizing his remark had been, Fred's excuse was, "I was nervous. I just said what popped into my head."