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Mishpacha Inbox: Issue 843

"The absence of shomer Shabbos programs, while compounding the complexity of training, is a challenge that can be overcome"


Refreshing Response [Conflicts of Interest / Issue 842]

We really appreciate that the Mishpacha had a nice cover photo of a rav instead of a politician.

Then, when reading the article about Rav Vind, we really were amazed by the fact that ribbis is real, and we have to do something about it. It is so nice and refreshing that somebody saw there was a problem and did something about it instead of waiting for the proverbial “somebody” to do something about it!

Please keep these kinds of articles coming.

With much appreciation,

M. L.

Another Resource [Conflicts of Interest / Issue 842]

Thank you for your amazing article on Rabbi Pinchos Vind and his Bais Hora’ah for ribbis. As someone who in the past has learned ribbis extensively, I can say that there is a widespread ignorance for some of the most basic halachos of ribbis.

Even among learned rabbanim, it is common to make mistakes, since ribbis is extremely complex and every scenario can be slightly different. That is why it is so important to have a Bais Hora’ah with rabbanim who have dedicated their lives to this topic and made it their specialty.

I wanted to let your readership know that such a service exists in the United States as well. It is under the auspices of Bais Din Maysharim of Lakewood, led by R’ Avrohom Moshe Lewanoni shlita, who is one of the world’s experts with more than 30 years of experience, and staffed by rabbanim, most whom have written seforim on the topic and have on average at least a decade in the field. It can be reached at 732-905-3005.

Y. L.

Don’t Discourage Future Doctors [Still a Doctor in the House? / Issue 841]

As a frum doctor with decades of experience, I was disappointed in the recent feature article “Still a Doctor in the House?”

I completed both MD and PhD training at NYU Medical Center and did my internship and residency at Mt. Sinai Hospital in NYC. There were no shomer Shabbos programs at the time, yet frum doctors emerged somehow. I found that as long as one gained the respect of one’s coworkers and was consistent without being standoffish, switching Friday nights and Yamim Tovim shifts could be done — sometimes with more difficulty, sometimes with less.

The absence of shomer Shabbos programs, while compounding the complexity of training, is a challenge that can be overcome. There are so many teshuvos and so many seforim that have been written that address any issues that arise. Any person interested in being an MD and being at the same time shomer mitzvos and maintaining a learning schedule can certainly negotiate that terrain; it is only a question of how much they want to invest.

Why is it more important for an aspiring doctor to ask a rav if he should undertake that career than it is for a lawyer who often will be defending guilty parties, or a psychologist studying Freudian psychology with its immoral fantasies, or a businessman who has to tread so carefully not to violate all the halachos encompassed in Choshen Mishpat, or a teacher/rebbi who has to be so well-trained in chanoch l’na’ar al pi darko?

We have wonderful role models of Amoraim, Rishonim and onward who practiced as physicians, not to mention many contemporary role models of physicians who practice mitzvos and Torah learning on par with the best of Lakewood and at the same time contribute of their skills to the tzibbur. How many professions do we have that allow one to fulfill five d’Oraisas (lo sa’amod al dam reiacha, hashavas aveidah, gemilus chasadim, etc.) when treating a Jewish patient?

I found the Mishpacha article to be very discouraging to any frum young man or woman interested in pursuing the career of medicine. It depicted an almost impossible road to travel — harder than rescuing a town being guarded by a fiery dragon.

Should we be setting ourselves up for being treated by either non-shomer Shabbos Jewish physicians or non-Jews, or would it be wiser to encourage — not discourage — our young men and women from pursuing this vital path?

Dr. Yehoshua Yakir

Clerical, Not Life-Saving [Still a Doctor in the House? / Issue 841]

"It’s not like we’re writing orders to give the patient a lollipop,” Dr. Daniel Krich explains in your feature on declining shomer-Shabbos residencies. The implication: When frum doctors do work on Shabbos, it’s likely they are dealing with truly life-threatening circumstances.

That may be true for a pediatric pulmonologist, but some of the tasks that residents must perform as part of their standard duties offer even less direct benefit to the patients than a tasty treat.

I would know. I am a resident in a busy New York hospital myself, and I see many such examples as part of my daily routine.

For example, some orders (such as bedrest) need to be renewed every 24 hours, and ICU management is very particular about this. Every shift, the nurse manager gives the resident on duty a list of orders to be renewed. It would be a major issue if one refused to do it — even though these orders can be completely clerical and have close to zero impact in real time. Despite omitted bedrest orders, the danger of critically ill, vented ICU patients organizing a dodgeball game remains quite low. But the danger of a poor review by the joint commission is quite real for any resident who doesn’t comply.

Another example: Attending physicians often call residents for orders or tasks related to discharging the patient — ordering a COVID swab or writing a discharge summary. Again, refusing such orders would create a major problem.

For such reasons, I don’t think a non-shomer Shabbos residency can ever be practically performed within the confines of halachah.

Dr. Yonatan Spitz

Stroke of Genius [Primary Source / Issue 841]

I enjoyed Yehuda Geberer’s interview with Rav Dovid Kamenetsky and his excellent review of Rav Dovid’s sefer on Rav Chaim Ozer. Mishpacha once again does a great job giving us access to the lives of our gedolim. Additionally, Geberer’s personal knowledge of history and Rav Chaim Ozer (I heard his podcast on Jewish History Soundbites — highly recommended!) gave even more depth and context to the article.

Geberer mentions that “we grow up with stories about Rav Chaim Ozer’s genius… but ultimately there’s little to gain from those anecdotes.” I used to feel the same way, until I heard a powerful insight from Rav Mayer Twersky. Upon the passing of Rav Ovadiah Yosef, whose genius also seemed beyond our comprehension, Rav Twersky noted that even if we cannot draw a personal lesson for those aspects of the lives of certain gedolim (although of course there are other lessons to gain from Rav Ovadiah and others), the fact that our gedolim are such geniuses should serve to support and increase our confidence in the mesorah. The mesorah is passed from generation to generation and the fact that it is such great geniuses that lead us is exhilarating!

Reuven Berman, Yerushalayim

Critical Lifesaver [A Vaccine Like No Other / Issue 841]

As representatives of the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association (JOWMA), we applaud the magazine’s article on COVID-19 vaccines featuring Dr. Michael Lederman and would like to offer the following clarifications.

As Dr. Lederman explained, current vaccines work by delivering the messenger RNA (mRNA) strand that codes for a piece of the Covid-19 “spike” protein to our body’s cells. The mRNA cannot enter the nucleus of the cell, where our own DNA is kept. It does not interact with, integrate into, or edit our DNA.

There is no evidence that the vaccine causes infertility. Both the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the vaccine contain a short amino-acid sequence shared with syncitin-1, a protein important in placental attachment. But the spike protein and syncitin-1 are not remotely the same protein and the antibodies produced against the COVID-19 spike protein will not recognize or block syncitin-1. In the vaccine trials, multiple pregnancies did occur in similar rates between the vaccine and placebo groups.

The American Society of Reproductive Medicine supports the use of the vaccine in women trying to become pregnant. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine recommend that pregnant and breastfeeding women have access to the vaccine. These women should discuss the unknown risks and potential benefits of the vaccine with their physicians.

While no medical intervention is risk-free, we believe that the benefits of these vaccines tremendously outweigh their risks. We therefore strongly encourage those eligible for COVID-19 vaccination to be vaccinated.   

These statements are based on current information available and should not be substituted for individual medical advice. We advise that individuals discuss personal decisions around vaccines with their healthcare provider.

As physicians, we have witnessed firsthand the deaths and disabilities caused by COVID-19. As members of the Orthodox community, we have witnessed the devastating toll that COVID-19 has had on our community. We believe that vaccination will provide a critical instrument to end suffering and restore life.

Ellie Carmody Stone, MD Infectious Diseases, NYU Langone Health

Alisa Minkin, MD, Pediatrician, Beach Pediatrics

Denise M. Moses, M.D., FACOG, OBGYN, Healthcare For All Women

The Netanya Branch [For the Record / Issue 840]

Mishpacha Magazine published a beautifully written article about the yeshivos around the world that were established in memory of the saintly Chofetz Chaim and his yeshivah in Radin. I feel there was one important omission to the list presented in the article.

I am referring to the very first yeshivah catering to American bochurim coming to learn in Eretz Yisrael which was established in 1964 by Rav Chaim Yona Plato shlita in Netanya, under the name “Yeshivas Radin.”

Rav Plato, a grandson through marriage of the main rosh yeshivah of Radin for many years (until the arrival of Rav Naftali Trop), Rav Moshe Landinski ztz”l, was a prized talmid of the Mir in the states, and was invited by his cousins the Gougig family (themselves grandchildren of Rav Moshe Landinski) to open a yeshivah for Americans in Netanya.

At its inception, staff members included Rav Mendel Weinbach and Rav Noach Weinberg ztz”l and the Chofetz Chaim’s son-in-law Rav Mendel Zaks ztz”l. The yeshivah had several very productive years; I personally joined the yeshivah in 1965.

The yeshivah continues to flourish today, although now catering to Israeli bochurim, under the leadership of Rav Ovadia Broide shlita (who simultaneously serves as rosh yeshivah in Kfar Chassidim) and Rav Michoel Gougig shlita (a Landinski descendant). It has been my good fortune to deliver shiurim to its kollel members — which is particular meaningful for me as a former talmid of Rav Plato in the same yeshivah.

Rabbi Baruch Taub, Rabbi Emeritus, The BAYT, Thornhill-Toronto/Netanya, Israel


Where Credit Is Due [Standing Ovation / Issue 840]

We love the articles on Jewish music and especially Ding’s recent trivia quiz.

Regarding the song “V’hu k’chassan,” recorded by the great Avraham Fried on the album Suki with a Touch of Ding way back when dinosaurs walked the earth, (I believe this was the first song ever recorded by Avraham Fried and thus the start of his unbelievably illustrious career in Jewish music), I was listed as the songwriter.

This is true — but I had a cowriter who wrote the “A” part of the song. This was the excellent Yerushalmi singer, Motti Kornfeld. We were both in yeshivah in Yerushalayim back in 1972, where we met and collaborated on a number of music projects including the writing of this song.

We always want to be makir tov and give credit where credit is due.

Zale Newman, Toronto, Canada

Even More Widespread [His Voice Grows Stronger / Issue 838]

Rabbi Yisroel Besser’s article on Rav Hutner was a beautiful tribute and inspiring read.

I must add that the impact of Rav Hutner’s legacy goes even further and more widespread than was alluded to in the article because of Rebbetzin Bruria David, tichyah, who has for decades been disseminating her father’s Torah to generations of women.

I am proud to be an alumna of her seminary yet from the prehistoric period when her seminary was an extension of Esther Schonefeld High School in New York City. Since the early 1970s, BJJ, as it is popularly known, continues to be the preeminent choice of seminary for hundreds of girls spending their year in Eretz Yisrael who imbibe of the incomparable wisdom in its pure and unadulterated form.

It was in seminary that my hashkafos solidified and crystalized and over 50 years later I participate in the alumna shiurim which Rebetzin David continues to give in Yerushalayim a few times a year (pre-COVID, of course). The age span of the participants ranges between 19 years old, the newest graduates, and on — a vivid picture of the vast impact of Rav Hutner’s derech beyond the scope ever imagined, if I may say so.

When the women are graced with the depth of Torah learning, the families of “Knesses Yisrael” are the beneficiaries for generations to come. I am not alone when I wish to express the deepest of gratitude for all I have learned from Rebbetzin David and pray we will merit many more years of her invaluable dissemination of the legacy of Rav Yitzchok Hutner ztz”l.

Henny Walkin, Yerushalayim

He Wouldn’t Have Said That [His Voice Grows Stronger / Issue 838]

Thank you for featuring an article on Rav Yitzchok Hutner, an appreciation based on conversation with talmidim. It was well-researched and well-presented, but there was a mistake that must be corrected.

The author wrote how when the Rosh Yeshivah settled in Eretz Yisroel, he told a journalist that he had not come to build Torah, but to plant Torah. This is incorrect and Rav Hutner would not have made a comment like that upon arriving in a land filled with thriving mekomos haTorah. In fact, the statement was made decades earlier when he came to America, where there was not yet an established Torah infrastructure and yeshivah world.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify.

Y. L., Lakewood, NJ

Legitimate Fear [Send Them Off as Jews / Issue 837]

It would seem that fear of death, rather than being viewed critically as “Americans have a fear of death,” is in the tradition of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai.

When Rav Yochanan was ill and his students came to visit him, he wept. When asked why he wept, he said, “Were I being led before a mortal king… I would weep; now that I am being led before the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He… and moreover, two paths are before me, one to Gan Eden and the other to Gehinnom, and I do not know upon which I am to be led — shall I not weep?”

Whatever explanations are given, the fact remains that we believe that when a person dies he will be judged by the heavenly court.

Mrs. Yehudis Homnick

Rabbi Daniel Rose responds:

Thank you for your letter on this important topic. Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai was not afraid of death; he was afraid of the din that occurs when we come to the Next World. The “fear of death” we described is the attitude we have of pretending death does not occur and preferring not to think about it. In that sense, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakai is teaching us the very same thing: that we need to be honest about where we are going and to prepare for our journey. The judgment in Beis Din shel Maalah is one of many elements of that preparation.

No Sheitel, No Job [The Kichels / Issue 832]

Thank you for the Kichels comic featuring “Silka Wigs,” addressing the way our society discriminates against single girls.

As a single girl who tried living in Israel post-seminary, I had difficulty finding a job. Many interviewers asked how long I would stay in Israel for, and I said, I don’t know, that depends on if I get a job or not. I was told a few times by an interview that they do not hire single girls because they do not stay in Israel. At the same time, married women don’t have that issue, even though it is normal just to be in Israel for six months or shanah rishonah.

It’s a catch-22. I came back to the States because I could not make a parnassah.

Unless a girl makes aliyah and does sheirut leumi or comes to live in Israel with a prearranged job, there are very few jobs available for my demographic other than working in a playgroup or waiting tables.

Waiting for my Silka

Note: In last week’s feature “Locked In” about yeshivos and seminaries coping with COVID, the photos depicting students enjoying outings and creative activities should have been credited to Ruth Buchler/Tourisrael1. We regret the omission.

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