Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Iyar 5764 - May 19, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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HaRav Dunner: Siyato DiShmayo Every Step of the Way
By A. Tzikinovsky

HaRav Aharon Dovid Dunner, a prominent London dayan who traveled to India to gather information critical to HaRav Eliashiv's ruling, told Yated Ne'eman about the siyato diShmayo during all of his tours and meetings. Sent to ascertain whether the hair is cut at the actual site of the temple and whether the haircut itself is part of the idol-worship, he and his assistants managed to amass extensive information, including classified information normally kept hidden from foreigners.

"Tirupati, at an elevation of 800 meters [2,500 feet], is the site of the largest temple in the world for their religion, with 50,000 visitors daily. The peak is like Har Habayis to them, lehavdil elef alfei havdolim, and thousands and thousands make the pilgrimage in honor of the idol. People ranging from one-year-olds to the elderly come to shave off their hair.

"They are not given money, not a cent, but come to shave their hair as a sign of thanksgiving and with prayers and requests to someone. The shorn hair is what Maran shlita ruled is tikroves avodoh zoroh. Men have their beards shaved off, as well. Some of them have long hair down to the floor and it indeed appears to be of high quality for wig production. We tried to speak with the people getting shaved to ascertain whether they came there lesheim hakrovoh [to make a sacrifice] or lesheim hachno'oh [as an act of submission]. Many of them said it is a gift to the idol because `he loves [their] hair.' An important point I was asked to verify and which I brought up-- during the haircutting people say prayers out loud or silently to the idol and repeat them constantly. They also have a type of teviloh facility where they immerse themselves after the haircut.

"There were three enormous halls there packed with people, including 200 barbers each, working three shifts, i.e. 600 barbers per day [in each hall]. The site is kept immaculately clean and whoever arrives dirty is disinfected. Between the barber and the person getting his hair cut is an indentation into which the hair falls. Someone comes around periodically to gather the hair and put it in an enormous bucket. Although the idol is not in the hall, it turns out the entire place is `his home,' for in all of the halls people are asked to take off their shoes and walk barefoot. I waited to see the hair being gathered. Afterwards I spoke with the barber and according to what I gathered, although the barber receives a salary he is considered their assistant and shaliach.

"The long hair is tied up and taken in two giant sacks sealed with wax and taken to the central collection site. The finished hair is washed and dried. Afterwards it is sorted according to type and then is sold, with the profits going to the place of idol worship. We asked to see for ourselves what they do with the finished hair, but that aroused suspicions. They perceived us as spies and attached security personnel to us until we left the site.

"In order to enter these contaminated places I received a ruling and guidance from Maran, shlita. We had great siyato diShmayo and our success in reaching the information Maran wanted to receive was [obtained], in part, because we knew in advance where to go to and what to look for, and thanks to our escorts who brought us in as tourists. With siyato diShmayo we made the clarifications that made it possible for Maran, shlita, to issue his psak halochoh on the matter."

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