Do elevators “need” a Mezuza?

[Hat tip MD for Hebrew Source]

This is in Hebrew and seems ambivalent about the concept. It’s yet another thing which seems unnecessary but those who want to be concerned for all opinions, can be strict (a sort of Mishna Brura approach or a R’ Moshe approach for a B’aal Nefesh)

I found this from R’ Sholom Klass.

Q. Do elevators require a Mezuzah?

A. There is a debate among authorities as to whether elevators require a Mezuzah. Most authorities feel that since the elevator is not stationary it is exempt from a Mezuzah. Thus an elevator or a door leading into an elevator does not require a Mezuzah.

The authorities that do require a Mezuzah on elevator doorways that are stationary write that it should be affixed on the right side as one enters the elevator on the bottom floor. On the other floors it should be affixed on the right side as one exits the elevator and enters the hallway.

From R’ Elchanan Lewis

Question:
If he could explain us, where should mezuzah be affixed by the entrance of elevator in multilevel building.
The door of elevator opens inside the wall (and does not turn around)
Is there difference between floors of the building?

Answer:
There is more than one opinion on this issue.

The Responsa Minchat Yitzchak (4, 93) holds that the elevator itself requires a mezuzah from the inside and not in the entrance of every level.

Others require a mezuzah on the right side of those who enter the elevator apart from the main entrance of the building in which the mezuzah should be placed on the right side of those leaving the elevator. (Chovat Hadar p.43)

Some exempt the elevator all together from a mezuzah. (Be’er Moshe 2; 88, 90)

The last opinion I found is to place the mezuzah in all levels on the right side facing out of the elevator. (Pitchei Shearim p. 190)

Most elevators I have seen do not have any mezuzah and those whom have, followed the last opinion above. (though I haven’t seen many buildings in religious neighbourhoods…)

In any case because of the doubt the mezuzah will be placed without a Brachah.

Note that Chacham Ovadia Yosef discusses this issue in the aforementioned chapter (p. 300), and he concludes that we do not consider the time spent on a boat a permanent residence, and thus it does require Mezuzot. This principle applies as well to other rooms that are not intended for permanent residence, such as elevators, buses, airplanes and jetways leading from airport terminals to planes. In all these situations, even if there are rooms of a size that normally obligates a room in Mezuza, no Mezuza is required, given the temporary nature of the use of these structures.

Summary: One who returns home after an extended absence does not recite a new Beracha over the Mezuzot in his home. One need not affix Mezuzot to the doorposts of boats, elevators, buses, airplanes or other structures that are not used for permanent residence.

Revach L’Neshoma writes:

Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fischer and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach – Mezuza On The Elevator Door?

In Even Yisroel (9:100), Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fischer is asked if when he paskened that one is required to put a Mezuza on the entrance of the elevator, he had seen Rav Shlomo Zalman’s psak in Minchas Shlomo. Rav Shlomo Zalman says that in principle an elevator is patur from a Mezuza but you should put a Mezuza on the right side of the door when coming out of the elevator without a bracha.

Rav Shlomo Zalman’s reason, as brought down in the Even Yisroel, is that since when the elevator is not on that particular floor the doorway serves as an entrance to an empty pit, it cannot be considered a doorway since you cannot come in and out unless the elevator is there. Only in the case where there is a doorway to a ladder that is fixed in its place to go up and down, is there a requirement for a Mezuza.

Rav Fisher says that he hadn’t seen the Tshuva but after studying it now he doesn’t change his psak. Using Rav Shlomo Zalman’s analogy, Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fisher argues and says that if each person on the floor had his own doorway for the ladder that they all shared, and the ladder could be moved from one doorway to the other, each person’s doorway would definitely be required to have a Mezuza. The fact that the ladder is not always there. and then the doorway leads to a long drop down to the courtyard, does not take away the obligation for a Mezuza. Similarly the fact that the elevator is not always there does not exempt the doorway from requiring a Mezuza.

And perhaps the “best” answer from the folks at Eretz Chemda

This a fascinating question from the perspective of applying classical halachot to new situations, which can and does prompt varied conclusions in this case. As far as the bottom line l’maaseh, our response will be somewhat more straightforward. We will refer to a residential building. The status of mezuzot in commercial settings, even in normal rooms, is a major issue in its own right (see Living the Halachic Process, G-4).
The Rambam (Mezuzah 6:9) says that there is no need for a mezuzah on a sukka or on a house on a boat because these are not permanent places of living. Similarly, an elevator does not have a usage in a set manner because, from the perspective of any specific floor, one cannot access it when it he wants. Rather sometimes it is here and sometimes it is there (B’tzel Hachuchma III, 80).
On the other hand, there is a concept that a beit sha’ar (a hut that serves as a gateway) that is open to a house does require a mezuzah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 286:7). This is the case even when the beit sha’ar does not have the regular requirements of a room that would require a mezuzah. Thus, for example, the Chamudei Daniel (cited in the Pitchei Teshuva, Yoreh Deah 286:11) says that a beit sha’ar requires a mezuzah even if it does not have the usual size of 4 amot (approximately 6 feet) by 4 amot. In some ways then, an elevator is more likely to require a mezuzah than a sukka. While it moves around from place to place, it serves a function on behalf of a building where people live on a permanent basis (Minchat Yitzchak IV, 93, based on the aforementioned Chamudei Daniel). Yet, this is far from a simple matter. Firstly, the approach that an area can require a mezuzah just because it serves an area that requires one is not necessarily accepted (Minchat Yitzchak, ibid.). Secondly, the elevator does not even serve as a set beit sha’ar for any floor’s elevator shaft but is a roving beit sha’ar.
Those poskim who do recommend placing a mezuzah for an elevator, for the most part say to do so without a beracha because there does not seem to be more than a doubt that it is required (see some opinions in Pitchei She’arim 286:220-222). These poskim also have another issue to contend with: where would one put it. On one hand, you might want to put it on the entrance from the corridor into the elevator shaft. This would require a mezuzah on each flight. One posek said that on the first floor, where one enters the building, it would be on the right side going in, whereas on other floors, where one first and foremost, exits the elevator, it would be on the right side from the perspective of one leaving the elevator (Chovat Hadar 5:11). On the other hand, some say that the elevator shaft is just a dangerous hole that is sealed except when the elevator opens up next to it. Therefore, one would put a mezuzah on the elevator’s entrance. That way, whenever one would move from the corridor to the elevator shaft, one would meet an elevator in the entrance (Minchat Yitzchak, ibid.).
In any case, what is most important in such a matter is that the minhag ha’olam (the accepted practice) is to not put a mezuzah anywhere around an elevator. While we have seen some reasons to explain why one might want to place one, we have not found close to a consensus of poskim to require it. In such a case, it is not positive to start a trend to contradict an accepted practice based on doubt, which almost automatically, in our days, starts off a chumra (stringency) race to have the most halachically advanced building. In many circles, this could be seen as casting aspersions on others, actually on the masses, and the disadvantages of the chumra outweigh its advantages.

There is probably a good answer to this but …

On Shabbos, while in the male urinal, I stood next to a guy who was wearing his gartel. I admonished him and said that the gartel was a הכנה for davening. I don’t believe it is necessary today, but I wear one because my Zayda Yidel HaCohen Balbin ע’’ה did (and on Yom Kippur I wear his Gartel, as he passed away on Yom Kippur)

Zeyda-Yidel

ר׳ יהודה הכהן בלבין before WW2

The guy thought and said, “you know, you’re right”

Anyway, when I was younger and devoted some time each day to Mishna Brura, I remember being inspired by his words regarding wearing Tzitzis out, as opposed to in. I don’t include the uncouth manner of some who wear their shirts out of their pants as well today, something I don’t understand unless one wears a Kapote covering it (I see boys from the local Yeshiva all dressed like that, and personally I don’t agree with that practice).

Getting back to the Mishna Brura, in his usual way (not Litvish) of quoting all opinions he wrote very strongly that one should wear the Tzitzis out, as if he was a proud member of Hashem’s army. That was when I was in Kerem B’Yavneh. From that time on, I followed the Mishna Brura. (Ironically, the major Posek was actually the Aruch Hashulchan, but he was then considered controversial for very bad reasons by Hungarians, but in Lita and elsewhere they followed the Aruch Hashulchan).

Anyway, to my question. I don’t wear a suit jacket to work. My Tzitzis have always hung visibly at University. I am sure it didn’t help, but I don’t and didn’t care. I wear a shirt and pants, generally. In winter its warm and in summer it’s cool. It’s natural.  I walked into the bathroom, and went to the urinal to do what men do. In Universities, they don’t exactly smell “wonderful” once the students are in season. I left the Urinal and asked myself for the first time (I don’t know why) whether I should have tucked in my tzitzis before entering. At the end of the day, although the Mitzvah of Tzitzis is not a Chovas Gavro but a Chovas Cheftza, the Tzitzis themselves are M’aaseh Mitzvah. I haven’t looked to see  if this has been discussed anywhere (many Poskim/Haredim wear jackets and Yibitzes which cover the Tzitzis).

For Sephardim who follow the Zohar and Ari, this isn’t a question because they aren’t allowed to wear their Tzitzis out from memory because it’s considered Yuharo (showing off).

Am I asking a silly question?

PS. I’ve also mentioned to Meshichisten who have the advertisement on their Yarmulka that they should turn it inside out before entering a bathroom in my opinion.

What score did your Shule achieve for the Shabbos Project

I was thinking today about the reason(s) the Chief Rabbi of South Africa chose Parshas Noach as the week that Jews consider uniting in keeping Shabbos together. It’s a great concept and I together with many are fully behind it.

No doubt there is a “real reason” and someone from South Africa may be able to advise me. I heard a Rav today suggest that immediately after Bereishis, its is logical to go into action. We’ve just finished The Yomim Noroim, God has created the world, society made errors, and this is a logical Shabbos to commence Shabbos observance.

My mind, however, wandered to Noah’s ark itself. I felt the words, “Go out of the ark” the command to Noach to rebuild a humane society. This was a time of post-destruction, a time of building, a new beginning, and what better way than to observe the idea that we don’t work 7 days a week. We devote one day to the spiritual, to the level above the rat race of the week, and try to share that with others.

To be sure, there are some who have never left the ark nor do they want to. Hungarian ultra orthodox types no doubt are still in the ark. They don’t interact with the Jewish world unless they can make a buck. Accordingly, I wouldn’t have expected much emanating from the likes of some Haredi places. I heard the tired refrain that they didn’t want someone to drive to their house for a meal, but I’d like to suggest that almost all of them who work for a living and interact with such people know some within walking distance whom they could invite. But, they have the problem of not wanting their kids to see “sinful” people, so I imagine (correct me if I’m wrong) they couldn’t take part meaningfully in this exercise (except come and see what this Havdala ceremony was all about at the Park, although they usually keep Rabeinu Tam’s Tzeis Shabbos time. South Africa is void of Hungarian extremists and is Litvak/Chabad focussed so there is no problem of interaction potentially. That’s why they have comparative unity and almost no reform or conservative or conservadox (Shira Chadasha) movements, unlike Melbourne, where I hold Orthodoxy responsible for the existence of these aberrations.

Then there  are  the Shules who in my opinion should re-examine carefully their outreach or general Rabbis and boards if they didn’t take part. I know of one Shule that did zero out of the ordinary. They had their usual kiddies pre-shabbos function, which is nothing out of the ordinary. The Rabbi didn’t even mention the concept in his drosha, not that there was a single person new in attendance at the Shule. There was a “lunch/cholent” in a back room which actually had less people than the usual paltry few (I guess there were better functions at other Shules). What they might have done is find every Jewish person in the area (and there are plenty) and invite them to a free shabbos lunch (even in a marquee at the park if there were many), find a dynamic speaker or three, sing songs, use some ingenuity etc. You don’t have to be Einstein. But, if you are a comparatively disconnected internet Rabbi, many would argue that your days are numbered. Perhaps, get another job and get off the gravy train.

Kudos to the organisers, but next year the men might become more involved as they don’t generally bake challah :-)

I regret that personally we didn’t invite a few of our neighbours, but my mind has been somewhat not where it should be.

Next year, God willing, hopefully in Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh.

The “solution” to the Bris conundrum

The Torah can be pesky can’t it? It makes us give a Bris to a male kid who is eight days old, without asking the kid, and then you have the arguments between Chassidim and Hungarians against the rest about Metzitza B’Peh. There have been tragic rare cases of kids dying from this and חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא

Now we have the western world attacking us that it’s also barbaric.

Ah, but the Torah has all the answers in it. We just have to be big halachic “authorities” with broad shoulders and use our brilliant minds and we’ve got the solution.

We know that the Halacha also states that someone who is born circumcised, doesn’t need to have a Bris. This is an unusual situation if you follow a normal world, with normal outcomes and have a normal mind. But we are modern now, we can do many things.

We have now isolated the gene that can cause a child to always be born in a way that they don’t need a bris. We can genetically perform a simple procedure even before marriage and dispense with the Bris Mila! All male kids will be born without the need for a Bris. Wow. How innovative. It’s sort of like dispensing with Shechita by making sure you create factories of Bnei Pekuah. Genius level.

Let’s find some entrepreneurial rabbis (to charge for overseeing the process and ensuring that we) eradicate the need for the concept of Bris Mila from our community over time so that every male child doesn’t need to have to have a Bris. Problem solved. Left wingers would love it. How brilliant, and you can make money from this by investing in the technology and then charging. Even Hatofas dam bris doesn’t cost much and nobody would worry about that small fee.

Imagine how popular you’d be with the left. You would not need to wait 8 days. The child wouldn’t cry. Mummy wouldn’t cry. Daddy wouldn’t squirm. Which genius rabbi will be behind this new technology? Did I hear you say that you can be נבל ברשות התורה. Well you can, but you are then described as a נבל.

Ah, big deal. As long as you can make a buck and pervert עולם כמנהגו נוהג. It’s rather easy to come up with nonsense. It’s harder to deal with the bearded ones who peddle it.

Don’t give them oxygen.

R’ Meir Deutsch on Shmitta: Guest Post

This year is according to our Mesora a Shmitta year. Much has been written, and is being written, about Shmitta. There are different opinions how it should be observed today, as Shmitta today is only MIDRABANAN, and therefore l’Kula.

In Israel the Chief Rabbinate issued a ruling:

בשבוע שעבר הוציאה הרבנות הראשית נוהל עוקף רבנויות מקומיות בנושא שמיטה. על פי ההחלטה של הרבנות הראשית הרב יעקב אריאל והרב אברהם יוסף יוכלו לתת לעסקים בערים בהם הרב המקומי לא מאשר היתר מכירה תעודת כשרות.

I will not elaborate on the subject, but would like to share with you some of my thoughts. How was Shmita observed, if it was observed at all, in the past? We do remember Shmitta nowadays, but no Yovel. Doesn’t this distort the dates of the Schmitots?

מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִית?
מאיר דויטש© כל הזכויות שמורות

בשמיטה ודאי לא הייתה כוונה לרושש את החקלאי היהודי היושב על אדמתו.

התורה שואלת את שאלתה: (ויקרא פרק כה פסוק כ)
וְכִי תֹאמְרוּ מַה נֹּאכַל בַּשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁבִיעִת הֵן לֹא נִזְרָע וְלֹא נֶאֱסֹף אֶת תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ:
ומשיבה: ” (ויקרא פרק כה)
(כא) וְצִוִּיתִי אֶת בִּרְכָתִי לָכֶם בַּשָּׁנָה הַשִּׁשִּׁית וְעָשָׂת אֶת הַתְּבוּאָה לִשְׁלֹשׁ הַשָּׁנִים:
(כב) וּזְרַעְתֶּם אֵת הַשָּׁנָה הַשְּׁמִינִת וַאֲכַלְתֶּם מִן הַתְּבוּאָה יָשָׁן עַד הַשָּׁנָה הַתְּשִׁיעִת עַד בּוֹא תְּבוּאָתָהּ תֹּאכְלוּ יָשָׁן:
הייתכן כי זאת התניה – אם הברכה תהיה בשנה השישית כאשר ציוויתי – יבול לשלוש שנים, אז שנה שביעית שמיטה. ואם לא יהיה יבול לשלוש שנים בשנה השישית, מה אז?

יש לנו דעות מדעות שונות על שמיטה בעבר הירדן המזרחי. האם יש בה קדושה פחותה מזו של ארץ כנען? הניתן ללמוד מביכורים, ששם נאמר “אשר נשבע לאבותינו לתת לנו [...], דהיינו רק בארץ המובטחת ולא חל בעבר הירדן המזרחי?
הדעות השונות הם של דיוני החכמים והפירושים שלהם של הנושא. מה היה למעשה, מתוך ההיסטוריה, אין אני יודע אם היה הבדל בין שני עברי הירדן, ואם היה – מה היה ההבדל. כנראה היה הבדל, אם כן, הרי ניתן היה לקבל אספקה בשנת השמיטה מהשבטים שהתנחלו ממזרח לירדן. זה גרם לאפליה בין שתי האוכלוסיות, זאת במזרח שיכלה לעבוד את האדמה ולצרוך יבולי שביעית, וזאת במערב שלא יכלה. ייתכן ואפליה זו היא שגרמה לכך שבני ישראל לא שמרו על שמיטה ונענשו בגלות.

כיצד נספרות השנים לקביעת שנת השמיטה?

היובל חל כעבור שבע שבתות שנים, אחר שבע שמיטות. יוצא מכך שבזמן היובל לא זרעו השדות שנתיים רצופות. ראינו למעלה כי התורה מבטיחה ברכה בשנה הששית ליבול לשלוש שנים, לשנה הנוכחית, לשנת השמיטה ולשנה שלאחריה כי לא זרענו בשמיטה. לכאורה, לקראת שנת היובל, צריך יבול בשנה הששית לארבע שנים, אבל אין כל ברכה לשנת היובל המבטיחה יבול לארבע שנים.
ישנה מחלוקת בין ר’ יהודה וחכמים: האם שנת היובל היא השנה הראשונה של המחזור הבא של שמיטה – כך סובר ר’ יהודה, או שהיובל עומד בפני עצמו ורק לאחריו מתחילים לספור את מחזור השמיטה הבאה – סברת חכמים. במחלוקת זו נפסק כחכמים וגם הרמב”ם (הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק י’, ז’) מאמץ שיטה זו.
הרמב”ם אומר כי בזמן בית שני (שם ג’): “ומנו שבע שמיטות וקדשו שנת החמשים, אף על פי שלא הייתה שם יובל בבית שני מונין היו אותו כדי לקדש שמיטות.” זאת אומרת היובל עומד בפני עצמו ואינו חלק בספירת שנות השמיטה, הרי עלינו להוסיף לספירת שנות השמיטה שנה אחת בכל 49 שנים, כמו שאומר ה”כסף משנה” : “דאם לא היו מונים יובלות היו מונים אותה שנה לחשבון השמיטין והיו השמיטין שלא במקומן.”
כך היה בבית שני. היום, כנראה, אין אנו מקפידים שהשמיטה תהיה במקומה, ואין אנו מוסיפים את שנת היובל למניין, כמו שאומר הרמב”ם (שם ה’): “משחרב [בית המקדש] באחרונה לא מנו שנת החמישים אלא שבע שבע בלבד מתחילת החורבן, וכן עולה בגמרא בעבודה זרה חשבון זה שהוא קבלה.” ומוסיף: “שהקבלה והמעשה עמודים גדולים בהוראה ובהן ראוי להתלות.”

מה שאנו רואים מכאן כי בימינו יש שבע שמיטות בכל 49 שנים, בזמן שבבית השני יש שבע שמיטות בכל 50 שנים.
הרמב”ם בהלכות שמיטה ויובלות (פרק י הלכה ד) אומר כי שנת 4936 לבריאת העולם היא שנת שמיטה ושנה 21 ליובל.
אם נוסיף 120 פעמים 7 שנים = 840 שנים נקבל שנת חמשת אלפים תשע”ו שהיא שנת שמיטה לפי חישובו, דהיינו לפי חישוביו של הרמב”ם שנת השמיטה היא השנה הבאה לאחר השמיטה כפי שאנו מונים.
מעניין כי הרמב”ם מחשב וקובע את השמיטה בזמנו, אבל אומר כי חכמי ארץ ישראל סבורים כי השמיטה היא שנה אחת לפני השנה שהוא קובע.
(רמב”ם הלכות שמיטה ויובל פרק י):
“ושנת השמיטה ידועה היא ומפורסמת אצל הגאונים ואנשי א”י, וכולן לא מנו אלא לשני חורבן משליכין אותן שבע שבע, ולפי חשבון זה תהי שנה זו שהיא שנת שבע ומאה ואלף לחרבן מוצאי שביעית, ועל זה אנו סומכין, וכפי החשבון זה אנו מורין…”
למרות קביעתו את שנת השמיטה אומר הרמב”ם כי יש לקבל את דעת חכמי ארץ ישראל שחושבים אחרת.
כי מציון תצא תורה.

נבדוק מה היא שנת שמיטה בימינו.

התוספות במסכת גיטין אומרים: “דהשמטת קרקע לא נהגא בבית שני כדאמרי’ בירושלמי בפרקין מנין שאין שמיטה נוהגת אלא בזמן שהיובל נוהג שנאמר וזה דבר השמיטה שמוט אחת שמיטת יובל ואחת שמיטת שביעית כו’ ובבית שני הואיל ולא נהג יובל שלא היו כל יושביה עליה לא נהגא שמיטה מדאורייתא.” (תוספות מסכת גיטין דף לו עמוד א)

היובל נוהג רק כאשר השבטים יושבים במקומם.
בזמן שאין היובל נוהג אין שמיטה נוהגת, כך שכבר בימי בית שני לא הייתה שמיטה מדאורייתא. האם לאחר גלות עשרת השבטים השמיטה בבית ראשון הייתה גם כן רק מדרבנן? הרי כבר אז לא ישבו כל השבטים במקומם?

אם אנו רואים כי כבר בזמן בית שני השמיטה אינה מדאורייתא, לא כל שכן בימינו. השמיטה היום מדרבנן היא ” כדי שלא תשכח תורת שביעית מישראל” (שו”ת קול מבשר חלק א סימן ס ד”ה בש”ע חו”מ), דהיינו רק לזכר.

שאלתי את עצמי: האם לא הייתה מסורת שעברה מדור לדור בעניין היובל – האם הוא בנוסף למחזורי השמיטה או שהוא הראשון לספירת שנת השמיטה הבאה? האם בכלל יכלה להיות מסורת בנושא?
ננסה לבדוק האם בכניסתם לארץ ובבית ראשון, שהשמיטה הייתה מדאורייתא ונהג גם היובל, נשמרו שמיטות ויובלים על ידי בני ישראל.

בדברי הימים ב פרק לו נאמר:
(יט) וַֽיִּשְׂרְפוּ אֶת־בֵּית הָאֱ-לֹהִים וַֽיְנַתְּצוּ אֵת חוֹמַת יְרוּשָׁלִָם וְכָל־אַרְמְנוֹתֶיהָ שָׂרְפוּ בָאֵשׁ וְכָל־כְּלֵי מַחֲמַדּיהָ לְהַשְׁחִֽית:
(כ) וַיֶּגֶל הַשְּׁאֵרִית מִן־הַחֶרֶב אֶל־בָּבֶל וַֽיִּהְיוּ־לוֹ וּלְבָנָיו לַעֲבָדִים עַד־מְלֹךְ מַלְכוּת פָּרָֽס:
(כא) לְמַלֹּאות דְּבַר־ה’ בְּפִי יִרְמְיָהוּ עַד־רָצְתָה הָאָרֶץ אֶת־שַׁבְּתוֹתֶיהָ כָּל־יְמֵי הָשַּׁמָּה שָׁבָתָה לְמַלֹּאות שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָֽה:

גלות בבל באה כתוצאה מאי שמירת השמיטות והיובלות בארץ באותה תקופה.
לפי רש”י שם מדובר על 430 שנים שלא קיימו ישראל שמיטה ויובלות, מכניסתם לארץ ועד חורבן בית ראשון. לפי צורת החישוב שלו שנת יובל הייתה בפני עצמה – שנת החמישים ורק לאחריה התחילו לספור את מחזורי השמיטה הבאים.
נראה מכאן כי גם בתקופה עד חורבן בית ראשון, כאשר המצווה הייתה עדיין דאורייתא, לא הקפידו לשמור על שמיטה ויובל. יוצא מזה כי שמיטה לא נשמרה כנראה כלל בתקופת בית ראשון ולפניה, וחטא זה גרם לגלות. בתקופה שלאחריה כבר לא ישבו כל שבטי ישראל בארץ ישראל, ולכן כבר לא נוהג לא יובל ולא שמיטה.

החקלאים שעיבדו את אדמותיהם בשנת השמיטה ודאי שיווקו חלק מהסחורה לשווקים בירושלים ובערים אחרות. חיפשתי ולא מצאתי כי הנביאים, השופטים או ההנהגה היהודית יצאה במחאה נגד צריכת הפירות והירקות שגודלו אז בשנת השמיטה.

היהודים צרכו את גידולי השדה של שנת השמיטה שגידלו אחיהם. מעניין הסיפור בירושלמי:
תלמוד ירושלמי מסכת שביעית פרק ט דף לט טור א /ה”ו:
“חד בר נש הוה חשיד על שמיטתא אמ’ לאיתתיה אפקין חלתה אמר’ ליה ההוא גברא חשיד על שמיטתא ואת אמר אפקון חלה אמר לה חלה מדבר תורה שביעית מדרבן גמליאל וחביריו.”

אנו רואים כאן כי בזמן התלמוד (ירושלמי) סחרו ביבולי שביעית וצרכו את הגידולים. למרות שהקמחים היו מגידולי שנת השמיטה הקפידו להפריש חלה גם מעיסה זו.

שמעתי דבר נפלא מהרב דרוקמן. הוא אמר בשנת השמיטה הקודמת:
שמיטה היא לכל היהודים. וכדי שכל היהודים יוכלו לשמור שמיטה יש לאפשר היתר מכירה, אחרת רק מעטים יוכלו לשמור שמיטה.
בהתבסס על דברי הרב דרוקמן; עלינו לשאוף כי יותר אנשים יזכרו כי זו שנת שמיטה, שלא תישמט מישראל. השמיטה היום היא מדרבנן כדי שנזכור שבכל שבע שנים יש לנו שנת שמיטה.

נתאר לעצמנו מה יקרה השנה.
עקרת בית יהודייה יוצאת לקניות בסופרמרקט או לירקן המקומי. הירקן מציג בפניה את התוצרת המשובחת.
האישה שואלת אותו: “מהיכן הפירות והירקות היפים האלה?”
הירקן עונה: “הם מיובאים מישראל”.
האישה, מאוכזבת, ואומרת: “מישראל? אז איני קונה”.

האם לא מספיק לנו החרם של העולם על תוצרת ישראלית? האם עתה גם יהודים בכל העולם “יחרימו” את תוצרת הארץ?

כולנו מכירים את הסיפור של קמצא ובר קמצא (תלמוד בבלי מסכת גיטין דף נו עמוד א).
מה גרם לחורבן הבית?
כאשר הביאו הקורבן שהוטל בו מום. “ואמרי לה בדוקין שבעין, דוכתא דלדידן הוה מומא ולדידהו לאו מומא הוא. סבור רבנן לקרוביה משום שלום מלכות, אמר להו רבי זכריה בן אבקולס, יאמרו: בעלי מומין קריבין לגבי מזבח! [...] אמר רבי יוחנן: ענוותנותו של רבי זכריה בן אבקולס, החריבה את ביתנו, ושרפה את היכלנו, והגליתנו מארצנו.”

לדעתי עלינו להיזהר במה אנו קובעים לשמיטה דרבנן. שלא נזרוק את התינוק עם המים.

Tamar Ariel: an inspirational humbling young lady

I’ve struggled with understanding the myriad of Israelis who after their army service make their way to Nepal, and India, then sometimes down to Australia. Nepal and India have their significant risks. I’ve only been able to understand it in terms of a need to “come down” from the psychological experience of being in the army. In this regard, I think that whilst having Chabad Houses to support these Israelis is great, the IDF needs to do lots more to develop their post IDF program, especially given the spiritual vacuity that so many seem to experience as soon as they are confronted with life after training and/or combat.

Tamar Ariel is a hero though. I don’t know why she went to Nepal, and I don’t fit her shoes so am hardly in a position to proffer opinion, but a frum girl, who was a pilot, wore a skirt to her ankles, didn’t even shake hands with commanders, is someone who had much more to her than the Chitzoniyus of Tznius. This was a lady who internally was probably more modest than her external fidelity to Halacha. She was one of a kind.

יהי זכרה ברוך

Tamar Ariel ע’ה (picture from Yediot Achronot)

The article can be found here, by Mitch Ginzburg. I reproduce it below.

Cpt. Tamar Ariel, Israel’s first female religious air force pilot, a rear-seat, F-16D navigator, was buried on Tuesday, several days after she died high in the Himalayas. Hundreds of people, including dozens of IAF pilots and commanders, accompanied her on her final journey. Ariel was 25 years old.

She loved motorcycles and fighter jets and wore an ankle-length skirt to her IAF Flight School graduation in December 2012. When Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, the commander of the air force, came down the line of new graduates, he nodded her a greeting, rather than clasping her hand; she nodded vigorously in return and beamed him a smile.

She was a modest and unassuming woman who resented being put on a pedestal. Her aunt, speaking over her grave, said that she did not want to pose for the photo op with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the flight school graduation ceremony because she felt it overshadowed the achievement of her fellow pilots. And though in her life she went to great lengths to state that she was not a role model, she will likely be remembered as such by many in the modern Orthodox community in Israel, which is split by the competing values of army service for all, particularly among the younger generation, and the deep-seated social conservatism that spurred rabbis to press the state, since its inception, to grant all religious Jewish women the right to bypass army service with an oath of Orthodoxy.

Ariel was raised on a cooperative farming community, Moshav Masuot Yitzhak, in a home on the edge of an avocado orchard. She was the third of six children, born to a father who was second generation on the moshav and a mother who made Aliya from Puerto Rico, Yedioth Ahronoth reported in 2012.

She went to a co-ed local school as a child and to an ulpana, or yeshiva for girls, as an adolescent. In 11th grade, she received her first army summons and was found suitable for flight school. After taking several preliminary tests, she decided, in 12th grade, to fall in line with what most of the ulpana girls were doing – national civilian service. “I was afraid of ‘becoming rotten’ from a religious perspective,” she told the Yedioth daily. “I thought that serving within the framework of religious institutions was more protected and safe in that regard.”

She stated that she was Orthodox, received an exemption from army service on the spot, and served for two years as a Bnei Akiva youth leader and a counselor in her former school.

Upon completion, she decided that she still had not fulfilled her potential and turned back to the army, rescinding her earlier statement. In April 2009 she passed the week-long physical exam and was accepted to the prestigious course.

Nighttime navigation drills, when paired off with a man, were awkward, she said, but not “something that anyone dies from.”

After several months in the course and after being placed in the combat fighter section of her class, she flew her first solo flight. As she lined up the landing, wheels already on the tarmac, she felt that she was losing control of the plane and that it might spin off the runway. She pulled the eject cord, according to protocol, was rocketed skyward, and broke a vertebra in her back.

After months in an elastic body cast, the army took her back to the course but moved her into the navigator track.

In December 2012, she graduated, making history. “I don’t think that women need to go to flight school — I think that they can,” she told The Times of Israel at the time. “I recommend that any woman, religious or not, give it a shot. If they call you in, if you pass the tests, it means that the army thinks you can do it. So go ahead — try.”

During Operation Protective Edge this summer she flew the most combat missions in her squadron, her commander said earlier this week.

And then, seeking some R and R, she went, along with another pilot, to vacation in Nepal, to walk the Around Annapurna circuit at what is considered the optimal time of the year. “I didn’t worry during the trip to Nepal,” her mother, Anat, told Army Radio. “The trip was planned to the minute and I had faith in her and in The Holy One, blessed be He.”

Last week, though, a highly unusual storm blew through region, pelting the high mountain passes with snow. Ariel and dozens of other trekkers encountered the brunt of the storm on the Thorong La pass, the highest point on the circuit. Sapped of strength by the altitude and the cold and the fast-accumulating snow, Ariel could no longer walk as afternoon turned to evening and the clusters of trekkers tried to make their way down from the pass to safety.

She died in the snow along with Agam Luria, Nadav Shoham, Michal Charkesky, and 36 other people, half of whom were Nepali.

“You became a public leader,” moshav rabbi Meir Nehorai reportedly said at the funeral, “the object of admiration from all around.”

That admiration is likely to endure and to serve as a beacon to many young Orthodox women charting their path in life.

Guest post from R Meir Deutsch on Simchas Torah

מועדים לשמחה, חגים וזמנים לששון

מתן תורה
מאיר דויטש כל הזכויות שמורות

It is שמחת תורה We finish reading the last Parasha and start again from BERESHIT. In the meantime we dance with the Tora scrolls.
I want to share with you my thoughts about two topics. The first: in what language was the Tora written, and the second: on what was it written.
The deliberations, except the quotes, are my thoughts, you do not have to agree with them or accept them, but would appreciate hearing your thought on the topic.

בדברים בפרק לב פסוק טו נאמר: “ושני לוחות העדות בידו, לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”.
יש דעות שונות מה הפירוש משני עבריהם, לא אכנס לכולן אולם זו שבמסכת שבת (קד, א) הפליאה אותי.
אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ואמר רב חסדא: כתב שבלוחות נקרא מבפנים ונקרא מבחוץ, כגון נבוב – בובן, (רהב – בהר) וכדומה. בצד אחד נקרא כסדר ומהצד השני כתב מראות.
מה שאני למד מברייתא זו הוא כי בבבל, לפחות בתקופתו של רב חיסדא, שהיה דור שני של אמוראי בבל (225-250 לספירה), העברית נכתבה בכתב אשורי, דהיינו הא-ב של ימינו.
כמאה שנים קודם, בתקופת מרד בר-כוכבא (132-135 לספירה), שימש הא-ב העברי (העתיק) בא”י בכיתוב על המטבעות שטבעו בשנות המרד.

לאור האמור בפסוק אני שואל: האם לא נראה לפי הפשט כי הכוונה בנאמר “מזה ומזה הם כתובים” הוא כי בשני הלוחות לא היו שני דפים כתובים מצד אחד בלבד, אלא ארבעה עמודים, כתובים משני עבריהם של הלוחות, שניים שניים בכל לוח כמו שכתוב: “לוחות כתובים משני עבריהם, מזה ומזה הם כתובים”. מדוע רבותינו מפרשים משני עבריהם ככתב חלול? הרי גם לפי רב חסדא לא הייתה אפשרות לקרוא הכתוב מהצד השני כי הוא נכתב בצורת מראה.

באיזה כתב ניתנה התורה?
האם היה בזמן מתן תורה כתב אשורי? האם הלוחות נכתבו בכתב אשורי? אולי הם נכתבו כמו שנכתבו חוקי המורבי, שהם היו חרוטים על לוחות אבן? זו הייתה צורת הכתב והכתיבה באותם ימים. או שמא בכתב עברי? האם היה קיים הכתב העברי בזמן מתן תורה? אם בכתב עברי, אז לא היה צריך נס לאותיות מם (סופית) וסמך, אבל היה צריך נס לאותיות אחרות.

דבר הכתב נדון על ידי רבותינו והרוצה יעיין בכתובים. אביא רק מאמר, אחד מהתלמוד הירושלמי והשני מהתלמוד הבבלי.
מהירושלמי (וילנא) מסכת מגילה פרק א נאמר: ר”נ אומר ברעץ [כתב עברי] ניתנה התורה ואתייא כר’ יוסה רבי אומר אשורית ניתנה התורה וכשחטאו נהפך להן לרעץ וכשזכו בימי עזרא נהפך להן אשורית [זכריה ט יב] [...] תני רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר משום רבי אלעזר בן פרטא שאמר משום רבי לעזר המודעי כתב אשורי ניתנה התורה ומה טעמא [שמות כז י] ווי העמודים שיהו ווים של תורה דומים לעמודים אמר רבי לוי מאן דאמר לרעץ ניתנה התורה עי”ן מעשה ניסים מאן דאמר אשורי ניתנה התורה סמ”ך מעשה ניסים (לא השתמשו באותיות הסופיות של מנצפ”ך)
ואזכיר ברייתא אחת מהבבלי (סנהדרין כא, ב):
אמר מר זוטרא ואיתימא מר עוקבא:
בתחילה ניתנה תורה לישראל בכתב עברי ולשון הקודש,
וחזר וניתנה להם בימי עזרא בכתב אשורית ולשון ארמית,
ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית ולשון הקודש,
והניחו להדיוטות כתב עברית ולשון ארמי.
כאן מקשים:
1. לפי דעת מר זוטרא שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, קשה הרי לכתב עברי אין תגין.
חלק מן האותיות בכתב סת”ם מעוטרות בתגים. התיוג נועד בעיקר ליפות את האותיות אם כי יש לו גם משמעות דרשנית ולפי הגמרא, רבי עקיבא היה לומד דרשות ממיקום התגים באותיות. חוסר תגים באותיות אינו פוסל את הכתב.
2. לפי ברייתא זו קשיא, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי? דהא אמרינן (שבת ק”ד א): אמר רב חסדא: מ”ם וסמ”ך שבלוחות בנס היו עומדין. ודבר זה לא תמצא רק בכתב אשורית.
3. ועוד הקשו על זה, דאיך אפשר לומר שהתורה נתנה בכתב עברי, ועזרא היה משנה הכתב? ואיך אפשר זה, והלא כתיב אלה המצוות, ואמרו ז”ל (שבת שם) שאין הנביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה, ואפילו אותיות מנצפ”ך?
עד כאן הברייתא והקושיות עליה.
אבל גם הברייתא עצמה מפליאה! לפי הגמרא היו שני מתן תורה, זו של משה וזו בימיו של עזרא. ומפליא יותר שבני ישראל לא אימצו לא אף אחת מהן אלא “ביררו להן לישראל כתב אשורית [מתורה שניתנה בימי עזרא] ולשון הקודש [מתורת משה]“.
לפי רבי בירושלמי אשורית ניתנה התורה אבל הכתב שונה לכתב עברי כשחטאו, ובימי עזרא חזר הכתב לאשורי.

לאחר הדיון על הכתב בו ניתנה התורה, נראה על גבי מה היא נכתבה. ידוע כי עשרת הדברים נכתבו על לוחות אבן. זה היה הנוהג באותה תקופה – חריטה על אבן או ציפוי האבן בטית וכתיבה על הטית הרך כמו שנצטוו בעברם את הירדן: [...] והקמת לך אבנים גדלות ושדת אותם בשיד. וכתבת עליהן [...] (דברים כז, ב-ג). הפפירוס היה קיים במצרים באותה תקופה אבל הוא יוצר רק שם מצמח הפפירוס ((Cyperus papyrus. הקלף עדיין לא היה (התחילו לכתוב על קלף רק בערך במאה השנייה לפני הספירה).

בגמרא מובאת מחלוקת בדבר זמן כתיבת התורה: “אמר רבי יוחנן משום ר’ בנאה, תורה – מגילה מגילה ניתנה, שנאמר ‘אז אמרתי הנה-באתי במגלת-ספר כתוב עלי’ (תהלים מ, ח). רבי שמעון בן לקיש אומר, תורה – חתומה ניתנה, שנאמר ‘לקח את ספר התורה הזאת’ ” (דברים לא, כו). רש”י מסביר: “מגילה מגילה ניתנה”: “כשנאמרה פרשה למשה היה כותבה, ולבסוף מ’ שנה כשנגמרו כל הפרשיות חיברן בגידין ותפרן”. “חתומה ניתנה”: “לא נכתבה עד סוף מ’ שנה לאחר שנאמרו כל הפרשיות כולן, והנאמרות לו בשנה ראשונה ושניה היו סדורות לו על פה עד שכתבן”.
אם התורה נכתבה על לוחות אבן מתקבלת יותר דעתו של רבי שמעון בן לקיש שהיא נכתבה בסוף ארבעים השנים, לפני כניסתם לארץ. אחרת היה על בני ישראל לשאת את הלוחות הכבדים בכל מסעיהם במדבר. דבר זה גם לא מזכירה התורה. כאמור, גם בני ישראל נצטוו לכתוב את התורה בעוברם את הירדן על אבנים גדולות מצופות בסיד (בשיד).
הפירוש של רש”י, לדעתו של רבי יוחנן דאמר שהתורה ניתנה מגילה מגילה, אומר כי חיברו את הפרשיות השונות על ידי תפירה בגידין. אין רש”י אומר על מה נכתבו. אם עלינו להניח כי התורה נכתבה על פפירוס, נצטרך להניח כי בני ישראל גידלו את צמח הפפירוס במדבר. האם היה יכול לצמוח שם במדבר? (ודאי לא ייבאו אותו ממצריים). האם הצליחו בני ישראל לגדל את צמח הפפירוס במדבר ולייצר ממנו את הפפירוס? הפפירוס הוא מאוד עדין ולכן גללו אותו כמגילה. האם ניתן היה לתפור אותו בגידין או לקפל אותו?

העליתי את שאלותיי בנושא השפה בה נכתבה התורה ועל מה היא נכתבה. איני קובע עובדות רק מביא מספר דעות של רבותינו. אשמח לקבל דעותיכם בנושא.

אסיים בקרובה לשחרית של שבועות מאת ר’ אלעזר קליר: “אז בכתב אשורית ובלשון עברית ובדיבור מצרית הנחלת לבת עברית.”

More on the mystery of the Kittel for Geshem or Tal

I had sent a few Yekkes that I knew, a publication about the customs in Frankfurt. It is comprehensive and revised yearly. It was sent before Rosh Hashono. I noticed though that it stated that the Kittel was not worn by the Shaliach Tzbibbur on Shmini Atzeres.

I do not know if Hamburg had a different Minhag, nor what Berlin let alone Poland/Russia followed, but [hat tip RDS] the following seems to also confirm (unless I have misread) that it was something that was generally worn originally on Yom Tov, over the clothes, as a special Malbush Yom Tov (which is a Halacha). [Those of you with access to one of those white cylinder style hats can wear those :-) I can remember the days when there were heaps of them adorning the heads of Mispallelim ... they used to get yellow over time, as I noticed] I couldn’t find a picture of one but they are like a flatter floppier version of the Chazan style tall hat (not to be confused with the Shloof Yarmulke, which is another story)

 

The Hetter Mechira for Shmitta (Part 2)

[Hat tip from RDS]

If you can read Hebrew you will understand how they have taken Rav Kook and twisted his words, as they always have and always will. And why? Two reasons: he loved the Land, and he loved all Jews, both with a fiery enthusiasm. As I recall the Ridbaz below was from Tzfas Ir HaKodesh. The emphases in bold are mine.

ט.        משגלה העם היהודי מארצו, ובהיעדר חקלאות יהודית משמעותית בארץ בימי הגלות, כמעט שלא עמדה על הפרק – במובן לאומי אופרטיבי – שאלת השמיטה; עם זאת מוצאים אנו פולמוסים בעניינה בעת חידוש היישוב היהודי בצפת במאה הט”ז, וחילוקי דעות לא מעטים בין פוסקי הלכה (ראו הרב זוין, שם קי”ג-קט”ז). ואולם, משהחלה בשנות השמונים למאה הי”ט הקמתן של המושבות היהודיות (מושבות העליה הראשונה), שהתפרנסו מחקלאות ונתקיים בהן “ואתם הרי ישראל ענפכם תתנו ופריכם תשאו לעמי ישראל כי קרבו לבוא” (יחזקאל ל”ו, ח), עלתה שאלת השמיטה לראשונה בשנת תרמ”ב-1882, ובמלוא עוזה בשנת תרמ”ט-1888. המושבות, שחלק ניכר מאיכריהן היו שומרי מצוות, עמדו בפני השאלה הקשה כיצד יתפרנסו אם ישמרו על השמיטה כנתינתה. הרב יצחק אלחנן ספקטור, רבה של קובנה שבליטא, פוסק מרכזי בדורו, שראה את הסוגיה כהצלת נפשות, פסק בקשר לשמיטת תרמ”ט לטובת “היתר מכירה”, ובלשונו,

“להתיר על פי העצה למכור השדות והכרמים לישמעאלים, הגוף, והפירות, על משך שתי שנים בלבד, ואחרי כלות הזמן יחזרו הכרמים והשדות לבעלים”.

הסכימו עמו גם הרב יהושע מקוטנא, הרב שמואל מוהליבר מביאליסטוק (מראשי חיבת ציון) והרב שמואל זינויל קלפפיש מורשה. עם זאת ציין הרב ספקטור, כי המדובר בהיתר לשמיטת תרמ”ט “אבל לא לשמיטות הבאות, שאז יצטרכו להיתר מחדש ולעיין אי”ה, וה’ יהיה בעזר עמנו, שלא יצטרכו להיתר…”. קו הקושי מתבלט כבר מאז, קרי, הפער בין חזון שמיטה ככל משפטה וחוקתה לבין מציאות קשה, שהפתרונות לה מורכבים הלכתית. הרב ישראל מאיר לאו, הרב הראשי לישראל לשעבר, בחוות דעתו “שביעית בזמן הזה”, שו”ת יחל ישראל ג’, קמ”ז, שנכתבה בקשר לשמיטת תשס”א-2001, מבאר על פי הרב נפתלי הרץ הלוי – רבן של יפו והמושבות עד פטירתו בתרס”ב (במקומו בא בתרס”ד הרב א”י הכהן קוק) – כי היסוד להיתר היה בדברים שכתב הרב מרדכי רויו מחברון, בעל ספר שמן המור, בשנת תקנ”ג (1793). אבן יסוד קודמת לכך מצויה אצל בעל הבית יוסף, רבנו יוסף קארו מחבר השולחן ערוך, שהתיר פירות נכרים בשביעית, אף שגם עליו היו חולקים בדורו (ראו הרב זוין, שם, קט”ו-קט”ז). הצטרפו אל הרב ספקטור בהיתר גם מראשי הרבנים של הציבור הספרדי בארץ ישראל, ובהם הראשון לציון הרב יעקב שמואל אלישר, בעל ישא ברכה, והראשון לציון הרב רפאל פניג’ל, ובחו”ל גם הנצי”ב – הרב נפתלי צבי יהודה ברלין, ראש ישיבת וולוז’ין, וכן הרב יוסף דב סולוביצ’יק מבריסק. מנגד חלקו עליהם בארץ הרב יהושע לייב דיסקין, רבה של בריסק לשעבר שעלה ארצה, והרב שמואל סלנט, רבה של ירושלים.

י.        הרב הלוי, רבן של יפו והמושבות, נסמך לקראת שמיטת תרנ”ו על היתר המכירה – וזאת הפעם כנראה בהתיעצות עם הרב דיסקין והרב סלנט. לקראת שמיטת תרס”ג נפטר הרב נ”ה הלוי, וחתנו הרב יוסף צבי הלוי הוסמך על-ידי הרב אליהו דוד רבינוביץ תאומים (האדר”ת), אב בית דין בירושלים, ועל-ידי הרב סלנט, רבה של ירושלים, להמשיך בהיתר המכירה (ראו הרב מנחם ולדמן, “הוראות לשנת השמיטה תרס”ג”, תחומין י”ג (תשנ”ב) 47, 48, והפירוט שם; נאמר כי הכרעות הרב נ”ה הלוי היו בהסכמת הרב דיסקין).

י”א.     מי שביסס במיוחד את היתר המכירה הלכתית היה הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק, רבה של יפו והמושבות בשנים 1914-1904, ואחר כך רבה של ירושלים בשנים 1921-1919 ורבה הראשי הראשון של ארץ ישראל מאז 1921 עד פטירתו ב-1935, בספרו שבת הארץ שנכתב בשנת תר”ע לעת השמיטה דאז (תר”ע – 1910), תוך ויכוח חמור. הרב קוק ציין, כי

“מרוב דלות מצב יישובנו בארץ הכרח הוא אמנם להסתפק על פי רוב בהוראת שעה, כאשר הוסכם מאז על פי גדולי הדור, אשר נכנסו לעומק מצב היישוב החדש בארצנו הקדושה… ולדעת כי מאת ה’ היתה זאת, לתת ניר לעמו על אדמת קדשו… למרות הפקעת  המצוה אשר בהוראת שעה זו, ישנם כמה גופי הלכות הנדרשים לשמור ולעשות בפועל… שינון ההלכות יחקור בלבבות את חיובם בלב ומשמיטה לשמיטה יתווספו רבים, אשר בעז ה’ בלבבם ירחיבו את גבול המצוה בכל הרחבתה ופרטיה” (שבת הארץ – הלכות שביעית, כ”ה-כ”ו).

יסוד ההיתר, כפי שהסביר הרב קוק, הוא שבשביעית בזמן הזה מותר לעשות כל עבודה בקרקע של נכרי, וכמובן מי שרוצים לקיים את מצוות השמיטה בלא קוּלות, יש לברכם, ואילו על מי שיקיימו את המצווה במלואה “לדון לכף זכות בכל רגשי כבוד ואהבת ישראל, את כל אלה שמצבם בפרט, או מצב היישוב בכלל מכריח אותם להתנהג על פי סדרי ההיתר וההפקעה” (שם, עמ’ כ”ח. ראו גם איגרתו של הרב קוק אל הרידב”ז – הרב יעקב דוד וילובסקי, פרשן התלמוד הירושלמי שחי אז בארץ – בשו”ת משפט כהן הלכות שמיטה ויובל ס”ג (איגרת מיום ב’ דר”ח אייר תרס”ט) המדגישה (עמ’ קכ”ז, כ”ט) את שעת הדחק מזה ואת דחקות ההיתר מזה, וכן ח’ בן-ארצי, הרב קוק בפולמוס השמיטה תשס”ז (ושם גם התכתבותו עם הרידב”ז)). כאמור, ההיתר לא היה ללא מתנגדים, שעמדו על שמירת השמיטה כנתינתה; חלק מן ההשגות נסבו על השאלה אם ניתן למכור קרקע לנכרי בארץ ישראל, ולא נאריך.

Israel: Stay strong and resolute

ישראל נושע בה׳

The donors of 5 billion dollars to Hamastan laid no conditions of demilitarisation. This is unacceptable, and should be unacceptable to even J-Street supporters

Ban Ki Moon’s statement that the war was a result of “occupation” is reprehensible. He is grossly unfit for office. How does he know? We know it didn’t start with that. That’s fact. We know that Hamas and Fatah hate each other but hate Israel more. We know that successive Prime Ministers have tried to negotiate two state solutions only to have them rejected by the Arabs. We know they don’t recognise a JEWISH state. We know Israel can do no right.

The British Labor Party’s direction to its members to vote on the issue is grossly political. It isn’t about the concept, it’s about the timing and methodology. This is how a prostituted party works in England to garner votes.

How dare Moon not wish to investigate Human Rights violations from Hamas.

Obama is on his last legs. He has proved absolutely useless at protecting Kurds and Yazdis. He gives lip service to genocide. His lip service is only second to Clinton. Kerry is a גארנישט

The world is corruption personified.

I would, as Israel, Boycott as many UN events as possible. THAT must be the reaction. If you aren’t forced, why go to a filthy bordello? We are עם לבדד ישכון ובגויים לא יתחשב

That will not change.

Shmuley Boteach’s confused understanding of the Jewish World

The (I’m advised sincere) but confused article by Shmuley Boteach should not remain without counter-comment.

I will copy his article below and intersperse my comments.

The magnetism of Chabad messianism

Messianism is the world’s most powerful idea, humanity’s most compelling vision.

Messianism, which presumably is a word used because it over-focuses on WHO may be the Messiah, as opposed to the condition of the world at such a time, is not the world’s most powerful idea nor humanity’s most compelling vision.

The redemption itself, but more nuanced than that, the condition extant at the time of the redemption are a vision which we pray for three times a day. The days when the wolf will live with the lion, and the temple and it’s influence of unity and concentration and holiness are the reality, not vision, which Jews pray for every day. I do know that there are multifarious views of other religions now. I am not terribly interested in these, except in as much as דע משתשיב

Not only is it the underpinning of the world’s most populous religion, Christianity, it is also the engine for human progress itself.

If Jesus is the underpinning of the world’s most populous religion, that person (as opposed to the euphemistic messianism) then that is what it is. It is no more than that. If it means that people act in a certain way, which can be considered moral and ethical, and most importantly not missionary, then that is good. There is no evidence in Boteach’s statement that it is the engine for human progress. This is a statement without a presentation of any illustrative proof.

Only through a belief that history is not cyclical but linear, that positive steps in human advancement are cumulative rather than short-lived, that as a race we can step together out of the shadows and into the light, can there hope for collective human progress.

There are some mixed metaphors here. History is indeed cyclical. Boteach’s mistake is that if one proceeds in a circle, one cannot increase energy. This is of course demonstrably wrong. It is as wrong as assuming that one who travels in a line, is “growing”. They may in fact be dying, and reaching their end point.

Boteach again uses the term progress. He calls it “collective human progress.” He has not, however, seemingly made any effort to define what he means.

It is therefore fascinating to witness – once a year – the tremendous energy unleashed by the Chabad messianic movement as it congregates and detonates at world Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn.

Having never been there, I have heard that it certainly used to detonate a special extended holiness, however, anyone who has been in the State of Israel, and experienced Succos in Jerusalem, Hevron and the surrounds cannot help but know that they are actually on holy ground, enveloped by a sweeping holiness. that is unleashed and detonated. The same can be said for the “second hakafos” in Israel. That being said, I would posit that even Boteach acknowledges that Brooklyn now, is not the Brooklyn of 25 years ago, and the shining star that illuminated that section of the world, is sadly in another place. There is now much binge drinking where people either drown their sorrows or try to reach moments of detached ecstasy as a substitute. In Melbourne, I haven’t heard a good farbrengen, for example, since Rabbi Groner and those before him departed. Let me know where one is, and I’d love to be enthused by an outpouring of the Torah of Simcha.

The Jewish festival of Sukkot brings together two very different strands of the global Chabad movement. On the one hand, there is mainstream Chabad comprised of residents of Crown Heights – the global hub – together with the worldwide network of Chabad emissaries. Their strength is their professionalism, dedication, and impact.

On the other hand there are the Chabad messianists, a minority to be sure, but vocal, visible, determined, and brimming with life.

Here I assume Boteach defines a Chabad Messianist as either a chanter of one line mantras, or one who imagines he is receiving wine from nobody, or perhaps one who refuses to believe there is a filled grave. It would be helpful if Boteach defined his terms. There are many silent ones who pine for redemption. Some will internally hope that by some Divine rule it will be their Rebbe. Others (a very very small minority) will think this issue of identifying the Messiah, is actually a thorough and useless waste of time. I assume he speaks not about the elohisten.

Mainstream Chabad is uncomfortable with the messianists, believing they give both the movement and the Rebbe himself a bad name. The messianists are millennial, apocalyptic, and, to many minds, irrational. They want to push both Chabad and Judaism into the end of days.

I don’t see them as irrational (but note, I don’t know which category Boteach refers to). I see many of them as post-justifiers. They will cut and dismember Jewish tradition as espoused by the Rambam and acknowledged by the rest of Jewry. Those who think there is nothing in the grave, need psychiatric help.

But there can be no denying that they have tapped into an energy source that appears near infinite.

I do not know what “near infinite” means, let alone in this context.

When I was a young Chabad student in Crown Heights what I remember most was the limitless energy we all experienced in the Rebbe’s court. On Sukkot we could dance nine days running without tiring. We could go for a week with barely any sleep. The Rebbe – then in his eighties – set the pace with superhuman strength and inexplicable vigor.

Although I was not and am not a Chabadnik, I agree, based on the books I have recently read and some videos that I have watched, that it would have been an experience to remember.

That was more than twenty years ago.

Since then, Chabad has conquered the world and gone mainstream, sprouting educational centers in every point of the globe. My wife and I recently spent Shabbat with Chabad of Korea right after I spoke at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium at a global peace summit. A few weeks earlier I had spoken at Chabad of Aspen, Colorado. The local Chabad centers in these two very different places had in common the outstanding young Chabad rabbis, true soldiers of the Jewish people. Watching their impact on their respective communities was inspiring.

I think that Chabad has sprouted and grown, but I don’t know about conquered the world. If there was one word that I was left with after reading the three recent books about the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it was either the word dedication or positivity. I think Chabad has influenced many in that direction.

But for all that, Chabad today – as a movement that has now gone mainstream – has learned to eschew controversy. Gone are the days when Chabad agitated for the territorial integrity of the State of Israel and public stands against trading land for a fraudulent peace.

Those days aren’t gone!?! I hear this message constantly and unwaveringly today.

Gone too are the Chabad emphasis on messianism as being central to Judaism and the Jewish future.

This depends on the Shaliach. Some have adapted to their clientele while others will unwaveringly soldier on with the original message in all it’s vigour and yellow paraphernalia.

Chabad today is effective if not conventional, essential if not somewhat predictable.

It is predictable because it is a continuation of a message. There is no more central figure to initiate new ideas that are to be brought to the world. That is sad; but true. At the same time, there is an enormous corpus that may be applied to today’s world, without change.

Its focus: opening nurseries and day schools, synagogues and mikvehs, looking after special needs children (Friendship Circle) and the elderly, running Sunday schools and day camps. And to quote Carly Simon, nobody does it better.

This is also necessary for the mainstream. Jews are abandoning Shules. The latter can’t survive. They must generate income from nurseries etc simply to survive financially!

It is to this side of Chabad that I adhere and this vision for the building of Jewish life that I am dedicated. Chabad justly evokes in every Jew on earth a feeling of both awe and gratitude.

Which side exactly does Boteach not adhere to? Those that yell Yechi, or those that think it, or someone else?

Without Chabad the Jewish world would be up a creek without a paddle.

I don’t second guess God, nor do I know what he would have done, but there can be no doubt Chabad’s influence has been very significant.

But even as someone who prides himself on his rationality,

I do not know how a Chabad Chossid prides himself on rationality. My understanding is that there is higher level, called Bittul.

I cannot help but be somewhat jealous of the go-for-broke mentality of the other side of the movement, the messianists. The belief that humankind can attain an age of perfection, a belief that Judaism has a global, universal vision that is not limited to Jews, a dismissal of money and materialism in favor of a purely spiritual calling, and placing faith in a great leader who prompts us to embrace that era.

I am not jealous of them. Those that think that they have a minyan with two people and eight pictures, or eat on Tisha B’Av have broken with Jewish Mesorah. If Boteach is saying that he admires their perspicacity, ok.

To be sure, I follow the ruling of Maimonides that the Messiah must be a living man who fulfills the Messianic prophecies which rules out anyone – however great – that has passed from this world without ushering in an age of universal peace, rebuilt the Temple, and gathered in all Jewish exiles. That would exclude my Rebbe as it would exclude all the other great leaders of the Jewish people through the ages however much they have devoted their lives to our people.

It does, but that same Maimonides said, we don’t really know how things will unfold exactly. Which means I agree with Boteach, but I think he may be selective as a Chabadnik.

But that does not change my clear memory of the Rebbe’s incessant and unyielding public calls for Jews to work toward a messianic future, to dedicate every positive deed toward his coming, and to never fear controversy in the pursuit of every aspect of Jewish belief.

I once wanted to visit him for a Yechidus when I was younger. However, I felt that I was not worthy of saying anything of substance nor did I have a particular issue that I wanted to raise. As a Cohen, I also knew that if I blessed Jews with love, God himself would bless me. Not withstanding that fact, after reading the three books, I probably would have gone in if I had my chance again, and simply asked for “an appropriate brocho” Those three words. No more, and no less.

The kittel during Tefillas Geshem and Tal

We can all easily work out the sense in the Shaliach Tzibbur wearing one. A sense of extreme humility and awe should envelop the Chazzan while he recites such critical requests on behalf of the congregation.

On Erev Succos, an acquaintance of mine discussed the concept with me and asked me what the SOURCE of this MINHAG is. I said I’d look and email. I don’t have access to the Bar Ilan program because they refused my offer to port the program to a Mac or an iPad. I was hoping it might run under a PC virtual machine on my Mac. They have progressed from the time warp of DOS and XP and now like you to subscribe to online access.

Either way, I searched and searched and couldn’t find it. I was sure that if I looked at the Nitei Gavriel he was bound to find SOME primordial source for this. Alas, even he stated that he didn’t know of a source as pointed out to me by a Zurba Derabonnon.

I did find in my limited research that the Minhag in Frankfurt (and perhaps Hamburg and other parts of Germany) was NOT to wear a Kittel!

There was an older Minhag, about which I’m unsure why it ceased, to wear a special white gown cum kittel as one’s Bigdei Yom Tov. Many seem to forget that one should wear something extra special on Yom Tov.

Perhaps, just perhaps, this is the real reason why people wore it at the seder. I don’t really know and I’ve read many of the reasons including Rav Moshe Soloveitchik’s (R Chaim Brisker’s son who married into the Feinsteins) reason, and who was the Rav’s father.

Anyway, I’m throwing the question out to the Oilom who read my blog. I guess that someone like Rav Sraya Deblicki might know, but if Rav Tzinner, the author of Nitei Gavriel and Rav Hamachshir of Melbourne’s Eruv doesn’t know ….

Of course the kittel didn’t appear to exist amongst the Sephardim.

It’s a pity Rav Ovadya has left us, as he was a walking encyclopaedia kipshuto.

The Heter Mechira in Shmitta

This may come as a surprise to the nidertrechtikte soinim of Rav Kook, but the common fallacy is that when he became Chief Rabbi of Yaffo-Tel Aviv, he introduced the Heter Mechira.

This is of course one of a string of lies and distortions that Israel/ZIONIST hating so called Frummer Hungarians in Israel would have you gullibly swallow to this day.

But their world isn’t a world of Torah even remotely approaching the supreme and holy Tzadik that Rav Kook was, so I am not surprised that they peddled and continue to peddle their outright lies and disrespect for a very holy Rov.

Full of twaddle

There is a fellow who sits proximate to me, whose Yechi Yarmulke annoys me. Actually, its not his yechi yarmulke, it’s all Yechi yarmulkes that upset me, because I consider the implied message as non halachic bunkum. And yes, I’d be happier if there was no sign at the back of the Shule, but if it means people don’t blurt it out at every opportunity during, before and after davening, like they used to, I tolerate it.

Anyway, he’s a new comer, so today he informed me that he had “asked about me”. He was perplexed. How can someone daven at a Chabad Shule and dislike the advertising hoardings around a handful of skulls.

He then told me that he was advised that I was a Misnaged who has been thrown out of every Shule I had davened at, and that’s why I now often daven in Lubavitch.

Well I have news for this Johnny-come-lately, and for the geniuses who informed him.

I have been “encouraged” to leave one Shule only in my life. It was the nascent Beit Haroeh at Mizrachi, decades ago. Two others, Anthony Waller and David Meerkin, both fine upstanding people and friends, who now live in Israel, were also so encouraged, all by Mizrachi Board Askonim at the instigation of the infamous Rabbi Baruch Zaichyk, then Rabbi of Mizrachi. I carry that episode as a badge of honour. Quite apart from some serious halachic issues I had with Rabbi Zaichyk which I raised privately with him (and I don’t refer to the Eruv that wasn’t) he publicly imitated Mori V’Rabbi Harav Baruch Abaranok ז’’ל and that was a line that was beyond the pale for me. I revered and continue to revere Rav Abaranok to this day. I could have fought Zaichyk, especially in those youthful days, and believe me I have a dossier of properly researched material in a file which I had prepared to defend my position in the event that a need would arise. My father ע’’ה who was a lot wiser than me, told me to just stay away. I have no desire to reveal this information today and long ago took the decision not to do so. I enjoyed a good relationship with Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen ז’’לֹ and get on extremely well with the impressive Rabbi Ya’akov Sprung, both Rabbis of Mizrachi since that time.

So Mister Smart Aleck, proud wearer of the Yechi Yarmulke, your “facts” have zero credibility. I think you need to wake up and realise that there are even Chabad Shules, such as the one run by my class mate Rabbi Yossi New in Atlanta, who wouldn’t even let you in, wearing one of these skull caps.

PS. Anyway, although I don’t follow any Chassidic group, I am not opposed to Chassidism per se, Lubavitch or otherwise. I have three sons-in-law and a son who consider themselves Lubavitch! I do have different views on matters: e.g. the rabid anti-Zionism of Satmar, Meshichism of Chabad, etc but they hardly qualify someone as a Misnaged!

Is Shlomo Sand lacking the vision of Bilaam’s donkey?

Frankly, his job as a professor lends no credence to his views. They have demonstrably been shown to be false, if he opened his eyes and just looked at Israeli society. His is the sad wish of someone who wants to assimilate because then he won’t be from the “chosen people”.

His Zayda would disown him. The most telling comment was his use of the word “occupation”. That gave it all away for me. Globalisation, my foot. If anything, the internet has strengthened my knowledge of Judaism enormously.

His inane comment is as silly as the one I saw in Rabbi Donenbaum’s booklet over Succos where someone put in a dedication (anonymous! Why? Tzidkus, humility?) because his Chavrusa has turned the internet off on his iPhone. I have a better idea. Let his Chavrusa give me his iPhone and I’ll give him one of those old Nokias. The Yetzer Hora won’t even touch him that way. Anyway, here is the article reported about Shlomo Sand. I suggest he change his name to Steve Sand?

A controversial Israeli historian has declared his wish to cease considering himself a Jew, expressing disgust at the “ethnocentricity” which he feels is the prevailing worldview among many Israelis

In an opinion piece published in the Guardian on Friday – which is an extract from his new book, How I Stopped Being a Jew — Prof. Shlomo Sand of Tel Aviv University says he has been “assimilated by law into a fictitious ethnos of persecutors and their supporters.”

“I wish to resign and cease considering myself a Jew,” he writes.

Sand asserts that Israel is “one of the most racist societies in the western world” due to its strict characterization as a Jewish state. “Racism is present to some degree everywhere, but in Israel it exists deep within the spirit of the laws,” he says.

He expresses his disillusionment with Israel dues to its continued occupation of the Palestinian territories, which he says “is leading us on the road to hell.”

Despite his scathing critique of Israel, Sand acknowledges that he is also deeply tied to the nation. “The language in which I speak, write and dream is overwhelmingly Hebrew,” he says. “When I am far from Israel, I see my street corner in Tel Aviv and look forward to the moment I can return to it… when I visit the teeming Paris bookstores, what comes to my mind is the Hebrew book week organized each year in Israel.”

Sand states his belief that the ethnic differences which have divided the world for millennia will become insignificant as the world moves more and more towards globalization. “The cultural distance between my great grandson and me will be as great or greater than that separating me from my own great grandfather,” he hypothesizes.

The Tel Aviv lecturer has long been the subject of controversy. His 2008 book “The Invention of the Jewish People” claimed that the Jews were not a nation expelled from its homeland but a religion of converts spread throughout the world. The Jewish people as an ethnic group, he asserted, was a myth created by Jewish intellectuals in the 19th century. In a 2009 sequel, “The Invention of the Land of Israel,” Sand similarly deconstructs the Jews’ historical right to that land.

Where is the sense in left wing Israeli Politics?

I just don’t get it. Even the ultra left humanitarian tree huggers of J-Street saw what happened in Gaza, and were shocked with the plan for a massive Rosh Hashana action that would have devastated all Jewry. Settlers? These were Kibbutzim in line.

We have the physics master telling us God doesn’t exist (do we believe him because he is disabled and we tend to subconsciously ascribe more genius to him as a result out of Rachmonus) Where is his cure for cancer, he could have turned to that, it might have been more useful than models that don’t seem to stand more than ten years before a better model emerges.

We have a President in his last stage, whose entire path seems to be that he “won’t repeat Bush’s mistakes”. In  pursuing this one-minded agenda he has deluded himself that he actually has friends in the Arab world and that they don’t ultimately treat him as a denier. He has failed to apply proportionality. Why doesn’t he take a prisoner from Guantanamo Bay (that he was desperate to close down) and behead him on TV. Now, that’s proportionality. A head for a head. Even the Bible doesn’t say that, so he can’t be accused of being partial. I see that civilians are killed in his bombings. Isn’t his army perfect?

He knows full well that the aged Shimon Peres, our picture/news seeking missile, that Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t got the strength or the political belief to make peace ever. Abbas just wants to go to his grave as a “great leader” like Arafat, ימ’’ש and not be shot in the head by Hamastan.

Yerusholyaim is not for sale, in the words of Mordechai Ben David, except where Arabs sell their land to the Jews and even then we are “settlers”. It’s a pejorative. Settling the City of David is a pejorative?

We buy it legally and live therein. Is there something particularly historically Arab about Silwan. Any honest historian knows the Palestinians are at best nothing to do with a long history, but an existentialism (no different to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria et al) that were “created” ex nihilo by the Turks and British. Is that some sort of Klipa that we have to honour?

No, there is only one answer, and that is a strong, unforgiving, determined, and lasting Israel. No compromise on anything. If you give an inch, they take a mile. There is no Rambam that says that the COMMENCEMENT of the ingathering of the exiles can’t preclude Moshiach.

בונים בחול ואחר כך מקדישים

Our politicians are a disgrace. No sooner than the rockets have stopped temporarily, and we are surrounded by the biggest threats since the establishment of the State and they pretend like political marionettes that they have a “peace” partner in Abu Mazen, the infamous holocaust belittler. They have no morals. Even Yair Lapid has more morals than they, and Tzippi Livni seems to have finally come to her senses.

The only way forward is the no nonsense and unambiguous approach of Naftali Bennett. Don’t like him? He’s more moderate than the Iranians, and the Qataris and all the riffraff that Obama and his side kick and delicately coiffured Kerry pretend they have respect for.

The word diplomacy needs to be rested. It has no place in the current climate. The only thing that will change the status quo is the realisation of those who want to eradicate us, that we are not budging. We are expanding on all fronts, and their time for farnarkling through multiple processes where they could have built a viable demilitarised state is running out. They must make the move. The UN is just a prostitute.

On Yom Hashoah we say “Never Again”. I wouldn’t trust those words with the left-wing in Israeli politics. The Meretz types, the opportunists and the seat piners and liners. This is no joke.

Let me say it in plain English.

They do NOT accept a Jewish State. End of Story. No Jewish State, means we have NOBODY to talk to. If you put deodorant on a stinging wound, it will still stink to high hell, and will likely also hurt. No deodorants, no more, pardon my language, it’s all bull dust. Close the doors and open them when someone normal is standing at the gate. Two State Solution? They don’t recognise one state!

If Hezbollah have a notion of starting with us, then we must not dillydally. We must ignore the world, and destroy them for their aggression in a very aggressive quick and no-nonsense all out attack. THIS is “Never Again”, not the lovely poetry and fancy speeches on Yom Hashoa.

Wake up Yidden! Stop falling for all the diplo-crap. We might be going into temporary dwellings over Succos, but those observing most of the Mitzvos of the Torah deserve quiet and solid dwellings for the rest of the year.

 

Can you daven with a seriously accused criminal or criminal?

There was an interesting article which appeared in Tablet Magazine (c) by Joshua Berman. In it he essentially questioned the opening stanza before Kol Nidrei wherein we accept all sinners to join us in prayer to God.

I reproduce the article below. Some time ago, I had a related problem. An accused and charged criminal, who was waiting for his day in court, and was on strict bail conditions, appeared in our Shule to daven. My personal feelings were that of revulsion. In the end, I convinced myself that perhaps if they sat in a back corner of the Shule, came and went quickly, and didn’t make  themselves conspicuous that it was questionable. I rang my Rav, for his opinion, and he felt that it was no worse than a Cohen who transgresses but still has to perform Mitzvos Bircas Cohanim (the positive command remains), and it is commonly the case in many Shules that Cohanim who are less than committed to Halacha, Duchen. There is a special law in respect of Bircas Cohanim but that depends on the particular kehilla. In essence then= this person shouldn’t be denied davening with a minyan. He stipulated however that if that person “extended his welcome”, then it would be better for him to Daven at home. With difficulty,  I accepted the Psak, and discussed it with the local Orthodox Rabbi, who agreed. Unfortunately, those who have been party to certain sinful proclivities rarely sit quietly minding their own business. It’s as if some מחלה has overtaken them and they are no longer in control of what we call common sensibility.

One day, I had a less than friendly interchange with said person, because I felt, as did others that he had exceeded his task thereby resulting in what might be called a less than quiet moment. He didn’t return after that. It’s a very difficult question from an emotional point of view, even for those who aren’t directly affected, and I was not one of these.

With the consent of the Almighty and with the consent of the congregation, in the assembly of the Heavenly Court and the assembly of the earthly court, we sanction prayer in the company of the delinquent.
I always took comfort in that line, the opening line of the prayers of Yom Kippur night. Despite my shortcomings — which seem to persist over time — the liturgy welcomed me to Yom Kippur. I was one of those “delinquents” with whom those around me could legitimately pray.

But this Yom Kippur eve, I’m experiencing that opening line of our liturgy in a more profound way. Friday night, I’ll be leading Kol Nidre services in my synagogue. Ask anyone who leads prayer services over the High Holidays what it’s like to prepare and they will report the same experience: When you rehearse the lines and the melodies in the days leading up to the service you commune with the rabbis, cantors and teachers who instructed or inspired you in the art of leading the service. You aren’t merely recalling a tune; you recall their voice, their passion, their expression. As you reach mid-age, these days of preparation can be more powerful than the actual synagogue service itself. Recalling the passion and personality of beloved teachers who have since passed on, you cherish the days of preparation as an opportunity to revel in their melodic presence in collective service of the Almighty.

In my mind’s choir I sing along with Rabbi Yehoshua Kreiser and Rabbi Avraham Weiser of blessed memory, the European born rabbis of the small congregation in which I grew up. And I sing along with my beloved Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehuda Amital of blessed memory, also of European birth. I sing and tear-up in disbelief that my children will probably never experience an old shtetl Jew leading the High Holiday services.

I also sing along with the cantor who prepared several hours of tapes for me when I first led services as a college student 30 years ago. Let’s call him Shlomo. Shlomo taught at the yeshiva day school I attended as a youngster. We were members of the same small congregation. Shlomo had a beautiful voice and everyone in the community felt it a treat when he lead the services.

As I communed this week with all the wonderful rabbis and teachers of my mind’s choir, I paused as I came to a particular bar of Kol Nidre that I identify as a “Shlomo” bar in my repertoire. I recalled the link an acquaintance sent me a few years back documenting that Shlomo had years later served time for sexually abusing young boys.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra boycotts the music of Wagner because of the role of his music in the rise of the Nazi regime. Should I now “boycott” the music, nay the high-holiday melodies, of a pedophile?

For me, Shlomo was a beloved teacher. In fact, the first time I ever experienced a full traditional Shabbat setting was in his home when I was 11. He had a bunch of boys over for Shabbat. Perhaps with today’s sensitivities such a gathering might never take place. But forty years ago, not much was thought of it. I still remember the chicken fricassee he prepared and the songs around the Shabbat table. But above all I remember his love for liturgy and his generosity in preparing hours of liturgy on tape cassette for me .

I have had no contact with Shlomo in several decades. I can’t imagine what such a meeting would feel like. Of course, I am sickened by the actions for which he has served time, and cannot begin to imagine the justified loathing felt toward him by his victims or by their parents. They were the victims of his darkest impulses. I was the fortunate recipient of his brightest. Shlomo gave me an exposure to Shabbat and a melodic path with which to relate to the Almighty on the High Holidays.

Thinking of Shlomo, the darkness of his personal struggles and the melodies he has passed on to me lead me to new insight into that opening line of the Yom Kippur evening service – “we sanction prayer in the company of the delinquent.” The liturgy does not say, “We sanction prayer in the company of sinners — chot’im. In Hebrew the word I’ve translated as “delinquent” is avaryanim, which is much stronger than just “sinners” — chot’im. Even in medieval rabbinic Hebrew, avaryanim comes much closer to its modern Hebrew meaning of “criminal.” And the term is even stronger, as it is paired here with the definite article, “the avaryanim, implying not merely those many who are imperfect, but those few guilty of the worst deeds.

On Yom Kippur there is no easy ethos of “forgive and forget.” The opening line of the liturgy affirms the functioning of a heavenly court and an earthly one. Each shall mute out justice in its respective realm. But that opening line speaks of a third body – that of the congregation. On Yom Kippur the congregation must find a way to include in its midst not only mere “sinners”, but indeed “the avaryanim.”

And it is in that spirit that through the inspiration of all my teachers I shall lead the services, confident in the knowledge that I ”have sanction to pray with the delinquent.”

Clarify your systems and policies El Al and stick to them

An article appeared in the Jerusalem Post by Sharon Udasin (reproduced) below. It is effectively in many papers, and I’d imagine it will end up in the non-Jewish press in time.

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from harassment by ultra-Orthodox men.

More than a thousand people have signed an online petition calling on El Al Airlines to protect female passengers from harassment by ultra-Orthodox men.

The petition on Change.org was launched Sunday, days after an El Al flight from New York to Tel Aviv was delayed in taking off when haredi male passengers refused to sit next to women. As of Tuesday afternoon, the initiative had more than 1,100 supporters.

Sharon Shapiro of Chicago, who initiated the petition, said she wanted to stop the phenomenon of “passenger shaming.”

“Some men become belligerent if their demands aren’t met, and spend flights bullying and harassing women who refuse to change seats,” she wrote.

The petition recommends that El Al “reserve a few rows of separate-sex seating on every flight, where for a fee, those passengers who need such seating can pre-book their seats and not annoy or coerce other passengers before take-off to change seats with them – thereby avoiding arguments, bullying, and delayed take-off.”

While El Al did not provide a reaction to this specific petition, the company responded to last week’s incident, stressing that the airline “makes every effort to provide its passengers with the best service all year round.”

“Traffic is currently at its peak during this Jewish High Holiday season to and from Israel and representatives of the company, in the air and the ground, do their best to respond to every request,” a statement from the company read. “El Al makes every effort possible to ensure a passenger’s flight is as enjoyable as possible while doing our utmost to maintain schedules and arrive safely at the destination.”

It added that the airline was “committed to responding to every complaint received and if it is found that there are possibilities for improvement in the future, those suggestions will be taken into consideration.”

 

My views are:

  • It isn’t halachically necessary to ask to move to a seat next to men, but if you feel you need to or want to, or you have been so directed by your Posek/Rabbi, then you must ask extremely courteously. This is not a right, this is a privilege that someone who may have carefully chosen their seat earlier for a range of reasons (unknown to you) may wish to extended to you as a courtesy. If this causes a mass kerfuffle of people moving all around the plane and bags being shlepped to other overhead lockers, think carefully about what may be caused by you together with others who are doing the same thing as you. You might even consider giving a gift of thanks. No doubt you will thank the person/people several times with a cheery disposition. If the person is not Jewish, if you do give a gift later, then I do not think you are transgressing לא תחנם
  • El Al really should not get involved in these issues en masse at the beginning of a flight; there has to be a better system. As an airline, any airline, all requests about food and seating should be made beforehand. One could even add a question about seat preferences along gender lines with the rider that there is no guarantee. They might consider some rows at the back of the plane as male only and female only, and if those fill up, study patterns adjust, but there can’t be a guarantee.
  • Flights should never leave late because of such things. This is a major discourtesy to fellow travellers.
  • If there is even the slightest sign that the person/people are reticent to move, then one has an opportunity for a Kiddush Hashem, and to be friendly and not show even the slightest umbrage at their desire to sit on their allocated seat and accept their decision with a smile. Failure to do so, may cause a Chillul Hashem, and that is far more severe than what the person was attempting to avoid.
  • If somebody cannot afford to buy three seats so that the one on their left and right are empty, or upgrade to those business/first class seats which are separated, then they should consider travelling on Muslim airlines, where they are more likely to be seated in male only areas.
  • Create your own Charedi Airline if you have the patronage
  • I’m presuming that the people, most of them at least, are not simply Anti Charedi or Anti Religious. I think this is a reasonable assumption given the description of circumstances presented.

Finally, as noted by many Poskim, daven sitting quietly in your seat and forget about disturbing people with “minyan, minyan”.

Make up your own mind or ask your Local Orthodox Rabbi!

Why is the JNF apparently Treyf?

Look carefully, there are kosher establishments in Melbourne wherein you will not see a JNF charity box in the shop. I’m advised that it’s not for want of not trying. They tend to be refused? by Ultra Orthodox owners. There are often a myriad of other charity boxes, but no JNF. Ask why.

Why do I mention this now? I just read this truly uplifting article and noticed that the JNF were behind it.

Go figure. Why wouldn’t you want your money to go there?

A Jewish mode of verbally induced meditation

This year, was a first for many a year, when I was not a שליח ציבור. I was also in a Shule where you could hear a pin drop. The combination of these two led to a slightly embarrassing moment on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Our Nusach, and that originally of my father ע’ה, is Nusach Sephard (not to be confused with the Nusach of Sepharadi Jews and their variations). My trusty Machzor, is small and was purchased decades ago when still a lad learning in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavne. I was excited to reuse it, and happy that unlike some of my Seforim which are lent in good faith, and seem to have found a new home, this Machzor was exactly where it should be, and readily accessible. It was easy to hold, not being thick with salubrious translation and commentary. It was plain, much-loved, but hardly used in over three decades; certainly for Shachris or Mussaf.

As a Shaliach Tzibbur/Chazan, I followed the Nusach of the Shule. This was Ashkenaz, and with the exception of the Avoda of Yom HaKippurim, the differences were not evident, as perhaps one might expect.

As I know most of the Tefilla by heart, I found myself sitting wrapped in a Tallis, keenly trying to concentrate on each word in a way that had not been amenable beforehand when I was the שליח ציבור. I was free to use as much time as needed to navigate the words and their meaning.

As I write, I remembered Mr Hoppe ז’ל, a family friend, and fellow Cohen, with a gutturally deep voice, who was an Alexander Chossid before the war with long peyos, and at whose home in Tomashov, the Aleksander Rebbe stayed on occasion. I remember him asking me one year after I had returned from Kerem B’Yavne,  (in yiddish)

“why are you davening so much, what are you saying, I don’t know how you can stand so long”

I recall that I didn’t answer. My reasons were private, I wasn’t able to answer anyway, and many of my thoughts remain private, until this day.

Hoppe+Dad

Mr Hoppe (left) and my father עליהם השלום

Because I am acutely sensitised to Nussach, and was davening in a Shule that used a Machzor based on the Ari (and finalised by the Ba’al HaTanya, I presume) there were times that I was juddered by a different word, or in some cases (such as at the conclusion of הנני העני ממעש) a set of additional lines that were not present either in Nusach Ashkenaz or Nusach Sefard when they suddenly entered the arena. I haven’t looked into their etymology.

Much of the time, my eyes were shut, and I was concentrating, as well as I could. There was the unusual fact that in Chabad there is no בעל מקריא to call out the Shofar notes. In fact, I was surprised that on the first day, the very first set of notes were not repeated as I felt (but I’m certainly no Rabbi) that they were questionably executed.

Ensconced in the repetition of the Amida (which ideally I should have stood for throughout, except that this would have disturbed my concentration) I waded off into the worlds of מלכיות , זכרונות and שופרות. I use the word waded because probably for the first time in my life I managed to control my thoughts and focus, almost subterraneously, on what was being sai, occasionally fluttering at the odd word that was different from the Nusach I was used to. Even then, my thoughts were trying to reconcile differences in my expectation.

I had always been jealous of people who were seemingly able to “meditate”. The jealousy stemmed from their ability to divest from what was occurring around them and focus solely on (often) something inane. It could be an exercise in mindfulness, or an approach that allowed one to concentrate on something else. I could never do it, despite many efforts and having five one on one lessons based on a non religious approach. My mind was forever bubbling and thinking, and I was unable to temper its tempestuous foray into areas that I did not want to go. I simply concluded that it was just one of those things: some could manage this exercise and other could not. I just wasn’t blessed to turn off, so to speak. I often joke with my students and alumni that my “off” switch is rusty, and can’t be repaired.

Amazingly, this year, while I was “unshackled” from responsibility, and was also in a conducive environment, I was able to turn off the switch controlling the outside world and immerse myself in Tefillah.

The embarrassing moment occurred when it came to שופרות. By that stage, the Cohanim, of which I am one, had left the Shule just prior and returned on time so they could ascend immediately after ארשת שפתינו. Alas, because I had been a שליח ציבור for so long, I was used to having a Levi bring me the Kvort and tissues, while someone else led the Cohanim. I was rooted to my spot on the Bima at all times, except that I jumped around to face the Kehilla. (And yes, I’m aware of different views in the Acharonim about this matter, but I have never lost my bearings and been unable to continue cleanly thereafter).

Suddenly, someone tapped me and pointed to the Machzor (one being unable to speak at that point). I was deep in thought and was literally startled. At first I thought it was a Pesicha, something which doesn’t interest me. Finally, I realised, after noticing the Cohanim ready to ascend, that I was too late. The Priestly blessings were about to commence!

I made a quick exit, as my hands hadn’t been washed, my shoes were not removed, and according to the Din, one is meant to make their move before רצה.

In a curious way, whilst I was later mirthfully called the absent-minded professor, or asked “were you sleeping?”, I was neither. I had actually succeeded for the first time in my life to meditate at some level.

Suffice it to say that on the second day, when I saw Rabbi Cohen walk past , I followed him and performed ברכת כהנים to the best of my ability, even though I had felt somewhat “disturbed” to leave the Shule for hand washing.

In summary, it was a strange experience, and I missed out on ואני אברכם on the first day, but I was surprised and pleased with myself that I had reached a level of obliviousness that brought me to Tefillah-based meditation.

Not sure why, but this Selichos is enchanting

There is something so genuine about Sephardic davening. I was most exposed to it in Bombay. (I once was in Bombay on Selichos on Motzei Shabbos in the original old Chabad House of R’ Gavriel and Rivki הי’’ד.

I guess if I had to put my finger on it, it is the constant involvement of individual Mispallelim (or should that be Mitpallelim) and less of a focus on the Hazan. The latter, of course, is more like the leader and not a sole performer, operatic or otherwise, and will not necessarily stand at the front like Ashkenazim. (Hat tip MT). There is also more audience participation, from all types, and there are colours other than black.

Certainly beats the rushed reading of the sets of Anenu’s, as you hit the home stretch before finishing.

When your wife talks, you listen

I have tried on many occasions to cajole wordpress to remove what could be called advertisements (from which they make money) from this blog. It hasn’t worked. Personally, I never saw the advertisements so didn’t know how offensive or commonly offensive they might be to our expectations, although one reader sent me a screen shot.

“She who must be obeyed” then sent me the following

Is there any way to get rid of those advertisements …

There is, but I have to pay annually. I’ve paid. There’s a nice way to start the new year :-)

You can also access the blog via pitputim.me as a side-effect of the “benefits” I have accrued.

Visiting the בית החיים on Erev Rosh Hashana

I have absolutely no doubt that I am still traumatised by the fact that my father ע’’ה has left this world. There is not only a vacuüm, but a set of shoes which I haven’t got a hope to fill. Yes, each person is an individual, and it is true that we all carve out our particular approach and niche in life. At the same time, whether via nature or nurture there are so very many aspects of the way my father conducted himself, I cannot even hope to reach his ankles.

I still do not sleep peacefully, and disturbingly, when I awake in the morning I am often in a state of nervous aggravation, as if I’ve fought some war during the night. I don’t remember any dreams, and I’m not sure if there were any. Maybe a subconscious stream has enveloped me. It can take me up to an hour to “get over it”.

Another symptom is forgetfulness. It is very easy for me to forget the most basic things, whereas prior to this event, I was not the classical absent-minded professor, just the remote eccentric and vocal type.

My wife has been a tower of strength often helping me to find most basic things. No doubt issues regarding her health (which Baruch Hashem is fine) haven’t exactly helped me heal overnight as my well as my mother’s poor health which is now Baruch Hashem improving.

Accordingly, unlike my mother and sisters, I avoided going to the cemetery when I could. They are no different to me, but had a need to be close to the grave. I understand that. As I Cohen, I could, however, only stand on the road and look at the back of the Matzeiva. I feared looking at my father’s grave, and coming face to face with the reality of my petty achievements in comparison with his and which had already overtaken my subconscious. Maybe it was better that way. I don’t know.

Maybe this is a part of second generation holocaust syndrome. I also do not know.

So, yesterday, I headed out with my mother to Springvale Cemetery. This is the Minhag in our family, even though Rav Schachter advised me it wasn’t his Minhag to ever go to a Cemetery, or the Minhag of Beis HoRav (Soloveitchik) or the Vilna Gaon. As I have mentioned before, Rav Schachter never would say “don’t go”. When it came to cemetery questions, he suggested I ask a Rav who has such Minhogim.

After visiting my father, we made the rounds of other relatives and friends, recounting aspects of their lives. I then felt a sudden feeling of warmth. Looking around all the Haymishe Yidden that I once knew, and were now in another world, I felt strangely “comfortable”. I thought, now this is a Kehilla. Look at this one, and that one, and so on. I know I am a tad eccentric, and maybe I am also a bissel meshigge, but I felt inspired by the names and what they had represented and achieved. Everywhere we went, there were great people, people I had loved, and people I had admired, and of course, just “plain” survivors.

So, what started as a trip laden with trepidation, ended with a feeling of a “visit to another world”, a world which was familiar to me. People who knew about Jewish tradition, how to daven, how to learn, how to do a kind favour, religious people and not so observant people: they were all in one spot.

You probably won’t understand, but never mind.

Statement to clear the air and set the record straight

This may be relevant only to the dwindling number of members at Elwood Shule. Our family has been associated with Elwood for 60+ years. My father ע’’ה was Vice President and a very long-term board member, as well as regular mispallel. I joined the board several years ago, and functioned as the Ba’al Tefilla on Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur for many years. I accepted the role of leading Musaf and Kol Nidrei the year prior to the untimely death of Chazan Levy ע’’ה, the Shule’s last, full-time Chazan, in the year before he passed away. He then passed away on Rosh Hashono itself.

I worked assiduously at Board Level, and oversaw and edited the updated version of the constitution and assisted in the unfortunate but necessary legal fight for survival with our tenant. I was involved at many other levels.

I came to the conclusion, some 6 months ago that my tenure as a board member was no longer tenable. It had preyed on my mind for longer, but only emotional ties kept me going. I will not use this blog to discuss a range of issues that contributed to my decision. I later resigned from the board, as did three other board members, and of course, my father passed away, thereby making the board four fewer people than when it was constituted years earlier. When I informed long-term President Fred Antman that I had finally resigned, his comment was that I should have done so long ago, for reasons I won’t go into. He had encouraged me to resign many times and said my father would have told me the same.

Elwood is at a cross-road, where it says goodbye in the next years to Rabbi Mordechai Gutnick, and welcomes a new Rabbi. Rabbi Karnowsky, the outreach Rabbi is assuming some of Rabbi Gutnick’s functions. Rabbi Karnowsky has a documented plan of what he was going to achieve as outreach Rabbi when he joined, and I assume remaining members of the board express a level of confidence in his achievements thus far.

Years ago, It was long-term President Fred Antman, who prevailed upon me, literally tens of times, to assume the function of Ba’al Tefila for Yomim Noroim. I also stepped in as needed on other occasions, willingly. I did not and never wanted to be the Ba’al Tefila. To be honest, I know my personal imperfections, and never felt worthy of representing this (or any) Kehilla. My children know too well, how, after members of the Shule passed away later during the year, that I took it personally. I might arrive home on Shabbos with bloodied knuckles and in tears or sloshed because I considered that Hashem had not listened to my prayers of מי יחיה or מי ימות and that this was due to me not being up to the spiritual level required to be a Ba’al Tefilla (or Chazan). I felt I wasn’t listened to and that my prayers were vacuous.

I was blessed with a good voice. This is not my achievement. My father ע’ה sang in the choir in the Rawa Mazowiecka Shtiebel with the Amshinover, R Zishe Shochet הי’’ד. My mother’s father played violin (as do I). These are not my achievements, they are some of Hashem’s Brachos.

A great source of personal happiness was descending the steps after Mussaf on Yom Kippur and spontaneously dancing with “Gandhi”, R’ Yossel ע’ה, a Buchenwald boy, as he was affectionately known. Of course, there was the scene of some 15+ Balbin offspring males sitting around my father on Kol Nidrei night, after he had carried the Torah during Kol Nidrei which I had intoned, and my father’s occasional glances at me. Upstairs a similar contingent of Balbin female offspring were present. My sons have beautiful life-long memories of walking with me and Zayda through thick and thin on a Shabbos (my father was, together with Rabbi Gutnick and Viggie Aron the only three people who walked a real distance on Shabbos to get to Shule and actually kept Shabbos). Nowadays, on Shabbos, Viggie only comes for layning, and Rabbi Gutnick mainly for Shabbos Shachris.

I vividly recall some feedback one year. I didn’t seek feedback. If proffered feedback I was happy to hear and sometimes listen. One man, whose face I knew, but whose name was not familiar, asked me why I kept stopping and starting during הנני העני ממעש. He sat in the front area, so he could presumably see my face, although I wear a Tallis over my head, as opposed to the more German style ecclesiastical headwear. Returning to the story, I couldn’t believe that this man hadn’t noticed that I was unable to resume my comportment at certain phrases, and often struggled not to weep. I am not talking about the iconic Chazanishe Krechtz or an “Oy yoi yoi” punctuated with a perfectly timed trill as choreographed according to the score (or iPod recording). I am talking about raw emotion.

I was shocked. That year, I decided I needed to “control myself”. I am sure I was wrong, but I consciously stopped myself thinking, perhaps over-thinking, about the meaning of the words I was uttering. At the same time, Rabbi Karnowsky approached me about incorporating his new sons in the service. I agreed (although musically, I felt they were young and raw). Nevertheless, it would be cute and perhaps would appeal to a majority of congregants who cannot follow or read a Machzor (we have 3 versions at Elwood and the Gabbay uses a fourth, and Davening is punctuated by annoyingly constant page call outs of different versions. I hope they have fixed this and settled on the magnificent Soloveitchik Machzorim, but I digress.)

Now, recall that I resigned from the board months before the High Holidays. In my letter of resignation, I also made it clear that the board should not feel encumbered in any way using my services as Ba’al Tefilla. I asked only that they inform me as soon as possible whether they required my services; a reasonable request.

Unfortunately, I was to find out that Mark Oyberman had asked around for people in Melbourne available to replace me, after which they settled on Shimon Wallis. I actually wrote to the board to confirm this as they had not communicated they were even looking let alone that they had already made a decision! Shimon has a fine voice, and his Nusach is derived from his grandfather ע’’ה, whom I enjoyed listening to on his rare visits. He was a Ba’al Tefilla with an authentic Yerushalmi Nusach. I wish him success.

What prompted me to post this article, was an Elwood promotional video I saw yesterday. I genuinely feared that some might assume that my absence from Shule was due to this new appointment.

Nothing could be further than the truth. I kept a seat at Elwood. I will hopefully be able to daven quietly and with some purpose this year. The reasons for my resignation as a board member are seemingly as valid now as they were then, and they will not be discussed in this blog post.

שנה טובה ומתוקה

Synopsis of Slichos and related items

The prolific R’ Reuven Brauner of Ra’anana has much good free material that he compiled and authored available for download at http://www.halakhah.com under eclectic compilations as you scroll down. Of present interest is the synopsis of Selichos for Elul and Tishrei.

It is certainly worth noting that Reuven has recently been unwell, (ראובן בן רצה הלוי), pronounced Ratza) and is recovering well now ברוך השם …

On a good note, he and is wife Rachel (our distant cousin) have just been blessed with twins, a grandson and granddaughter. Mazel Tov! May this portend only good things.

Update: In an interesting quirk, one of Reuven’s sons is one of our youngest son’s Rabonim in Yeshivah in Israel. It just clicked between the two of them! In our son’s previous Yeshivah, the Rosh Yeshivah was our cousin, also on my mother’s side. Such a small world.

Slichos with a guitar and other shticks?

Call me old-fashioned, but the איש ההלכה, the quintessential בעל מסורה, cannot digest a ceremonial alternative indie style of davening. This is not supported by the Rav, Rav Soloveitchik who was implacably opposed to innovations which essentially mimic the אומות העולם at the expense of מסורה.

Yes, there are clearly delineated sections of davening where one is permitted to innovate musically and use a tune of choice. This is a positive thing. However, הלכה does not tolerate the decimation of נוסח and I am vehemently opposed to anyone who feels that reinventing נוסח is even in their purvey.

Personally, when I was a boy, I didn’t enjoy Selichos at Elwood even though people came from everywhere to hear my teacher Chazan Adler (Selichos allowed anyone to drive and listen). It was a tad too operatic for me, and no doubt I was tired and wanted to go to sleep. Later, I preferred listening to Rabbi Groner ז’ל with his Nusach derived from רעים אהובים in Brownsville, NY, where he davened as a youth. חבל על דאבדין ולא משתכחין

I copy a piece from Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz (recently retired Av Beis Din of America). There is plenty of other material, including a description of exactly which sections are “free” and which may simply not be changed.

The diversity of Jewish communities in different parts of the world has had its effect on the application of halakhah and the establishment of minhagim particular to each community. Especially in the matter of customs relating to the nusah and modes of prayer there are many distinct differences. We are all aware of the main streams of nusah known as Ashkenaz and Sephard and the reality that even in these two divisions there are nuances and changes that are ascribed to the different groups of each respective general nusah. Ofttimes a hazzan is caught in the center of controversy over proper nusah or sequence of tefillot and even in the matter of traditional tunes acceptable to the congregation. During the course of this article an attempt will be made to give some guidelines and insights relating to minhag regarding niggunim in their traditional forms and whether changes are permitted to be made. The major source cited by Poskim regarding the fixing of the norms of tefillah is from the Talmud Yerushalmi (Eruv. III, 9.),’ “Rabbi Yose sent and wrote to them (i.e. to the people dwelling in the Diaspora), although they (Le. the sages in the land of Israel) wrote to you the order of the prayers of the holidays, do not change the custom of your fathers whose souls repose in place.” This is the version cited by the Haga’ot Maimoniot (Seder Tefillot Kol Hashanah, 5) and the Magen Avraham 68. However, another version reads: “… although they wrote to you the order of the holidays do not change the custom of your fathers, etc.” In this textual change the meaning refers to the observance of the two days of Yom Tov outside of Eretz Yisrael. This textual variance is extremely important due to the divergent opinions which arose concerning the possibility of changing from one nusah to the other. This divergence is pointed out by the Gaon R. Yisroel of Shklov, one of the great talmidim of the Vilna Gaon, in his work Pe’at Hashulhan.( Hilkhot Eretz Yisrael III, 31.) He cites the responsum of R. Shmuel Demedina of Salonika (She’eilot u-Teshuvot Marashdom, Orah Hayyim, 35.) who ruled that any community may change its nusah of tefillah if the majority so desires because the prohibition of Shinui Minhag only applies to the category of issur, that is, prohibitory laws etc., and not in regard to such a category as tefillah. Consequently he ruled that the Ashkenazic community in Salonika may change to Sephard if the majority of its constituents are in favor of the change. Yisroel of Shklov comments that according to the version in Yerushalmi that prohibits the change in the mode of prayer, this ruling is not acceptable. He quotes the aforementioned Magen Avraham and the Ari Hakadosh who were opposed to any change based primarily on the Yerushalmi, especially since the Haga’ot Maimoniot mentions the text as restricting any change in prayers. The Pe’at Hashulhan attributes Meharashdom’s decision to allow such a change because he must have had the version proscribing any change in the status of the two days of Yom Tov in the Diaspora. It is interesting to note that R. Menachem Hame’iri of the thirteenth century preceded R. Shmuel Demedina in stating that there is no prohibitory regulation for changing the nusah of tefillot for the individual, and publicly if the minhag was different he should not pray differently than the tzibbur, implying that if it was the will of the congregation to change, they could. (Teshuvat Hame’iri, Magen Avot, II.) However, since the Magen Avraham also mentions in his above statement that the verses one says in the piyyutim should be sung in the matter one sings the kerovot (I.e. the piyyutim chanted in the Amidah), he is indicating that he is including within the context of not changing any nusah that one should not change the tune also. This inclusion of niggun as part of the rules prohibiting shinui or change in nusah is in keeping with the clearly stated ruling of the Maharil cited by Rema, (Orah Hayyim 619,1.) “One must not change from the custom of the city even in regard to the melodies and piyyutim that are recited there.” However, the Magen Avraham comments on the Maharil, saying that such a change should not be made because the change of tune will “confuse the congregation.” It would seem from this observation of the Magen Avraham on the Maharil’s ruling that if the tzibbur were not confused or upset by any change in niggun by the hazzan, there would not be any restriction. This raises the question on the Magen Avraham himself who has accepted the version of the Yerushalmi, as mentioned, rigorously opposing any change in tefillot. Perhaps the Magen Avraham interprets the Yerushalmi as meaning that if one is certain about the minhag of his forefathers then he is not permitted to deviate, but if there is uncertainty then it would be permissible. Thus, in communities where doubt and even prevailing ignorance as to the mode of prayer exists as to any definite tradition, changes would be acceptable as long as no violation of halakhah takes place and there are no consequences of bilbul da’at hakahal (confusion in the congregation). (Cf. Teshuvat Minhat Eliezer I, 11, for a novel interpretation of the Yerushalmi and an extensive discussion of changes from Ashkenaz to Sephard, etc.) However, where a change of niggun for example, would cause upheaval, then the words of Maharil and Magen Avraham would apply to all services and not necessarily for Yamim Nora’im, since the primary sources do not differentiate in regard to any particular season. Tangential to this, may I mention an interesting incident which happened to the Ga’on and Tzaddik Reb Zalman Bardn of Yerushalayim of blessed memory, who, once, while attending a Shabbat Minhah tefillah in a shul that had no regular hazzan, heard someone davening as the sheliach tzibbur using a chant that had no relationship whatsoever with the known niggun for the Shabbat Minhah. After waiting for the hazzan to finish, he left the shul and entered another shul to hear the repetition of the Amidah in the traditional mode. He went so far as to say that the “niggun of Shabbat should not be the niggun of the weekdays”! (Paraphrasing the statement of: “Your speech on Shabbat should not be for weekday speech”).(Shabo 113; Macy Nulman apprised me of this excerpt from Eliyahu Kitov’s Hassidim and Anshe Ma’aseh, Sefer Revi’i, p. 160.) This would perhaps be an example of an aspect of bilbul da’at hakahal because of the reaction incurred. As to the type of niggun introduced into prayer that would not cause any bilbul da’at hakahal, it definitely cannot be one that is identified with any non Jewish worship. This is clearly prohibited by many Poskim (Darkhay Teshuvah, Yoreh De’ab 142,27 citing several sources.) Even a tune that, although not connected to any non-Jewish worship, but is recognizable as belonging to a prevailing non-Jewish culture, would not be acceptable. This would be indicated as improper, especially in the synagogue, based on the Talmud’s criticism of Elisha ben Abuya or “Acher” as constantly singing Greek tunes, even when not in the synagogue. (Hag. 15b, viz. Rashi also.) If a shul is faced with the question ofengaging a cantor who does not know the traditional niggunim, known as scarbova nusah, if the makeup of the congregation is such that they willaccept the prayer leadership of such a hazzan and if there is no controversy regarding his being engaged, then it would be permissible to do so. The principle of merutzah lekahal (acceptable to the community) is enumerated by the Rema (Orah Hayyim 581,1.) regarding the qualifications of a sheli’ah tzibbur, although he may not meet the high standards of piety and sincerity demanded for this position. Disputes over this must be avoided. (Cf. Mishneh Berurah, ibid., 11). It is most interesting to note that in the enumeration of conditions pertaining to a sheli’ah tzibbur, the emphasis is placed on the individual’s piety, sincerity, and Torah knowledge and no mention is made of knowledge of niggunim or musical inflection. (Eleph Hamagen to Matteh Ephra’im 581,54.) However, knowledgeable congregations should seek the combination of piety and a mastering of traditional musical nusah which is part of the spiritual fabric of tefillah, particularly on the Yamim Nora’im. The absence of these hallowed niggunim during the davening would be unthinkable to any worshiper who has an inbred affinity for the feelings and stirrings of the heart, rendered by the proper nusah. Just as the Avodah in the Bet Hamikdash was accompanied by a certain order of shir or music, primarily vocal. (Ar. 11a.) so must our Avodah in the synagogue maintain a proper contact and order of shir, of niggun and nusan as we, in our way, make our offerings of prayer.

The Sound of a Broken Heart

From Machon Tzomet (c)

By Zeev Kitsis, Kibbutz Hadati Yeshiva and Bar Ilan University

I have the privilege of being named after one of my ancestors who was a member of the holy group of students of the Baal Shem Tov. The name of Reb Zev-Wolf appears together with the Baal Shem Tov in several stories, in such books as “Shivchei Ha’Besht,” and others. The most famous story about him involves blowing the shofar for the Baal Shem Tov. The following is the earliest version of the story:

“One time the Baal Shem Tov commanded his disciple Reb Zev-Wolf to prepare himself and learn the mental intentions of the shofar blowing, because he would blow the shofar for the Baal Shem Tov. Reb Wolf studied all the proper intentions (“kavanot”) and wrote them down on a piece of paper so that he would be able to look at it while blowing the shofar. He hid the paper in his pocket. Reb Wolf didn’t know that the Baal Shem Tov made sure that the paper would be lost. When he rose up to blow the shofar he looked for the paper everywhere, but he could not find it. Reb Wolf was so upset that he blew the shofar with a very heavy and broken heart, without any special intentions.

“Afterwards, the Baal Shem Tov said to him: In the Palace of the King there are many rooms and halls, and each door to a room or a hall has a different key. But there is a better way to enter than to use the key, and this is to use an ax, which can open the locks of all the doors. The same is true of proper intentions. They are the keys to each and every gate, and every opening has the proper intention for it. However, the broken heart is an axe. It allows every person to enter all the gates and the halls of the King of Kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.”

[Moshe Chaim Kalman, Or Yesharim, Warsaw, 5684 (1924), pages 104-105].

Every year I feel a special magic in the moments of silence, when we pause for a brief second in reciting the long prayers of Rosh Hashanah, during which the raw sound of the shofar rises up. The shofar itself expresses a simple sigh, the basic sound of the soul, before it has been fashioned into words or “intentions.” The Baal Shem Tov describes this simple concept for his disciple in terms of the allegory of the keys and the axe. The keys – that is, the unique Kabbalistic intentions – must be precise and executed with great care. In this way, slowly and cautiously, a person can approach the King – the King of the Universe. This corresponds to the detailed description in the ancient book about Kabbalah by Reb Yosef Jiktilia, Shaarei Orah, which gives details about how the involvement with intentions can help one very carefully enter the Palace of the Kingdom of Heaven.

The axe stands apart. This is compared to a broken heart, and it has the power in a single moment to shatter all the locked gates of the King. There is no longer any need for the intentions, the kavanot, there is no need for careful weighing of the intentions, there is no need for any knowledge and written words on a piece of paper. The only thing that is needed is the most important “intention” of all: the broken heart of a man.

However, I would still like to ask a question about this nice allegory by the Baal Shem Tov. Can one really appear before the King carrying an axe? After all, the whole essence and the task of the “Palace,” of the rooms and the halls, of the gates and the walls – is to block the entrance of anybody who does not have the proper keys and to block the way of the axe! Just imagine how a human king would react if while sitting in his palace he would suddenly hear the sound of an axe shattering the glorious locked doors. How can the Baal Shem Tov compare the two possible ways of entry into the palace – one of which is acceptable and legitimate, while the other is absurd and totally forbidden?

The Baal Shem Tov spent the last twenty-four years of his life close to a fortified palace. The small wooden Beit Midrash where the Baal Shem Tov met Reb Wolf and the other members of the group was at the center of the street of the Jews in Mezibuz. At the end of the street, a short distance from the Beit Midrash, stood one of the most impressive fortified palaces of the Ukraine, as it still stands today. At the time, Mezibuz – which today is a neglected village – was an important regional center. The mighty red walls and the watch towers of the fort protected the city and the roads leading to it from an attack by the Turks. About a year ago, as part of a group of students and teachers, we entered this fortress, without any need for keys or an axe, as formal guests of the director of the museum at the site.

I have no doubt that the high walls and the mighty locked wooden gates were in the Baal Shem Tov’s view when he told the above allegory and others, which tell the story of shattering walls and how a man can enter into the chambers of the king. But can we then suppose that the Baal Shem Tov didn’t know that a person could not use an axe to get close to the king? Didn’t he know that one needed a formal invitation and advance notice in order to be allowed to enter?

The allegory of the Baal Shem Tov makes sense only if we make an assumption – that the King hidden in the palace was waiting for somebody to come and shatter the walls that hi d him from view. The King Himself wants to see the action of an axe. The walls with which the King surrounded Himself, by which He distances himself from us and hides, serve as a test of courage, to see if we will make an effort to enter through a locked door. And in this case we can hear the simple voice of the Chassid, who does not take into account the infinite distance between man and G-d. The Chassid declares that the King is also his Father, his lover who waits for him. In this way, we can all cry out in a simple voice: “Our Father, Our King

Are we unique in crime stats?

There are and will always be bad eggs within any group, be it chassidic or otherwise. I do not know if anyone has done a statistical analysis of crime amongst orthodox people to see if they are in fact under the normal number occurrences of such things, with statistical reliability. I’d be surprised if they were not.

In that vein, I was sent this (hat tip DS) from the New York Post. It had been published in Ivrit earlier in an Israeli forum.

High holy days, indeed!
A crew of Hasidic Jews from Crown Heights who dreamed of fancy Hawaiian getaways tried to score 50 pounds of potent pot from an FBI agent posing as a Texas drug dealer, according to court papers.
Wearing traditional yarmulkes and tzitzits, Boruch “Barry” Rapoport, 47, Moshe “Mony” Horenshtein, 27, and Menachem Jacobson, 30, were all arraigned in Brooklyn federal court on Wednesday and will have their cases transferred to Texas to face drug raps there.
Rapoport, who is married with kids and lives on public assistance, met an agent posing as a El Paso drug honcho in April and said he needed a staggering 50 pounds of pot a week, according to a criminal complaint.
The leery Lubavitcher asked that he be kept away from the marijuana trove because he and his cohorts “won’t be going to Hawaii for many years” if they were ever busted with the haul, according to court papers.
“Rapoport stated that he didn’t want to be in the same room as the ‘s–t,’ ” the complaint states.
Rapoport also demanded that they use the code words “alfalfa” and “vegetables” for marijuana.
The undercover told Rapoport that his marijuana mountain was located in El Paso and that he would have to have it transported by truck to Brooklyn.
The two agreed to have the pot delivered to a warehouse on Atlantic and Nostrand avenues on Tuesday and that they would close the deal the next day, according to court papers.
Rapoport met the undercover at a Brooklyn hotel to hand over the cash on Wednesday while Horenshtein and Jacobson arrived at the warehouse to inspect the pot and talk business, court papers state.
Jacobson, whose bail was posted by Hunter College Chabad Rabbi Boruch Jacobson, was pleased that the weed was high quality because “you can’t sell that Mexican stuff around here,” according to the complaint.
“Jacobson then stated that he knew about ‘hydro’ and the requirements for growing it because he was asked to grow some before,” the suit states.
Horenshtein, who plays in a Hasidic music band, handed over $3,000 to the agent to cover transport costs and selected two marijuana bricks as samples before the agents pounced. Rapoport — who pays $108 in rent for his subsidized $1,400 apartment — produced $95,000 in cash to pay for the pot before he was arrested.
All three men were released on $500,000 bond and will appear in court in Texas federal court on Sept. 26.
Horenshtein’s bail was posted by members of the powerful Rubashkin family of Crown Heights.
The clan owns a host of businesses — including the a massive kosher-food outfit — and is heavily influential in the Lubavitch community.
Horenshtein’s attorney, Zaki Tamir, did not return a call for comment. Jacobson’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, declined to comment.