More on fridges with LED lights

Mori V’Rabbi Rav Shachter who is currrently in Eretez Hakodesh, answered my question question in respect what I did in Miami בשעת הדחק. To be accurate he didn’t describe my situation as שעת הדחק but that is my inference from the context of the question.

ּBasically there are two halachos that he paskened.

  1. Using LED’s is an issue D’Rabbonon (so I was right on that)
  2. In a great need (which is what I thought I had). In covering the led lights I was demonstrating that it was a פסיק רישא דלא ניחא ליא

Accordingly, it was a בדיעבד which was okay. He said there was one view I could rely on but didn’t say which view this was. I’d expect it was a Rishon. At any rate we haveולמעשה כתב במ”ב שכא, נז, ושעה”צ סח, עפ”י הבית מאיר, שבמקום הצורך אפשר להקל

It seems it’s common with modern fridges to have LED lights and the way to get around it is to  attach two small but powerful magnets which stop the LED’s from coming on.

So those of you with modern fridges I recommend playing around with powerful magnets until you see the lights don’t come on. Google it. as always as your local orthodox rabbi.

What can you “say” at a grave

לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי ר׳ שאול זעליג הכהן בן ר׳ יהודה הכהן,  מקדושי ניצולי השואה האיומה בשנה ב׳ להסתלקותו לרקיע השמימא

My father, Shaul Zelig HaCohen ז’’ל
My father, אבי מורי,  R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen ז’’ל ּBalbin

(At least) One of my readers, is a Talmid Chochom, and a genius. I don’t have permission to publish his name so I will not do so. However, on this particular matter I disagree with him perhaps, and I believe that my opinion is the accepted one, and his thinking is somewhat skewed for whatever reason (which is generally not like him).

There is a הלכה that say אין דרורשין על המת one doesn’t “ask from” the dead.

It is an ancient tradition to visit the graves of Tzadikim. For example, Kalev prayed at Meoras ha-Machpeilah before confronting the meraglim (Sotah 34b). See also Ta’anis 23b.

There are also Minhagim brought in Shulchan Aruch and many other places to go on fast days, Erev Rosh Hashono, Yom Kippur etc since going at such times can affect the person to repent and minimise their own self-importance.

The Gemora in Taanis also mentions a second reason (16a) and that is to ask the dead to pray for mercy on our behalf. Reading this one would automatically assume one may ask a Tzadik to pray on our behalf  at auspicious times, according to various Minhagei Yisroel and Mesorah/tradition.

It would seem that according to this second explanation, one may pray to the dead in this fashion. Yet, we are also taught that it is strictly forbidden as a Torah Law! One who prays with such a singular intention transgresses the Torah command of “You shall not recognize the gods of others in my presence (see the authoritative Gesher ha-Chayim 2:26). One may also be transgressing the Torah command against “one who consults the dead” (see Shoftim 18:11 and Eliyohu Rabbah 581:4).

Now, the Pri Megadim Orach Chaim 581:16 (and others) explain this conundrum as meaning that  it is okay to speak directly to the dead to ask them to daven or beseech to Hashem on our behalf. This is in keeping with the style of Selichos that we recite and whose authors were not plain poets. Some also ask Malachim (intermediaries) to beseech Hashem on our behalf. The Melachim aren’t able to do anything but they can be a more effective mouth piece according to Mesorah/tradition. Others don’t accept this explanation and say that even this is forbidden (see Bach and Shach Yoreh Deah 179:15) and the authoritative Maharil, Hilchos Ta’anis as quoted in the Be’er Heitev Orach Chaim 581:17).

Instead, their take on this is we pray directly to Hashem that in the merit of the Tzadik/Dead person, Hashem should extend mercy to us. We are inspired to visit graves to “remind” Hashem of the holy tazddikim who are physically buried there. This view is accepted as normative Halacha by a bevy of Acharonim including the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Be’er Heitev, Chayei Adam, Mateh Efrayim and others.

The Chofetz Chaim in the Mishna Brura (581:27) says that we visit, because a cemetery where tzaddikim are buried is a place where Tefillos are more readily answered. But one should never place his trust in the dead themselves. He should instead just ask Hashem to have mercy on him in the merit of the tzaddikim who are interred here.

That being said, the Munkatcher Gaon, the great defender of Chassidishe Minhohim, the  Minchas Elozor, who was a great defender of Chassidic customs, and is commonly quoted by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, seeks to defend those who use a more direct discourse with the dead (see his Teshuva in 1:68). He, of course, makes reference to the Zohar and says that this is a positive practice.

Practically speaking, all opinions agree that it is strictly forbidden to daven directly to a dead person or Malach so that they should help us. The most that is permitted is to ask them to act as emissaries to Hashem, so that Hashem will look favourably upon us.

The Maharam Shick, Orach Chaim 293, and prime student of the Chasam Sofer, explains this nicely. He explains that there must be nothing between a Jew and Hashem. However, it is permissible for a Jew to ask another Jew to be an intermediary between him and Hashem.

The Maharam Shick goes on to  explain the apparent anomaly in the name of his teacher: When one Jew approaches another and tells of the pain he is suffering, the other Jew feels it just as he does. Now they are both in need of prayer. The Jew does not feel he is praying for an “other”–he is praying for himself.

In other words, all Yidden are Guf Echad (one body) so that if the toe is hurting, it needs the head and the heart to help it. So too, if we are in need, we can call upon all other Jews–and especially those who are the head and the heart of our people—to pray for us as well. Because if one Jew is hurting, we are all hurting.

According to the Talmud (and the Zohar), those righteous souls who have passed on from this world are still very much in touch with their students and family and care for them and their problems. We petition them to pray on our behalf—and they do and often their prayers are more effective than our own.

Praying at a gravesite does not mean you are asking the dead to rise from the grave and appear before you. That is the abomination to which the Torah refers. Neither are you, God forbid, praying to the dead—a practice that is most certainly forbidden. But you are able to connect with these souls, since, when it comes to the soul, all of us are truly one.

One is simply expressing faith that the Tzadikim never really completely die, and a grave cannot prevent one from connecting to their teacher. Just as this tzaddik cared and took care of others during his lifetim—not as “others” but as he cared for his own soul—so too now, his Neshoma still can feel your pain and pray with you but this is directly to Hashem.

The Zohar tells us that the tzaddik is here with us after his passing even more than before. In life, he ignored the boundaries of “I and you,” so now he can ignore the boundaries of life and afterlife.

This is the fundamental reasoning behind beseeching those in the grave to intercede on our behalf and assist. And this, in fact, has been the common practice in Jewish communities around the world (although not all, for example Beis HoRav (Soloveitchik)  based on the view of the Gaon that all this can be achieved in other ways and not in essentially a Makom Tumah.

Rabbi Chaim Paltiel of Magdeburg (Germany, fourteenth century) a Rishon, said that the burial-place of a Tzadik is Holy. Regarding Chabad in particular, I found this comprehensive piece which is of interest

In addition, some quotes from the last Rebbe זי’ע

אלו שביקרו באהלי צדיקים יודעים שישנם “אוהלים” שמעוררים קו מרירות וכיווץ, וישנם “אוהלים” שפועלים קו השמחה ועלי’. האוהל של כ”ק מו”ח אדמו”ר הוא מסוג זה, שבהגיע לאוהל, הנה עוד טרם שמתבונן, כבר פועל עליו האוהל עלי’ והגבהת הרוח ששייכת לשמחה מפני עבודתו שעבד בה כל ימי חייו הי’ באופן כזה שקירב והרים  כל יהודי אף הבריות, בדרכי קירוב ונועם, עם הכוונה לפעול בהם גם “ומקרבן לתורה” )לקו”ש ח”ב 50

The broadly respected Chabad Halachist and Chassidic Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek. said as per the testimony of the Rayatz, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe that:

בדרך כלל יש ה’ מדריגות, הא’ מה שמבואר
בשו”ע או”ח הל’ ט”ב וז”ל ומה שנוהגים לילך על הקברות הוא כדי לעורר האבילות ולהכניע היצה”ר ולשוב בתשובה. והב’ הוא ג”כ נזכר בשו”ע הל’ ר”ה נוהגים ילך על הקברות ולהרבות שם בתחתנונים. ושם הטעם משום דבית הקברות הוא מקום מנוחת הצדיקים, ומתוך כך הוא מקום קדוש וטהור והתפלה מתקבלת שם ביותר כו’. והג’ מה שהולכים אל מקום מנוחת אביהם וכדומה שמעורר הבכי’ והספד ועושה פתיחות הלב לגמרי עד שיוכל לבכות על חטאיו ממש ג”כ בלב נשבר ונדכה ובבכי’ רבה ויכול לבוא לידי תשובה שלימה. והמדריגה הד’ הוא מה שהולכים על קברי צדיקים שהיו יודעים ומכירים אותם בהיותם חיים אזי מצד תוקף האמונה שהי’ מאמין בו בעודו בחיים חיותו שהוא איש אלקי וכמו”כ כשהולך על מקום מנוחת קדשו מתבטל שם

This morning, before Shachris, I briefly looked this issue up in the Encyclopaedia Talmudis, a Sefer that is also quoted extensively by the last Lubavitcher Rebbe and looked well worn in his Yechidus room when I was there. Rav Zevin emphatically classes Dorshin Al HaMeisim as a clear Issur. I won’t go through it, one can look it up. It’s under the second Chelek of  Daled and is beautifully set out as per Rav Zevin’s genius.

In summary, the way I see it, you ought not only go to a grave or write a letter and “speak” to the dead. This is pagan.

Sending a letter is long distance travelling to a grave, but the wording needs to include Hashem and comply with accepted Halacha

One can either ask for help from the Tzaddik or allow oneself to be either B’Yirah or B’Simcha to the extent that they are more enthused to engage separately or together with the Tzaddik, but this must always involve Hashem.

I haven’t read this article from Hakira Journal (yet), but just found it. It seems germane.

Finally, it’s aptl to close with the beautiful and apt prose of Rabbi Jakobovitz, the former Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth:

The Emeritus Chief Rabbi, Jakobovits, in the foreword to the then new Singers Prayer Book, contemplates “The Jewish idea of prayer” and disapproves of petitional prayers. He wrote “What purpose can be served by formulating our pleas to God? Does the all-knowing God, who knows our needs better than we do, require their articulation of what we feel in our hearts? Still more difficult theologically, how can we hope by prayer to change His will? Our very belief in the efficacy of our petitions would seem to challenge God’s immutability, and (they) even question His justice, since we should assume that whatever fate He decrees for man is essentially just; why, therefore, do we seek to reverse it?” “But such questions are based on a false, indeed pagan, understanding of prayer as a means of pacifying and propitiating the deity and thus of earning its favours. It was against these perverse notions that the Hebrew Prophets directed their denunciations so fiercely when they fulminated against the heathen form of sacrifices, the original form of worship later replaced by prayer.” “Like sacrifices, prayer is intended to change man not God. Its purpose is to cultivate a contrite heart, to promote feelings of humility and inadequacy in man, whilst encouraging reliance on Divine assistance. Through prayer, the worshipper becomes chastened, gains moral strength and intensifies the quest of spirituality, thereby turning into a person worthy of response to his pleas.

Farewell Rabbi Yaakov Sprung

Please note: there will be no comments on this post.

I am not a member of Mizrachi. I used to be, about three decades ago, and my Rav was the saintly Rav Boruch Abaranok ז’’ל. Rav Abaranok was a Tzadik Gamur. He wasn’t a Beinoni. He was the real thing. He received his Smicha from the Chafetz Chaim and was friendly with Rav Elchonon Wasserman הי’’ד. He didn’t wear a Kippa Sruga (knitted yarmulka) and wore a dark suit and homburg hat. He wasn’t a great orator, but his words in a one on one situation, penetrated the heart more than any orator could achieve. He was also a staunch zionist, and supported the State of Israel in a genuine fashion. I have written about him here. When he paskened, he would subsequently invite you to come the next day or that night, to his office or home, and have all the Seforim open and prepared, and would explain from inside how he had come to his Psak Din.

Our son, Tzvi Yehuda, now famous for his incredible and successful chasing kosher side venture, was fortunate to have Rav Abaranok as his Sandek. I remember being flabbergasted when he arrived at the door for both the Bris and subsequent Upsherin, each time carrying a gift of Seforim. Our younger son, Yosef Dov who is learning in Israel presently, was also lucky to get a set of Seforim from Rav Abaranok ז’ל.

On Shabbos he wore a black litvishe kapote much like the dress of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbis of Israel.

I used to bring our children (two back then) to Rav Abaranok almost every Sunday morning. His children and grandchildren were all overseas, and his wife nebach, was with him but not 100% due to her horrid experience in the Holocaust.

Rav Abaranok became very sick after a fall (as I recall). I had a strange sense that he was about to leave this world. It was too difficult for me to absorb emotionally, so I started visiting less often. He would ask me, if he saw me, “Yitzchok, what did I do. Why don’t you come anymore?”. He never realised that I couldn’t cope with seeing him slip away.

On his first Yohr Tzeit, I went and stood outside his house (which is no longer there) and just cried.

While he was still at Mizrachi, the community decided to appoint a new Rabbi. I stopped going because my father ע’’ה asked me to (the reason for which is immaterial to this post)

That Rabbi was replaced by the recently deceased and well-known, Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen ז’ל. Many members of our family still daven at Mizrachi and my brother-in-law is now the President. I was fortunate to have occasions to interact with him. My interactions were always of a Torah/Halachic nature and I enjoyed speaking “in learning” with him. He had a pleasant disposition and was a professional American style Rabbi with lots of grandeur.

Rabbi Cohen eventually left (I believe of his own accord, but I can’t recall), and was replaced by Rabbi Sprung.

Rabbi Sprung will complete 10 years of Rabonus at Mizrachi in August. I went to his home every Purim (even though he stopped serving scotch after the first year :-), and we shared divrei torah and halachic discussions. On one occasion, when there was an  injustice in the community, he was the Rabbi who was prepared to stand up, by ringing overseas, properly ascertaining facts, when he could easily have avoided the issue. He made a difference.

My wife loved his Shabbos Shiurim, and went every Shabbos to hear these. She said that he put so much preparation into each Shiur. He seemed to always be giving Shiurim. He went from minyan to minyan at Mizrachi and gave droshos. He enjoyed good relationships with the Roshei Kollel of Mizrachi’s Kollel and other Rabbinic staff.

His pastoral support was incredible. He would visit the sick, comfort the mourner or the forlorn, and his door was open. Recently, one post was perhaps too revealing about my state of mind. He doesn’t read blogs, but someone had mentioned it to him. On the next morning, I got a phone call wherein he expressed concern for me, and stressed that whenever I needed or wanted to discuss anything with him, to do so, and that his door was always open. My father ע’’ה was in hospital several times. Rabbi Sprung always visited him amongst many others. I know my father greatly appreciated Rabbi Sprung’s visits. He was in fact the only Rabbi to visit him.

Rabbi Sprung on the far left. [picture from melbourne eruv website]
On Simchos (Smachot if you want to use Ivrit) he would meticulously prepare by interviewing everyone, and then weave a wonderful Drosha where he paid tribute to the attributes of the Ba’alei Simcha and their families. I heard such Droshas many a time. We invited him and his Rebbetzin to our own Simchos, as I considered him a Choshuve Rav with whom I had developed a relationship.

Mizrachi is not like other Kehillos. There are a lot of “leaders” of other organisations who are highly opinionated who daven there as well as many highly educated professionals and “machers”. Rabbi Sprung’s fidelity to Halacha was unquestionable. He wasn’t afraid to state his firm halachic view on a range of issues, including those who led services at the conservadox Shira Chadasha (an identical view with which Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter agrees). These types of issues may have made him be seen as too “right-wing”, but I can’t know that with certainty. I can only describe my interaction. Perhaps Mizrachi will now employ a hatless, Kipa Sruga type. Time will tell.

Towards the end of his Rabbonus contract in August, Mizrachi decided that it would only extend the contract after a democratic vote of all members. I can’t recall whether they had a democratic vote to appoint him, but I do recall there were a few candidates. One can surmise that after 10 years in the role, some no longer appreciated what he offered.

I am sad to see Rabbi Sprung’s tenure at Mizrachi Melbourne come to an end. Knowing him, he will see it as Hashgocho (divine providence) and depart as gracefully as when he arrived. I know he was widely respected by the Melbourne Rabbinate, and he avoided politics when  possible. I’m guessing Rebbetzin Naomi Sprung may feel somewhat blessed that she has an opportunity to relocate to an area closer to her children and grandchildren. Melbourne, isn’t exactly close by, and to be dislocated from family would be a strain for anyone.

I wish Rabbi and Rebbetzin Sprung immediate future success, together with lots of Nachas and joy.

We now wait to see who the (democratically elected?) new Rabbi will be.

On the Aruch Hashulchan

A reader asked me what “caused” the Aruch Hashulchan not to remain the primary acharon for Psak, arranged according to the Shulchan Aruch but then be “overtaken” by the Mishna Brura as a source for final psak by many. (Mind you they don’t accept the Mishna Brura on skirt length and more, even if they accept him for Hilchos Shabbos)

This is largely due to the Hungarian Charedim.

They couldn’t accept

  1. His Psak that it was permitted to say Krias Shma in front of woman with revealed hair because today such a thing no longer titillates a male
  2. His Psak that Dina D’Malchuso Dina, following the laws of the land, especially vis-a-vis Mesira, are not germane because in many cases we live in a Malchus shel Chessed.

Of course, number 1 is factually true unless one is hermetically sealed. Unfortunately, number 2 is not only factually true but is the problem with today’s society in fearing going to authorities over especially heinous crimes and is infamous. There are those who want to claim that the Aruch Hashulchan was forced to write as in 2. to assuage the authorities and avoid the censor. I don’t know. But I do know, that if you live in a Malchus Shel Chessed, you have no excuses.

I like the Aruch Hashulchan very much because he starts with primary sources and for a very much part time learner like me, that is helpful.

The Mishna Brura has some issues which many still won’t acknowledge: it wasn’t all written by the Chafetz Chaim. Some sections were written by family, who openly acknowledge they didn’t agree with the Chafetz Chaim and therein is the source of some contradictions in the Chafetz Chaim. I have seen tomes trying to reconcile contradictions in the Chafetz Chaim, but they failed to realise that it was from two sources!

The Shulchan Aruch HoRav, who mainly basis his Psak on the Magen Avraham, is a masterpiece of prose. It is a pleasure to read and every word needs to be weighed carefully. Furthermore, he doesn‘t always pasken for Lubavitch, although he follows the Kzots and not the Gra in respect of shiurim and the like. His Siddur will often say what is for Lubavitch. The Chafetz Chaim has a strange habit of not quoting Shulchan Aruch HoRav in many instances for some reason, even though he easily outweighed those Acharonim who were quoted.Then again, I don’t know who is  responsible for that.

As a more modern sefer, I do like the Shearim Metzunoyim B’Halacha, and I bought it 32 years ago. I understand he’s a relative of Rabbi Braun, formerly of Tzemach Tzedek in Sydney and now on the Beis Din in Crown heights. He wasn’t a Lubavitcher. The Kitzur remains an essential part of anyone’s library.

The Chayei and Chochmas Adam are good but a little too brief for me and seem to have parts missing.

In a nutshell, that’s my answer to the reader. By the way, you can find Aruch Hashulchan online, re-typeset.

For Sephardim, it’s another matter. You have the Ben Ish Chai or you follow Rav Ovadya as in Yalkut Yosef.

And, anyone who doesn’t know, do yourself a favor and download the free ובלכתך ודרך from the Apple Store for your iPhone or iPad (you have to type it in Hebrew). It’s great. I know it sits on my iPhone but haven’t got a clue about Android.

Finally, while I have no affiliation with Rusty Brick, I like their products. They cost a little, and are vastly superior to the free versions of various things available from Lubavitch web sites. It’s important to support software companies who are trying to write good things of use!

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)

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.

Can or should an Avel perform Bircas Cohanim?

The laws of mourning are those which one customarily does not teach their child in respect of the Torah command to teach Torah to one’s children. It is not part of a School curriculum, and is normally the domain of a Rabbinic curriculum, as these laws often need instant answers with unfortunately little warning.

God should make sure that all those who know nothing about the laws of mourning remain clueless and  בלע המוות לנצח—may death be disposed of from our world, for ever. Indeed, let me take this opportunity to wish all those in need of a רפואה שלמה that therapeutic redress be imminent and complete.

In my personal situation, after the passing of my dear father הכ’’מ, I was in the somewhat unusual situation of needing to lead the congregation on Yomim Tovim. This is permitted by the Poskim in certain situations. In my case, there were at different times three separate reasons to permit it. I did not find leading services on Pesach or Shavuous as difficult as Rosh Hashono/Yom Kippur. Some of this was due to my state of mind. Specific piyyutim, not limited to בראש השנה יכתבון and אדם יסודו מאפר, represented a challenge in terms of me maintaining a controlled comportment. On the other hand, I have been less in control of my emotions during Tefillos during years when I was not a mourner, so it wasn’t anything too unexpected. It is not contraindicated, and if anything, perhaps, just perhaps, God, above, may consider me a worthy representative of the congregation whose prayers I led and lead.

A sad fact about our congregation is that those Cohanim, for whom the opportunity to bless the people באהבה with love was something they would never miss, have now departed this world, especially of late. My father was one of these. Apart from the Rabbi who is also a Cohen, and one or two others, the Duchan for Cohanim was an expansive area. I remember where, pardon the pun, it was “standing room only”. In the early days, I’d snuggle between my father, Mr Blass ע’ה and Mr Erdi ע’ה. Later, my sons, Tzvi Yehuda and Yossi would do likewise. These days, there is easily enough room for another 50 Cohanim to stand on the Duchan and bless the people, as per the Torah command (some say that it’s 3 Torah commands, corresponding to each specific formulaic blessing that should not be said in another language, and should not be changed one iota). I reiterate that many Poskim contend that it’s a Torah command to bless the people (הגר”י עמדין, במור וקציעה סי’ קכ”ח, כתב שנשיאת כפיים בזמן הזה היא מדרבנן). Indeed it is important that the volume of the Bracha be something that binds the Cohanim with the people. A large crowd with few Cohanim means they really should “belt out” the Bircas Cohanim (according to the Beis Halevi if I’m not mistaken, when discussung a pilpul of Shomea K’Oneh and Bikurim and Duchening). Originally, the Beracha was said after the bringing of the Korbanos on the Shmini LaMiluim; today we daven instead of bringing Korbanos).

Outside of Israel, many/most Ashkenazi communities only do so on Yomim Tovim. Some Sephardim also do so each Shabbos. When I used to visit Bombay, I was the celebrity Cohen. None of the native Bene Yisrael were Cohanim, and the remaining elderly Jews of Iraqi descent were also not from B’nei Levi, let alone Cohanim. Similarly, when I was in Singapore for Shabbos, the custom was to perform Bircas Cohanim on Shabbos as well. In Singapore, the Ashkenazi Cohanim performed the Priestly Blessings, even though it was a Sephardi Custom. We were, after all, in a Sephardi Shule. One could cogently argue that this was also the “custom of the place” מנהג המקום. Singapore (like Amsterdam, for example) has always had the custom to Duchen on Shabbos as well as Yom Tov.

It would be an interesting question whether a new Shule made up of those of Ashkenazic descent, should continue Minhag Singapore or refrain from Duchening on Shabbos.

Getting back to me leading the davening as a Cohen, there is a disagreement among the Poskim whether a Cohen leading the service should stay silent or whether he should join the other Cohanim and utter the priestly blessings during the repetition of the Amida. One can find both opinions, and much has to do whether the Cohen will get mixed up switching roles. In our Shule, the Cohen does Duchen, and in fact, I find it an opportune moment to actually catch my breath. On Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur, I’m exhausted at that stage, and having a regular Yisrael leading the calling of the special blessings, and only having to answer, is something I find quite easy. The Rabbi of our Shule does likewise, and he is a Cohen. This seems to be even more important now, where there is a veritable dearth of Cohanim.

In summary then, during the year of Aveylus after my father, I had already duchened on Pesach, Shavuos, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Over the last few weeks I’ve endured a stubborn virus (at least that’s what I think it was) which thankfully only affected my voice in a minor way on Yom Kippur. I didn’t fancy the longer trek to where I normally davened, and instead attended services at a closer Shule which follows Minhag Chabad. I daven Sefard anyway, and have a seat there, and am certainly no stranger to that Shule. Well before Retzeh, as is the custom among some fellow Mispallelim at this Shule, I am asked “have me in my mind please” and so on. In fact, the revered Rabbi Groner ז’ל always asked me to remember יצחק דוד בן מנוחה רחל and I had the merit of being the last Cohen to give him ברכת כהנים before he passed away from our world. I mention this, because there is and was already an expectation that I was to Duchen, well before uprooting myself prior to Retzeh, let alone upon hearing the clarion call “Cohanim”.

So, up I went on Day one of Succos. Even though this was the major Chabad Shule in Melbourne, there were only a paltry four Cohanim, of which I was one. I didn’t think twice about it. It is one of the joys of my life to be chosen, al pi chazaka as a Cohen, to use those specific words to bless everyone באהבה with love. Furthermore, I was one of a number; I wasn’t the only Cohen. In fact on Simchas Torah, I also give Bircas Cohanim to anyone who has missed it (although the Dayan once told me that it was B’aal Tosif, which after checking  I could not understand in any form). It’s Ba’aal Tosif is you add a new ברכה, not if you repeat the same formula, but I digress.

Normally, when I descend, there is the usual cacophonous יישר כח כהן and this extends to Rabbinic authorities in the Shule whom I pass on the way back to my seat. This time, however, it was different. The Dayan of the Shule, instead chose to alert me to his view as was “an open din in Shulchan Aruch” that an Avel shouldn’t Duchan on Yom Tov. I asked how it was possible for me to have already duchened on earlier Yom Tovim and been expected to duchen only to now bow out in a manner which could only be described as a דבר בולט, or in other words, an explicit אבילות דפרהסיה, לכאורה. He said that was another Shule.

The so-called “open din” in Shulchan Aruch או’’ח קכח didn’t appear that way to me, when I looked at it at lunch time. Instead, it looked as if the Mechaber was describing the Minhag in Israel (which obviously also affected Sephardim on Shabbos outside of Israel) whereas the Ramoh described the custom במקומות אלו, which one presumes to be the Minhag that the Ramoh experienced in Ashkenaz. What was the reason for the Minhag in Ashkenaz, as also paskened in the Mishna Brura and of course the Shulchan Aruch HoRav (with just a very slight difference)? I will leave side-reasons of immersion before Duchaning to one side. Of course, Chabadniks immerse every day (or ought to). Others, such as בעל כנסת יחזקאל םי׳ י״ב (see also (ליסא) דרך החיים)) disagree with the Ramoh.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch was more emphatic

אבל תוך שנים עשר חודש על אביו ואמו או תוך שלשים על שאר קרובים אינו נושא את כפיו, וצריך לצאת מבית הכנסת קודם רצה עד אחר נשיאת כפים. ואם אין בבית הכנסת שני כהנים אחרים, מותר לאבל לישא את כפיו תוך שנים עשר חודש על אביו ואמו ותוך שלשים על שאר קרובים, אבל תוך שבעה, כגון הקובר מתו ברגל, אפילו אם אין שם שני כהנים אחרים אינו נושא את כפיו.

The primary reason for not allowing the Cohen to Duchan, was because as an Avel I’m not considered שרוי בשמחה (steeped in שמחת יום טוב see מטה משה סי’ קצ”ח) to the extent that I would be able to effectively make a Brocha באהבה and repeat the Bircas Cohanim together with the three other Cohanim.

בתשובת מהר”ם מינץ כתב: “וכן ראיתי בחנוכה, בלילה הראשונה מתפלל האבל, אך להדלקת הנרות שיש בהן ברכת שהחיינו שראוי לברך מתוך שמחה, יש מהנזהין ואמרין דאחר דלאו אבל ידליק הנרות, וכן זכרוני בהיותי במענץ שהיה מהר”ר זוילין ז”ל אבל על אביו והתפלל בערב חנוכה, והיינו נושאים ונותנים בדבר אם האבל ידליק ג”כ הנרות או אחר שאינו אבל, ונשאר המסקנא שראוי ונכון שאחר ידליק הנרות, וכן נהגתי אח”כ בכל מקום מתוך אגודת חבריי ורבותיי”. ועיי”ש שדימיהו לאבל באמירת הלל בר”ח. ולפי”ז הרי הוא הדין בכל מקום שמוציא אחרים ידי חובתם וכגון במקרא מגילה.

This Mahari Mintz on which the Magen Avraham סימן תקנ”א ס”ק מב  appears to be  based, restricted his view to when the Cohen was a Sh’liach Tzibbur who alone was מוציא אחרים, as opposed to the Magen Avraham in Hilchos Nesius Kapaim, as referred to in Shulchan Aruch HoRav and the Mishne Brura.

בשו”ת מנחת אלעזר (ח”ב סימן לב) כותב בתו”ד “ורק לענין הדלקת נרות בבית הכנסת בחנוכה שזה אינו חיוב כלל על עצמו של כל אחד ואחד, רק משום פרסומי הנס בצבור נהגו כן, והמצוה העיקר להדליק בביתו, על כן כיון שברכת שהחיינו בנר חנוכה בביכ”נ הוא רק בעד הציבור לשמחה ולזכר הנס, הנהיגו שיברך אחר שהוא בשמחה, משא”כ האבל שאינו בשמחה, אבל בקריאת המגילה שהוא חיוב על כל אחד ואחד לקרות בציבור דוווקא, והברכת שהחיינו על המגילה בצבור גם האבל מחוייב בה בביהכ”נ בקריאת המגילה, והוי כמו הדלקת הנרות בביתו דלכולי עלמא מברך האבל בביתו כמבואר בשו”ע שם, וגם יוצאים בני ביתו בברכת שהחיינו שיברך בביתו בנר חנוכה, וכן הכא [במגילה] אם אחר יברך והוא האבל שומע כעונה ועונה אמן , הוי הוא גם כן המברך, וכיון שהאבל מחוייב בעצמו לברך הברכה בביהכ”נ במגילה, גם האחרים יוכלו לצאת בתורת שומע כעונה, ודו”ק”, ומסיים בענין שאלתו אודות זה “שהוא רגיל ומוחזק לקרוא את המגילה בצבור בביהמד”ר דקהלתו, ועתה שהוא תוך י”ב חודש על אביו ע”ה ונפשו בשאלתו כדת מה לעשות, ואם יברך שהחיינו”, ע”ז מסיים בהמשך להנ”ל, “ע”כ הבו דלא להוסיף עלה במה שמצינו בט”ז סי’ תרעא לענין ברכת שהחיינו רק בחנוכה, ולא לענין פורים כנזכר, ובפרט שהוא קורא תמיד בכל שנה ושנה”, ועיי”ש מה שכתב עוד שגבי הרגיל בקריאת המגילה בכל שנה, הרי כשלא יקרא הוה אבילות בפרהסיא דיש לחוש ע”ז מדינא.

I was to learn that a number of Chabadniks in חו’’ל had duchened while they were in Aveylus, and that was according to Piskei Din of Chashuvei Rabonnei Chabad. I tried to remember what Rabbi Groner ז’ל had paskened for my father, and I do recall him being uncomfortable with my father standing alone during Hakofos, and suggested that someone go around with him in a type of Mechitza so that he wouldn’t technically be part of the Hoshanos Parade. To the best of my ability, I cannot, however,  recall what my father  have did for Duchening. Certainly the Rav of my father’s Shule, who was also a Cohen, and his own children, who were also Rabonim, duchened during their Aveylus.

On the next morning, the second day of Succos, I approached the Dayan of the Shule, and asked him whether it was true that he paskened that Chassidiei Chabad could attend Farbrengens for Simchas Beis HaShoeva during their year of Aveylus, and whether he agreed that it was incongruous for Simchas Beish Hashoeva Farbrengens, with the singing, merriment and drink (and Toras Hachassidus) there was no impediment for a Chasid who was an Avel, and yet for the Avel who felt that he had absolutely no problem expressing אהבה through the Bracha, and for which the זכות resulting from Hashem was ואני אברכם he would theoretically deny me the opportunity to perform Bircas Cohanim. I asked him, that despite the Minhag quoted by the Ramoh, whether there was  actually an established Minhag in the Shule Itself where the Rav would make it his business to inform Avelim that they should disappear early enough before so that they would not have to be in the Shule for Duchening. He was not happy with my line of questioning, and gave vociferous voice thereto. In the end, he passed on a message through a Gabbay that he would “prefer I would not Duchen”.

At that point, I decided to do what my father would have done—run away from Machlokes, and leave early enough so that people wouldn’t even mention “have me in mind”. I know that many were disappointed and that they felt that, like הושענות and many dinim of Aveylus, this was a personal הרגשה, and that it was not quite right to tell someone effectively, your level of שמחה (even with בשר ודגים and ביום שמחתחם) wasn’t enough to effect Brachos as an agent of Hashem.

I did find that the Aruch Hashem of Navardok seemed to be equally troubled by the concept of being מבטל an עשה or three over such a matter, and to paraphrase him, he could not understand what was wrong. Perhaps this is a Litvishe thing. The Biur HaGro (who also saw the “open Shulchan Aruch”) as did the פרי חדש and others also felt that one should not interfere with the Avel and let him go his way depending on how he felt. According to the encyclopaedic Rav Gavriel Tzinner, this is also the practice of “all” chassidim and the view of the Griz, although he doesn’t bring a specific Mekor for those assertions. When he is next in Melbourne to examine the Eruv here under his Hashgacha I may well seek him out for sources for these statements.

I was unable to unearth a specific מנהג חבד on this matter, save the Shulchan Aruch HoRav quoting the Ramoh and then Magen Avraham in his usual manner. That per se, however, doesn’t mean it is  מנהג חב’’ד as is well know from later glosses in his Siddur and elsewhere (or the later comments of the last Rebbe זי’’ע on issues of Minhag Chabad)

I do not know whether Rabbi Groner ז’ל would have gone up to an אבל after the act, and said, “don’t duchen tomorrow”. The Dayan finally said it was his “preference” that Aveylim not Duchan in the central Chabad Shule of Melbourne.

I will have opportunity to Duchen on Shmini Atzeres, and in sobriety during Shachris on Simchas Torah, before my year of aveylus ends. I think it prudent to avoid Machlokes and being too evocative with the Dayan by davening there on these days (even I have done so for at least 40 years).

I have absolutely no hard feelings. It’s Torah, and we need to learn and understand and follow it. I just don’t understand how I’m considered unable to bless באהבה. If anything, and I think this is mentioned by Acharonim, the אבל is more sensitised to the needs of others and able to express genuine blessing to all (despite מדת הדין hanging around an אבל during the year). I thought that the pre-requisite (כלי המקבל) for Kabolas Brachos was HaSholom, Peace!

נשיאת הכפיים קדימה מבטאת את העתיד, שהרי הידיים מתקדמות אל מעבר למקום שאליו הגיע הגוף. ועל-כן הכהנים נושאים את כפיהם, לבטא את הכמיהה והתפילה המובעות בברכת כהנים, אל עולם שלם ומתוקן  –– עולת ראיה ח”א רפד).

Postscript: I just received this from a good friend with excellent access to מנהגי חב’’ד who quoted

Minhag Chabad Avelylus Bircas Cohanim

Davening etiquette/halacha

Being in Aveylus, of course, sensitises me to such issues. I am sure I am not the first nor am I the last. It’s not a unique situation, of course, so I’m interested to hear others views. Disclaimer: I haven’t reviewed the halachos, which I will hopefully on the weekend, and am working off memory.

The Mishna B’rura (and others) point out that if someone comes late to Shule (let’s say Shachris), then depending on how late they come, they should skip certain pre-tefillos, and make sure that ultimately, they commence Shmoneh Esreh with the Chazan. Shmoneh Esreh is Tfilla, and all else is a preamble, although we have to say Krias Shma before its appointed time. In such a situation, one who has skipped sections, ideally should return to them and complete them later.

Shachris often presents a dichotomy, especially in older established Shules. Some Mispallelim work for a living. They daven, then may go home to eat breakfast, help out with the kids and then ensure that they are at their workplace on time. Many start work at 9am, some start earlier. There are others, who either don’t work (perhaps they are retired or unemployed or incapacitated) or have less of an issue about being at the workplace at a particular time.

It is not always possible to have a Minyan that davens relatively slowly and starts at the crack of dawn. Many different issues come into play. It is quite common to find minyanim that daven at a brisk rate. When I say brisk rate, I don’t mean a pun on the city of Brisk. Rather, I mean, at a rate where one can say each work, but do so quickly, and without much time to meditate on words/phrases. Shma and Shmone Esreh tend to be different. Shma is meant to be said so that one can audibly hear oneself and ideally said with the Trop. Shmoneh Esreh (the silent one) usually is a bit slower, as I pointed out above, it IS Tefillah, ultimately.

Now, this view of the Mishna Brura and others is not universal. Minhag Chabad based on the Alter Rebbe, the Baal HaTanya and Shulchan Aruch HoRav, is to always daven in order. That is, not to skip. If that means that one isn’t up to the minyan at Shmoneh Esreh, so be it.

I’m not sure, however, that the view of the Alter Rebbe was that if one finds oneself davening in such a minyan, that one should never say Tefillah B’Tzibbur. Perhaps, and I am stretching with no Mekor, he would argue that in such a situation one should begin davening privately and come earlier so that when Shmoneh Esreh came along, one was with the rest of the Minyan. Either that, or he’d say find a Minyan that davens at your pace.

On the flip side of the coin, the Yeshivish/Litvishe types who tend to say each work aloud (not just Shma) and/or extend their own quiet Shmoneh Esreh for a longish time, may cause those who have to go to work, to wait for them to have a minyan answering Amen. Perhaps, they too should come earlier to Minyan so that they can “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak?

I discussed this issue with one Mispallel where I daven, who happens to learn in a Kollel each day, and he said to me that he saw somewhere that the Mishna Brura’s advice of skipping is only when one comes late. But, if someone didn’t come late, then he should daven at his normal pace, even if this means that the rest of the Minyan might be waiting for him so that they can start Shmoneh Esreh (quietly) or for Chazoras HaShatz. He couldn’t recall where he had seen this difference.

Given that I daven for the Amud, as an Avel, I’m acutely aware that those who have come to the minyan include people who need to leave by a certain time, and I try to keep things moving.

The above two categories of Mispallelim can sometimes cause angst in that it makes it harder for the Minyan to be “worker friendly”.

Your thoughts?

Image from

The honour of the Chafetz Chaim

The Chafetz Chaim

One of my beloved Rebbes, Rav Baruch Abaranok z”l, was a talmid and musmach of the Chafetz Chaim. Rav Abaranok was a pioneer in the Melbourne Jewish Rabbinate, and possessed Midos and an Adinus HaNefesh which made me feel that I was in the midst of a real Radin personality.

I am currently reading Rav Hershel Schachter’s new sefer, “Divrei Harav”. I was somewhat surprised to read the following episode.

During the time when there was consideration given to the closing of the Volozhiner Yeshiva, a special meeting of many Rabbonim was called by the Ohr Sameach.

The Ohr Sameach

The Chafetz Chaim was not invited to this momentous meeting, but travelled nonetheless to attend. When the Chafetz Chaim reached  the Ohr Sameach, he  announced to the Chafetz Chaim that he had only invited “great Rabonim from large cities” and that since the Chafetz Chaim was a “small time Rabbi from a small town”, the Chafetz Chaim should not attend the meeting!

Apparently feeling rejected, the Chafetz Chaim turned to R’ Chaim Brisker (who was invited to the meeting) and expressed his angst at the searing words of the Ohr Sameach, while also expressing the Chafetz Chaim’s personal view that the Volozhiner Yeshivah should not be closed. R’ Chaim (according to the Rav) advised the Chafetz Chaim that he agreed with the Chafetz Chaim’s view about the non closure of the Yeshivah and advised him to “gate-crash” the meeting and express his view, despite the Ohr Sameach’s express opposition to the Chafetz Chaim’s attendance.

Rav Schachter believes that the meeting commenced with a pilpul from the Ohr Sameach on the question of whether a person who finds a lost item and  is in possession of the said item, has a din of Shomer with all the concomitant responsibilities. When the Ohr Sameach had completed his pilpul on this topic, Rav Chaim asked his son, Reb Moshe, who was then a lad, to answer the Ohr Sameach. Reb Moshe pointed out that the person who found the lost item could not be considered a Shomer with responsibility of such to the person who had lost the item, because normally a Shomer effectively takes over looking after an item from the hands of the owner, because he takes it out of the hands of the owner. The same applies to a Gazlan who also (forcibly) takes it out of the hands of an owner and therefore must also assume the responsibility to the owner (as a Shomer) in having to guard the item appropriately. However, in the case of someone who finds a lost item, since they have not taken the item out of the hands of the owner (willingly or unwillingly) then, based on Sevara, he can’t be expected halachically to look after the item in place of the original owners (since the owners themselves were in no place to look after the lost item at the particular time the person found it).

Apparently, R’ Chaim asked his son Reb Moshe to respond, to show that even a lad could answer the ‘so called’ pilpul of the Ohr Sameach. Rav Chaim wanted to  “show up” the Ohr Sameach, and thereby show that the Ohr Sameach was also not right in refusing to allow someone of the calibre of the Chafetz Chaim to the meeting of Rabonim.

Ad Kan.

I found this snippet fascinating. Even if the Ohr Sameach had an opposing view to both R’ Chaim and the Chafetz Chaim, why did he deny the Chafetz Chaim entry to the meeting? R’ Chaim it would seem was most aware of the Chafetz Chaim’s stature. Certainly it is true that in those days, the Aruch Hashulchan was considered the Posek Acharon, but that ought not diminish the stature of the Chafetz Chaim? Also, given the gravity of the decision that was to be made, how could a so-called “Daas Torah” be achieved without the Chafetz Chaim’s advice?

If the stature of the Chafetz Chaim grew much later, what changed? Surely it could not all be because of the Aruch Hashulchan’s comments about davening in front of a woman with her hair uncovered or his comments (possibly censored) on Dina D’Malchuso?  Every Posek has their more controversial positions. Even the Chafetz Chaim was criticised for his definition of Shok as the knee area (and not lower down the leg).

What gives?

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