The stolen lulav

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In regards using stolen items to fulfil Mitzvos during Succos, there are two primary sources in the Gemara Talmud Bavli1, one considers the use of a stolen Lulav while the other concerns the use of a stolen Succah. Everyone agrees that using a stolen Lulav on the first day of Succos, is unacceptable. The Mitzvos of the first day are Torah obligations, as opposed to Rabbinic obligations. There is a disagreement whether a Lulav that has been stolen may be used after the first day of Succos.

On the first2 day of Succos, the Torah3 demands that the Lulav be לכם — halachically owned by the person performing the Mitzvah. Taking the Lulav on the other days of Succos4 is a Rabbinic requirement. The nature of that Rabbinic requirement is discussed herein. One possibility is that the use of the Lulav on the other days is also forbidden. The Talmud Bavli Succah expresses the view that the Rabbinic Mitzvah of Lulav was established with similar5 parameters to the Torah Mitzvah and, therefore, if the Lulav is not לכם6 — halachically yours — it may not be used for the Mitzvah after the first day. An alternative approach is that the Rabbinic Mitzvah is fashioned on the Torah requirement but doesn’t precisely ascribe all the same details, such as לכם (for example, one might be able to use a borrowed Lulav on the last days but not on the first day).

Either way, if the performance of a Mitzvah has been achieved through the agency of a sin — stealing — we commonly apply the dictum of מצוה הבאה בעבירה — disqualify the act of taking a Lulav in such circumstances, on that basis.

As we will see, the Talmud Yerushalmi7 also expresses the view that using a stolen Lulav is forbidden, though it may be that when the Talmud Yerushalmi expresses the rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה – a Mitzvah that is achieved via an Aveyra/Sin — it considers the disqualification of the Mitzvah that is enacted through theft as a Torah law. In other words, according to the Yerushalmi it is possible that מצוה הבאה בעבירה is not a Rabbinic enactment/dictum itself; rather the Torah itself prohibits or rejects the enablement of a Mitzvah if it materialises through the agency of a sin (such as stealing).

It is important to note that in any event — whether someone has or has not fulfilled a Mitzvah which involves using stolen goods — there is an independent requirement to return those goods to the rightful owner8. Consideration is also given to the person fulfilling a (Rabbinic) Mitzvah but being unable to make a Bracha over the Mitzvah on account of the act of a sin.

Let us consider the sources in some detail.

The stolen Succah

The Bavli in Succah 9a discusses the case of a Succah that has been stolen. The Torah states in Devarim 16:13, חג הסכת תעשה לך — you should make (a festival of) Succos — from which we deduce that if it’s not your Succah, for example if the Succah is stolen, then you have not fulfilled the Mitzvah. Tosfos9 ask an incisive question. Since we have a general rule that מצוה הבאה בעבירה, a Mitzvah borne through sin, is disqualified — as is the case with a stolen Lulav — then why does the Gemara seek a specific Pasuk from the Torah in order to disqualify a stolen Succah? Surely, it would (also) be disqualified through the aegis of מצוה הבאה בעבירה. Tosfos answer that the rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה is one that the Rabbis enacted — מדרבנן — and the Gemara would prefer to invalidate the use of a stolen Sukkah through a Torah verse, rather than invalidating through the Rabbinic rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה.

What we may conclude based on this Tosfos in 9a, is that the rule of מצוה הבאה בעבירה is a Rabbinic application10 that can be used to disqualify a Mitzvah.

The Stolen Matza

The Yerushalmi11 describes

מצה גזולה אסור לברך עליה. א”ר הושעיא על שם (תהילים י) ובוצע ברך ניאץ ה’. א”ר יונה הדא דתימא בתחילה אבל בסוף לא דמים הוא חייב לו. רבי יונה אמר אין עבירה מצוה. רבי יוסי אמר אין מצוה עבירה. א”ר הילא אלה המצות אם עשיתן כמצותן הן מצות ואם לאו אינן מצות

the case of someone eating Matza that was stolen. In such a case, we are not permitted to make a Bracha on that Matza. There are four explanations given for not being permitted to make a Bracha. R’ Hoshaya quotes a verse in Tehillim to the effect that a person who steals reviles Hashem and it is anachronistic to bless Hashem while concomitantly reviling Him. R’ Yona states that in the first instance לכתחילה one should not make a Bracha, however, if someone did make a Bracha after the fact בדיעבד, then it is acceptable because that person technically now owes the monetary value of the Matza as they have sequestered that Matza for their own needs. R Yona and R Yoisi12 both disqualify the Bracha based on the idea of a מצוה being performed via an עבירה. R Hila learns that one needs to do a Mitzvah “properly”. If it’s not done properly, it is invalid.

The Ridbaz (ibid) concludes from this Yerushalmi, that all opinions disqualify that Mitzva of Matza because effectively it is  מצוה הבאה בעבירה. The Aruch Hashulchan13 asserts that this Yershalmi would appear to support the claim that מצוה הבאה בעבירה is a פסול מן התורה — disqualified by as a Torah principle — as opposed to the aforementioned Tosfos who contend that מצוה הבאה בעבירה is a Rabbinic enactment.

The Stolen Lulav

We have discussed a stolen Succah. What of a stolen Lulav? The Mishna in Succah 29b states, without qualification, that a stolen Lulav is invalid. The fact that the Mishna didn’t limit itself to the first day of Yom Tov or to a Lulav within the walls of Yerushalaim (where one would have a Torah command to take the Lulav for all seven days of Succos) would suggest that סתם the Mishna disqualifies such a Lulav on all days of Succos. With that premise, the Gemara then asks, why should the Lulav be invalid after the first day. Seemingly, the need for לכם — a Lulav which is owned by the holder — is only a requirement from the Torah on the first day.

If the Torah only required the Lulav to be taken on the first day, why do we take the Lulav on the other days? There was a Rabbinic enactment תקנה from R’ Yochanan Ben Zakai, as a זכר למקדש—a reminder of the process/pageantry in the Beis HaMikdash—to take the Lulav on the other days of Succos. Is the מצוה מדרבנן precisely the same as the דאורייתא on the first day? The Gemara answers in the name of R’ Shimon Bar Yochai that although the notion of לכם is a Torah requirement for the first day, the Rabbis invalidated an act of a זכר למקדש when that is performed through the agency of a sin — the sin of stealing in this case. That is, one is performing the Rabbinic command of זכר למקדש through a מצוה הבאה בעבירה. Shmuel disagrees. Seemingly, as noted by Tosfos15 and the Rosh16, Shmuel ddid not learn that מצוה הבאה בעבירה applied to a Rabbinic מצוה and that as a principle it only ever applied for a Torah based Mitzvah.  The Sefas Emes (ibid) goes further. He claims that even R’ Yochanan Ben Zakkai who prohibits the use of a stolen Lulav on the Rabbinic last days, also agrees that the principle of מצוה הבאה בעבירה does not apply to a Mitzva DeRabanan. The reason that a Lulav is prohibited in this case is because R’ Yochanan Ben Zakai enacted a specific זכר למקדש which only permitted a Lulav which was owned by the user. In other words, according to R Yochanan Ben Zakai, the act was not one of a זכר למקדש.

The Noda BiYehuda in his commentary (:צל’’ח כט) asks a great question based on the opinion of Shmuel. Generally speaking whenever the Rabbanan enacted a Mitzvah they sought to mimic the DeOrayso Torah approach to that Mitzvah —כל דתקון רבנן כעין דאורייתא תקון. Since Shmuel held that מדאורייתא one may apply מצוה הבאה בעבירה on the first day and prohibit a tainted מצוה then surely when the Rabbanan enacted their מצוה — Lulav on the other days of Succos — they too would have incorporated the outcome of מצוה הבאה בעבירה and forbidden the use of the tainted Lulav. The צל’’ח explains that according to Shmuel the concept of מצוה הבאה בעבירה is itself not a Torah objection to a tainted Mitzvah but is a Rabbinically enacted objection. As such, since taking Lulav is already one Rabbinic מצוה enacted as a זכר, we have a rule that doubly applying Rabbinic enactments תרי דרבנן — is not an accepted approach in Halacha, in general. Therefore, to (doubly) qualify a Rabbinic מצוה with another Rabbinic proscription isn’t an acceptable approach. As opposed to Shmuel, R Yochanan doesn’t have the problem of תרי דרבנן — two Rabbinic enactments — because R Yochanan holds that מצוה הבאה בעבירה is a Torah derived imperative.

It is evident then that where there is a Rabbinic Mitzvah which is derived from a Torah Mitzvah (as opposed to an unlinked Rabbinic enactment) there is an argument between Shmuel and R Yochanan Ben Zakai as to whether we apply מצוה הבאה בעבירה. According to Shmuel we do not because it is תרי דרבנן, as above, and according to R Yochanan we do because כל דתקון רבנן כעין דאורייתא תקון. 

What does the Yershulami17 say about the case of the stolen Lulav? The Yerushalmi also forbids it and quotes the Pasuk of לכם after which R Levi says that the person who utilises a stolen Lulav is “like someone who feeds an overlord with food that already belongs to the overlord”. In such an event, the food, which was meant to be a source of appeasment and a defender of the Jew is transformed into a prosecutor who cries out that the Jew has effectively used stolen food to feed the overlord. 

The Pnei Moshe (ibid), explains that the reason of לכם only applies to the first Torah enacted day, however, the second reason (of the defender appearing as the prosecutor) applies to all the days of Succos and is forbidden on the same basis as מצוה הבאה בעבירה. Furthermore, other commentaries explain that the Yerushalmi presents the same disagreement as the Bavli vis a vis R’ Yochanan and Shmuel. According to the first opinion of the Yerushalmi, we do not say מצוה הבאה בעבירה because the other days are דרבנן and like Shmuel, we don’t apply מצוה הבאה בעבירה to a דרבנן. On the other hand R Levi’s view is that we do apply מצוה הבאה בעבירה to a דרבנן and the enactment already precluded using a tainted Lulav. 

In respect of Halacha, the Ramo in תרמ’’ט:א invalidates the use of a stolen lulav on all days and we invoke the dictum of מצוה הבאה בעבירה in this regard. The words of the Ramo and Shulchan Aruch are streamlined according to the Magen Avraham and confirmed in the Mishna Brura (ibid). To understand the parameters of the Halacha with crystal clarity, as is often the case, the phraseology employed by the שולחן ערוך הרב is highly recommended. 

The case of the stolen lulav has many more twists and turns and has occupied many Acharonim. The above is perhaps a bite sized description of the major issues at play. Another example is that of the stolen Shofar. The Rambam concludes that one does fulfil the Mitzvah of hearing via a stolen Shofar because the sound emanating from the Shofar was never stolen. There is no “alternative morality” that would disqualify any outcome of using a stolen Shofar.

In an article in the Australian Jewish News, Nomi Kaltmann in a perhaps provocatively titled article “There is a moral underpinning to mitzvot” postulates that the so called difference between the Yerushalmi and Bavli regarding the stolen Lulav has something to do with which of these two Talmuds applied a higher form of “morality” underpinning their decisions versus (more) drier technical considerations. Kaltmann claims the Yerushalmi “seems to have a superior moral position” and then attempts to link her thesis with more general statements perceiving this issue as one of “the letter of the law versus the spirit”. In my reading and understanding of the Sugya hereand there is much more ink on this topic than I have presented, and consistent with the Yerushalmi on Challah and Succah, the underlying considerations relate to nuanced halachic categories and their applicability to the cases discussed, including:

  • מצוה הבאה בעבירה
  • כל דתקון רבנן כעין דאורייתא תקון
  • תרי דרבנן לא אמרינן
  • יאוש (although I didn’t mention this above)

and how these play out according to all the different opinions in both the Bavli and Yerushalmi. Indeed, after analysis, I’m not sure I can see a fundamental difference between the Bavli and Yerushalmi that could be described in terms of some “higher morality”: the disagreements gravitate along the same boundaries considering the same issues in my view.


  1.  Succa 9a and Succa 29B
  2.  Within the walls of Jerusalem this would apply to all seven days
  3.  As opposed to the Rabbonon
  4.  There is some conjecture about the second day itself. See Noraos HaRav, Volume 9 for a general essay on that topic.
  5.  Exactly how similar is the issue we work through here
  6.  This would admit for example a Lulav which was borrowed
  7.  Chalah 1:5, Shabbos 13:3, Succa 3:1
  8.  This is the case in general. There are instances where the monetary value instead is used for payback—for example if the stolen good has been improved in value by the robber then the original monetary value mst be returned, as opposed to the (now modified and improved) stolen goods.
  9.  בד’’ה ההוא
  10.  It could be argued that this Tosfos differs from the Tosfos בד’’ה משום on Succos 30a regarding a stolen Lulav. Tosfos learns that מצוה הבאה בעבירה is a Torah rule of disqualification of any מצוה act that is enacted through a sin. That being said, it is difficult to understand how to superimpose a Torah disqualification on a Rabbinic Mitzvah (the Lulav is Rabbinic after the first day). 
  11.  Chalah 1:5, Shabbos 13:3
  12.  They use slightly different words and I’m not sure if there is a practical difference emanating from their phraseology.
  13.  או’’ח תנד:יא
  14.  Bavli
  15.  בד’’ה מתוך, ל.
  16.  פרק ג, סי׳ ג
  17.  סוכה ג:א
  18.  יפה עינים שם וביאור הגר’’א תרמ’’ט א 

COVID-19: Chassidim vs Non Chassidim

Sadly, perhaps even surprisingly, there are reports of clandestine Rosh Hashana minyanim that took place across the houses of Melbourne despite these being against Government rules. Perhaps it’s a function of my circles, but it appears that these Minyanim involved Chassidim or those who identify themselves as Chassidim.

Prior to Rosh Hashana, the word was out that such Minyanim were being established or considered. Though various voices of “the Rabbinate” were heard clearly in the press and e-news/social media, I likely missed new strong warnings to reinforce that

“though it is heart-breaking and unprecedented for Melbourne’s Shules to be locked for Rosh Hashono and the ensuing Yomim Tovim, we stress and re-stress that it is forbidden to flaunt the Government rules and establish clandestine minyanim.”

I did come across other communication:

  1. Useful compendiums describing what should be said, not said, how, and when.
  2. Laudable pre and post shiurim and recordings designed to inform and migrate people “into the mood”
  3. Comparatively banal interviews with football coaches mischaracterising the Yomim Noroim as a Grand Final series, coupled with the now ubiquitous indiscriminate use of the Shofar as the “Jewish digeridoo”
  4. Opportunistic perversions of the Halachic process by a tiny minority of misaligned rabbis who deemed it sufficiently populist to kasher electronic conferencing.
  5. Clear opinions, such as from the Non-Chassidic Rabbi Moshe Heinemann of the StarK who opined that the sham support group minyanim concept was a Chillul Hashem in the making, for which Yom Kippur would not atone.

At this stage, you may be thinking that I am alluding to Chassidic groups identified by the “Vayatzev Avruhom” shtiebel-Satmar and Munkatch Chassidim who broke away from Adass Israel and whose “exploits” were splashed over the secular press, creating a Chilul Hashem.  I don’t have any information about this group vis a vis the Yomim Noroim, but I would be pleasantly surprised if their need for “support group sessions” somehow abated.

Sadly, I am referring to pockets of minyanim whose membership is seemingly from other Chassidic groups. To be sure, these are not sanctioned by local poskim of the same persuasion and are “unofficial”.

Notwithstanding that fact, one might well ask some questions:

    1. Is there something peculiarly Chassidic or grounded in Chassidism which compels people to ignore Government Health regulations? (and no, it isn’t the case that Chassidim aspire to be “imprisoned and released” as some process of redemptive purification)
    2. Is there a continued antinomian-style approach to Halacha which somehow “supersedes” the will of Shulchan Aruch and perhaps their own Poskim?
    3. Is the binary phenomenon of “Level 1” for a Rebbe and “Level 0” for everyone else responsible for “every man for himself”?
    4. Are there some under intentionally quiet clandestine Rabbis associated with these groups who are ultimately responsible? Who are these Torah Giants who so confidently claim that it is not necessary to worry about the ספק סכנה and whose learning exceeds Poskim like Rav Hershel Schachter and Rav Osher Weiss and others?
    5. Is it that non-Chassidim are less likely to pick and choose a local orthodox Rabbi and focus instead on a quasi-official “Daas Torah”?
    6. Do some Chassidim consider themselves better informed, to the extent that they just know it really is God’s wish that they stand apart and ignore Health directives and שומר פתאים ה׳. (Rav Osher Weiss is a Chassid).

I don’t know the answer to these questions.

I am definitely not inviting people to “name and shame” or “dob in” those who have been involved in such.

PS. On a more personal note: like many, I struggled to teleport a communally inclusive Rosh Hashana davening into the lonely experience of a private Yom HaDin. Screened by the privacy of the four walls of the dining room, if anything, I probably shed more tears, to the extent that experiencing Simcha on Rosh Hashana was comparatively daunting. Then again, I am also an Avel, mourning my dear mother הכ’’מ and that is a factor.  I doubt I was alone or that my experience was in any way unique.

Lighting Chanuka Candles on Motzei Shabbos

The following is from מו׳ר הגאון הגדול הרב  Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik ז׳ל.

R’ Yosef Karo in the standard Shulchan Aruch (תרפא:ב) concludes that we light the Chanuka lights before the Havdolo candles. However, when one comes home after Shule, many follow the Taz, that first one performs Havdala and then lights Chanuka licht.

הגאון הגדול הרב Rav Moshe Soloveitchik ז׳ל (the Rav’s father, and eldest son of R’ Chaim Brisker) explains that there is a difference between lighting in Shule and lighting at home.

The prime purpose of lighting in Shule is a requirement on the congregation to publicise the miracle. As the Vilna Gaon is quoted by his students (note the Biur Hagro was not actually written by the Gaon, but by his students)  (תרעא:ז) that every place where the Rabbis required the concept of publicising a miracle, they also required that this miracle is also publicised by the congregation. They bring a proof from Hallel on Pesach Night at Maariv  (which by the way, the Rav used to say in davening even though he davened Nusach Ashkenaz; the Rav was not afraid to “correct Nusach” e.g. He also said the Avoda of Yom Kippur according to Nusach Sefard because he felt it was a Halachically more accurate description of the Avoda of the Cohen Gadol). On Pesach night, Chassidim, and those who daven Nusach Sefard, don’t follow the Ramoh and, per R’ Yosef Karo, the Mechaber

בשו”ע או”ח סי’ תפ”ז ס”ד “בליל ראשון של פסח גומרין ההלל בצבור בנעימה בברכה תחלה וסוף, וכן בליל שני של שני ימים טובים של גליות

[As an aside, I remember the Rabbi of an important Shule in Melbourne, who used to daven at Chabad in the evening on Pesach Night because it was near his home and his Shule probably didn’t have a Minyan or it was too far for him to walk to as he got older, and when Chabad/Nusach Sefard started Hallel, he would leave Shule. He sat behind me. I was young, but I thought and continue to think that this was not the correct behaviour, but I will leave that issue as he is in another world.]

Back to Pesach. Even though we are required to say Hallel over a cup of wine (at the Seder) that is our personal requirement. However, the congregation, has a separate requirement to say Hallel as a congregation ציבור. When does a congregation get the “halachic designation” of a congregation? If they davened Mincha together, they are a Tzibbur/Congregation that group “is existentially formed” and now must perform the congregational פרסומי ניסא. For this reason, we light in Shule between Mincha and Maariv, even though many have the custom to light after Maariv at home. The reason being that the congregation assumes it’s requirement to light, as soon as they are designated as a congregation, and that occurs immediately after Mincha, because they have an on following requirement to continue with Ma’ariv.

Therefore, in respect of Shule, after Ma’ariv, where they no longer have any congregational duties, there is no more “congregation” and no special requirement to have פרסומי ניסא. Most people might still be there, however, they aren’t halachically a congregation requiring the lighting once they have completed their davening.

So let’s turn to Motzai Shabbos where we can only light the candles once Shabbos goes out. It would seem that since they have already davened, they no longer are designated as a congregation  and no longer a requirement to light as a congregation. In order to avoid this conundrum, the Minhag has become to light the Havdala, as a congregation, after Chanuka lights, because at that time, they are still a congregation requiring Havdala, and therefore the פרסומי ניסא of a congregation has not dissipated. Note that the definition of a congregation is not whether most are there or not. Rather, it is about whether those who are there, are still considered a congregation because they haven’t completed their full davening.

Rav Soloveitchik wondered about gatherings where there was no congregational activity, such as Ma’ariv, e.g. at a fundraiser or the like where most would have already davened Ma’ariv in their own congregations. As such, Rav Soloveitchik questioned whether in such circumstances there was a congregational פרסומי ניסא that was incumbent halachically.

One could turn attention to the “Chanuka in the Park” type celebrations. From my observation, it is sometimes dubious that there is a congregational requirement for publicising the miracle. However, if one assumes, quite reasonably, that many of the people will consider this their private and only lighting of Chanuka candles on that evening, it perhaps would be that an entrance fee be charged, nominally, so that they can become part of the pseudo-mega-household that is lighting the Menora (as opposed to a congregational Chiyuv) to do so. Yes, I see many Chabadniks put Tefillin on people, but the minute they have finished with their Tefillin, those people have done a personal Mitvah, but not a congregational activity that is still incomplete.

It is somewhat ironic, but exact, that congregation isn’t defined by numbers, but by responsibility. Even a group of 10 is a congregation, and as long as they still have a congregational task, they must light Chanuka lights in the Shule. Yet, one could have 5000 people with no Halachically congregational requirement to light Chanuka lights because they aren’t a צבור halachically, because they are not involved in a Tzibbur mandated affair.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not arguing against lighting Chanuka candles in public places. I’m simply repeating the precise halachic categorisation of these acts, as per the words of the Rav and his father.

There are other explanations, including the need to have Chanuka at home with food, and at Shule it’s only for those who don’t know how to perform at home. I’m not going there.


With this type of malaise, no wonder American assimilation is at 70% amongst non Orthodox

There are lots I don’t understand. One of the things I could never understand was the Jewish connection to Chanukah by those who otherwise have diminishing Judaism in their lives. The answer isn’t the massive Chanukah Menorah’s put up by Chabad, but they certainly are needed and help enormously. The assimilated Jew has his Pintele Yid, his Jewish Soul, so overcome by the goings on in a multicultural or Xtian dominated society, that they make the same types of rationalisations that they do with their diminishing Jewish identity. Let’s be clear. Identifying with Israel, which was such a positive force post holocaust, won’t wash with our tree-hugging, tikkun olam, social justice types. We now have the abhorrent New Israel Fund which is a direct outcome of this type of feeling. They hold onto the hope of a “two state solution” when one side (Abbas and Co) will simply never recognise Israel as a Jewish State, a home for Jews.

That being said, we must hang on and enhance those elements of truth, which emanate from the truly Jewish soul, and provide meaningful alternatives to counteract the cultural pressure so many seem to feel.

I was rather radical. For over 20 years, when they put up all the Xmas decorations in our University Department office, I refused to step in. I didn’t feel comfortable. I didn’t feel comfortable because they were Xtian symbols, but I felt uncomfortable that the money funding these things were the public purse, and that other days, from other religions weren’t able to acquire equal opportunity.

If someone wants to have a picture of Yoshke or a cross next to their desk, that’s none of my business. I avert my eyes and concentrate on the reason I came to speak with them.

Do we really believe that Chanukah means what it does to the almost assimilated? The miracle of Chanukah is debated among our Rabbis, and there are places where the WAR is the main miracle. There is even conjecture whether they lit Chanukah candles after Chanukah for some time, and whether that was a later custom which became incumbent on us all.

Ironically, Chanukah represents the triumph of those who want to INFILTRATE our culture (perhaps without intention these days unless they are missionaries). Can you imagine if Chanukah didn’t involve lights? It’s almost as if the almost assimilated, are relieved that they can find some link between the pagan Xmas tree lights and their religion, and luckily for them it turns out around the same time.

Nothing is by coincidence. Chanukah represents the challenge of not letting go of what gives us our own identity. Yet, like many challenges God gives us, he dresses them with an outer shell, and if we want to we can break that shell, and find the Jewish element, which represents the truth, as aligned with our heritage.

It took years of quiet diplomatic action, when I used to wish people a happy holiday break, or joked they shouldn’t eat too much at their parties, that they eventually realised I wasn’t joining them in their Pagan-cum-Xtian festival.

I greatly appreciate it when someone recognises this now, and doesn’t say “Merry Xmas”, and engages their brain. I notice that Muslims are less touchy are about this because they consider Yoshke some prophet (but of course lower than Mohammed) so they don’t have a problem saying that (at least in Melbourne). In Egypt, of course the Coptic Xtians are persecuted mercilessly and the world just stands by, as they do to Syrian atrocities. We live in a world of lies and fake feel good emotions.

One can feel good, and even better, simply by being a Mentch, and not being offensive, but religiously embracing Chanukah and Chanukah only.

Does anyone thing that those don’t South in the USA would even remotely contemplate adding Chanukah to their Xmas. Forget it. It is only the Schmaltz belts where people have compromised their values and heritage and succumbed to the gods of Mamon and Acceptability, that such morals outrageous posts, from the Times of Israel, even get published. By publishing this, I struggle with understanding what they achieve. Do they tell us a new reality or perhaps would they be better off encouraging Xtian friends to come to a latke and Ponchke night with candle lighting, but with ABSOLUTELY no hint of capitulation to either religious or capitalist opportunism afforded by the “necessary gifts” and the stress these seem to cause people.

Read the blog post below. Am I over reacting?

Imagine running an education evening entitled “the intersection between Chanukah and Xmas is that your kids are less likely to be Jewish” and having that run by Rabbinic orators and educationists of standing. I’d rather see articles from fellow bloggers like Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo on these topics then some of the more esoteric ones he chooses.

This isn’t a case of mixing solid מין במינו … this is a דבר המעביד within two different מינים and is Treyf, לכל הדעות.

Oh, and PLEASE don’t forget, we give Chanuka Gelt and not presents.

As to “Sylvester” and “New Years Eve”, are we meant to celebrate two days because of Sfeka DeYoma? Yuck.

They say in the name of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, that a little light dispels darkness. I heard Mori V’Rabbi say that this is true, but often you need lots of light to get rid of the rampant thick darkness, and you can’t see to far ahead with minimal light. So to all wishing to reveal the light of the Neshoma, I wish you only success.

I will do my part at this year’s Chanukah celebration with my band Schnapps, as I have for many years. Everyone should try to be at the annual big celebration, sans any reference to Pagan rituals.

PS. We do not say Chag Sameach on Purim or Chanukah. We only say that when there was a Korban Musaf. Try Freilichen Purim, or Purim Sameach, or Chanuka Sameach or some other phrase.

I celebrate Hanukkah, but I love Christmas
Dilute that most wonderful time of the year into a Jewish minor holiday? No thanks, he’d rather enjoy the real thing

I grew up in suburban Chicago surrounded by my fellow Jews — at school, at camp, on the weekends, at my parents’ friends’ houses, in the streets and parks of my neighborhood.

Even then, I knew that Jews made up less than 2 percent of America’s population — but in my childhood world, we were the 99%. If you had stopped 11-year-old me on the street and asked, I could have recited lengthy Hebrew prayers by heart, or told you about the codifying of Jewish law in 200 CE. But when it came to Christianity, I had a basic idea of what Easter was, and could probably have provided a brief bio of Jesus, culled mostly from popular culture. That was about it.

Until December rolled around, that is. Christmas was inescapable — and I loved it. I still do.

Christmas is everywhere. It’s at the malls, in the candy aisle of the grocery store, on the radio and TV, and in the movie theater. And I get how it can all be overwhelming. I understand how it’s a bit much for people to be bombarded starting from Thanksgiving — make that Halloween — with carols and candy canes and Santa and reindeer and manger scenes and ornaments and mistletoe and trees. And I know that for lots of people, it’s bit much how everything is red and green, especially if it’s not even your holiday. Plus — on an intellectual level, at least — I object to the commercialism, the conspicuous consumption and the tackiness of it all.

But if I’m being honest: I love the tackiness. I love the manufactured happiness. I love feeling snow on my shoulders, walking into a heated cafe, sipping hot cider and hearing a Christmas song — probably written by a Jewish composer — on the speakers. I love the contrast between the terrible weather and the enveloping cheer, however artificial it is. I love being able to enjoy the Christmas spirit without having to worry about how it affects the way I celebrate Christmas.

Because I don’t celebrate Christmas. See, we Jews have our own winter festival — it’s called Hanukkah.

Don’t get me wrong: I like Hanukkah. But in America, it’s kind of weak sauce. If Christmas is a thick, juicy hamburger on a sesame bun, American Jews have tried to make Hanukkah into a black-bean burger — something that’s perfectly edible but, really, nothing like the real deal. Hanukkah, like black beans, would be fine as its own separate thing. But instead we’ve flattened it into a cheap imitation of something else.

I’m Jewish, so of course I celebrate Hanukkah. I’m down with the story, the victory of the weak over the strong, the faith fulfilled when a small flask of oil lasted eight days. I’ve even nerded out over the two alternate Hebrew spellings of “Maccabee” and how they correspond to today’s religious-secular divide in Israel.

But I’ve never liked how American Hanukkah in certain ways becomes a diluted, Jewish version of Christmas. So the Christians give presents for Christmas? Sure, we’ll give Hanukkah presents, too. They have tinsel? Sure, we’ll have tinsel, too. They have holiday sweaters? Sure, we’ll have those, too.

Just as I can enjoy the Christmas spirit because I don’t feel personally invested in the holiday, I feel disappointed in Hanukkah precisely because I am invested in it. And in any case, Hanukkah is a minor holiday. I don’t begrudge its significance for anyone, but in Jewish tradition, it’s treated as less important than Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, and a couple others.

That’s why in Israel, where I lived for five years, Hanukkah is certainly celebrated, but doesn’t receive top billing. There are decorations, menorahs in the windows and sufganiyot — doughnuts filled with jelly or cream — on bakery shelves. Kids get a few days off to sing and play. Giving Hanukkah presents isn’t really a thing there.

Contrast that with the season that runs from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkot and Simchat Torah, a series of festivals and holidays that ended several weeks ago. In Israel, before Rosh Hashanah, supermarkets are stocked with apples, honey and pomegranates, and temporary stands sell greeting cards on the sidewalks. On Yom Kippur, the streets and shops are all closed. Religious people wear white and gravitate en masse to synagogue, while those who aren’t fasting crowd the empty streets with bikes. On Sukkot, there are temporary huts seemingly everywhere, from people’s porches to public squares.

For close to a month, little business gets done. Need to schedule a meeting or start a work project? “After the holidays” is the common refrain. The Jewish holidays there are celebrated on their own merits, not judged against the overwhelming dominance of another religion’s season.

So spare me your Chrismukkah and your Hanukkah bush, and let me culturally enjoy the most wonderful time of the year the way America clearly wants me to.

After all, if Bob Dylan can rock out to an album’s worth of Christmas music, so can I.

Guest post from R’ Meir Deutsch in response to my post on R’ Cardozo on Tisha B’Av

R Meir’s reactions to my original post (which is in italicised black) are in red. My reactions to R’ Meir are in blue

About your article concerning Tischa b’Av, here are some of my observations.
About your AL CHETs (“Who can” and “Who cannot”); you mention daily events at present, not Tisha B’Av ones. Maybe we should read it on Yom Ha’Atzmaut or on its eve, Yom Ha’Zikaron to remind us that we were a nation before and take care at present that we remain one?

These are just my thoughts.

I see all terrible things, whether remembered or not remembered encapsulated in the overarching Galus. Galus, is of course not just a geographical location. It certainly includes geographic considerations which are reflected by more than 200 Mitzvos which only apply, many Rabbinically at the moment, only in our Holy Land. I stress our Holy Land because it remains Holy to this day according to Halacha. However, even with the Second Beis Hamikdosh, while some Jews lived in the Diaspora (something I find difficult to comprehend) and others actually defiled it in horrible ways that are beyond belief (as described in the Medrash), my personal feeling has always been that whilst steps are taken, miracles happen, and renaissance occurs, all of that is secondary to the eschatological final redemption. On Tisha B’Av, bdavka, I can’t help but think that גלינו מארצינו has both aspects, and is a sad reality. It is one day of mourning, akin to Shiva, where we remember עטרת ראשינו which is not perched in its proper place. And while we have דומה דודי כצבי and are sometimes seemingly teased in directions of euphoria, we then find ourselves, yes even the second-rate ones like me sitting in Australia, depressed about the state of our existence. It extends through the trio: תורת ישראל, עם ישראל and ארץ ישראל all of which portray levels of Galut which should not make it sensible to join our fellow Jews, and recite Eicha together, in a low light, and mournful tone. The qualitative aspect cannot be seen to be ideal today, and just like one doesn’t read Bereishis literally, someone of the stature of Rabbi Cardozo, would surely be able to see between lines, and interpret poetically and midrashically, without the feelings of (not a quote) “what am I doing in Shule with everyone saying Eicha, let me say it alone at home, as it’s challenging to swallow”

I read with incredulity the continuing slide to the left

What do you mean by that? .ימין ושמאל תפרוצי. What is meant by left. by respected people, such as Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo

Rabbi Dr Cardozo is a thinker. This is a hallmark of those with intellect. At the same time intellect may preclude a level of Bittul. I don’t have his intellect, but I’m often accused of not being able to exhibit Bittul. Indeed, this week’s parsha includes a wonderful vort from Rav Soloveitchik which sums up this concept. I wrote it for another forum and will put it up before Shabbos. It tends to be those who are more inclined to mould judaism into new trends, that I refer to as the left. Open Orthodoxy and Partnership Minyanim, and things of that nature (as opposed to Yoatzot Halacha) are the types of things which I call “left” wing. Rabbi Benny Lau is another who I see sometimes express himself this way. I don’t see Rabonim who live in this world and are not cloistered in an attic, like Mori V’Rabbi Rav Hershel Schachter, as ‘right wing fundamentalists’. He is at YU and heads Psak at the OU, and in all my correspondence with him, I have found him to be as straight as an arrow, and moderate, maintaining the strong Menorah base transmitted to him from Rav Soloveitchik. One thing he isn’t, is a philosopher.

Who can not find a day to be sad when a Jew from Jerusalem is called up to the Torah and is asked “what is your name”, and they answer “Chaim”. And after being asked “Ben?” they say “Ben Esrim V’shmoneh”? It’s not funny.

On the other hand, a relative of mine was called up in the diaspora. He said his name: Ra’anan Lior ben Avraham, the Gabai said: not your secular name, your Hebrew name.

I find that just as sad. It’s not a contest. It’s a reflection of the poor quality of Jewish Education that the Mapai have managed to infuse into Israeli society and which the religious zionists ignored for too long while they were perhaps over focussed on outposts at the expense of spreading good Jewish education in Tel Aviv etc

I am not sure how Rabbi Cardozo qualitatively defines the Messianic era, but it seems to me, if he enunciated that, he’d have no issue, on the saddest day of the year, to join in the Shiva, that we all take part in. Don’t we eat meat and drink wine during the Shiva? On Yahrzeit we have a Kiddush (not our minhag). It is true, that our Rabbis also promised us that this will be transformed to a day of Yom Tov. We still do not have a Temple, but we have a Yerushalayim. Is it the time to transform it to a Yom Tov?

We changed the “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim” to “l’Shana ha’Ba’a Bi’Yrushalayim HABNUYA” the addition is for the Temple – we already are in Yerushalayim.

I feel this is syntactic and in fact supports my comments and not opposes them. Halachically, it is true, that there are ramifications being in Yerushalayim: for example Korban Pesach.

Rabbi Cardozo, surely you aren’t suggesting you see the Yom Tov, but are blind to the myriad of reasons to be sad?

I attend Yom Hashoa out of solidarity, but my real Yom Hashoa tacks onto Tisha B’Av. Each one with his own feelings and customs.

I ask myself: Why would G-d destroy HIS home? It was a place where the Jews worshiped G-d, and not a home of his people. I do not know G-d’s intentions, but shall try my understandings or reasoning. Can one imagine anyone bringing today sacrifices? How would Judaism look if they did? Can it be that G-d’s intention was to stop those sacrifices, and the best way was to destroy the building? ונשלמה פרים שפתינו.

These are questions beyond our human understanding. The Rambam who to my knowledge is the only one who codifies the Halachos of Beis Habechirah and the times of the Mashiach, is certainly not suggesting that there won’t be sacrifices. I know there are those who interpret Rav Kook as implying there may be Korbanos Mincha. At the end of the day, as the Rambam notes, we lack a certain Mesora for these times, because they were hidden from us, and could not have been passed down. He says explicitly words that “all these details we will truly properly know at the time when they happen”

About Yom Hashoa: I was interviewed by GINZACH KIDUSH HASHEM (the Charedi Yad Vashem), and asked: how can you explain the Shoah? My reply was:

We have quite a limited view of the world and its future, as against G-d who has a wider one. At the destruction of the Temple, the Jews were driven out of their city Jerusalem, many were killed others dispersed among the Nations, and many were sold to slavery. They did not enjoy those days, they suffered quite a bit. They probably said Kinot. But G-d had a wider view; my children are going to dwell all over the globe, learn different trades and cultures. Had we stayed in our country, with the Temple, I (or probably also you) would surely dwell in my tent in the Negev as a shepherd looking after my flock – just like a Bedouin. The same with the holocaust, I can still not see the whole picture, but one is that the Jews, after the terrible holocaust, are again a NATION with their own country. Would the world grant us a piece of land if there was no holocaust? Would the Jews come to Eretz Yisrael, the land of desert and camels? Maybe it isn’t yet a full Geula, but surely a beginning. Why did we need six million sacrifices? Would not one million or fewer be enough? Please do not put this question to me. I am not G-d’s accountant.

By the way, in one of the Agudat Yisrael Knesiot (5679 Zurich) there was a discussion whether Jews are a Mosaic sect or a Nation! Because of such a question my father in law, and other German Rabbis left Agudat Yisrael. I thought that Yetziat Mitzraim was our transformation from a nomadic tribe into a Nation. Was I wrong?

I’m a second generation holocaust generation, but feel it acutely, likely due to the fact that for most of my life, I was surrounded only by holocaust survivors, who would challenge my religiosity, even when I was 10 years of age and ask me questions that I could not and dared not answer. It is certainly the case that history would record that an outcome of the holocaust was the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland. These are happenings that I don’t understand either. Do I have to pay 6 million lives to acquire something that we have already been promised? Did God not have other more gentle ways to somehow not interfere and yet interfere in the ways of the world so we would have the same outcome? Why didn’t he send Eliyahu down before the final solution and say ENOUGH. ושבו בנים לגבולם. I don’t know and I don’t believe anyone knows, despite the Satmar and other rhetoric. Indeed, on Tisha B’Av, as we sit on the eve of the full redemption, we can only sit exasperated while more human korbanos occur, and anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism, and Tisha B’Av encompasses all that.

Sure, on Yom Ha’atzmaut and on Yom Yerushalayim, when I was a student in Israel, I celebrated. I went to Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav, and euphorically danced all the way to the Kosel, and for the entire night danced until we davened Vatikin. We know how important it is to sing and give praise. Chizkiyahu Hamelech would have been Mashiach if he had sung, as openly stated by the Gemora in Sanhedrin (from memory).

I just expressed my humble thoughts.

And I thank you so much for sharing them. I heard second-hand, that Rabbi Cardozo felt I had not understood his points. That maybe so. As it is the Yohr Tzeit of the famed R’ Chaim Brisker now, I’d like to express that his Neshomo should have an Aliya. He revolutionised Torah learning.

Post Tisha B’Av thoughts reacting to Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo

I read with incredulity the continuing slide to the left by respected people, such as Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopez Cardozo, in his incredulous blog post on Tisha B’Av, where he finds it difficult to mourn because Jerusalem is in a state of such glory. I won’t go through it, piece by piece, and rebut each of his arguments. I will note that Rav Goren, whilst not sliding to the left attempted to make changes to the prayer of Nachem, especially after Jerusalem was perceived as being as united.

I had no difficulty seeing the many areas in our Jewish experience that warrant a sombre, halachically mourning-oriented, day.

It is true, that I’m not poetically inclined, and the piyutim of Kinos are mostly unfathomable to me, despite the Rav Soloveitchik publication on Kinos. Perhaps if I’d spent ten years listening to the Rav on Kinos, during his marathon expositions, I’d develop a keen sense. Instead, I see those who need to go to work, rushing through, saying words they often don’t understand, and skipping around.

In the days of my youth, I saw old Chabad Chassidim sit until mid-day and longer and say each word carefully. The Aveylus/mourning of Tisha B’Av was palpable. I will never forget Rav Betzalel Wilshansky, a Chasid of the Rashab, unable to say more than three or four words of the Haftora without breaking out into uncontrollable weeping. Sure, he would have lived through the hell of Russian Jewish existence, but I have no doubt that his thoughts transcended that experience.

We are taught to be positive at all times. It’s good for the psyche, “good” for bringing up children, and is the modern mantra. When taken to the extreme, though, it is nothing more than another level of extremism, removed from reality. One must call ‘a spade a spade’ at times, and although we need to choose our moments carefully, and be cognisant of the differences of each child, and the new environment of social networking and internet and will be part of their lives, we must stay an anchor as parents and educators in ensuring the transmission of the Mesora from generation to generation. I believe the role of a parent and educator is arguably harder today than it has been. The information explosion, creates so many poorly researched and badly argued propositions. The Neshama is clouded by these manifestations. People try to now reach the Neshama, and break through to reach it, using new devices. They resort to different approaches: including neo-hippy style religion, as manifested through indie/rap/alternative modes of music. They resort to mindfulness, when they actually practice mindlessness–an evacuation of the cerebral and emotional trials and tribulations that need to be dealt with, each according to their particularised approach.

The home has become not so much a bastion of home cooking, and family get togethers for important events. People seek to eat out. They want to taste the koshered delicacies that they believe they have missed, and will fill their lives with more meaningful experience. Do I really need Facon, or Ben Pekuah farms?

How many of us sit down once a week, and learn Torah with our children, even after they are married. Technology allows us to do that by FaceTime, Skype or other means. Why not? What is the method of galvanising the chains of Mesora between us and our offspring.

Which brings me to Yerusholayim Ir HaKodesh. I do not want to fall into the pitfall of the spies and speak badly about the city. It is THE city in Israel where I feel a certain spiritual energy rising from the soles of my feet and encompassing my body. At the same time it is racked with so many problems. There are issues of violent fundamentalists. There are issues of a sad divide between Religious and Secular; the latter caused by the paucity of genuine love of a fellow jew. Love arises when commonality is seen clearly despite difference. If one is unable to break through and sense the Neshoma of the secular Jew and love that person because they share that self-same Neshoma with themselves, then they are blinded. They are not blinded by the light. They are blinded by the darkness.

I do not think anyone who transgresses should be made to feel unwelcome, today. There are very few old-fashioned Apikorsim, people who actually know enough to be called an Apikorus. At the same time, who can be comfortable with the concept of PRIDE (as opposed to respect for difference) that is visible with public sexual overtones?

Who can not find a day to be sad because Holocaust survivors who live in the State, are still not treated well?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the fake historiographers attempt to whitewash the essential Jewish Connection to the Har Habayis?

Who can not find a day to be sad when adding a Kinna to remember the horrors of the Holocaust?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the things that unite different religious groups, despite being greater than the things that divide, do not conquer?

Who can not find a day to be sad when Jerusalem, “The Light of the World”, is not seen that way by the world at large?

Who can not find a day to be sad when a Jew from Jerusalem is called up to the Torah and is asked “what is your name”, and they answer “Chaim”. And after being asked “Ben?” they say “Ben Esrim V’shmoneh”? It’s not funny.

Who can not find a day to be sad when those Jews who have some Rabbinic permission to walk at certain parts of the Temple Mount may not, according to law, even project a semblance of prayer!

Who can not find a day to be sad when reading the story of Kamtza and Bat Kamtza and realising that these things continue to go on today through so-called neutral Jewish NGOs? Do we need to unmask Bernie Sanders?

Who can not find a day to be sad when we see a George Soros or a New Israel Fund, that seeks to force an unrealistic solution with no second partner?

Who can not find a day to be sad when the new word for Anti Semite, is Anti Zionist? They are Anti Har Habayis, and our so-called peace partners in Jordan blame us for incitement when this is palpably a blatant lie

Who can not find a day to be sad, knowing that in the last year, incidents involving stabbings, especially in Jerusalem were an almost daily occurrence, and of course, the world blames the Jewish “Zionists” for their defence against such?

Who can’t see the rupture being created by Open Orthodoxy, as it morphs into the new Conservative movement?

Who can’t see that isms, such as Feminism, are used to tortuously twist Halacha, rather than the other way around?

Who can not find meaning in Eicha, and Medrash Eicha that doesn’t reflect on all the above and more? Why sit at home? Is this a protest against the prescribed Mesora of the Availus of Tisha B’Av, which parallels the Availus of Shiva?

Who can not find reason to be sad that when someone passes away, we increasingly follow the non-Jewish practice of “celebrating!” their life. The Rabbis decreed there was a time for introspectional mourning. Shiva suddenly becomes one day. In Australia, they like to get drunk after a funeral as if to wash away the sorrow. There is a time to reflect. It is cathartic. One goes to the Shiva house. One does not stay at home. For the first three days one doesn’t speak first. We wait for the mourner to speak IF they feel like it. The celebration of their life isn’t a one time event. Following the year, it is a daily remembrance of tears interlaced with good stories and lessons, through the prism of the life history of the departed.

I admit, it is hard to imagine what life will FEEL like once the Messianic era does formally occur. It has not. The sheep does not sleep near the wolf in peace. The world is a terrified enclosure, and civilians are being slaughtered everywhere “all in the name of religion”.

I am not sure how Rabbi Cardozo qualitatively defines the Messianic era, but it seems to me, if he enunciated that, he’d have no issue, on the saddest day of the year, to join in the Shiva, that we all take part in. It is true, that our Rabbis also promised us that this will be transformed to a day of Yom Tov.

Rabbi Cardozo, surely you aren’t suggesting you see the Yom Tov, but are blind to the myriad of reasons to be sad?

I attend Yom Hashoa out of solidarity, but my real Yom Hashoa tacks onto Tisha B’Av.

I look forward to the full and real redemption: each day: so should Rabbi Cardozo.

Happy Lag L’aomer, or Lag B’aomer?

I seem to have unanswered questions on the 33rd day of the Omer. The Gemora in Yevamos tells us that on this day the Talmidim of Rabbi Akiva ceased to die. I haven’t yet understood why that should be a happy day. Why? Well, if they started dying again the next day (assuming the Ashkenazi tradition) then who would be “happy” that there was a day of remission to the extent that it has morphed to. Note: this is, to my knowledge, the only source in Torah Sh’Baal Peh (Gemora) describing this day. Someone sent me a page of the Chidushei Agados of the Maharal on this Gemora. I have it at home, but can’t recall ever looking that up. The Maharal has a really nice explanation. He says that on this day the decree was lifted. Yes, it’s true that those for whom the decree had already been decided continued dying until presumably Shavuos, but I still had problems with this answer. Firstly, assuming that it is the reason, I would have thought that it would have been really hard to “get happy” knowing people would continue dying? Secondly, all but a handful died. It was a potential disaster for Torah She’Baal Peh.

Tradition has it amongst some that this is also the Yohr Tzeit/Hillula of the Rashbi. The Rashbi, is considered to be the author of the Zohar (or if you follow some views, most of the Zohar, but let’s not go there). The Zohar is Toras HaNistar, the hidden Torah, or perhaps the more esoteric metaphysically modelled face of Torah. The Zohar wasn’t and isn’t anathema to Misnagdim or Litvaks (most), but is of course anathema to the DarDaim (of which Rav Yosef Kapach was prominent) who believe to this day that it’s not part of Torah. Either way, the issue of it being associated with Toras HaNistar is agreed, and yet, the Ari Zal, for example, never wrote that on this day Rashbi passed away.

The Aruch Hashulchan and others note that this is the day that the Rashbi emerged from the Cave he had been hidden in for 13 years. That was a day of Simcha because with his emergence, so did the emergence of the Zohar, and the continuation of the chain of Torah SheBaal Peh.

Even assuming it wasn’t his Yohr Tzeit, I understand happiness at his emergence. (The Chasam Sofer mentions that on this day the Manna in the desert started to fall). I also understand that being morose for long periods without a break isn’t the best thing, especially today where the importance of positive thinking and talking is stressed even by secular psychologists. The glass is always “Half Full”. I’m not getting into that topic because like anything, if one over-does this approach in educating their children, I feel it shields them from reality, although I do accept that it should be, especially today, the de jure approach to education.

The Eidot HaMizrach have a different understanding. Yes, according to that Gemora in Yevamos 62B, the students stopped to die. They therefore cut off all Sefira mourning on midday of the next day (although this year being Erev Shabbos is likely more lenient — note, I’m writing this blog without looking things up, which is a bad thing, so remember that! Do your own checking up on what I claim 🙂 That approach makes sense to me, and always did. It’s also not as if the Beis Yosef as a father of Eidot HaMizrach wasn’t a Mekubal. He definitely was. Whether the Rambam was is an issue of contention. I have a book by Professor Menachem Kellner on this general topic, and I know (but haven’t seen) that the Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote a piece proving that the Rambam had access to the Zohar. Again, I digress.

Another question is why we don’t call it Lag Laomer, consonant with the way we count every night. A Rav pointed to a letter from the Lubavitcher Rebbe where he says that we say Lag Baomer is because the numerical value of Lag Baomer is the same as Moshe, and just as Moshe Rabennu revealed the Torah Shebiksav, and Torah Shebaal Peh (Halocho LeMoshe MiSinai) the Rashbi was permitted to reveal the secrets of the Zohar, and the Rashbi was a spark (Nitzutz) of Moshe Rabennu, if you will.

Artists rendering of the Remo

In Shiur today, I made another observation. Tonight, Lag BaOmer, is the Yohr Tzeit of the great Remoh (רמ’’א) who is known to have written 33 Seforim (but it is contentious that he died at the age of 33 as well). The Remoh’s name was MOSHE and he was the greatest Posek Rishon for Ashkenazi Jewry through his glosses on the Tur in Darkei Moshe, but more importantly his glosses on the Shulchan Aruch proper, adding the Ashkenazi view where he disagreed with Rav Yosef Karo. Nu, I suggested that his name was Moshe, and it is fitting that also in PSAK, that perhaps a Nitzutz of Moshe who had the same name, passed on high on this day.

My father ע’’ה in the Remoh's Kloiz in Kracow
My father ע’’ה in the Remoh’s Kloiz in Kracow

Food for thought. Happy for anyone to shred what I have written to ribbons as I have not opened a few Seforim which might help me and make this a better post.

If you haven’t noticed. These are Pitputim. No more.

Rabbi Dr Nathan Lopes-Cardozo on the Hagodo

I’m amazed at Dr Cardozo’s  latest piece. You can read it. I found it facile. I will summarise my reaction

  1. We are the people of the book. It is called the Torah. It can’t be “read” away. It is immutable.
  2. There purposely has always been an oral component, handed down at Sinai. We don’t need Plato for the insight of reading and understanding.
  3. The text is called HAGODO which means “telling/saying”. In other words, the point is dialogue. The text is the starting point. Not having a locus to commence from leads to the neo style evenings which turn Pesach into yet another commemoration of the Holocaust, something Rav Soloveitchik railed against vociferously. The left will of course humanise the story of Jews and turn it into “the evening of social justice” where we commemorate Darfur, Slavery, and what have you. Sorry. This is about Yetzias Mitzrayim which is indelibly woven both rationally and Kabbalistically  with Matan Torah. Matan Torah is what it’s all about. The former, Pesach, is the journey.
  4. Reading doesn’t require verbalising. The Hagodo does as he notes, but doesn’t amplify
  5. Rebbi Yehuda Hanosi wasn’t concerned with pharmakon! He was concerned that the oral discussions not be lost. Learning Gemora is the quintessential exercise in trying to piece together any contradictory mesoras that were transmitted
  6. I’m not at all clear what Dr Cardozo’s message means in the context of an audience that doesn’t understand the basics of what was written, and to expand that into dialogue. As I alluded to above, this is not ab nihilo. The Baal Hagodo gave us a starting point. If one isn’t even at the level of the starting point, then the starting point becomes exactly what should be taught this year, so that new insights are introduced in the following year. The beginning is most definitely reading and more reading and more reading. We most definitely do start from a point. It is called Mesora.

So much for Plato


Shimon Peres (Perski) and his Purim advice to Belgium’s Prime Minister

[Hat tip to a magyar gyártó a paplant és a korábbi elnök]

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
My heartfelt sympathies to you and the Belgian people for the acts of protest carried out in Brussels this week. This really is a wake-up call for us all.
You and I must really speak about how to deal with the atrocities and protests, including the attacks on Brussels, by these misunderstood activists.
Mister Prime Minister, I have a great deal of experience in dealing successfully with terrorism and this is why I wish to come to your assistance.
The first thing you must realize is that one can only make peace with one’s enemies. With one’s friends there is no need to make peace. There is no military solution to the problems of terrorism, and this is why you must seek a diplomatic solution. “No Justice, No Peace,” as they say.
You must invite the leaders of this activist organization to the Belgian Parliament and perhaps tour the EU district. You must learn to feel their pain and understand their needs. You must offer to turn parts of Flanders over to them so that stateless Muslims can have their own state. I have no doubt the Muslim world will applaud your efforts.
You must meet the demands of the protesters in full. In addition, you must offer them Internet services and five-star tourist hotels in exchange for their promising to abandon violence. After all, that is how we in Israel, under my leadership, turned Yasir Arafat into a peace partner!
You see, military force serves no role any more. It is passé. It is archaic. Today, economic interests dominate the world and the Islamist activists of the earth will surely make peace in exchange for some profits from participating in global trade.
The fact is, you have been insufficiently sensitive in understanding the needs of Muslims. You took fundamentalist rhetoric at face value, whereas we in Israel know all this talk is empty and these people simply want peace.
Sure, Muslim fundamentalists praise Hitler and celebrate atrocities, but what is it that they REALLY want? How about sitting down with them in an effort to understand them?
You have been trying to rule over others and failed to be sensitive to their needs and aspirations. You must put your own house in order and eliminate inequality and injustice inside Wallonia, and then the terrorists will no longer target you.
The key is to build a new order in which everyone is so busy with important matters like developing tourism and making investments in high technology that they simply have no time to pursue violence.
Moreover, if you strike at the perpetrators of terrorist attacks, you will simply extend and enlarge the cycle of violence. Your bombs will no doubt injure some innocent children and civilians alongside any terrorist activists you strike, and that will simply enrage the rest of the world and lead the victims to seek revenge.
And if you refuse to negotiate with them, their leaders will be toppled and really violent fanatics will take their place. In that case, you will have lost the window of opportunity to make peace. Begin by declaring a unilateral ceasefire!
Mister Prime Minister, blessed is the peacemaker. All we are saying is give peace a chance. You will be cheered and awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of your statesmanship. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into the gutter of violence. Violence never achieves anything. History is no lesson. History is the dead past. End the cycle of violence. Show restraint. Forgo the juvenile impulse to avenge.
Mister Prime Minister, the proof is in the pudding. My own peace policies have eliminated war and bloodshed and terror from the Middle East. We no longer have terrorists to deal with in the Levant, only potential peace partners. If you follow in my footsteps, you can achieve the same lofty results.
Peacefully yours,

Shimon Peres

Purim Pilpul

[Guest post from MD (c) lightly edited by me]

פורים                                    © מאיר דויטש

Here are just some of my thoughts which I am sharing with you.

It is Purim

It came to pass in the days of Achashverosh, who is Achashverosh…?

It is clear that he is Achashverosh, why does the Megila have to certify it?

Is it to point out that he is the one reigning from Hodu to Kush, and not the Ahasverosh mentioned in the book of Daniel (9,   1) who ? reigned only over Paras and Maday?

Why do we read   “וכלים מכלים שונים” in the melody of Eicha?

The Temple’s utensils were taken to Babylon, not Persia. Yes, I know that Persia conquered Babylon and the utensils (see:Ezra were with Koresh, but he returned them. Can we see a hint in the Rashi (Esther 1, 7) who says there:   שונים – משונים זה מזה וכן ודתיהם שונות, ורבותינו דרשו מה שדרשו.   Rashi has his own opinion, but says that not all accept it. He does it again also at Esther ch.2 5 & 9

“מרדכי בן יאיר בן שמעי בן קיש … אשר הוגלה עם הגולה ”

Who was carried away to exile? Was it Mordechai or Kish? From the exile till the reign of Achashverosh we have about 110 years, therefore we can assume that it was Kish who was exiled from Judea. If it wasn’t Mordechai, than the story in Megila (13b) is surprising.

The story there is

“אמר רבי יוחנן: בגתן ותרש שני תרסיים הוו, והיו מספרין בלשון תרסי ואומרים: מיום שבאת זו לא ראינו שינה בעינינו, בא ונטיל ארס בספל כדי שימות. והן לא היו יודעין כי מרדכי מיושבי לשכת הגזית היה והיה יודע שבעים לשון. אמר לו: והלוא אין משמרתי ומשמרתך שוה? אמר לו: אני אשמור משמרתי ומשמרתך. והיינו דכתיב “ויבקש הדבר וימצא” שלא נמצאו במשמרתן” (מגילה יג ע”ב). זה לשון הגמרא (ראה גם אבן עזרא האומר: “ויש אומרים כי הוא היה מסנהדרין” – אבן עזרא עצמו אינו אומר כי מרדכי היה מהסנהדרין אבל מצטט דעות אחרים שחושבים שהיה). השאלה היא: אם סבא רבה של מרדכי הוגלה מיהודה, הכיצד יכול להיות שמרדכי עצמו היה מיושבי לשכת הגזית?

Was Mordechai ever in Jerusalem?

Did he go with Zerubavel from Persia to Jerusalem?

Was he the Mordechai Balshan mentioned in the book of Ezra?

While in Jerusalem did he join the judges of the Sanhedrin and learn the 70 languages?

Did he return from Jerusalem to Shushan?

Why would a member of the Sanhedrin, just back home from exile, leave his post and return to Persia?

The Jewish historian,    Josephus Flavius) =   יוסף בן מתתיהו)  describes that incident as follows:

” […] קשרו בגתן ותיאודוסיטס קשר על המלך. לברנבזוס, עבדו של אחד משני הסריסים האלה, יהודי לפי גזעו, נודעה המזימה והוא הגידה לדודה של אשת המלך, ומרדכי גילה את הקושרים למלך על ידי אסתר” (קדמוניות היהודים – אברהם שליט – ספר אחד עשר ע’ 20).

What was the period in time from the sending by Haman of the declaration to dispose of the Jews to the time he was executed?

•On Nissan he cast the dice

•13 Nissan he dispatches the notices (SEFARIM)

•23 Sivan the King’s scribes are writing Mordechai’s notices

The total time is less than two months and ten days.

According to Even Ezra, Haman was taken to the gallows already in Nissan.

Why did Mordechai write to the Jews of the Empire that they have permission to kill their opponents on the 13th of Adar, nearly nine months later?

Didn’t he learn from Haman not to wait such a long time as things change

Let us take note. An order issued by the King cannot be changed, neither the ones distributed by Haman nor those by Mordechai. Now if the two decrees are in force, on 13th Adar the Persian can kill Jews – written by Haman. On the same day, 13th Adar the Jews can kill Persians – written by Mordechai Now, what happens on that day? Persians may kill Jews and Jews may kill Persians. What do the Jews do? They gather in groups to defend themselves and kill Persians and   “איש לא עמד בפניהם” ופחדם נפל על כל העמים”.

If Mordechai had chosen another day, the Jews would not be permitted on 13th Adar to fight back, and the Persians, who were allowed to kill Jews on that day, could do it without any opposition.

Now we have Haman’s 10 sons. If we look at Megilat Esther ch. 9, we see that ten sons were killed, by the King’s permission, on the 13th of Adar, together with the other Persians. If so, why did Esther ask the King the following day to have them hanged?

Did she want to display them to be displayed in public?

Nothing is written about Zeresh, therefore everyone can speculate.

In TARGUM RISHON on Megilat Esther it says

וזרש ברחה עם שבעים בנים שנשארו להמן, שהיו סובבים על השערים ומתפרנסים.

Seventy children!

So many children!

Were they all Zeresh’s?

Others think that:

She became a servant in Esther’s house;

She went to the gallows together with Haman;

She committed suicide by hanging herself.

L’Chayim! Let us drink AD DLO YADA.

Purim Sameach.


Don’t support Satmar ever

These chassidim occupy a religion which has many connections to orthodox judaism, but they are also the biggest group that causes problems. Purim wouldn’t have occurred if Mordechai was a Satmar Chosid or Esther was one of them. He would have been told to cower to the enemy and suck it it all up and Esther would have been hidden in a bunker. These people who base their religion on R’ Yoelish’s discredited V’Yoel Moshe continue to be a thorn in the side of Jewish continuity and unity. They are everywhere and their polemic is offensive and untimely. While rockets rain from Gaza this is what they say.

In Melbourne, they are in Adass Yisrael. Don’t forget it. On Yom Ha’atzmaut, their Rabbi commanded that they say Tachanun at a Bris!

When they come to collect “Peerim Gelt” ask who they are. If they are Satmar. Give them ten cents. Give your money to poor people in the community who don’t follow this perverted philosophy. Which philosophy? The one which gives strength to the enemy. They haven’t learned that sucking up to those who actually don’t like you, will never help in the long run. Read this from ynet, and tell me if it doesn’t annoy you as much as it does me (emphasis is mine).

I don’t know which permission Rabbi Teitelbaum used to visit Israel and then leave. It seems to me that this is patently against Jewish law. I know of no permission to do so because of a grandson’s bar mitzvah. Love to read his halachic defence. It’s all politics; not halacha.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a clue how many in Melbourne’s Adass community follow him versus his (beloved) brother Zalman, but they both share the same hate for the Jewish State and do enormous damage with their sharp unbridled tongues.

Rabbi Aharon Teitelbaum visits Israel and rails against settlers and ultra-Orthodox recruits who join the ID.
Kobi Nachshoni
Published: 03.11.16, 17:33 / Israel Jewish Scene
As terror attacks continue to strike Israel, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum said on Tuesday that “the real culprits are the settlers in Israel who agitate the nations of the world in the country and throughout the world, which causes serious hatred of Israel and the severe wave of attacks.”

Rabbi Teitelbaum, also known as the Satmar Rebbe, and his brother lead the world’s largest Hasidic movement, landed in Israel on Tuesday and spoke sharply to his followers, at his grandson’s bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. The city had which suffered a serious attack shortly before that, alongside two other attacks that night. “In recent months, the blood of Israel is spilling like water,” he said. “We cry every day for those dead and wounded. ”

The rabbi also addressed the growing numbers of ultra-Orthodox recruits in the IDF. “It is true that there is no coercion,” he said, “but via soft words there is an increase in recruits to the IDF, which is a source of evil , and especially when the young men are not as strong spirituality. What is new is that no one here screams out loud that there is a prohibition to enlist in the IDF, which is is a place of destruction.”

The anti-Zionist rabbi attacked in his speech all the ultra-Orthodox political parties that participate in state institutions, are partners in the government, and enjoy its budgets. “You are always hearing about what’s happening here in Israel, and especially the conscription law, there there are agreements with the government,” he said. “We will stand firm so that the yeshivas will not be destroyed. ”

“The agreements – there are some who say they are good, some say they are bad, and they need a lawyer to teach them, but the reality is that since that law there has been a rise in ultra-Orthodox recruits. One should know that the main sin in enlistment is
those who go there will not return (i.e. will become alienated from religion – KN).”

Letter from Lubavitcher Rebbe נ’ע to the Rav נ׳ע before Shavuos

(hat tip Sh)

The letter and beautiful explanation is Here

I don’t have time to translate it but the Rebbe wishes Rav Soloveitchik a good Yom Tov using the language of his father in law the Rayatz which included accepting the Torah happily. When he came to sign the letter he explained the word happily ie בשמחה

The difficulty is we are meant to be in fear. What does the emotion of happiness have here. Based on a Gemora in Brachos, Rishonim and the language of the Shulchan Aruch HoRav, it is explained that fear most certainly has its place during learning Torah, but at three other stages the emotion of happiness is appropriate. One of these is on Shavuous when we accept the Torah.

The Rav, the Rashag, the Rayatz, and the Ramash (the future and last Lubavitcher Rebbe)


Is it Kosher? Does that also mean is it moral?

It is interesting to note, that the word כשר (kosher) does not appear in the Torah per se. It appears in only one place in the Tanach, and surprisingly perhaps to many, it is in the book of Esther. That book itself was parenthetically one which was a matter of argument amongst the Rabbis in that some felt it should be included in the Canon whilst others did not. In the end, we know that the conclusion is that it was קדש holy, and Esther herself, as quoted, asked for it to be included by the Sanhedrin.

So, we have the single occurrence of the word in the story of Esther and Ahashverosh in her request to the latter that he consider her plea that Haman’s decree be annulled. In that context, she asked Ahashverosh whether her argument/plea was “kosher”.

It’s a striking observation because it centers around the concept of whether a plea/argument was (morally) proper = Kosher.

Today, and this is also certainly reflected by the Geonim, Rishonim and Acharonim, the use of the word Kosher is almost exclusively referred to food.

Perhaps we should revisit this term, especially in light of matters here and around the world, and apply the opposite word “Treyf” or “not Kosher” to matters of an amoral and/or Chillul Hashem causing, just as often?

I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I find it ironic? Kosher didn’t start from food but has somehow morphed to be only what we put in our mouths.

Poetry to my ears, a paunch to my boich

Remember, our parents and grandparents couldn’t have been wrong. Poskim always have trouble saying something is forbidden if Rishonim and Acharonim said it was ok.

Reverend Shimon Allen will of course tell me that there is nothing new in this.

Finally, I have some ammunition. (click on the link)

My father ע’’ה exulting in his yearly dose of Gribenes on Erev Pesach
My father ע’’ה. R’ Shaul Zelig HaCohen Balbin exulting in the yearly dose of Gribenes and liver and Kartofel on Erev Pesach

Guest post from R’ Meir Deutsch on Chanuka

What is Chanuka? This is the question in Mesechet Shabat. The question wants actually to give an answer to two customs; why are we celebrating eight days, and why are we lighting candles. The answer comes in a compact package – a can of oil sealed by the high priest.
Happy Chanuka.

מאיר דויטש © כל הזכויות שמורות

בתלמוד מוזכרים שני חגים שאינם מחגי התורה – פורים וחנוכה. בשניהם אנו אומרים “על הנסים”. כידוע, לפורים יש מסכת שלמה – מסכת מגילה, כמו כן מגילה שלמה שהיא מגילת אסתר, וכל זה על נס שקרה מחוץ לגבולות הארץ, בגולה. מה יש לנו לחנוכה? לא מגילה ולא מסכת. לכן אין זה מפליא שהגמרא צריכה לשאול “מאי חנוכה?”
על כך משיבה הגמרא במסכת שבת כא, ב: “בכ”ה בכסליו ימי חנוכה תמניא […] כשנכנסו יוונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל, וכשגברה מלכות בית חשמונאי ונצחום, בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול, ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד, נעשה נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים, לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה”. לפי התלמוד הנס הוא פך השמן. האם לפך שמן שבער שמונה ימים צריך לקבוע לדורות שמונה ימים טובים והלל והודאה? בתשובת התלמוד אין כל זכר לניצחונות על צבאות אדירים על ידי קומץ של חקלאים. אפילו כיבוש ירושלים ושחרורה אינו מוזכר. כמו כן אין אזכור לטיהור המקדש ובניית מזבח חדש. יש רק נס אחד – פך השמן.
על ההיסטוריה של אותה תקופה אנו למדים מספרי החשמונאים ומיוספוס, ואולי מעט מתפילת “על הנסים” שבה אנו אומרים: “מסרת רבים ביד מעטים […] וטיהרו את היכלך”, מעניין כי בתפילה זו לא מוזכר פך השמן. מדוע אין זכר לכל הדברים הללו בתלמוד? האין הניצחונות וטיהור המקדש נסים גדולים מפך השמן? יש האומרים כי דעתם של חז”ל לא הייתה נוחה מבית החשמונאים, שהמליכו את עצמם אף על פי שהיו משבט לוי ולא מבית דוד. טענה זו אינה עומדת מאחר שתפילת “על הנסים” משבחת את בית החשמונאים. אולי חכמינו לא ראו בניצחונות החשמונאים ובטיהור המקדש דבר גדול משום שבימיהם הארץ הייתה נתונה תחת שלטון זר, בית המקדש כבר לא היה קיים, והניצחונות איבדו את משמעותם. לתשובה זו מצאתי סימוכין. בהקדמה למגילת תענית כתב המקבץ: “הנה באתי במגילת תענית לקרות הנסים ונפלאות שנעשו לאבותינו שקבעום על ידם לעשות יו”ט באותן ימים”. חכמינו שאלו: “תנו רבנן: מי כתב מגילת תענית? אמרו: חנניה בן חזקיה וסיעתו, שהיו מחבבין את הצרות” (שבת יג, ב).
האין זה מפליא כי ספר המתאר נסים ונפלאות, לפי הגמרא, חיברו אותו “מחבבי הצרות”? כנראה שהזכרת הטובות של אז, אשר אינן קיימות היום, היא כעין “הזכרת צרות”, לפיכך קבעו חכמינו הלכתא: “בטילה מגילת תענית” (ראש השנה יח, ב), בכך ביטלו גם את “יום ניקנור” אותו יכולנו לחגוג יחד עם יתר הניצחונות של בית חשמונאים.
תשובת הגמרא לשאלת “מאי חנוכה” ופך השמן תמוהה. הרי המקדש כולו חולל והיה צריך לטהרו, אין מזבח ואין לחם הפנים, אבל גם אין מנורה כי היא נלקחה על ידי היוונים. בית חשמונאי בנה מנורה חדשה. בתחילה נעשתה משיפודים של ברזל מצופים בעץ, העשירו ועשאום מכסף, חזרו והעשירו עשאום מזהב (ראש השנה כד, ב; עבודה זרה מג, א; מנחות כח, ב.). הכול טמא! אם הדבר החשוב ביותר היה למצוא שמן טהור? מדוע אם כן, במקום לחכות לנס, לא החלו בייצור מעט שמן בירושלים עד שיוכלו להביאו מתקוע שבגליל? המהרש”א אמר כי לא יכלו לעשות זאת כי כולם היו טמאים. אם כך המקדש טמא, בוני מנורת השיפודים טמאים, מדליק המנורה טמא, ורק השמן במנורה טמאה הוא טהור!

בשאלת הגמרא “מאי חנוכה” נשאלות למעשה השאלות: מדוע חג של שמונה ימים ומדוע מדליקים נרות.

כאמור, ספרי החשמונאים מספרים לנו מעט על ההיסטוריה של אותה תקופה. ספר ב’ מספר על איגרת:
“אל היהודים אשר במצרים ובברכה מאת האחים היהודים בירושלים ובארץ יהודה שלום רב. […] ונתפלל לה’ ויעתר לנו, וזבח ומנחה הבאנו והדלקנו את הנרות ונערוך את הלחם. ועתה עשו את ימי חג הסוכות בחודש כסלו” (א”ש חרטום, הספרים החיצונים: חשמונאים ב, תל-אביב 1979).

באותו ספר בפרק העשירי כתוב: “ביום עשרים וחמישה לחודש ההוא, הוא כסלו, חגגו שמונה ימים כחג הסוכות, בזכרם כי לפני זמן מה בילו את ימי חג הסוכות בהרים ובמערות”. וכיצד הוא נחוג אז? “במקלות מקושטים ובענפים המצויים בעונה ההיא ובתמרים הודו לה’ על אשר הצליח דרכם”.
לפי ספרי החשמונאים, בחודש כסליו היה כבר המקדש טהור, הוקרבו זבחים, הדליקו נרות וערכו כבר גם את לחם הפנים. לא מסופר בספרי החשמונאים על נס פך השמן, וגם אצל יוסף בן מתתיהו הוא אינו מוזכר. הקריאה של הלוחמים לאחיהם במצרים היית לחוג את חג הסוכות בחודש כסליו.
יוספוס קורא לחנוכה “חג האורים” או “חג הנרות”. גם בסוכות מוזכר חג האורים בשמחת בית השואבה.
“מי שלא ראה שמחת בית השואבה לא ראה שמחה מימיו. במוצאי יום טוב הראשון של חג ירדו לעזרת נשים ומתקנין שם תיקון גדול. מנורות של זהב היו שם, וארבעה ספלים של זהב בראשיהם, וארבעה סולמות לכל אחד ואחד, וארבעה ילדים מפירחי כהונה, ובידיהם כדים של מאה ועשרים לוג שהן מטילין לכל ספל וספל. מבלאי מכנסי כהנים ומהמייניהן, מהן היו מפקיעין, ובהן היו מדליקין. ולא היה חצר בירושלים שאינה מאירה מאור בית השואבה” (סוכה דף נא עמוד א).

התלמוד ממשיך (סוכה דף נג עמוד א): “תניא, אמרו עליו על רבן שמעון בן גמליאל כשהיה שמח שמחת בית השואבה היה נוטל שמנה אבוקות של אור, וזורק אחת ונוטל אחת ואין נוגעות זו בזו”.
האם אנו יכולים ללמוד גם מחכמינו כי יש קשר בין חנוכה לסוכות? חנוכה הוא החג היחיד שאינו מוזכר בכתובים בו גומרים את ה”הלל” (לפני שנקבע לאמרו ביום העצמאות וביום ירושלים). הגמרא בירושלמי, סוכה ד, ה אומרת: “שמונה עשר יום ולילה אחד קורין בהן את ההלל בכל שנה [הכוונה “הלל” שלם] שמונת ימי החג [סוכות ושמיני עצרת] ושמונת ימי החנוכה ויום טוב של עצרת [שבועות] ויום טוב הראשון של פסח ולילו”.
לפורים יש מגילה שלימה ויש גם מסכת, אבל אין אומרים בו את ה”הלל”, לעומתו, בחג החנוכה, גומרים את ה”הלל” כמו בחג הסוכות.
קשר נוסף נמצא במחלוקת בין בית שמאי ובית הלל על הדלקת הנרות. גם אם לא מוזכר שם במפורש חג הסוכות, הרי ניתן לנו רמז: “בית שמאי אומרים יום ראשון מדליק שמנה מכאן ואילך פוחת והולך, ובית הלל אומרים יום ראשון מדליק אחת מכאן ואילך מוסיף והולך”. ישנה מחלוקת מה הטעם של בית שמאי ובית הלל, אחת הדעות היא: “וחד אמר: טעמא דבית שמאי – כנגד פרי החג [שבקורבנות חג הסוכות היו פוחתים והולכים בכל יום], וטעמא דבית הלל – דמעלין בקדש ואין מורידין. אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן: שני זקנים היו בצידן, אחד עשה כבית שמאי ואחד עשה כדברי בית הלל, זה נותן טעם לדבריו – כנגד פרי החג, וזה נותן טעם לדבריו – דמעלין בקדש ואין מורידין” (שבת כא, ב).

נשאל את עצמנו: לדעת בית שמאי, מה עושים פָּרֵי החג של סוכות אצל נרות חנוכה? אם אין קשר בין חג הסוכות לחנוכה, מה מביא אותם להשוות קורבנות של חג הסוכות שמספרם הולך וקטן לאופן הדלקת נרות בחנוכה? האם אין הדבר מצביע על הקשר בין שני החגים? אנו רואים כי גם בתלמוד קשרו בין חנוכה לסוכות.

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)


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.

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.

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

Which Melocho?

[Hat tip BA]


How would it be possible, someone does this Melocho on Yom Tov he is Chayav Malkos. If he does the exact same Melocho on Shabbos , not only is he not Chayav, he may go ahead and do it Lekatechila?

לז”נ האשה צארטל בת ר’ אליעזר הלוי הי”ד


                                                             יום השנה ח”י מנחם                                                                    

1)There are two fruits, one is attached to a tree in a Reshus Hayachid the other one is not attached to a tree but is in a Reshus Harabim

2)There is a Choleh  (in the Reshus Hayachid) who needs to eat the fruit.

3)On Shabbos there is no difference which fruit the Choleh is given and one is allowed to be Mechallel Shabbos Lekatechila

4)On Yom Tov one must take from the unattached fruit in Reshus Harabim (no Chilul Y.T.) and may not take from the attached fruit in the Reshus Hayachid. On Shabbos you may remove the fruit from the tree Lekatechila

On Yom Tov you may not  remove the fruit from the tree, because you can bring the cut fruit from the Reshus Harabim (no Chilul Yom Tov) If he removed the fruit from the tree, he is Chayav Malkos.

Yizkor—is it dead and buried?

The saying of Yizkor, apart from Yom Kippur (which is mentioned in the Medrash Tanchuma), is a more recent custom. It became part of the Ashkenazi liturgy probably during the time of the crusades in the 1400’s. The Rabbis specifically instituted it to be (outside of Israel) on the second day of Yom Tov. Why not the first day of Yom Tov? Clearly it was felt that by setting it the second day, this would encourage those who were vacillating about whether to attend the service on the second day to do so. Of course, Reform (who like to consider themselves and call themselves) progressive, just dismiss the second day of Yom Tov and banish it to an ordinary day no different in “holiness” to a non-Jewish ordinary day.

There is no requirement to say Yizkor with a minyan of ten males (or females I guess if you are Reformed). We don’t say Kaddish at Yizkor. It is a moment of vocal and silent contemplation during which one lists those who are to be remembered in one’s family and give charity in their merit.

There has always been a disagreement as to whether someone whose parents are alive leaves the Shule during Yizkor. Our family Minhag (like many) is to never stay inside during Yizkor if one’s parent(s) are alive.

During the first year of mourning after a parent, there are also divergent customs. Some say that the mourner stays inside for Yizkor but remains silent, whilst others leave the Shule until Yizkor has concluded and then re-enter (our Minhag)

Over time, special extra Yizkor prayers were added for those who were murdered during tragedies such as the Holocaust.

Jews of Sephardi origin never had the custom to say Yizkor, except on Yom Kippur. They were less influenced by their neighbours and I surmise their Rabbis didn’t need to insert Yizkor in order to cajole them to come to a Jewish service. They came anyway.

In truth, the first Yizkor (after my father ע’’ה) was on Pesach this year. I was planning to attend Elwood Shule, however, I was asked to make up a minyan (and be the sole Cohen for the priestly blessings) for someone who was too ill to attend Shule, and I said Yizkor in his house. My second Yizkor, the first in a formal Shule, was to be Shavuos, and I was planning on attending Elwood Shule again (my father’s Shule). However, I have bouts of plantar fasciitis which occasionally flair up, and had been at the Orthotist on Erev Shavuos because it had caused me pain. I went to Yeshivah Shule, which is closer, as a result. I stood there, while the Shule was engulfed in silence, each person uttering their personal Yizkors. My father used to daven there in the evenings, and had a seat there as well as Elwood.

Strangely, I was not moved. I had been more engrossed in refamiliarising myself with Megillas  Ruth!

I (over) think about my father regularly, either with tears, memories or laughter. For some reason, I could not focus at that ordained moment to make it especially meaningful.

One of my sisters undertook the very long walk to Elwood Shule specifically for this reason and came away quite sad. She mentioned that the Shule was morgue-like, with barely anyone in the women’s gallery and the same few familiar faces in the men’s gallery. She commented that Rabbi Gutnick had spoken well, but that looking at the Shule, she couldn’t get over a feeling of gross cavernous emptiness. It suited her mood though, and her Yizkor wasn’t mine. There is a custom to say Yizkor at the Shule where a parent used to pray.

These days most Jews don’t come to Shule on the first day of Yom Tov. You’d be lucky if they even said Kaddish on the day of the Yohr Tzeit. Perhaps they light a candle at home, I don’t know. Ironically, they went to Jewish Schools, and know what’s required. They aren’t complete ignoramuses. They are caught up in new-age Hedonism or “Tikun Olam”.

Even Yizkor seems to have lost its attraction to a generation that had and has no trouble accepting a financial inheritance, but plenty of trouble making time in a day to attend Shule and say a prayer like their parents, for their parent(s). Perhaps I’m over-harsh. It’s not the first time my blatant honesty has been interpreted as harshness and even offence. That’s just too bad. I call it as I see it. Word games are for U.N. Diplomats. They achieve nothing. Oslo accords anyone?

It’s so very sad but remembering is part of a much bigger picture. That picture has now been dumbed down and recreated in the image of modern fun events. Kids seem to come to Shule on the first day when you offer them ice cream. Great. Perhaps the second day should be “Whisky day” for the adults? It’s all very nice, but it isn’t Jewish Identity unless it leads somewhere. There can be no Jewish Identity without solid authentic Jewish Education, and I do not include the University style study of History, Poetry or the Arts in that category. Yep, you heard me right.

If you dumb Judaism down, reduce it to clichés or the spiritual, and over focus on the experiential and don’t achieve follow-up there is nothing to hold the house up in the future. That’s my view. Take it or leave it. If you are offended by my observation, do try to focus on the fact that my intention is always to call a spade a spade; and yes, some are offended by that. מה אפשר לעשות.

Guest post on Shavuos by R Meir Deutsch

Please note the copyright.

The following is a continuation to the article of “Why do we count the Omer”.
We tried there to explain that our sages fixed the date for Shavuoth to the Sixth of Sivan to enable us to call that festival also “Chag Matan Torathenu”.
In the following article I try to find out if our sages did succeed with their aim. Is the Sixth of Sivan “Chag Matan Torathenu”?
As I usually say: beside the sources quoted, the rest are my assumptions. You can either accept them or not.
I would appreciate your comments and opinions.

חג השבועות מאיר דויטש סיוון תשע”ד
© כל הזכויות שמורות

חג השבועות הוא החג היחיד שהתורה אינה נותנת לו תאריך. לא נאמר בו “בחודש השלישי בששה לחודש”. החג נקבע על-ידי ספירה הידועה כספירת העומר. לאחר שבעה שבועות של ספירה מחג המצות חוגגים חג. ידועה המחלוקת בין הבייתוסים ובין חז”ל בעניין הספירה. הראשונים סופרים ממחרת יום השבת שלאחר חג המצות ואנו סופרים למחרת יום ראשון של החג ללא הבדל באיזה יום בשבוע הוא חל. בקביעת חז”ל כי ספירת העומר תתחיל ביום שלאחר חג המצות מקבע את חג השבועות ליום ו’ בסיוון(ראה המאמר על ספירת העומר).

לחג זה גם אין שם ייחודי משלו. בתורה עצמה הוא נקרא במספר שמות.
חג הקציר – בשמות כג הוא: “חג הקציר ביכורי מעשיך אשר תזרע בשדה”.
חג שבועות – שמות לד שמו: “וחג שבועות תעשה לך ביכורי קציר חיטים”.
יום הביכורים – במדבר כח נקרא: “וביום הביכורים בהקריבכם מנחה חדשה”.
חז”ל מוסיפים:
עצרת – שם זה ניתן על ידי חכמינו הרואים בו כנראה המשכו של חג המצות, ואת אותם השבועות שביניהם כימי חולו של מועד (ראה רבנו בחיי בנושא-ויקרא כג, טז). חג השבועות הוא עצרת של חג המצות כמו עצרת שלאחר חג סוכות.
בחג המצות נאמר (דברים טז):
(ז) וּבִשַּׁלְתָּ֙ וְאָ֣כַלְתָּ֔ בַּמָּק֕וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֪ר ה’ אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בּ֑וֹ וּפָנִ֣יתָ בַבֹּ֔קֶר וְהָלַכְתָּ֖ לְאֹהָלֶֽיךָ:
(ח) שֵׁ֥שֶׁת יָמִ֖ים תֹּאכַ֣ל מַצּ֑וֹת וּבַיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֗י עֲצֶ֙רֶת֙ לַה’ אֱ – לֹהֶ֔יךָ לֹ֥א תַעֲשֶׂ֖ה מְלָאכָֽה:

אנו רואים כאן כי לחג המצות יש כבר עצרת משלו ביום השביעי. האם הוא צריך עצרת שנייה, נוספת, בתום ספירת העומר?
וחג מתן תורה – שם שאינו מוזכר בתורה אבל רבותינו רואים בתאריך זה את יום מתן תורה.

הבה נבדוק כיצד זה חג מתן תורה.

בשמות יט נאמר: “בחודש השלישי לצאת בני ישראל מארץ מצרים, ביום הזה באו מדבר סיני”.
רבותינו אומרים: בחודש = בראש חודש. חודש השלישי = סיוון.
הגמרא אומרת (שבת פב, ב) כולי עלמה סוברים:
יציאת מצרים ביום ה’.
קבלת תורה ביום שבת.
אני אוהב חישובים. ננסה להגיע עם המשוואה הזו של הגמרא לחג השבועות.

בדיקה בלוח מראה לנו כי חודש ניסן תמיד מלא (30 ימים) וחודש אייר תמיד חסר (29 ימים).
אם טו בניסן הוא יום ה’ הרי א’ אייר הוא יום שבת ולכן א’ בסיוון הוא יום א’.
אם א’ בסיוון הוא יום א’ אז ו’ בסיוון הוא יום ו’ ולא יום שבת שהיא נקודת המטרה שלנו כדי להגיע לסברת רבותינו. אם כן, קבלת התורה או שלא היתה בשבת או לא היתה ב-ו’ בסיוון.

ננסה לפתור בדרך אחרת:
אנו סופרים (ספירת העומר) ממחרת יציאת מצרים. אם יציאת מצרים הייתה ביום ה’ אז נתחיל בספירה באותה שנה ביום ו’.
שבעה שבועות מסתיימים אם כן ביום ה’ ויום החמישים הוא יום ו’.
אם התורה ניתנה ביום השבת הרי יום מתן תורה אינו חל ביום החמישים שהוא שבועות אלא ביום החמישים ואחד שהוא ז’ בסיוון.
בכל החישובים הגענו לאותה תוצאה – או שהתורה לא ניתנה ביום ו’ בסיוון אלא בז’ בו, או שהתורה לא ניתנה בשבת.

את הדיון בנושא אנו מוצאים במסכת יומא ד, ב. כאן כולם בדעה שהתורה ניתנה ביום השבת. הדעות השונות הן אם מתן תורה היה ביום ו’ בסיוון או ביום ז’ בו. הגמרה אומרת:
“דתניא: בששה בחודש ניתנה תורה לישראל, רבי יוסי אומר: בשבעה בו.”
תנא קמא סובר כי התורה ניתנה ב-ו’ בסיוון (תומך בדעה זו גם רבי יוסי הגלילי) וכדי שהחישוב יצא נכון ויגיע למטרתו ש-ו’ בסיוון הוא יום שבת, הוא סובר כי באותה שנה היה חודש אייר מלא (30 ימים ולא 29 ימים) – (ראה שבת פז, ב): “ריש ירחא דאייר שבתא, וריש ירחא דסיון – חד בשבת, קשיא לרבנן! אמרי לך רבנן: אייר דההיא שתא – עבורי עברוה”. כך מנסים לפתור את עניין הלוח שיתאים הן ל-ו’ בסיוון והן שיחול ביום שבת. אבל עתה נוצרה לדעה זו בעיה אחרת, בעייה שהברייתא אינה מזכירה: השאלה של מספר הימים. הרי אם אייר מלא, הימים מחג המצות לחג השבועות וליום מתן תורה מסתכמים ב-51 כאשר לפי התורה חג השבועות הוא ביום החמישים.

לעומת התנא קמא, רבי יוסי סובר כי מתן תורה לא היה בחג השבועות אלא ביום ז’ בסיוון שהוא ביום השבת באותה שנה, ולפי חישוביו עולם כמנהגו נוהג ולוח השנה אינו משתנה, ואין צורך לעבר את חודש אייר של אותה שנה, סופרים מחג המצות לשבועות רק חמישים יום. אבל, לפי חישוביו, יום מתן תורה אינו בחג השבועות אלא הוא יום אחד אחר חג השבועות – ז’ בסיוון. גם רבי עקיבא סובר כרבי יוסי שהתורה ניתנה בז’ בסיוון.

בתפילת “יעלה ויבוא” אנו מזכירים את החג “חג השבועות” אבל למרות קביעה זו של רבי יוסי אנו ממשיכים לקרוא (האם בטעות?) בתפילת שחרית ובתפילת מוסף את חג השבועות “זמן מתן תורתנו”.

יש לציין כי לתושבי חוץ לארץ יש כאן יתרון בחג שבועות לעומת תושבי ארץ ישראל. היושבים בגולה עושים את חג השבועות יומיים, בכך הם מקבלים את חג מתן תורתנו הן בששי בסיוון וכן בשביעי בסיוון, דהיינו גם כדעת תנא קמא וגם כדעת רבי יוסי.

חג שבועות, חג הקציר וחג הביכורים שמח.

picture from the incredible tide

Yom Ha’atzmaut: I didn’t find it funny

As I was leaving Shule today, there was a function being held. I don’t know who the caterer was, but it was under Adass supervision. The door was open, and the Mashgiach (supervisor), a rather portly chap was munching on some soup nuts. He was a jovial type and we exchanged a few pleasantries. He then asked me (in Yiddish) do you know what day the Megadef (blasphemer) in today’s Parshas Emor committed his sin? [ The blasphemer who cursed God was the son of Shlomis Bas Divri  and his father was allegedly the Egyptian killed by Moshe Rabbenu (Shmos, second Perek) and he was punished with death for cursing God.]

This Mashgiach of the food (who was a Chossid of some sort, with long Payes, and his Tzitzis Beged on the outside) bellowed that it was the 5th of Iyar (i.e. Yom Ha’atzmaut). I have to admit that I didn’t know if he was telling me the truth in respect of the date and I just wasn’t aware or I was confused with the date of the Mekoshesh Etzim, but it doesn’t matter.

In other words, on the very the day that Hashem allowed the world to grant Israel the ability to be an independent nation, was according to this fellow the same day that the Megadef sinner was put to death for cursing God.

His point was clearly that there was a connection between the two. The notion of a new State for Jews wasn’t a cause célèbre but something akin to cursing God/sinning for which the death penalty was appropriate.

As is my way, I usually find a quick retort, and told him that the correct meaning was that anyone whose distorted weltanschauung saw the establishment of the new State of Israel as a sin/curse, was deserving the death penalty. He snorted, and didn’t respond, and I went on my way.

I simply cannot comprehend how people can speak this way about Israel. I struggle with it. Either they feel that immediately after the Holocaust God decided to “test us” and offer us a State and we should have said “NO”, or they think that the Hester Panim (concealment of God’s visage) during the Holocaust continued further and we shouldn’t have fallen for the “ruse” agreed to by the United Nations, or that we should simply have accepted the view of  R’ Yoel of Satmar, that it is (God forbid) a sin to make mass Aliyah to Israel before the Redemption (as expounded in VeYoel Moshe and discredited as an halachic argument by many Talmidei Chachomim of note).

Having been at the Yom Hashoa commemoration during the week, focussing on the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, and feeling the pain of that episode once more, I find it utterly incomprehensible that soon after 6 million holy people were murdered by the Nazis, that I am meant to see the establishment of a State as  a cataclysmic curse akin to the Megadef (the episode of which has some parallels to the Mekoshesh Etzim in Parshas Shlach).

It is times like this where I am profoundly challenged to consider such people and their views as brotherly. Not only did I not find it funny, I found it grossly offensive (he mistakenly thought I was a Chabadnik, as he had stated).

I am glad that I went home to have a nice Shabbos meal with my mother (a Holocaust survivor who lived, studied and found refuge in the new State of Israel immediately after the war) and managed to control my seething anger.

The flag of the State of Israel atop the Ponovezh Yeshivah on Yom Haatzmaut

Why do we have to count the Omer?

This a guest post from R’ Meir Deutsch. It is copyright and should not be used or copied in any form without Meir’s permission.


Why has Shavuoth no fixed day in the Bible? How did Shavouth turn out to be Chag Matan Toratenu?


These are some of the questions I asked myself. I shall try and find the answers below. Beside the sources mentioned, all the rest are my assumptions  – you can either accept them or disregard them, but would appreciate your opinions and comments.

I chose Hebrew as I think that mixing Hebrew with English sometimes confuses.

ספירת העומר
     מאיר דויטש ניסן תשע”ד
© כל הזכויות שמורות

התורה אומרת לנו: “וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת…”

מהי ספירת העומר? מהי “ממחרת השבת”?

כל החגים שבתורה ניתן להם תאריך, כמו שאומרת התורה: “אלה מועדי ה’ מקראי קודש אשר תקראו אותם במועדם”:

“בחודש הראשון ב-14 לחודש בין הערביים פסח, וב-15 לחודש הזה חג המצות, שבעת ימים ביום הראשון מקרא קודש וביום השביעי מקרא קודש.” כך גם בחגים האחרים.

בפרשת אמור, מופיעה הנפת העומר בין חג הפסח לחג השבועות. מה נאמר שם:

וידבר ה’ אל משה לאמור. דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם כי תבואו אל הארץ אשר אני נותן לכם וקצרתם את קצירה, והבאתם את עומר ראשית קצירכם אל הכהן. והניף את העומר לפני ה’ לרצונכם, ממחרת השבת יניפנו הכהן. […] ולחם וקלי וכרמל לא תאכלו עד עצם היום הזה…

וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עומר התנופה, שבע שבתות תמימות תהיינה, עד ממחרת השבת השביעית תספרו חמישים יום.” לאחר אותן שבעה שבועות, ביום החמישים, אומרת התורה: “וקראתם בעצם היום הזה מקרא קודש יהיה לכם…”. חג שהתורה לא נותנת לו לא תאריך ולא שם. אתם תקבעו את היום בו יחול החג על ידי ספירה, ספירה שמתחילה ממחרת השבת.

ממחרת השבת קובעת:

א.    את יום הנפת העומר,

ב.     את תחילת הספירה לקביעת חג השבועות,

ג.      לפיכך את קביעת חג השבועות עצמו.

מה היא אותה שבת שממחרתה אנו מתחילים לספור? לפי הפשט שבת זו היא השבת הראשונה לאחר יום טוב ראשון של חג המצות, דהיינו יום א’ הראשון לאחר אותו יום טוב הוא היום הראשון לספירה. ספירה זו נותנת לנו גם כן שבע שבתות תמימות, שבועות המתחילים ביום א’ ומסתיימים ביום שבת.

ספירה זו אומצה על ידי הבייתוסים/צדוקים, ולאחריהם על ידי הקראים והשומרונים.

לעומתם, מסורת חז”ל היא כי ממחרת השבת פירושה ממחרת יום טוב ראשון של חג המצות [מנחות סה, ב], ולא חשוב באיזה יום בשבוע נופל אותו יום.

חכמינו ניסו להוכיח בדרכים שונות מדוע הבאת העומר היא לא ביום א’ הראשון אלא ממחרת יום טוב. לא אכנס לכולם אבל נבדוק כמה מהם.

 “אמרו להם חכמים [לבייתוסים] שבת בראשית קרויה שבת ויום טוב קרוי שבת…”. האומנם? הרי התורה אינה משתמשת במונח שבת כיום טוב בשום מקום, התורה משתמשת ליום טוב במונח “שבתון”, ביום הראשון שבתון…, מלבד ביום הכיפורים, וגם שם המונח הוא “שבת שבתון”. אם מאמצים ששבת היא יום טוב, מה פירוש שבת בהמשך “עד ממחרת השבת השביעית…”?

רבי יוחנן בן זכאי מקבל את הפירוש של הבייתוסים, ממחרת השבת זה מיום א’ בשבוע ולכן יש לנו שבעה שבועות תמימים. כל זה נכון לדבריו כאשר יום טוב חל בשבת. אבל אם יום טוב חל באחד הימים האחרים בשבוע  אז אין לנו שבעה שבועות תמימים ולכן אומר לנו הכתוב : “תספרו חמישים יום”. לפיכך נאמרו שני הדברים, שבועות וימים, כך שביום טוב שחל בשבת תספרו שבע שבתות תמימות, ביום טוב שחל בימי השבוע האחרים תספרו חמישים יום. [ראה רש”י שם].

רבי שמעון בן אלעזר מביא ראיה מהפרדוקס של פסח [מנחות סו, א]. “כתוב אחד [דברים טז] אומר ששת ימים תאכל מצות וכתוב אחד [שמות יב] אומר שבעת ימים מצות תאכלו. הא כיצד יתקיימו שני כתובים הללו? [והוא מסביר] מצה שאי אתה יכול לאוכלה כל שבעה, אוכלה ששה מן החדש.” כי ביום הראשון, לפני הנפת העומר, החדש אסור. מצות אוכלים שבעת ימים, יום ראשון מישן וששת הימים הבאים מחדש.

“רבי יוסי אומר [מנחות סו, א] ממחרת השבת ממחרת יום טוב, יכול ממחרת שבת בראשית? וכי נאמר ממחרת שבת בפסח? והלא לא נאמר אלא ממחרת השבת, והרי כל השנה מלאה שבתות צא וחשוב מאי זו שבת…”. הרמב”ן רואה בהוכחה זו “שזו גדולה שבראיות”.

בהנפת העומר מביאים קורבן ” ועשיתם ביום הניפכם את העומר כבש תמים בן שנתו לעולה לה’.” אם יום הנפת העומר משתנה ואינו ידוע אז מובן שאין אפשרות לתורה להכניסו בין קורבנות המוקרבים בשבעת ימי חג המצות. אבל אם ידוע כי הקורבן של כבש בן שנתו שבהנפת העומר הוא תמיד היום הראשון של חול המועד פסח, מדוע לא נאמר,לאחר קורבנות של אותו היום מלבד עולת הנפת העומר וניסכה? והוא יתווסף לשבעת הכבשים של חג המצות?

שאלה לגיטימית יכולה להיות: מדוע לא ניתן לא להנפת העומר ולא לחג השבועות תאריך כמו לשאר הימים טובים ועלינו לקבוע את חג השבועות לפי ספירה?

ושאלה שנייה:

אם חג השבועות נקבע לפי ספירה, האם הוא יחול מידי שנה בתאריך זהה, או שמא תאריכו אינו קבוע ולכן גם התורה לא יכולה לנקוב בתאריך

לשאלתנו הראשונה מצאתי את דבריו של רבינו בחיי, שכנראה שאל את אותה שאלה, ותשובתו מעניינת. הוא אומר:

רבינו בחיי (ויקרא פרק כג פסוק טז) אומר:

שלא הזכירה תורה חג שבועות ביחוד [במפורש] כשאר החגים ושיאמר כן: “בחדש השלישי בששי בו חג השבועות”, כמו שאמר בפסח: “בחמשה עשר יום לחדש הזה חג המצות”, בא ללמד כי הוא חג נגרר אחר מצות העומר, ומ”ט יום הספורים בין ראשון של פסח עד השבועות, הנה הם כחולו של מועד בין ראשון של סוכות ושמיני עצרת.

כוונתו היא כמו בסוכות ביום הראשון שבתון וביום השמיני שבתון וביניהם חולו של מועד, כך כאן ביום הראשון חג המצות ולאחר 49 ימים של מאין חול המועד, ביום החמישים חג הביכורים. אבל קשה, כי באמצע חול המועד הזה יש לנו את חג יום השביעי של חג המצות.

לשאלתנו השנייה, ברצוני להביא כאן את הברייתא במסכת ראש השנה (ו,ב) האומרת:

“תני רב שמעיה: עצרת [חג השבועות] פעמים חמישה, פעמים ששה, פעמים שבעה, הכיצד? שניהם מלאים [ניסן ואייר] חמישה, שניהם חסרים שבעה, אחד מלא ואחד חסר ששה.”

גם בתוספתא מסכת ערכין (פרק א הלכה ט)  [אחר הדיון על חודשים מעוברים] אנו מוצאים:

עצרת פעמים שחל להיות בחמשה ובששה ובשבעה לא פחות ולא יותר ריהודה אומר חל להיות בחמשה סימן רע לעולם בששה סימן בינוני בשבעה סימן יפה לעולם אבא שאול אומר כל זמן שיום טוב של עצרת ברור סימן יפה לעולם:

כאן אנו רואים כי לפני חכמי התלמוד עמד לוח שנה שונה מזה שלנו היום. לפי אותו לוח אין תאריך קבוע לחג השבועות. הוא אינו חל כל שנה ב-ו’ בסיוון. אם כן, לפי ברייתא זו, ברור כי אין התורה יכולה לקבוע תאריך לחג השבועות ועלינו לקבוע אותו לפי ספירה.

ידוע לנו כי לפי התורה חודש הוא בן 30 ימים. אנו רואים זאת אצל נח. המבול התחיל “בחודש השני ב-17 יום לחודש, ביום הזה נבקעו כל מעינות רבה…” ובהמשך “ותנח התיבה בחודש השביעי בשבעה עשר יום לחודש. ..” בדיוק 5 חודשים. מלבד תאריכים אלה נותנת לנו התורה גם את הימים: “מקצה חמישים ומאת יום”. דהיינו חודש הוא בן 30 ימים.

בספר היובלות (ו, כט) יש לנו לוח אחר: “חמישים ושנים שבועות ימים והם הוֹוִים שנה שלמה […] ואתה צו את בני ישראל לשמור את השנים לפי מספר זה, שלוש מאות וארבעה וששים יום הם שנה תמימה…”

ספר היובלות ממשיך: “ויהיו אלה אשר יביטו אל הירח והוא ישחית את הזמנים הקבועים ויקדים בכל שנה בעשרה ימים” [חודש בן 29 ימים וחודש בן 30 ימים לחילופין]. {שנת החמה ארוכה משנת הלבנה ב-10 ימים 21 שעות ו-204/1080 חלקי שעה.}

אם ניקח לוח זה שבספר היובלות, שהוא תמיד בן 52 שבועות שלמים, הרי נוכל לפתור את המחלוקת בין הבייתוסים לבין חז”ל. לפי לוח זה כל תאריך בלוח יחול תמיד באותו יום בשבוע בכל שנה, כך שייתכן ויום ראשון של חג המצות היה ביום שבת, ולמחרתו “ממחרת השבת” הונף העומר והחלה הספירה. כך כל שנה ושנה חל “ממחרת השבת” ביום א’ בשבוע.

אם נעבור לספר דברים (טז, ט) שם נאמר: “שבעה שבועות תספור לך מהחל חרמש בקמה תחל לספור שבעה שבועות”. כאן אין הספירה מתחילה “ממחרת השבת” אלא מזמן שקובעת החקלאות, הבשלת התבואה {שעורה}. הנפת העומר בתחילת הספירה בקציר שעורים, ובסיום הספירה שתי הלחם בחג השבועות בקציר החיטים. גם מלך בבל הביא בזמן קציר השעורים, בחודש ניסנוּ, מנחה לאלוהיו מראשית פירותיו. (לוח השנה הבבלי שימש כנראה את אבותינו שבעצם אימצו אותו. בלוח זה שמות החודשים דומים לחודשים שלנו, וגם הבבלים הוסיפו אדרו שני בלוח במחזור של 19 שנים.)

אנו גם רואים את ההבדל בין העלייה לרגל בחג הסוכות לבין זו של חג המצות. בסוכות נאמר (דברים טז, טו): “שבעת ימים תחוג לה’ אלוקיך במקום אשר יבחר…”, שבעת ימים בירושלים. לעומת זאת בפסח נאמר (שם, ה): “לא תוכל לזבוח את הפסח באחת שעריך […] ובישלת ואכלת במקום אשר יבחר ה’ אלוקיך בו [אבל עולי הרגל לחוצים לצאת לקציר התבואה שבשלה, והפסוק ממשיך] ופנית בבוקר והלכת לאוהליך”. חזור הביתה והחל בקציר.

ננסה לפתור את הבעיה. בהנפת העומר נאמר אומנם ממחרת השבת”, וגם “מהחל חרמש בקמה” אבל גם נאמר “והניף את העומר לפני ה’ לרצונכם…”, כאן אומר שד”ל: “והרשות בידנו להניף את העומר ביום שנרצה”. אבל כאשר נבחר את היום, נבחר כך שלא יהיה זה יום השבת אלא ממחרת השבת, שכאן נפרשו לאו דווקא ביום א’ בשבוע אלא בכל יום חול בשבוע. על פי זה קבעו חז”ל (לרצונם) את יום הנפת העומר ביום הראשון של חול המועד, ולפי “לא ב’ ד’ ו’ פסח” לא יחול יום ראשון של חולו של מועד לעולם ביום השבת.

לאחר כל הלוחות האלה, כדי להכניס אותנו לתלם, קבעו רבותינו עבורנו לוח שנה חדש, לוח מודרני, המשלב בתוכו את שנת הלבנה ואת שנת החמה וזאת כדי להביא לכך שפסח יהיה בחודש האביב (הם הצליחו בזה ברוב השנים אבל לא בכולם), ובלוח זה קבעו תאריך לחג השבועות שיחול תמיד ביום ו’ בסיוון ולא ינוע, כפי שנאמר בתלמוד, בין ה’, ו’, ו-ז’ בו.

כדי שחג השבועות יחול תמיד ביום ו’ בסיוון, הם קבעו את יום הנפת העומר למחרת היום הראשון של חג המצות, יום קבוע שלא ינוע יותר “לרצונכם”.

קביעת חג שבועות בששי בסיוון מאפשר לנו גם לומר בתפילת החג חג “זמן מתן תורתנו”, דבר שלא יכולנו כאשר החג היה נע בין ה, ו, או ז, בסיוון.

What we can see is that by fixing the date for the Omer and by that, the date for Shavuoth, our sages also transformed Chag HaShavuoth from a Chag without a name, Atzeret or Yom Habikurim to Chag Matan Toratenu.

חג כשר ושמח.

With friends like these who needs enemies?

John Kerry who is trying admirably to organise peace between Palestinians: the Israeli Jewish ones and the Arab ones, has been quoted as saying

Netanyahu wrong to insist Palestinians recognize Israel as Jewish state

Why is Bibi wrong? Because “international law” already recognises Israel as a Jewish State? I see, so Kerry wants us to make peace with those don’t accept or agree with International “Law”. Narishkeit?

Law? You have two opinions in Law even about Yehuda and Shomron. Some say it’s perfectly within International Law and these includes eminent Jurists, and others (including the bleeding left amongst our own people, who also tend to be the uber egalitarians) say they are “settlements” and illegal. חס ושלום

You’d have to be pretty naïve to accept Kerry’s assurances. One can only assume that he’s reached a dead-end. Even a not very bright politician wouldn’t make such a ridiculous statement or claim תהיס as a way of moving forward. Crimea anyone?

There will never be peace while Abu Abbas is in the Chair. That is my view. It will take someone bold. Abbas is a holocaust denier. He’s yesterday’s man. He isn’t bold or brave enough to look after those in the West Bank. He hasn’t made a single contribution to humanity. The Islamists in Gazastan are another kettle of fish. If you mixed them together with those on the West Bank you’d have Syria. If Abbas really cared about his people, he’d become a separate State within Jordan. Now, there’s a good idea. Why doesn’t someone run with that solution. Makes a lot of sense to me especially since some 50% of Jordanians share DNA with the West Bankers.

ישראל נושע בה׳

תשועת עולמים

Wishing all my readers a freilechen/happy purim where the Hamans of our world are rendered purposeless. Feel free to drop in and make לחיים if you are so inclined and in the vicinity. Yes, that even includes Satmar Chassidim and Kalte Litvaks. At the same time, watch your alcohol intake, know your limit, and make sure your kids are under control and fettered!

Guest post from R Meir Deutsch on Megillah (c)

Just a short story which was shortened further in the Megila.
מאיר דויטש

המפגש בין אסתר ובין המלך כאשר היא באה אליו שלא כדין

המגילה מתארת את הליכתה של אסתר לפגוש את בעלה המלך שלא כדת. הסיפור קצר – היא מופיעה לפניו, היא מוצאת חן בעניו והוא מושיט לה את שרביט הזהב. אין כל תיאור של אישה מפוחדת, רעבה אחר צום של שלושה ימים, הולכת אל המלך, איך אומרים – על החיים ועל המוות.
הסיפור המלא מופיע בכמה מקומות: באסתר רבה, בספרים החיצוניים ב”תוספות למגילת אסתר”, בתרגום השבעים וגם יוספוס מתאר זאת ב”קדמוניות היהודים”. אצטט את הסיפור מאצל יוספוס (קדמוניות היהודים פרק יא), והוא כותב:
“לאחר שעמדה בתפילה… שלשה ימים פשטה את הבגד ההוא ושינתה את לבושה וקישטה עצמה כיאה למלכה והלכה אל המלך עם שתי שפחות, אחת מהן תמכה בה כשהיא נשענת קצת עליה, וזו שהלכה אחריה הרימה בקצות אצבעותיה את שובל שמלתה, שירד וסרח על האדמה. פניה היו רוויים אודם, ויופי ענוג ואציל משוך עליה. אף-על-פי-כן נכנסה אל המלך בפחד. וכשבאה לפניו והוא יושב על כסאו בלבוש מלכות – היה זה [מורכב] מגלימת רקמתיים [מקושטת] בזהב ובאבנים טובות – לפיכך נראה בעיניה נורא יותר. ומה גם שאף הוא הסתכל עליה בתרעומת ובפנים לוהטים מחימה. מיד תקפה אותה חולשה והיא צנחה אין-אונים לרגלי אלה שעמדו לצדה. והמלך הפך ליבו, ומאמין אני – ברצון אלו-הים, מתוך שחרד לאשתו, שמא תאונה לה רעה גדולה מזו מחמת יראתה, קפץ מכסאו והרים אותה בזרועותיו והשיב את רוחה, כשהוא מחבק ומדבר אליה במתק ומבקש ממנה שתתעודד ולא תחשוש לרעות על שבאה אליו והיא לא נקראה, שכן החוק הזה חל רק על נתינים, ואילו היא, המולכת כמוהו, פטורה מכל עונש. תוך כדי דיבור שם בידה את השרביט והושיט את מטהו אל צוארה כדת והסיר ממנה פחדה. עקב כל זאת שבה אליה רוחה והיא אמרה: אדוני, לא יקל לי להגיד לך מה עברתי פתאום: כי בראותי אותך כה גדול ויפה ונורא, מיד חמקה רוחי ונשמתי עזבתני. ובפלטה אף את המילים האלה בקושי ובחולשה תקפו אותו חרדה ומבוכה, והוא אימץ את אסתר שתעודד ותצפה לטובות, כי, אמר, נתון יתן לה, אם תבקש זאת ממנו אפילו את חצי המלכות”.

I wonder, how after such an experience she got the strength asking the King to come with his Prime Minister to her wine drinking room. In Shushan everything was done in “BATE JAYIN”. Did they have dining rooms there?
Did not Mordechay seek legal council before approaching Ester? Had he done so he would have known that the law does not apply to the Queen, and she would not be punished for approaching the King without an invitation. We would have one fast-day less and the Jews in the 127 Medinot could have a nice Seder Feast instead of fasting.
Wishing you all a HAPPY PURIM.

Mishloach Manos and Aveylus

As everyone knows, an Avel (mourner) is still required to give Mishloach Manos, but is not meant to be given Mishloach Manos. What is the essential difference? Clearly, an Avel is still someone who must do good deeds, including Chesed (kindness) and acts of goodness. This is claimed to not only be good for the Avel, so to speak, but is something the Neshama (my father, הכ”מ) gets an Aliya/Nachas from. So far so good.

We can understand why someone should not be involved in giving to an Avel. Likely, the Mishloach Manos is (meant to be) a contribution to the Avel’s Purim Seuda. The Avel’s Purim Seuda, though, in a year of Aveylus, isn’t what it normally is. One isn’t supposed to go (based on the Ramoh) to someone else’s Seuda. Rather, it should be a relatively “quiet” and home-bound one, much like the rest of Aveylus of the 12 months, which is characterised by an avoidance of more public modes of enjoyment and celebration.

An interesting question arises in regards to a family Seuda. What is the Halacha, if customarily, the wider family, including siblings, who are also Aveylim, get together each year for Purim Seuda under normal circumstances. Should they also get together in a year of Aveylus? You can always argue that the “Niftar would prefer that”, but it’s not that simple. Like many laws of Aveylus, one may well get two different answers from two Rabonim. We also say that הלכה כמיקל באבילות. There is also a fair amount of grey area. If you open up a Nitei Gavriel you can probably find every type of a הנהגה under the sun, but that doesn’t really help when you seek direction and clear Psak. Telling me that in the community of “bochunovich” they did XYZ doesn’t offer Psak. Nitei Gavriel is a wonderful “encyclopedia”. It’s often difficult to “pasken” from unless of course one is from “bochunovich”.

So, I was pretty convinced that it should be okay: Aveylim with Aveylim at a Purim Seuda, without the usual dancing and banter, what could be wrong. I asked the question to מו’’ר Rav Hershel Schachter, and he replied that it is better during the year of Aveylus, that the Aveylim have their seudos individually in their own homes.

Purim, being a Yom Tov from the Rabbis, somehow places itself in this Halachic “no man’s land”. It’s not a Torah Yom Tov, nor is it a normal Yom Chol. You are meant to drink, be merry, etc to a level of עד דלא ידע. This means that although it’s a happy day with certain Mitzvos it’s perhaps not quite as important enough in terms of Toraitic שמחה. It’s a day of perhaps “wanton” happiness for want of a better word. This isn’t the natural domain of the Avel. Instead, they should partake of this סעודה meal at their own home with one’s direct family, in the first instance.

Ironically, as I delivered some Mishloach Manos today, I was pleased in a macabre way that some people could not give me Mishloach Manos in return. You know the scene, you give, and then they scurry out the back and give you one “in return”. This time, I had pure giving. I was the initiator. I didn’t need anything in return (thank God). It might sound weird, but that’s how I felt. I actually got some strange comfort out of it.

I can’t stomach this attitude

Is it any wonder that people are so sensitised and seem to have more of a propensity to abuse? The Rambam advocated a middle road. This is an extreme position, largely influenced by the influx of Hungarian Charedim to our Holy Land. It needs to be seen for what it is, a crazy chumra which serves no halachic purpose and if anything is an abuse of Halacha in the sense that it places a (future) stumbling block before the “blind”. The day somebody gets excited or over-refreshed by such “brazen imagery” is the day they need to see a psychiatrist.

I don’t see it as some attitude against women. I see it as a complete and wanton abuse of men.

From yediot:


No Queen Esther in Purim costume ads

What does one do in order to avoid blurring the faces of little girls in Purim costume ads? Very simple: Show boys only.

After being criticized in recent years for concealing girls’ faces for “modesty reasons” or replacing them with dolls, this year some Israeli toy stores have decided to completely remove pictures of girls from their advertisements.

Ads published by some chains in ultra-Orthodox newspapers in recent weeks are surprisingly missing costumes which were included in their ads in the past, although these costumes are still on sale.

For example, the biblical matriarch Rachel and even Queen Esther are absent from the ads this year, as part of an ongoing trend in the haredi media not to publish pictures of women or feminine clothing items

Last year, girls were blurred (upper photo) – this year, they’re gone

Religious Jews belonging to moderate factions are protesting the haredi press’ radicalization, which they say has reached the “exclusion of four-year-old girls,” but are also criticizing ads showing young girls in revealing costumes in the general press, which they say “border on pornography.”

Religious-Zionist movement Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, for example, responded cynically to the two extreme phenomena: “It appears that there are those who prefer to read only the parts related to Ahasuerus’ feasts in the Book of Esther, while on the other hand there are those who completely hide Esther.

“The despicable treatment of women, on both sides, strengthens extremism and creates a public domain which ranges between over-conservatism and over-permissiveness. The public is responsible for designing a road in the middle, which respects human beings and does not see them as an object.”

Sam Lipski gets it wrong about the Australian election date

[Disclaimer: as always, these views are my own. They do not represent my employer or any organisation with which I am affiliated or a member of]

In an article in the Australian Jewish News, the erudite and respected figure editorialised that it didn’t bother him that the Australian Labor Party through the Prime Minister Julia Gillard had chosen Yom Kippur as the election date, despite having other possibilities. Amongst his points Lipski argues that as far as he knew Halacha knew no difference between the voting on Shabbos and the voting on Yom Kippur. Despite Sam’s Orthodox roots and his current alleged membership of the (small) Conservative Jewish Community, it shocks me that he would make such statements. Granted, the job of an editorial is to be somewhat left (sic) field and sensationalist, but in this case he has taken his license too far.

The implication that once you drive on Shabbos, you may as well drive on Yom Kippur is a nonsense, and Sam knows it. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year, and even those who might infract on other days, attempt to refrain from doing so on Yom Kippur.


On Yom Kippur evening after davening at Elwood Shule, there are many people who walk back to their homes even though they drive on Shabbos. Are we expecting Sam to knock on their window and say “Hey Buddy, what’s the point, you already drove last Shabbos”. It is well-known that the Conservative movement’s attempt to purify driving on Shabbos was an abject failure. Even its own leaders now acknowledge this fact.

No Sam, your role isn’t to find special meaning on the “wonderful” conjugation of the election and Yom Kippur. That, is distasteful, disrespectful, and frankly grandstanding. You already have a good name. There is no need to engage in this populist, sensationalist nonsense that strikes at the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar.

Michael Danby a Labor MP, a member of Elwood Shule, put it respectfully and rightly when he expressed disappointment over the date and announced that extra polling days would be available in Jewish areas.

I urge all people to not even remotely consider the possibility of casting your ballot on Yom Kippur. Do it before, or by postal vote. All Orthodox Shules should contact their members in this regard, in my opinion. I’d venture to say that even the Conservadox, Conservative or Reform movements should do the same.

I’m told that on another blog, there is an article whose title suggests it is “Great” that an election is held on Yom Kippur. Whether this is sarcasm, wit or a real opinion, it’s a great shame that writers and thinkers even have the temerity, let alone the Jewish vacuity, to evince a view that is remotely positive about such a sad conjunction.

Achdus=Unity or Sloganeering?

We have emerged from an intense month. Starting from the Ellul lead in, through Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur, onto Succos/Hoshana Rabba and culminating in Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah. I use the word culminating, because in a pristine existence, it is meant to be a culmination after which ויעקב הלך לדרכו, the newly inspired and invigorated Jew “goes on his way”.

In the days of old, when distractions of worldy existence were minor and inconsequential, and when tomorrow was simply a new day, it was arguably less of an issue to exult in finishing the leyning of the Torah. (It wasn’t always the case that we completed the Torah each year, but I digress).

I fondly remember dancing the night away at (the Religious Zionist) Mizrachi Shule only to arrive in the late evening at (the Chabad) Yeshivah Centre. We were young, restless and more daring back then and attempted to hijack the singing by introducing “Tziyon Halo Tishali” (a Satmar tune for those interested in trivia, and one which connotes sadness vis-a-vis Kinos on Tisha B’Av). This song, was akin to a Religious Zionist anthem, and we were determined to show that “we have arrived” and perhaps, just perhaps, we could all sing together. We got away with it, and the singing and dancing continued in the usual uplifting vein.

Rabbi Groner ז’ל  together with other “elder”  Chassidim, hosted all with a classic Farbrengen on Shmini Atzeres. Regaling us with stories of his youth, and more, we sat spell-bound for hours. Snippets of Chassidus were spoken, and anyone could pipe up and say something. Some interloping comments were interesting whilst others displayed the result of someone who was less able to hold their liquor. There was, however, a feeling of Achdus and inspiration.

In later years, Rabbi Groner would be wheeled in, but the Farbrengen continued as long as he had an ounce of strength left in his body. To be sure, there were other significant iconic Chassidim of yore, R’ Zalman, R’ Nochum, R’ Chaim Serebryanski,  to name a few. It was like a pseudo-pantomine. They often criticised each other, under the influence of some Mashke (alcohol) and although we sometimes witnessed Rischa D’Orayso (heated interchange, for want of a better description) it was never acrimonious and, importantly, nobody pulled rank. Indeed, Chabad is a binary system as far as people go. There was the Rebbe and then the rest. It was, as in the beginning of Parshas Nitzavim: from the Rosheichem, the leaders, right through to the water drawers.

Mashke was a lubricant. It released the inhibitions. It facilitated an ability to dispense with the Tirdos (worries) of Olam Hazeh, the world we live in, and temporarily immerse in something more corporeal. In short, it was a means to an end. It was never an end of itself. Personally, I found that as I got older, Mashke helped me to “lose” the relative trivia that might be occupying my neurones and focus. It sounds contradictory, but it’s the reality. Mashke is sufficient, but it is by no means necessary, so to speak.

Fast forward. It’s Shmini Atzeres. Nusach Sfard and Chassidim perform Hakofos in Chutz La’aretz. There is a Kiddush (in the Chabad Yeshivah Shule where I have davened for eons) and many said kiddush (in the Succa) ostensibly to resume Hakaofos, somewhat liberated by the Mashke. In the last few years, I have felt decidedly uncomfortable going into the Succa for this preparatory libation. I do not refer to the issue of under age drinking. That is a separate item and not the topic in this post. The atmosphere of late, especially this year, seems to have become one more akin to a tavern/pub (lehavdil). Many never return to Hakofos, and the kiddush on mashke, has become an end, and not a means to an end. It is true, that my attention was also somewhat “distracted” as I was learning about Cohanim, Air Planes, Tumah, Moving Tents and floating carpets, and came to the realisation that I was close to clueless about the intricate Dinim of Tumas Ohel and Kelim, so I could be described as “preoccupied”.

The next day, as a Cohen, I duchened. I was somewhat psychologically affected by a Halachic question I had been reading from R’ Oshry ז’ל regarding a Cohen in the Ghetto whose voice box had been dismembered by the Nazis, may their memory be blotted forever. I felt strangely inspired to “give it my all”. I had a voice box. I wasn’t tormented. All I needed to do is have thoughts of אהבה and ask Hashem to give everyone everything they needed.

We then retired to the Shmini Atzeres farbrengen. I made kiddush, and then a little more, and waited with pregnant excitement to hear words of wisdom. It was probably me. All I heard was sloganeering and seemingly parroted thoughts that I had heard so many times before. There was no “git vort”, no “geshmake mayse”, not even a new Chassidic insight into the day we were meant to be only happy.

I began to question things being said our of sheer frustration. Perhaps if I hadn’t been exposed to the “good times” or had been more tolerant towards this somewhat more mediocre experience, I would have stayed silent.

I wanted to say something. It was to be my attempt to steer the ambient discussion towards some Tachlis. It had been on my mind during davening, and while there could have been an opportunity to do so in the good old days, and did, it sadly had no place anymore.

The shutters were up. The Arba Minim are meant to signify a unity and tolerance of all types of people and philosophies. Call it a symbol of Achdus or Unity, the personification of ואהבת לרעך כמוך. I felt that it was relegated to sloganeering. There was no action. One kind soul, attempted to assuage me

Isaac, if you were sitting in a Belzer Succah, do you think they would allow a non Belzer to say a Dvar Torah?

It was then that I realised he was right. This is, sadly, what we have become (in most places). We have compartmentalised to an extent where everyone thinks they have the (sole) mortgage on the truth. It’s my way or the highway. There seemingly can no longer be more than one path to serving Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Eventually I left.

As I walked home, I reflected on the words of the first Amshinover Rebbe, R’ Yaakov Dovid ז’ל

The Rebbe asked about the well-known Passuk in Tehillim:

הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד

Behold it is good and pleasant when brothers are sitting also together

The verse should have read:

הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים יחד

Behold it is good and pleasant when brothers are sitting together

The word גם—also—is superfluous and misplaced. The Rebbe explained that there are many occasions where brothers (and sisters) sit together. However, it’s only good and pleasant when they are also together, sharing a commonality.

I wondered how each original Rebbe, who was a student of the Magid of Mezeritch sat around the same table. They had nuanced differences in their outlooks. Were they together? Of course they were. In our day, each Chassidic group is basically in its own cocoon. The same is true of non Chassidim.

On Shmini Atzeres/Simchas Torah, one would have thought that the uniting element, the Torah itself, would have the pulling power to create the גם יחד.

Maybe next year. I’ll be positive. There is no other choice.

Gartels on Yom Kippur

It is questionable during the year whether one needs to wear a Gartel. Let’s assume that it is your family minhag or acquired minhag to continue to do so even today. This article is not about the need to wear one.

On Yom Kippur, certainly those who wear a Gartel also wear a Kittel. Almost every Kittel I have seen, includes a white gartel, made of the same material as the kittel. If so, on a day when we are meant to wear white (via a Kittel) largely because it reminds us of the deathly shrouds (which is why Shulchan Aruch paskens that even women can wear a Kittel) why is it that people also put their black gartel on top of their kittel. That is, a gartel on a gartel?

On Rosh Hashana, when I am the Ba’al Tefila for Musaf, I wear a Kittel. I don’t wear an extra Gartel. On Yom Kippur, I confess that I also wear a black gartel over my kittel. The reason that I do so has nothing to do with Halacha. It is an emotional expression. My Zeyda Yidel Balbin passed away on Yom Kippur. As a young man, when I entered the room that he was in when he passed away on Motzoei Yom Kippur (he had already been removed by the Chevra Kadisha). I stood there alone for quite some minutes feeling the emptiness of the room. His hat and walking stick were in the room. As I walked around, I also found his Gartel. I took that Gartel and I wear it on his Yohr Tzeit (Yom Kippur).

Why do others wear a black gartel on top of their kittel? If they do so because their Rebbes did so, then why did the Rebbes do so?

Along these lines, why don’t some Chassidim substitute their black yarmulkas for white yarmulkas?

Does anyone know?

Typical Kittel

Brushing teeth on Tisha B’Av

I know that most Poskim forbid it. If my hands are dirty, then I am permitted to remove the dirt with water and soap if necessary, preferably up to the knuckles if possible.

Now that we know that our teeth are actually dirty with plaque.

From Wikipedia

Components of plaque

Plaque consists of microorganisms and extracellular matrix.
The microorganisms that form the biofilm are mainly Streptococcus mutans and anaerobes, with the composition varying by location in the mouth. Examples of such anaerobes include fusobacterium and actinobacteria.
The extracellular matrix contains proteins, long chain polysaccharides and lipids.
The microorganisms present in dental plaque are all naturally present in the oral cavity, and are normally harmless. However, failure to remove plaque by regular tooth brushing means that they are allowed to build up in a thick layer. Those microorganisms nearest the tooth surface convert to anaerobic respiration; it is in this state that they start to produce acids.
Acids released from dental plaque lead to demineralization of the adjacent tooth surface, and consequently to dental caries. Saliva is also unable to penetrate the build-up of plaque and thus cannot act to neutralize the acid produced by the bacteria and remineralize the tooth surface.
They also cause irritation of the gums around the teeth that could lead to gingivitis, periodontal disease and tooth loss.
Plaque build up can also become mineralized and form calculus (tartar).

I understand that on Yom Kippur we have an additional issue of Inuy, afflicting oneself.

ילמדינו רבינו
Why isn’t plaque considered like “dirt” that may be removed?
It could be argued that nobody, even a dog, would swallow tooth paste let alone listerine.
Why not allow brushing with a half a cupful of listerine or similar?

Agudas Yisrael and Yom Ha’atzmaut: then and now

[Hat tip to Mark]
The letter below was penned by famed Rosh Yeshivah of Telz in Cleveland and member of the Moetzes Gedolai HaTorah in the USA, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch ז’ל. I had heard about the sentiments, but it is all the more powerful when one reads the actual letter. Well, not quite the actual letter, but a translation of the letter, which I lifted from the following article.


With God’s help, Sunday, Parashat Bechukosai, 5714

My respected friend, Mr. David Ulman, Shalom and with eternal blessing!

First I would like to express my gratitude to you for contacting me to request clarification with regard to the holiday of Independence without judging or criticising from afar. Now let me respond to the matter with clarity.

  • The copy of the advertisement that you sent to me is indeed correct. Furthermore, this event was attended by the Women of Agudath Israel and Pirchei Agudath Israel. The reason that their attendance was not mentioned [in the ad] is simply due to the fact that they decided to attend later [after the flyer was published], and they became an official part of the evening’s program.
  • Before we discuss the actual matter we must first clarify the following questions:
    1) Is Yom ha-Atzma’ut a worthy matter for the Ultra- Orthodox community to deliberate and to express a stance regarding it[s celebration]?
    2) Is it worthy of celebration?
    3) Is it worthy for the members of Agudath Israel to unite with the members of Mizrachi in a fashion which allows us to express our approach and influence others to act according to the spirit of Agudath Israel?

In my humble opinion, one must respond to these questions as follows:

  1. The independence of Israel and the establishment of the State are important events in the life of our nation. It is worthy for members of Agudath Israel to participate when there is a possibility to express their thoughts and views before a large forum in order to influence them regarding the approach of the Agudah and to refute the negative sentiments against Agudath Israel.
  2. In my opinion, despite all of the defects and deficiencies in the leadership of the State of Israel, its mere existence, which happened via revealed miracles, is of great significance that deserves recognition and appreciation. This recognition must be publicly expressed for two reasons: First, because the truth must be expressed. Second, that all should know and recognise that our war against the Government of Israel is not targeted against the existence of the State.
  3. Participation with Mizrachi in a fashion that Agudath Israel is free to express its views was recognised as the correct approach by creating a religious front that Agudath Israel is always willing to renew. Although I know that we disagree with Mizrachi on our fundamental beliefs, and in no way are our views consistent with each other, and consequently our actions are totally different, still there are many issues on which we can work together and, through this, strengthen the ultra-religious and its influence on the life of the nation.

After this preface let’s discuss the issue of our participating in the celebration of Yom ha-Atzma’ut. The collective meeting for Yom ha-Atzma’ut was not particularly festive; it was simply a symposium conducted by all the Orthodox factions and gave everyone the opportunity to express their views. Of course, if we would not have attended, the meeting would have turned into a platform focused on criticising Agudath Israel and its leaders who are the “Gedolei ha-Torah.” Our participation on the other hand caused the speakers to speak politely and allowed Agudath Israel to express its views in front of more than one thousand people. Hence even if we would not have related to the State of Israel in a positive fashion, our participation would still have been of value. However, in my view since the creation of the State of Israel is indeed an important milestone in the life of our nation, our relationship to it, therefore, is positive, and our participation is obligatory.

Our participation together with Mizrachi is despite the fact that the religious political front was canceled. In Cleveland there is a religious front by the name “Orthodox Jewish Association” comprised of representatives of ultra-orthodox synagogues, Agudath Israel, Mizrachi, Young Israel and representatives of the educational institutions of the ultra-orthodox. A condition was established that if there is any issue with which one of the participants disagrees, the organisation cannot act. For example when rabbi… came here as the representative of the so-called Jewish Agency’s Torah Department, during their month of propaganda, and most of the organisation’s members were willing to participate in an open forum, Agudath Israel and our educational institutes did not agree, despite our personal relationships with rabbi…. Of course Mizrachi acted independently, but not in the name of our joint religious organisation. Due to this organisation, thank God, we were able to eliminate non-kosher at United Jewish Appeal banquets and gatherings and accomplish other positive outcomes that strengthened the religious position and its respect in the community. Therefore, if we would not have agreed to organise the Yom ha-Atzma’ut gathering of course we could have stopped the organisation from attending. However, our view is positive [towards Yom ha-Atzma’ut] and therefore we did attend. It is noteworthy that nothing was done without consulting with us. We oversaw all preparations to insure all would be in accordance with our interests. For example, no irreligious attended and all women sat in a separate section behind a Mechitzah etc….

To summarise, I feel it correct to clarify why this was conducted this year and not in previous years. The reason did not emanate from our side but from the side of the other factions. In past years all the Zionist factions would conduct the gathering in accordance with their approach and of course we are neither part of them nor their ways. But this time they approached us with a proposal that the gathering would be only with religious people in accordance with the spirit of Torah and asked us if under these conditions we would be willing to participate. And thus, despite the fact that this year we are actually at war with the Mizrachi even more so than in previous years, we still feel it was the correct approach to demonstrate to them that on issues on which we are in agreement we can work together.

In general, I already expressed my view that we lost a great deal by refraining from recognising correct issues just because the irreligious and those manipulated by them, the Mizrachi, agreed to them, because through agreeing with them we would have strengthened their false opinions. In my opinion, our views did not find receptive hearts within the nation not because of our stance against their incorrect views; rather it is because of our negative position against the correct views such as learning Bible, speaking Hebrew and Eretz Yisrael. The populace cannot understand our concerns and, moreover, when we emphasise our positive views they will accept us and allow us to fight the falsehoods. In addition, I must express that this attitude of ours is not unique to our life in America. We acted this way in Lithuania as well despite the fact that then, as now, we were totally zealous concerning anything that, God forbid, is not in accordance with the spirit of Torah. We did not regress because of persecution, denouncement and sometimes even suffering, sorrow and much damage to our holy Yeshiva.

With this I am your friend, I respect you and bless you, 

Eliyahu Meir Bloch

Milchigs on Shavuos and Kiddush Wine

Most people observe a well-known minhag to eat Milchigs. Some have their cheese blintzes or cheese cake prior to a main meal (avoiding halachic hard cheese which would necessitate a 6 or 5 and a bit hour wait). Others have one Milchig meal on the first day. The Minhag in my father’s house is to have only Milchigs for the entire Shavuos; others from Poland also share this Minhag. If and when I mention this to others, they look incredulous. Sometimes, they will say, “But you have to eat meat on Yom Tov” while others will say  “אין שמחה אלא בבשר ויין”.

I mentioned the Minhag to Rav Schachter, and he confessed that he too had never heard of it. He did note that according to the Chafetz Chaim, though, wine was now the main ingredient for שמחה and so he felt that יש על מי לסמוך and I was entitled to continue this practice.

The relevant sources are Pesachim קיט and  ,ביאור הלכה, או”ח תקכ”ט ב

תניא רבי יהודה בן בתירא אומר: בזמן שבית המקדש קיים אין שמחה אלא בבשר שנאמר “וזבחת שלמים ואכלת שם ושמחת לפני ה’ אלהיך”, ועכשיו שאין בית המקדש קיים, אין שמחה אלא ביין, שנאמר ויין ישמח לבב אנוש

והאנשים, בזמן שבהמ”ק היה קיים כשהיו אוכלין בשר השלמים… ועכשיו שאין בהמ”ק קיים אין יוצאין ידי
חובת שמחה אלא ביין… אבל בשר אין חובה לאכול עכשיו כיוון שאין לנו בשר שלמים, ומ”מ מצוה יש גם באכילת בשר כיון שנאמר בו שמחה [כן מתבאר מדברי הב”ח וש”א], והמחבר שלא הזכיר בשר אזיל לשיטתיה בב”י ע”ש, ולענין יין סמך על מה     שהזכיר בס”א שצריך לקבוע סעודה על היין

In summary, the meat (not chicken) that is originally referred to is the meat of Korbanos. In the absence of Korbanos, men were required to institute their שמחה through the consumption of wine at the meal. [Women on the other hand obtain this through a Yom Tov gift].

My reading of the above leads me to a number of conclusions.

  1. If you make Kiddush on Yom Tov with Grape Juice and consume no wine, it would seem you have not fulfilled Chazal’s happiness requirement
  2. Kiddush wine does not constitute the type of drink, in my opinion, that Chazal were referring to. The sweet thick molasses that parades as Kiddush wine may serve the purpose of Kiddush because it has a name/שם of wine. However, I don’t see how anyone could consider it as an ingredient for שמחה. I’d go further, if it wasn’t called “יין” it could be cogently argued that it was not חמר מדינה (a regular drink of choice in one’s locale) because nobody but nobody would casually serve this to a guest who occasioned one’s house.
    If it wasn’t for קידוש would anyone drink the stuff?

The prayer of the SheLah HaKadosh

1565-1630 (11 Nisan, 5391) ISAIAH BEN ABRAHAM HA-LEVI HOROWITZ (SheLah Hakadosh) (Prague, Bohemia-Tiberias, Eretz Israel) Rabbi, kabbalist, and Jewish leader known as the SheLah Hakadosh for his major work “Shnai Luchot Habrit” (Two Tablets of the Covenant) which combines Halachah and Kabbalah as a way of life.

He moved to Eretz Israel in 1621 after the death of his wife. In 1625 he was arrested with many other Rabbis and held for ransom. The SheLah served as leader and Ashkenazi Rabbi in Jerusalem. He used his personal wealth to financially support the community. The SheLaH strongly believed that he was privileged to be able to observe the commandments tied to the land of Israel. He is buried next to the Rambam in Tiberias.

Many observe the practice of saying this T’filla (link includes English translation) for their children. Some couple this practice with fasting on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan.

Lag Ba’omer the most mysterious day of simcha?

I’m not the wiser from year to year (no smart cracks please). Let’s look at the reasons for this pause in the Aveylus of S’fira and the Simcha attached to it.

It’s the day that R’ Akiva’s students stopped dying.

I don’t get it. As I recall this is a Gemora in Yevamos. If they stopped on Lag Ba’omer and then started again on Lamed Daled, I am unable to understand  why anyone would be happy. If they stopped dying on Lag Ba’omer and didn’t die thereafter (this is one Girsa in that Gemora), I do understand suspending Aveylus, but I don’t understand the day of happiness.

It is the Yohr Tzeit of the Rashbi

I don’t understand. If it was his Yohr Tzeit and that was such an auspicious event, then why oh why isn’t this mentioned by Chazal. You won’t find it in the Gemora or Medrash. Why not? I don’t think you even find it mentioned in the writings of the Geonim. As I recall, the first Rishon who mentioned it was the Meiri. The others didn’t mention it, including the Rambam. Did the Rambam have a Mesora for Rashbi’s Yohr Tzeit? Sure, we know that much later R’ Chaim Vital related that the Ari went to the Kever and suggested that his Talmid not say Nachem on this day, the “simcha of the Rashbi”.

The day that five students of R’ Akiva got Smicha (including Rashbi) and continued his legacy.

I think this is quoted in the Tshuvos of the Chasam Sofer. Again, we know that R’ Akiva re-established Torah again, this time in the South of Israel and that is surely good, but to suspend Aveylus and then have these big shindigs in the middle of S’fira when in fact his 24,000 students from the North and centrally were dying?

About 35 years ago, when I had to “decide” how to act in S’fira given that my father’s Mesora was not transmitted, I chose the S’fardi practice of having 33 days of mourning, and then ceasing mourning on the 34th day. The assumption was that this was the end of the plague, and therefore the mourning period terminated. I’m not even getting into the opinions of those (like the Chida) who say that it wasn’t Rashbi’s Yom Simcha (Hillula).

I don’t get it. Someone enlighten me please?

Whatever the case, I am lucky to always play at a wedding on Lag Ba’omer, and last night was no different. It was a beautiful wedding with lots of genuine Simcha and that’s good enough for me to have a special night 🙂

What a cutie

Statement from מו’’ר, Rav Hershel Schachter שליט’’א

This puts an end to R’ Meir Rabi’s attempts to use Rav Schachter’s name in support of his Laffa. I hope he has the good sense to remove Rav Schachter from his marketing and information websites.

In English:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERNI have been asked many times over the past years if it is correct for Ashkenazi Jews to fulfill their obligation to eat Matza on the night of Pesach with Sephardic Matza. I have always answered that, in my opinion, this is not against custom provided that the Matza is produced under expert supervision and under the strict guidance of reliable and responsible Rabbinic authorities. My intention was in strict reference to the Sephardic Matzas that are known to us here in New York. I have now been informed from afar that there are new varieties called Laffa and Mountain Bread that I have never seen and know nothing about and I have not expressed any opinion concerning them, for one may only rule on what one’s eyes have seen. It is impossible to give my opinion on anything that I am not familiar with. I am greatly astonished how a “living person can contradict a living person” and how it is possible that anyone can say things in my name that have totally never entered my mind.Signed: Tzvi Schachter

Tachanun on Yom Ha’atzmaut

I understand but do not accept the view of Hungarian Satmar, Toldos Aron, Shomer Emunim and similar, that the establishment of a State for Jews is the work of Satan and should be rejected. Such a view, in the opinion of many great sages is not justifiable, and its tenuous reliance on the three oaths is seen as an halachic fiction.

I understand, but do not agree with the view of Chabad and some other Chassidim and Misnagdim, that “it is what it is”. They contend that the establishment of the state wasn’t a necessary event in the development of events leading to the Mashiach. However, given that the State is a reality, they will support the people within the State. Chabad, for example, refrain at all costs from saying the State of Israel. Listen carefully. They will always say Eretz Yisroel, following the practice of the last Rebbe, who I believe only referred to it as the “State of Israel” but once.

I understand and accept the position of those who see the State of Israel as being an eschatological reality created by Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and that it will eventually lead to ובא לציון גואל, but who will either

  • not say hallel
  • will say hallel without a bracha
  • will say hallel with a bracha

They do not disagree with the metaphysical importance of the State, but have halachic techno-legal reasons for their particular practice. For example, the Rav didn’t say Hallel and at Kerem B’Yavneh we said Hallel without a Bracha.

I do not understand why people who do not agree that the establishment of a State for Jews is the work of Satan (e.g. Satmar) or who are passively ambivalent about the eschatological significance of a State (e.g. Chabad) not only say Tachanun, but insist on saying Tachanun. It is related that the Chazon Ish, who was saved from the events of the Holocaust by no less than the efforts of Harav Kook ז’ל, insisted on saying Tachanun.

In Melbourne, a number of years ago, when a Bris occurred at the ultra-orthodox Adass Yisrael congregation, Rabbi Beck insisted that Tachanun be said davka because it was Yom Ha’atzmaut and that it would be entirely wrong for someone to come away with the impression that Tachanun might not have been said on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

It is well-known, that Chizkiyahu the great King, in whose generation the Gemora tells us (in Sanhedrin from memory) that Torah study and knowledge was in a high and unprecedented state, failed to materialise the Geula because Chizkiyahu became too haughty and felt that it was unnecessary to utter special praise (Shira) to Hashem and thank him for the miracles that Hashem wrought on Am Yisrael.

Shira, praise and thanksgiving, is the power to see the illumination of the future in the present. It is the power to perceive our existence as a link between the past and the present, and the power to raise everything towards an all-encompassing Geula.

Therefore after crossing the Red Sea, in “Shirat Ha’Yam” – it states: “Az” Yashir. Az– “Then,” past tense, is a reflection on the past, “Yashir” – “will sing praise” in the future tense. There is the joining and encapsulation of the past and the future, thereby giving meaning to the present.

The Torah is also referred to as “shira.” We seek to find Hashem in every nook and cranny and aspect of life—in every corner. This is the approach to Torah that elevates the world. Torah that creates a superficial division between the Yeshivah and the external, real world, is not the ideal.  Yahadus desires to interpret everything, and of course, especially the manifestation of God’s name

It is possible to study Torah as in the days of Chizkiyahu, to the extent that even the children are expert at the laws of tumah and tahara, yet still the Geula is hindered and delayed.

Yeshayahu expected Chizkiyahu to offer praise, and sing shira to elevate the entirety of reality. Chizkiyahu failed and the world was set back in reaching its goal.

One’s individual Torah, despite it’s great value and benefits, is not termed Shira. Only the transcendent Torah that strives to see how everything is bound to Hakadosh Baruch Hu is described as shira.

Those who separate the Torah from the State as if they are two entities are not singing.  This is how Rav Kook explained the criticism of Chizkiyahu. “That in his days briers and thorns covered Eretz Yisra’el,” for Chizkiyahu did not demonstrate how the Torah is also connected to the land.

In justifying Chizkiyahu, some have posited that the miracle of his victory over Sancherev was not as great as the sun standing still (in the days of Yehoshua) and that is why Chizkiyahu didn’t sing Hashem’s praises. Mortals, however, are not qualified to  judge which miracle is greater or more substantial. Judging such things is an expression of haughtiness, and this is what Chazal meant.

Shira dissolves the temporal manifestation of ingratitude, as supplied by the Yetzer Horah.

What is most puzzling to me is that even those who don’t recognise the need to especially sing to Hashem still insist on making this a day like any other and continue saying Tachanun. Yet, on their own days of celebration (e.g. a special day in a Chassidic court), they suspend the saying of Tachanun.


Diet Coke on Pesach (segue)

In a previous article, I was critical of the wording and approach to this issue by Kosher Australia. In particular, they announced that people should not buy these diet drinks as they were Kitniyos. I argued that they were likely Kitniyos Shenishtane and therefore a matter of disagreement among Poskim and Kashrus Agencies and that people should ask their local orthodox rabbi (who would presumably liaise with Kashrus Authorities and advise their congregant as to the Halacha). I did not feel that Kosher Australia should make a certain pronouncement on the matter.

It is true that the Diet products have a Hechsher of the Rabbanut. It is equally true that some will rely on such a Hechsher and some will not. Some may rely on it during the year, but not on Pesach. Others may never rely on it. Some will only rely on a specific Rabbanut Hechsher: e.g. Yerushalayim.

I have also learned that R’ Lande has issues with one variety of Diet Coke preparation even during the year (let alone Pesach). It seems then that those who follow R’ Lande’s hashgacha need to investigate this fully with his office, depending on where in the world they find themselves wishing to drink Diet Coke and the like.

I asked the OU about the Israeli Diet Coke which doesn’t have a Mehadrin Hechsher, and only bears a Rabbanut Hechsher. The reply I received from the OU stated:

“Diet Coke from Israel is certified by OU. However, the OU symbol is not used on Coke products in Israel. One of the issues involved is kitniyos shenishtane”

In other words, like other Mehadrin standards, the OU does have some issues with this production which prevented them placing their Mehadrin OU stamp, however, the product is certified for use (clearly for those who do not necessarily seek Mehadrin).

Unsurprisingly, my attempts at eliciting further details failed. The OU are not about to provide me with details of changes that ought to take place before they put an OU on the product. I understand that  the OU have instigated some changes in USA production and therefore are able to place their imprimatur on that production line. Whether they rely on Bitul for Kitniyos Shenishtane when they have their OU imprimatur, I do not know.

So, in summary, if I was a Kosher Supplier of groceries in Melbourne, I’d either

  • approach the OU to see if they are able to instigate a process whereby the Israeli product gets the OU stamp, or
  • import the diet drinks from the USA with the OU stamp

Clearly the former is better, as we support Israel and Israeli goods.

The other contentious issue is that of Quinoa. As I mentioned, there was a finding by a respected Kashrus Agency that some Quinoa was proximate to Chametz during production. This is a concern. I notice that Eden has a Quinoa that is certified year-round by the OK. If I was a Jewish greengrocer, I’d be approaching the OK to see if they can ensure that Eden Quinoa is certified as OK Kosher for Pesach as well and stamp it as such. That way, those who use Quinoa because it is not Kitniyos, will be confident and free to do so.

Disclaimer: I must stress again, that all my comments on Halachic topics should be deemed pitputim b’almo. In other words, they are not L’Halacha, and not L’Maaseh. Discuss the matter with your local orthodox Rabbi.

I’m closing the Kosher V’Yosher vs other Rabonim comment stream

I posted an article about Diet drinks on Pesach. The comments section was respectfully filled with important information from Rav Moshe Gutnick of NSW and others. I found myself eventually having to tone down some of the comments of interlocutors through editing. Rabbi Rabi of Kosher V’Yosher sent me a comment last night and it is not one that I can edit in the way that I wanted to. I would have removed the misleading Gravatar. Seemingly unable to find a picture of himself alone, Rabbi Rabi continues to use conjunctions of his image with a famous Posek (in this case Rav Belsky, may he have a Refuah Shelemah). In my opinion, this is G’neyvas D’aas as it may well constitute a transparent attempt to ascribe importance and respectability to his business and hechsher. It’s most unbecoming. I’m not going to be a mouthpiece for marketing of business/hechsherim. So, I’ll reproduce his comment below (lightly edited) without his gravatar and that’s the end of this issue for me unless I see written information either to his business/hechsher from Rabonim which contradicts the information that is issued by the Rabbinic Council of Victoria/NSW or if Rabbis from Victoria or NSW produce written information to them which contradict’s Rabi’s information.

In our first year we did not have flour that was Shemurah from Ketzira, harvest, but only Shemurah from milling. An alert was placed upon the Matza packets of that year – suggesting that people use Matza that is Shemurah from Ketzirah for their Mitzva of Motzi Matza. There was no ambiguity that would lead any reasonable person to think that regular flour was used. If there is anyone who has a record indicating otherwise, I urge them to bring this immediately to my attention. Failing that, all remarks and those on this site saying/suggesting otherwise ought to be removed.In the same vein, quite a few postings here have been edited, the same courtesy and moral fibre dictates that all unsubstantiated remarks that reflect negatively upon my work and reputation should also be removed.A remarkable claim has been made, that HaRav Schachter rules that soft Matza may only be made by those with a Mesora; however, Rabbi Lebowitz has written that “I spoke to Rav Schachter about this several times. He holds it is completely permissible and has nothing to do with mesorah.” SEE full email Rabbi Moshe Gutnick emailed me that HaRav Schachter’s ruling can be found on the web. Can anyone assist me to locate this? We have not been able to locate it.

Diet Drinks: Kitniyos that have undergone a process of change

[Disclaimer: everything I write is not להלכה and not למעשה. In this case, my knowledge of food science is also, at best, cursory. Do discuss this issue with your Rabbi and don’t be influenced in practice by my pitputim]

In Halacha, legumes which have been traditionally not used over Pesach for a number of well-known reasons, are forbidden. This is the Ashkenazi prohibition of Kitniyos. Some, like Rabbi David Bar Chaim (who I remember as David Mandel when he was in Melbourne many moons ago, and who went to study at BMT/Hakotel at around the same time that I went to KBY 🙂 asserts that it’s not a blanket Ashkenazi prohibition, but rather one that is an Ashkenazi prohibition outside of Israel. His view is that Minhag Eretz Yisrael was never to adopt the minhag not to eat Kitniyos. I would assume, that Rabbi Bar Chaim, should he find himself in Chutz La’aretz over Pesach, would adopt the Minhag of Ashkenazim in Chutz La’aretz and not partake of Kitniyos. My assumption may not be true, of course, as he would appear to have a renaissance-style agenda for reinstating what he sees as Minhag Eretz Yisrael, even prior to Mashiach coming, rejecting any imported Minhagim from those who have made Aliya over the last 3-400 years.

What is the הלכה if Kitniyos is an admixture of a food stuff? Do we assume that it is Batel B’Rov, nullified by the majority of the ingredients which are fine, and bought before Pesach? This is a disagreement amongst the Poskim, however, where there is any semblance of a medical need, given that the issue of mixtures isn’t black and white, Poskim are certainly lenient across the board.

What about the derivatives of Kitniyos? This is known as מי קטניות? Famously, Rav Kook ז’ל declared that they were completely acceptable, because Ashkenazim never had a Minhag not to consume this, and the process negated all the issues that Kitniyos came to protect in the first place. Rav Kook’s permissive ruling is halachically sound, however, Charedim rejected it and as such it has become a default “not to rely on this Hetter”. Having said that, I well recall that even in Melbourne, as the outsiders “infiltrated” our midst, certain Kitniyos or questionably Kitniyos derived oils (מי קטניות) were definitely used by almost everyone. Peanut oil is a good example. It is highly unlikely (as per R’ Moshe ז’ל) that peanuts were ever included in the ban on Kitniyos. If we couple that doubt together with the fact that we aren’t dealing with peanuts per se, but rather a product derived from peanuts, and prepared before Pesach with a Hechsher, it can cogently be argued that there should be absolutely no problem. However, we have a long-standing custom to choose something with zero doubt over Pesach: that is, we are Machmir. Being Machmir (stringent) seems to be a long-standing Minhag. In a similar way, during Aseres Yemei T’Shuva we have a custom to be Machmir on Pas Palter and perhaps Chalav Stam even though we aren’t Machmir a whole year around.

Enter the Diet Drink. Our society loves their Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, Diet Prigat etc. When you pick up a bottle of these at your local Kosher greengrocer, you will see that the Coke has at least one “Charedi” Hashgacha, such as from the Chug Chasam Sofer, or Rav Lande from B’nei Brak. Yet, the diet version has a Hashgacha from the Rabanut. What gives? Artificial sweeteners are often derived from Kitniyos. They are another level away from מי קטניות. Why? Because they have been chemically altered/processed. This is known as קטניות שנשתנו, Kitniyos that have undergone a process (chemical) change/development. Again, the Poskim are divided on this issue. Unlike Kitniyos derived oils, however, on this issue even Charedi Poskim stand on either side of the debate. One cannot just dismiss it because it emanated from the “Zionist” Rav Kook (did you know, by the way, that Rav Kook refused to join a religious zionist political party). On this issue, we have very respected Kashrus authorities who permit it: such as Rav Belski (senior Posek of the OU and a Charedi Rosh Yeshiva) and Rav Gedalya Dov Schwartz of cRc—not to be confused with the anti-zionist CRC—(who I was fortunate to meet and speak with when he came for a wedding I played at in Melbourne) and others. Rav Schwartz is well-balanced and respected by all. The model of co-operation in Chicago is an icon for the rest of the world.

With this in mind, I’d like to quibble with the wording that was sent out by our own Kosher Australia recently. Yankel Wajsbort, who does a fantastic job, and is partly responsible for bringing our lists to the modern world of communication wrote:

A reminder that all the Diet drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Prigat) available in Australia use kitniyos sweeteners (a check of the label will show that the regular Kosher certification does not cover Pesach).

I have three problems with this statement, especially in the context of the later comments about Hommous and Techina products being Kitniyos for Ashkenazim.

  1. This is not, in the main, Kitniyos. Rather it is Kitniyos that has undergone a process change, as above.
  2. It is not true that the label will show that the “regular” certification doesn’t cover Pesach. There is a different certifying body that approves of Diet drinks, as above. At least, that is true for Prigat. I haven’t looked at Coke.
  3. Kosher Australia has three ways of issuing a pronouncement on the issue of Kitniyos that has undergone change: It either takes its own stand on the issue, which I assume would be accompanied by a formal Tshuva, or it decides to follow one group of opinions on the matter (the strict one) given that it is a body that needs to certify for a range of groups across Melbourne, or it lists the two sides of the coin and suggests that people check with their local orthodox Rabbi (LOR).

My preference, similar to what I wrote about Quinoa, is that Kosher Australia briefly list the major Kashrus organisations on both sides of this halachic divide, and then suggest that one should consult with their LOR. The approach taken in the communication above is just too black and white for my tastes (sic).

Kosher Australia acknowledged that the wording could have been better, and their consistent policy is to follow R’ Lande on these matters. They prefer, apparently,  not to get into the intricacies, as above, as this may confuse. Fair enough.

Disclaimer: I don’t use Diet drinks on Pesach, only because I’m somewhat of a Machmir over Pesach, and if I ever want to be lenient, my wife steps in and puts a halt to it 🙂

PS. I discovered that Georgio Armani products seems also not to have Chametzdik alcohol in their liquid perfumes/after shaves. I saw this on one of the major hechsher websites. Anyone checked on it? Seems that the American one is fine. Not sure if Armani produce it anywhere else and/or differently.

PPS. Does anyone know why Chabadniks who avoid all processed food on Pesach, seem to rely on Hechsherim for wine these days (but not, for example, Vodka)

Drinking on Purim

Rav Kook gave the following Dvar Torah in his Siddur, עולת ראי’’ה  :

The Talmud in Megillah 12a states that the near destruction of the Jews in the time of Ahasuerus was a punishment for participating in the royal banquet and bowing down to the Persian idols. What led them to perform these disloyal acts?

The Jews of that era thought that the root cause of anti-Semitism was due to xenophobic hatred of their distinct culture and religion. As Haman explained his rationale for destroying them:

“There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people; neither do they keep the king’s laws.” (Esther 3:8)

In order to overcome this hatred, the Jews decided it would be prudent to adopt the customs of their idolatrous neighbors. They demonstrated their allegiance as loyal Persian subjects by attending the royal banquet and bowing down to the Persian idols.

However, the Jews soon discovered that their efforts were futile. They were dismayed to learn of Haman’s plot to annihilate them, despite their best attempts at integrating into the local culture.

Accepting the Torah Again

With the realization that assimilation was not the answer, and that their only true protection from enemies is God’s providence, the Jewish people reaffirmed their commitment to keep the Torah and its laws.

“‘They confirmed and took upon themselves’ (Esther 9:27) — they confirmed what they had accepted long before” (Shabbat 88a).

The Talmud teaches that the renewed commitment to Torah at Shushan complemented and completed the original acceptance of Torah at Sinai. What was missing at Sinai? The dramatic revelation at Mount Sinai contained an element of coercion. Alone and helpless in the desert, the Jewish people could hardly refuse. The Midrash portrays this limited free choice with the threat of burial beneath the mountain, had they refused to accept the Torah. In the days of Ahasuerus, however, they voluntarily accepted the Torah, in a spirit of love and pure free will, thus completing the acceptance of Torah at Sinai.

Effusion of Good Will

This appears to be the explanation for the unusual rabbinic requirement to become inebriated on Purim (Megilah 7b). It is ordinarily forbidden to become drunk, since without the intellect to guide us, our uncontrolled desires may turn to immoral and destructive acts.

But on Purim, the entire Jewish people was blessed with an outburst of good will to accept the Torah. On this special day, every Jew who respects the Torah finds within himself a sincere yearning to embrace the Torah and its ways. For this reason, we demonstrate on Purim that even when intoxicated, we do not stray from the path of Torah, since our inner desires are naturally predisposed to goodness and closeness to God. Even in a drunken state, we are confident that we will not be shamed or humiliated with the exposure of our innermost desires. As we say in the “Shoshanat Ya’akov” prayer on Purim,

“To make known: that all who place their hope in You will not be shamed; and all who take refuge in You will never be humiliated.”

We can ask a few questions here. It is understandable that drink and merriment caused the Jews of that time to try to become more like the Nochrim of that generation. We understand this. That attitude, or mistaken belief, was at the root cause of the enlightenment in Germany and elsewhere. Jews thought that they could behave like Nochrim in the street, and like Yidden at home. They falsely relived what the Jews of Persia already found out. A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. You cannot escape from that. Your pin tele Yid will shine somewhere, sometime. There will be a descendant of Amalek who will resent that countenance. That descendant will threaten your physical and/or spiritual existence.

What is the response? One response is that of extremes. Chassidim have decided that they will adopt measures which go beyond Halacha. Halacha does not mandate that Jews  are forbidden to wear the same style clothes as non-Jews. A male Jew fulfils a positive command if he wears Tzitzis, and according to some Acharonim, fulfils a Rabbinic command if he wears a Yarmulke. Both males and females should guard the laws of Tzniyus in their attire (and demeanour). Some Chassidim, however, don’t consider this enough. They would like to look “like Jews” (as in a Uniform) in the street. This is an extreme reaction in the same vein as those who take the opposite extreme and dress to look specifically like Nochrim.

What does drinking achieve? Far be it from me to claim that I don’t know. Drinking is a poisoned chalice. It can be liberating, in that it removes inhibition. It can be liberating, in that it unburdens one’s stress and worries. It is an artificial time-bound expediency. How much does one drink? Unlike all other Mitzvos, we are specifically not given an amount. Why? Is it a Reviis, is it ten Reviis? It is neither. The amount one drinks is subjective. It is precisely the amount that leaves a person free to the extent that they are unstressed by the fact that they are not troubled by the concept of a blessed Haman. How can a person not be troubled by that? Surely, the thought of God looking favourably upon the Hamans of this world is distressing in the extreme?

That depends on where one’s feet are. If one is sober, one’s feet are planted in this Earth at this time, in the Golus leading to Geula state that we are in. Inebriated, one is able to rise above that sunken reality and levitate, albeit for only a short period, into a Utopian reality where וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם השם נקרא עליך … that even the Nochrim will see that God’s name is inscribed on our foreheads.

How though do we understand the idea that we can confuse Mordechai as being cursed? My understanding of this is that it is only in our sober state that we mistakenly only see our perfection, only occasionally focussing on those cursed areas of our free will which cause us to stray off the Holy path. We know only too well, that once a person has their veneer lifted, when they have had a few shots, they often become very willing to introspect and describe their failings and indeed seek to consider them afresh.

I feel that this is a meaning of עד דלא ידע in the context. But, like everything in our world, שם שמברכים על הטוב, כך מברכים על הרע, in the same way that one can bless over good things, one blesses over bad things. Alcohol can also be abused. If a person is already in a state where they do not appreciate the difference between a blessed Mordechai and a cursed Mordechai, because they have diluted Mordechai, or they already don’t understand the difference between a cursed Haman or a blessed Haman, then that person will gain nothing by drinking the Alcohol except a headache and an unwanted expectoration. Alas, these types of people need to have a Purim party, but only when they understand the Purim in the party. If there is no Purim, it’s just another party; a Goyishe party. ודו’’ק

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