Volume 26 Number 37
                      Produced: Mon May  5 22:36:29 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

    [Lo] Ra'inu [Eino] Ra'ayah
         [Micha Berger]
Concentration in Prayer vs Learning
         [Zvi Weiss]
Drowning Fish & Common Sense (2)
         [Joel Ehrlich, Eric Jaron Stieglitz]
         [Rachel Shamah]


From: <micha@...> (Micha Berger)
Date: Fri, 2 May 1997 08:11:04 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: [Lo] Ra'inu [Eino] Ra'ayah

In v26 n33, Aryeh A. Frimer asks:
>                          has anyone come accross a discussion of minhag
> and "Lo ra'inu Ra'aya/eino Ra'aya"; that is arguments in favor or
> rejecting the position that the absence of a practice suggests that "the
> minhag is NOT to do it".

According to a footnote to R Dr Haym Soloveitchik's famous article in
the Spring '73 issue of Tradition, this (or something similar) is a
major distinction in the approaches of the Mishna B'rurah and the Aruch

The MB often offered halachic rulings that ran contrary to (then) common
practice based on textual sources. The AH far more often used practice
as a guideline.

For example, the AH concludes that women need not say birchas hagomel
(the blessing thanking G-d for surviving certain "dangerous"
events). His grounds for this is that since we see that BhG is
customarily said after being called up to the Torah, and women aren't
called up to the Torah, it must be that women were never expected to say

The Chafeitz Chaim (author of the MB), OTOH, was the primary halachic
source justifying the Beis Yaakov movement. Universal education for
girls was clearly an innovation that even runs counter to conclusions
sited in the Gemara.

The article as a whole is tangentially related, as it discusses the
transition from reliance on memetic to textual tradition. I don't agree
with much of his thesis, but that's a different topic.

Micha Berger 201 916-0287        Help free Ron Arad, held by Syria 3786 days!
<micha@...>                         (16-Oct-86 - 2-May-97)
For a mitzvah is a candle, and the Torah its light.
http://aishdas.org -- Orthodox Judaism: Torah, Avodah, Chessed


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Apr 1997 19:25:49 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Concentration in Prayer vs Learning

> From: <rhendel@...> (Russell Hendel)
> The recent dialogue on how to treat an Alzheimer's patient who was
> disruptive during services suggests that we focus on what the goals and
> atmosphere of a prayer service are.
> A well known Midrash on the 11 spice ingredients in the Frankinsence
> (Exodus: Ki Tisah) notes that one of the 11 spices had a foul odor and
> nevertheless was a necessary ingredient in the "sweet smelling
> Frankinsence". 'From this law' continues the Talmud we learn that it is
> proper to include evil doers in any prayer group on a fast day. I would
> suggest by analogy that it is also proper or better to have Alzheimer's
> patients in a prayer service. Allow me to explain:

 I confess that I do not understand this analogy AT ALL.  The Gemara is
specific that a person who is *wicked* is to be included in the Tefilla.
There does not appear to be the remotest hint in that particular "hint"
that a DISRUPTIVE person is to be included.  In effect, it sounds as if
the poster is stating that the "feelings of helplessness" associated
with one suffering form Alzheimer's are of more import than the rather
clear-cut rules about Decorum and respect in a Shule...

> Both Prayer and Learning require "concentration:"---but the
> concentration required is totally different for each. Learning requires
> a concentration atmosphere of "no distractions".  Compare for example
> the law that you doN'T have to learn in a Succah during Succoth but can
> go into your house if the Succah environment is distracting (because
> otherwise learning can't take place)

 Please refer to the Halachot of Tefilla where -- I believe -- it is
quire explicit that one is required to avoid distractions during
Tefilla, as well.  For example -- one is not allowed to hold onto items
such as coins during Tefilla....

> But...Prayer requires "awareness of man, before G-d, of man's
> helplessness". The reason we call this concentration is because normally
> I don't think of G-d or of my helplessness. Maybe a better term is
> "directing one's thought". But prayer does NOT require the same
> concentration of learning---in one case we are only required to think of
> specific items (G-d, helplessness) while in the other case we need a
> "broad mind" that can learn/analyze/synthesize new material.

 Please provide a source in Halacha for the statement that "prayer does
NOT require the same concentration of thought".  My understanding of the
relevant halachot is not at all like that..  Please clarify.

> Using the above analysis we can now reformulate or "translate" the
> question "Does hearing the disruptions of an Alzheimer's patient disturb
> the prayer service" into "Does hearing the disruptions of an Alzheimer's
> patient disturb my ability to be aware of man's helplessness and stand
> before G-d".

 What is the source for this formulation?  A simpler one appears to be:
Does hearing the disruptions of this unfortunate person disrult my own
concentration and focus upon what I am supposed to be addressing to

> I think we can clearly argue that the Alzheimer's patient helps me be
> aware of my helplessness since one day I may be like him and therefore I
> can come to G-d and truly ask for mercy.

 Or, it can simply be a distraction...

> I conclude with an observation by Rabbi Soloveitchick: The Christian
> services use for music the mass with a focus on the emotions of
> grandeur. By contrast traditional Jewish services use music to focus on
> emotions of helplessness and petition.

 I am not sure how this observation fits here.  Music has alwasy been an
acknowledged poriton of the Tefilla since the time of the Temple.  The
Rav ZT"L simply quantified its application.  How does that relate to a
matter that is perceived as disruptive?

> I hope this helps people both to pray and be tolerant of those less
> fortunate than ourselves.

 Being tolerant is clearly important... and is prescribed by Halacha.
Does that mean that we forgo the halachot of Tefilla?



From: Joel Ehrlich <ehrlich@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 11:07:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Drowning Fish & Common Sense

> In the Mishna Bruras intro to the laws of Shabbos he suggests that the laws
> of shabbos are something everyone must know & know well. Why? Because
> emergencies like loose animals and lit tablecloths (his examples!) can
> easily be dealt with IF YOU KNOW THE LAWS WELL, but since you don't have

OK, I'll bite.  What can one do about a lit tablecloth on Shabbos?

	- Joel

From: Eric Jaron Stieglitz <ephraim@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 13:33:05 -0400
Subject: Re: Drowning Fish & Common Sense

Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...> wrote on Mail Jewish:

> Again, the answer he suggests is NOT common sense, which may be sometimes
> wrong and sometimes right. The answer he suggests is LEARN IT WELL before
> the emergency. Be Prepared.

and then Ken Miller <kgmiller@...> wrote:

> <<< ... the Torah does not ascribe to us a cult-like state of existence
> where we cannot function even for a minute without a P'sak or P'sak
> giver... >>>
> Where do you see that anyone "ceased to function"? An unusual situation
> arose, involving several conflicting halachic principles, and there were
> several courses of action available. The people in the story did the
> best they could in trying to weigh all the opposing factors. If there is
> any lesson to be learned from this, it is NOT that we have to let
> "common sense" rule our lives, but that we must learn and review Torah
> until "v'sheenantam l'vanecha", until the dictates of the Torah roll off
> our tongues automatically, that we may never be caught unprepared.
> [...]
> Maybe it was okay to put the fish back, but don't anyone *dare*
> criticize the person who is careful about halacha!

  I agree completely that a person should learn the Torah well so that
he may be prepared for any situation that occurs. Unfortunately, this is
not always possible. I know what I know, and even though I attempt to
teach myself more whenever possible (learning with a Chavrutah,
attending a shiur, etc.) I know that there are certain areas in which my
knowledge is clearly lacking. It's easy to suggest that we should gain
all-encompassing knowledge of every subject in Halakha, and a person
should certainly strive to do so, but what about the person who doesn't
yet have that knowledge?

  The easiest response is that one should be as makhmer (strict) as
possible when unsure, but I've often seen people use that as an excuse
for prohibiting something which may actually be permitted (or even
required!)  according to halakha. It's just easier to appear be more
machmer in most cases, when you are only partially informed. In many
(perhaps even most) cases, this is the correct thing to do.

  If you are unsure, just don't perform the questionable action and find
a competent halakhic authority as soon as possible. No harm done to
anybody.  In others, pausing for even a moment while deciding or
choosing the more prohibitive approach may have disastrous and
irreversible consequences.  Consider the following two (real) cases:

1) Recently, I was boiling a pot of chicken broth when somebody accidentally
   inserted the tip of a clean, milkhig knife into the broth. We both
   thought that the soup was probably OK, but just to be safe I removed
   it from the flame and put the knife aside as we searched for an
   authority on kashrut. (Incidentally, the decree was that the broth
   was OK because of Bitul BaShishim, but the knife was treif.) Waiting
   and being machmer in this case is certainly the right thing to do. No
   harm is done to anybody in waiting.

2) My grandfather had become gravely ill very suddenly and our entire family
   collected at the hospital on a Friday afternoon. Before Shabbat, the
   Rabbi asked me to bring my grandmother home so that she could light
   candles. Because of bad traffic, we only arrived at her apartment
   immediately before Shabbat.

   As soon as we walked in the door, she began to prepare the candles,
   but when I looked at my watch I saw that Shabbat had already
   started. For just a moment, I considered telling her to stop because
   it was too late but decided not to say anything. Why? Because at that
   very moment she was already an emotional wreck and I thought that it
   was probably best to let her continue her weekly routine as much as
   possible rather than take the chance that one more break from it
   would push her over the edge.

   The law of Shabbat says that we are not permitted to light a flame,
   but I actually feared for my grandmother's health when deciding to
   let her light the candles. Which is more important? I can easily see
   somebody claiming that because there was no obvious direct danger to
   her I should have been more "machmer" and not allowed her to light
   candles. Since there was no halakhic authority around, I had to make
   the decision myself based on my own limited knowledge. Unlike the
   first case, I couldn't ask her to wait a minute while I found
   somebody to make the decision for me.

  Obviously, neither of these cases is like the fish that jumped out of
the its tank, but the issues raised by the differences between the two
are important.

Eric Jaron Stieglitz    <ephraim@...>
Home: (212) 280-1152            Systems Manager
Work: (212) 854-8782            Civil Engineering, Columbia University
Fax : (212) 854-6267    http://www.ctr.columbia.edu/people/Eric.html


From: <Mywhey@...> (Rachel Shamah)
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 1997 13:41:24 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Mikveh

I just read Russell Hendel's post about 'minhag & observance'.
I feel I need to explain my original post which said: (something like this)

>>Why are mikvaot closed during the day?

I live in a modern orthodox community where there are many mikvaoth
available to any women who chooses to go.  However, there is one mikveh
which is more popular than the rest because of it's location and beauty.
Several years ago a problem arose because though our community is
orthodox there are MANY orthodox rabbis whose opinions are followed.  We
are such a large community, we have maybe a dozen synagogues.  All are
(thank G-d) full and all have their own rabbi.  Usually you follow the
interpertation of your Rabbi.

So Rabbi X would allow a certain behavior concerning mikveh observance
but Rabbi Y disagreed!  What was a women to do?  We would go to the
mikveh and be told that our rabbis decision holds no weight there!
Rabbi A chose to TAKE OVER the mikveh - and our community was split.  We
wanted the mikveh to allow ALL orthodox rabbis interpertations to be
permitted.  So if I attend Rabbi Y's synagogue and he is a respected
orthodox rabbi, his rules should apply in our "community mikveh".

But the mikveh people refused - and MANY WOMEN STOPPED ATTENDING!!!!!
To make a long story short - we stopped trying to win and eventually we
built another mikveh.  We allow ALL rabbis (who are recognized as
orthodox) to rule for their congregants.  A large issue was if the
mikveh should be opened during the day.  We decided to try Friday first,
so we open one hour before candlelighting, to allow those who live a
distance to travel by car and get home in time.
 Suddenly our Friday night attendance tripled!

As an aside there are many women (and I mean a large number) who have
RETURNED to this wonderful mitzvah, because they are trusted and not
hasseled.  Because other mikveh's will not open for a women when she
needs to go, it shows a huge lack of respect and trust towards women.  I
am proud to have been a part of this project.

Hag Kasher v'sameach
BeWell -- Rachel


End of Volume 26 Issue 37