Volume 26 Number 49
                      Produced: Tue May 13 19:52:00 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Helplessness and Prayer
         [Jordan Lee Wagner]
Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet: Separate vs. Mixed Seating
         [Jacob Levenstein]
Singing Dayeinu
         [Carl Singer]


From: <JordanleeW@...> (Jordan Lee Wagner)
Date: Tue, 13 May 1997 08:57:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Helplessness and Prayer

> * My point about music was that music depicting grandeur(standard
>  Christian music) contradicts "helplessness" while music depicting
>  "petition"(standard Jewish music) is consistent with
>  "helplessness". Zvi's point was that neither of them distracts or
>  redirects attention.

Just wanted to point out that both Jewish and Christian music includes
both types of attitude.  Consider the Faure Requiem's 'Pie Jxsu' and
most shul tunes originating from 18th Century as counter-examples.  It
is interesting to see how a person can align with one emotion other the
other in prayer, but to claim as a blanket concept that one type is
"standard" Jewish music seems unsupported.


From: <levenstein@...> (Jacob Levenstein)
Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 19:20:00 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Rabbi Aharon Rakeffet: Separate vs. Mixed Seating

The following is a transcript of comments made by Rabbi Rakeffet to his 
shiur at the Yeshivah University Kollel, in Yerushalayim, on March 16, 
1997, with my explanations, comments, and additions in [  ] brackets.

Rabbi Rakeffet was discussing a teshuvah of Maharam Yaffa (Rav Mordechai 
Yaffa) dealing with divorce. Rav Mordechai Yaffa lived in Poland, Italy, 
and Prague at the end of the 16th century and was a student of Rama, Rav 
Moshe Isserlis. As an aside Rabbi Rakeffet began to discuss Maharam 
Yaffa's comments on separate seating. The comments appear in Rav Yaffa's 
book, "Levush" (Hachur) likutai minhagim section 36. It can be found in 
"Haishah Vehamitzvot" authored by Elyakim Elinson (Yerushalayim, 5734) p. 
103-4. The following is my translation of the words of the Levush:

It is written in the "Saifer Chasidim" that any place that men and women 
see each other one must not bless "shehasimchah bemeono" [Note: see the 
zimun, the invitation to recite birkat hamazon, at the conclusion of a 
wedding meal where these two words appear.] This is because there is no 
simchah [joy] before hakadosh baruch hu when there are hirhurai avairah 
[impure thoughts]. [Now come the words of the Levush himself:] We are no 
longer careful about this [i.e. separate seating at weddings] and it could 
be because now we are used to the presence of many women among men and 
this does not result in impure thought. It is like ka'akai chivvra [white 
geese. This is a reference to Talmud Bavli, Berachot 20a].

The following is basically a transcript of Rabbi Rakeffet's comments which 
were taped by him during his shiur. I attempted to smooth out the English, 
but otherwise, I made few changes. The comments in [ ] are my attempts to 
clarify Rabbi Rakeffet's words.

The Maharam Yaffa was a very independent thinker. Those of you who are 
familiar with the Megillat Esther, the saifer Halevush, Argaman, 
Techailet, he took it [the titles] from Megillat Esther. He has on daled 
chelkai Shulchan Aruch [the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch], a world, 
a world of material. He was a very, very independent thinker. I 
personally, I have to tell you, I, Aharon Rakeffet, no one has to agree 
with me, I am very much in debt to the Maharam Yaffa, because, as I told 
you, I am offended when I come to a wedding and there is separate seating. 
To separate me from my wife, is criminal. Ay, we have a tradition from the 
Chasidai Ashkenaz that when men and women mix together, you all know, you 
can't say shehasimchah bem'ono. But you look into the Maharam Yaffa, and 
you see clearly the following.

Maharam Yaffa writes that nowadays we are used to men and women sitting 
together, being in one room together. I discussed this in length with Rav 
Aharon Lichtenstein and he told me he discussed this in length with the 
Rav, Rebbi [Rav Soloveitchik], and baruch Hashem, I am on very firm 

If you look into the Rambam in Hilchot Ishut, and you see the way he 
describes the tzniyut [modesty of dress] of a woman. He is describing a 
woman in Arabic countries. There is no one who dresses like that even in 
Meah Shearim. So tzniyut has a certain degree of subjectivity [By this I 
believe Rabbi Rakeffet means it changes with time and location. What a 
Moslem in the middle ages would find offensive, we accept today.] So I 
always say when I am invited [to a wedding], very simple, if you [the 
people making the wedding] sit separately Friday night in your house you 
have every right to make your wedding separate, I have no complaint.

Gerrer chasidim sit in two different rooms. When I was a kid, I was 
invited to my friend Yossi's. He was a Beyaner Chassid. I don't 
have time to go into it now. [Rabbi Rakeffet means, I believe, he didn't 
want to describe Beyaner chassidut at this time.] They ate in two 
different rooms. I was amazed. The first time in my life I ever saw that. 
They ate in two different rooms. Obviously, if they are not used to being 
in the presence of women.....

I was with the Gerrer. I spoke at Elya Essas' son's engagement. I spoke 
divrai Torah beharai Yerushalayim [words of Torah in the hills of 
Yerushalayim] a few months ago, and Elya's first mechutan [his daughter's 
father-in-law] is a Gerrer Chassid. I actually saw with my own eyes, that 
his Gerrer son-in-law was ill at ease. He would not go into a room where 
there were women. All right, I am not commenting; but that I can 

When you can't stay in the same room with women, that is, if you are in 
the same room with women your thoughts become perverted with sexual 
thoughts, fine, I understand, there is separate seating. Then I have to 
choose, will I go or won't I go [to a simchah by such individuals where 
there is separate seating]. I was just invited, you all know, [to be] 
karov lemalchut [near to kingship]. The Gerrer Rebbe's nephew, got 
married. I was at the shevah berachot [a meal during the week after a 
wedding]. I had the time of my life. Big mechitzah. I sat with the Gerrer 
Rebbe's sons. I sat with the Gerrer Roshai Yeshivah. My wife sat with the 
Gerrer Rebbitzen. We had the times of our life. But we knew, these were 
people that don't sit together. Fine, we made the decision to go. But when 
Johnny Yanky Chalopky who can barely read two words of the gemara together 
and the girl graduated Michlalah and trips over a Mishnah, and they are 
getting married and everyone has to sit separately, lehafrid bain 
hadevaikim [this is a reference to splitting up a husband and wife], oy 

At least let me tell you something from Rav Yosaif Breuer, something in 
his memory. Again, it is a shame. What do you guys know about German 
Orthodoxy? What can I tell you? You'll get the knowledge; but it's going 
to take a while. Let me tell you about Rav Yosaif Breuer. When the 
frumkeit binge began in America and they started the separate seating 
mishagas [craziness], which results in the Popover Rebbe.... America has 
the greatest chilul Hashem [desecration of G-d's name] ever and it is the 
Popover Rebbe. Israel's greatest chilul Hashem was $15,000 [Here Rabbi 
Rakeffet is referring to the payments made to a Rabbi to speed up a 
conversion]. Interesting how the chilul Hashems develop. When they started 
the separate seating mishigas, Breuer was very upset. The Yekkes had a 
tradition that they never sat mixed. They sat husband, wife, wife, 
husband, husband, wife....., so eight people sat at one table. You sat 
next to your wife or next to a man. There was never any mixed seating. 
Then they started the binge. He made a tenai [condition]. Anyone know what 
the tenai was? He said, okay you're going along with this craziness. I 
can't stop it. It's American. We have to be frummer than we were in 
Germany; but on one condition, that boys and girls have to sit together. 
When they asked him why, he said anyone that is not married has to sit 
together. The purpose of a wedding is to bring another shiduch. Mitzvah 
goreret mitzvah.

The real Yekkes, it's amazing, they used to have weddings in America, with 
separate seating, men, women, and anyone single sat together. Now you 
understand me John? Do you understand my comment? The girls, I threw it 
out in class [by this Rabbi Rakeffet means he briefly mentioned, in 
passing, the Maharam Yaffa together with how to apply it today, to his 
class of girls at Midreshet Moriah]. They thought I was crazy. I didn't 
have time to explain myself. But now, I am not so stupid. I know what I am 
saying. You can agree or disagree, that's your privilege; but don't call 
me an apikorus, or worse, don't call me a Conservative Jew because of my 

The Maharam Yaffa makes a lot of sense. We ride buses together. Ribbono 
Shel Olom, we go into banks together. We live in a world together. 
This is the reality of modern life. I think Torah has the ability to 
survive in dignity even though we occasionally meet women on the street.

This is the end of Rabbi Rakeffet's comments on the above date. In a past 
shiur he made the following comment. He felt that the phrase in Braishit 
(2, 24) "vedavak be'ishto" is at least a strong hint that separate seating 
is not something of which the Torah approves. He felt that since he works 
so hard and spends insufficient time with his wife that if there is an 
opportunity for them to go out together that it is chaval [unfortunate] to 
then have to sit separately, "lehafrid bain hadevaikim", as mentioned 

At another time he told a story of the Gerrer Rebbe and the Chafetz Chaim. 
The Gerrer Rebbe wanted to spend Shabbat with Rav Kagan in Radin. He wrote 
the Chafetz Chaim and requested that, at the Shabbat meals, the Chafetz 
Chaim should arrange separate seating. The Chafetz Chaim wrote back that 
he would be glad to have the Gerrer Rebbe as his guest for Shabbat, but he 
wouldn't agree to the condition of separate seating. The Gerrer Rebbe did 
not come for Shabbat.

In conclusion, Rabbi Rakeffet feels that it may not be appropriate 
for someone who sits mixed, i.e., men and women together, at the Shabbat 
table to then insist on separate seating at a simchah. However, if one has 
the custom of separate seating at the Shabbat table, then this is 
consistent with then having separate seating at one's wedding.

I asked Rabbi Rakeffet why he used the criterion of seating at the Shabbat 
meals. He told me that the reality is that during the week families don't 
always eat their meals together, but on Shabbat they do.

Some of you may feel it is unfair for Rabbi Rakeffet to refer to the 
incident with the Popover Rebbe. Rabbi Rakeffet met someone of upper rank 
within a police force in a U.S. city. This police officer, who is shomair 
Torah umitzvot, told Rabbi Rakeffet that a problem he, the police officer, 
must often deal with is that when they raid houses of prostitution they 
often find Jews there dressed in Chasidic garb. This policeman must do 
what he can to prevent the photographs of all these Jews dressed like 
chasidim from appearing in the newspapers of that city. I don't want to go 
into any more detail, but while the Popover Rebbe, etc., is, hopefully, a 
miyut [small fraction], it is a miyut hanikar [small fraction that is 
observable] in the U.S., but because of the political power of the black 
world in the U.S. it is covered up, at least so far.

Jacob Levenstein
P.O. Box 4548; Jerusalem
91044 Israel
Voice: +972-(0)2-5619006 ; Cellular: +972-(0)50999466


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Tue, 13 May 97 20:56:17 UT
Subject: Singing Dayeinu

From: <keller@...> (Irwin Keller)
> On the second night of Seder, the ba'al ha'Seder did not allow my
> children to 'sing' the song, Dayeinu, as he said "assur lekapel otiyot'=
> 'one is not allowed to repeat letters' in the Tefilah. I think I
> remember 'string' of discussions regarding repetition of words in the
> tefilah in general. 

Just caught this on the rebound.

I'm neither a professional nor amateur educator but as a parent and
(long ago) a child I feel strongly that the lasting lessons of Pesach
and the Seder come from the sights, sound and smells.  Singing Dayeinu
until we were shouting, stumbling over Echad Me Yodiah as we tried to
say it as quickly as possible, etc.  -- To deprive children of these
memories is not a good thing and clearly unnecessary.

I can't blame Mr (Dr?) Keller for being caught unaware -- I don't recall
ever asking my host if he were an idiot or practiced some form of cult
religion that closely resembled Judaism but was tainted by a zealous
adherence to chumras and mis-interpretations.  To mitigate this venal
outburst, I will be the first to point out that many a host has wished
that I would stop singing (for example Shabbos Zimiros) but that has to
do with my voice.

What's happening out there.  Are the inmates taking over the asylum?

While on that topic -- an acquaintance, a very well meaning, hard
learning fellow who davens quite intensely when not talking (it's OK the
subject is always Gabbai talk or Torah Talk) mentioned to me that he was
giving kiddish at such an such shule because he was observing a
Yartzeit.  I jokingly asked if there was going to be a chulent -- he
replied that his wife might make one -- I continued in the same vein,
"What's her background."  He suddenly turned red and blurted out that
she was Shomrey Torah, Shabbos & Mitzvot -- I had to continue, is she
Polish, Litvish or Hungarian -- will it be beans or potatoes?
 Did I say something wrong?


End of Volume 26 Issue 49