Volume 28 Number 32
                      Produced: Wed Nov 25  6:57:39 1998

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Agonize with perspective (response to Boruch Schwartz)
         [Sheri & Seth Kadish]
Charity during prayer
         [Stuart M. Wise]
Greetings after Birkat Kohanim
         [Perets Mett]
Historical length of tefilla.
         [Sheri & Seth Kadish]
Molad in Yiddish
         [Ira Robinson]
         [Shlomo Pick]
Tzedakah, Work Ethic, and Weddings
         [Elie Rosenfeld]


From: Sheri & Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Mon, 16 Nov 1998 06:21:47 +0200
Subject: Agonize with perspective (response to Boruch Schwartz)

	Boruch Schwartz takes the printed siddur, and says "Ka-zeh Re'eh
ve-kaddesh" ("see this and sanctify it").  I don't.  To Boruch what "the
daily seder ha-tefilla mandates" is very important.  To me (at least as
a yahid) it isn't crucial.  The basic point in question between us is
what to place more emphasis on: common practice or halakhic mandates.

	Despite this major difference between us, there is much about
which we do agree.

	Boruch is entirely correct that in common practice ever since
the Talmud, prayer became a "ritual", and even an extremely meaningful
one (a "kiddush Hashem").  There is no greater indication of this than
the statement of the geonim that "we don't have kavvana" -- and yet
nevertheless they still prayed!  The kavvana was lost but they kept up
the ritual, even though according to the halakhic principle it is
*forbidden* to pray when kavvana is impossible!  (This is a topic that
requires careful explanation.  I devoted the first two chapters of my
book to it, and I hope I succeeded it putting some of its nuances into
better perspective.)

	But on the other hand, the halakhic structure of prayer in the
Talmud and its requirements (especially kavvana, without which one
doesn't fulfill his obligation) fit far better with "conversational"
kavvana than it does with common practice for nearly the past thousand
years.  No, I am not exaggerating the time frame.  Boruch's description
has been true for a VERY long time.  But it was not always true.
Kavvana (the "conversational" kind) was acknowledged as very difficult
in the Talmud, but not usually impossible.  And whenever impossible,
Hazal explicitly *forbade* praying!  Furthermore, the stucture of the
berakhot that Hazal decreed as halakhic obligations permits prayer with
kavvana and not just "ritual" speech.  Boruch is entirely correct that
the current stucture of tefilla does not.  But most of the huge
additions to the berakhot of Hazal in the current stucture are *not*
obligatory for the yahid, certainly not if they come at the expense of
kavvana (which is a definite halakhic obligation).

	Which brings us back to the drawing board.  If common practice
is mandatory, then Boruch's way is the only legitimate way to pray.  But
the halakhic principles seem to recommend a very different way.  What
really needs to be done is for each individual to truly grapple with the
issues, and only afterwards to decide which way best accomplishes his
own avodat Hashem during the time he prays.  I have no doubt that for
many people Boruch's way is better avoda.  But not for all.  And too
many frustrated people who need another model don't even know that it

	Basically, I've found that there are two kinds of people
regarding this issue.  First, those who don't understand what the fuss
is all about, because they find real spritual satisfaction when they
come to shul early on a weekday morning, and a deep sense that by doing
so they are serving God.  Second, those who are endlessly frustrated
because no matter how much they learn and how hard they try, they simply
can't find much religious meaning in a daily minyan.

	The first group doesn't need any help.  But the second group
needs to know that there is major basis for its feelings of frustration
in both halakha and hashkafa, and that there are legitimate ways to
better use their time for tefilla.  This latter group will never stop
agonizing because they simply *can't*.  But what can be done is to put
their frustration into the perspective of millenia of halakhic and
hashkafic discussions on this issue.  Knowing that great rabbinic minds
in each generation were just as frustrated can be a source of
consolation, especially when it comes along with realistic advice.  In
other words, for those who agonize, it helps to do it with perspective.
Those whom Boruch described as "latter-day kavvana seekers" also have a
very long and honorable history (certainly no less than those like
Boruch who are comfortable with prayer as a ritual).  Putting the entire
spectrum of thought on the problem into persective is what I hoped to
help with in my "Kavvana" book.

	I disagree with Boruch for halakhic reasons that doing what I
describe is removing oneself from the community.  Halakhically, "tefilla
be-tzibbur" is not pesukei de-zimra or any of the other things he
mentions.  It is "tefilla", the amida, no more or less.  And one who
says the amida with the tzibbur, or even during hazarat ha-shatz,
fulfills "tefilla be-tzibbur."  So this is a non-issue.

	I fully agree with Boruch that "conversational" tefilla requires
laughter and tears.  This is exactly what is so shocking about Jewish
prayer.  It is rare to see someone break down and cry during tefilla,
even on Yom Kippur.  On a weekday, most of us would think such a person
was either a rare tzaddik or a crazy lunatic.  This sad fact, more than
anything else, begs for another "derekh".  The derekh I tried to outline
does allow for laughter and tears; the time is not as limited as Boruch

	Boruch describes prayer as a ritual of praise.  Yet it could be
argued that praise requires conversational kavvana too in order to be

	I agree with Boruch that extreme attention to nuances of grammar
and pronunciation can clash with "conversational" kavvana.  There was a
very long discussion about this exact issue on mail-jewish a year or so
ago, which I participated in.  No sense in repeating it.  In my opinion,
common sense and moderation can usually solve this problem.

	To conclude, Boruch and I agree on most of the facts, but not on
how to evaluate them.  We agree that full pesukei de-zimra and tahanun
as they appear in the siddur are hard to reconcile with "conversational"
kavvana, but we disagree on how an *individual* trying to improve his
prayer should relate to this fact.  I'm sure we agree that those who are
concerned about the issue should consider all of the perspectives, and
make their personal decisions for the sake of heaven.


P.S.  When I brought up "stopwatches" and "words-per-second", it was
just to show how incredibly exaggerated speed-praying can be.  It was
David Rosensweig, not me, who actually did this sort of thing, and the
truth is that I'm very uncomfortable with the whole idea.  So I'm not
really into the kind of "timing" that Russell Handel wrote about.  What
is really needed is not stopwatches but common sense: When I pray, am I
talking to God in a meaningful way?  When I read the Torah, am I
teaching in a meaningful way?


From: Stuart M. Wise <swise@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 98 11:22:13 -0400
Subject: Re: Charity during prayer

>From: <EEH43@...> (Elliott Hershkowitz)
>The standard practice is to keep a roll of quarters in your
>tallis beitl in the morning or your pocket the rest of the day and put a
>few under your siddur (kliene gelt).  Move your siddur and expose the
>appropriate sum for whoever comes by.  It's really not much more than
>another preparation for prayer.

Thanks for the practical advice. Of course, it doesn't solve this issue: 
Why is that the collectors have so little regard for other people and 
their davening, and given that thoughtlessness, should they be rewarded 
with the consideration you suggest.  

Stuart M. Wise
Leader Publications
(212) 545-6168


From: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 98 13:27:53 +03d0
Subject: Greetings after Birkat Kohanim

 David Curwin wrote:
>So for a long time I have been trying to come up with an alternative
>response to "baruch ti'hiye". ("Thanks" just doesn't seem to cut it.)
>Recently, I recieved a brilliant suggestion from Prof. Dov Rappel (a
>member of our kibbutz). So now, as a response to "yishar koch'cha" after
>birkat kohanim, I reply: "koch'cha yishar".

Brilliant, but by no means new.
I first heard this response - in the plural "kochachem yasher" - some 30
years ago (and it probably was not new then either).

Perets Mett


From: Sheri & Seth Kadish <skadish@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 10:49:06 +0200
Subject: Historical length of tefilla.

In my response to Baruch Schwartz's important points, I neglected to
respond to one crucial thing.  Baruch wrote:

>2. There does not seem to be any evidence that earlier generations, on
>whose rulings and pronouncements about the necessity of kavvanah we
>rely, recited any less of the daily seder hatefillah than we do,

On the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that the daily "seder
ha-tefilla" expanded enourmously throughout history, far beyond the
blessings mandated by the halakha.  I suggest that those interested in the
topic take the time to read the classic histories of Jewish liturgy by the
likes of Ismar Elbogen, A.Z. Idelsohn, Joseph Heinemann, and most recently
Stefan Reif's up-to-date and authoritative "Judaism and Hebrew Prayer: New
Perspectives on Jewish Liturgical History."

This, by the way, has nothing to do with piyyutim, which were said by the
Hazzan on special occasions and are mostly irrelevant to daily prayer.

>or that they recited it any slower.

The talmud's rejection of people who treat prayer as a "burden" most likely
means that they rush it in order to get it over with.  Besides this, the
history of post-talmudic pesak has numerous explicit examples showing that
speed-prayer was a constant "war" between the people who did it and the
posekim who condemned it.  So speed-prayer may have been true throughout
history, but so were the "kavvana-seekers".

* Seth & Sheri (Avi & Shoshana) Kadish
* Rehov Megiddo 5/10  - Karmiel 21950
* Israel                               *
* (04)958-1553			       *


From: Ira Robinson <ROBINSO@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 08:32:57 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Molad in Yiddish

I have noticed that in many a luach of synagogue customs everything is
written in Hebrew except for the time of the Molad, which is given in
Yiddish.  Is there any significance to this linguistic anomaly?

All the best,
Ira Robinson


From: Shlomo Pick <picksh@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Nov 1998 16:55:04 +0200
Subject: re Zedakka

>2) People with shtriemels asking for tzedakah (I don't recall if the
>person I mentioned at the top was wearing one, but I certainly have
>seen shtriemel wearers in shul on Purim and other occasions asking for
>tzedakah).  Is it wrong for me to think that a person ought to sell
>this very expensive garment and buy a wool cap before asking for

The laws of zedakka are different on purim: See Orach Haim 694:3 where
it is recorded that one gives zedakka on purim to anyone who puts out
his hand (with no questions asked!). The source is from BT Bava Mezia

shlomo pick


From: <erosenfe@...> (Elie Rosenfeld)
Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 11:13:58 -0500
Subject: Tzedakah, Work Ethic, and Weddings

In the discussion on people soliciting tzedakah during davening, an
anecdote was presented by Carl Sherer that I found very

> ...once someone came up to me in shul and said he was
> begging for hachnasas kallah (marrying off a bride) and added in an
> undertone, "and I am the chason." I gave him money that day, and started
> giving him substantial sums of money regularly (generally NIS 20 and
> up). After several months, I asked him when his chasuna (wedding) would
> be, and he said "after Shavuos; I will give you an invitation." Sure
> enough, several weeks later, he came to me and handed me an invitation -
> the first time I found out his name. I decided to go to the chasuna, put
> a fair amount of money in an envelope, and handed it to the chason.
> A few minutes later I ran into a former neighbor, and asked him what he
> was doing there. He said that he worked for the chason's father. This
> answer surprised me greatly, and I asked what the chason's father did
> for a living. He explained to me that the chason's father was the editor
> of a large and well-known set of sforim (which many on this list may
> well own), and that he - my former neighbor - acted as a researcher,
> checking cross references for him. It turns out that the father is a BIG
> talmid chochom, and that giving his son money was probably one of the
> more reliable ways of giving tzedaka that I have available to me.

I must admit that I was quite taken aback by the "punch line" of this
story, to the extent that I almost suspected that some of the text had
been lost in transmission.  Certainly, quite a different conclusion
could be drawn from the anecdote as presented.  But without focusing
further on any specific case, I would like to raise the following two
related issues for further discussion:

1) On what basis is it permissible for a young healthy individual, who
is B'H neither physically nor mentally disabled, and whose father is
gainfully employed, to "shnorr" for a living instead of working?  Are we
failing in our obligation to teach our children work skills, as required
by Chazal?  Or is the unemployment situation in Israel to blame?

2) There are nearly unlimited opportunities for tzedakah, and
conversely, almost all of us have quite limited funds from which to
give.  It is thus critical that the worthiness of each given cause be
taken into account.  To some extent, this will be subjective to each of
us, but I also feel that to a significant extent, it is fairly
objective.  For example, how does giving money to "make a wedding" stack
up against support for widows, orphans, or the disabled, against helping
those who literally do not have enough to eat, a place to live, or who
have R'L staggering medical expenses?  Especially since the lack of a
formal wedding reception in no way prevents a couple from fulfilling the
mitzvah of getting married!  All that are really needed are a kesuvah, a
mesader kiddushin to make sure everything is done halachically, and a
few friends to serve as witnesses.  Of course, if one has the means, a
"real" wedding as per our modern social mores is a wonderful thing.  But
is it really a worthy cause on which to spend ones precious, scarce
tzedakah money?

Thanks for bearing with me through a longish message, but I think these
issues are important ones for the m.j community to explore.

Elie Rosenfeld


End of Volume 28 Issue 32