Volume 30 Number 03
                 Produced: Wed Nov 10  5:19:15 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bike Riding on Yom Tov (2)
         [Fred Dweck, Carl Singer]
Leviyim handwashing of Cohanim issues
Previous generations
         [Meir Shinnar]


From: Fred Dweck <fredd@...>
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 09:01:01 -0800
Subject: Bike Riding on Yom Tov

Harris Cohen <HarrisCohen@...> in MJ 29:93 wrote:
>I know that Bike Riding is forbidden on shabbas, but what about on Yom
>Tov, when many of the restrictions that exist on shabbas do not exist?

To begin with, bike riding is NOT forbidden on Shabbat. It has only been
forbidden "by decree" of some poskim, on emotional grounds. Looking at
the question from a purely halachic point of view, there is no
prohibition whatsoever to riding a bike on Shabbat, much less on Yom

R. Yosef Haim z'l (The "Ben Ish Hai") wrote extensively on the subject
in his responsa, "Rav Pealim" (vol. 1 Question 25). He permitted it
outright on Yom tov, and on Shabbat when there is an eruv, (even just
for pleasure) and conditionally on Shabbat where there is no eruv.

It was rumoured that he recanted later, however, this was proven not to
be true.

R. Ovadiah Yosef wrote extensively on the subject in his book "Liviat
Chen-on Laws of Shabbat" (beginning on page 181) where he dispelled 'one
by one' each and every objection to riding a bike on Shabbat, from the
perspective of halacha. His conclusion was that there is NO issur in
riding a bike on Shabbat.

Interestingly, however, he concluded that one should not ride a bike on
Shabbat, because of the many poskim who prohibit it. Several years ago,
I asked his son R. Yitzchak Yosef why his father had concluded that way?
His response to me was: "I asked my father the same question, and his
answer to me was, 'if I had written to permit it outright, THEY WOULD

Both of these great poskim have cited the halacha that "after the
closing of the Talmud, we have no right to make new gezerot (decrees)
from our own minds". And both of them considered the reasons given by
the Rabbis who prohibited riding a bike on Shabbat, as new decrees which
were never written in the Mishnah or the Talmud.

It is my opinion that halachic rulings should be based on halacha, and
NOT on emotions. As the Talmud Yerushalmi says, in "Halachot Shevuot":
"Is it not enough for you what the Torah has prohibited you to

Those who choose not to ride a bike on Shabbat and/or Yom Tov - from a
point of "midat chasidut" (being extra pious) - may, of course, do
so. However, they have no right to tell others that it is assur! There
is an old edict which says: "He who wants to add stringencies on
himself, a blessing should be upon him, but "ein machmirin al
ha-tzibur." (we don't add stringencies on the congregation. IE: the

Hashem yair enienu be-torato. (May Hashem open (light) our eyes to *His*

Fred E. Dweck

From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 17:53:34 EST
Subject: Bike Riding on Yom Tov

First, as always, I would suggest that you ask your shule or community

The answer you may get will likely be no, the reasons may include:

   making marks (tire treads across ground.)

   wanting to fix the bike should it breakdown  (it's certainly too valuable
              to abandon, unless you consider bikes disposable.)  --
              Fixing might lead you into other malachas.

The original question seems to speak of multiple Shabbos stringencies
that are not there on Yom Tov.  It seems that only the Av Melacha of
carrying is mentioned.

Does anyone posit that other of the Av Melachas are somehow modified
Shabbos vis a vis Yom Tov?


From: <Phyllostac@...>
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 04:06:34 EST
Subject: Leviyim handwashing of Cohanim issues

As a Levi, over the years I have been involved quite a few times in the
washing of the hands of Cohanim before birchas Cohanim (the priestly
blessing) on Yomtov. This has led me to give some thought to the matter
re the ideal ways to conduct this procedure, as follows. I would welcome
feedback on this topic.
 1)In the case where there are more Leviim than Cohanim, how should the
task be allocated? Is there perhaps a reason to give senior Levi(yim)
preference in it, based upon age (and, perhaps Talmidei Chachamim
[presumably first and foremost] )?
 On the other hand, perhaps, efforts should be taken, (in conjunction
with this?)  to make sure all the eligible Leviyim get their fair sure
of this duty (privilege) over time.  When there are guest Leviim, that
could present a complication, as to where they would fit in.
 2)At times, I have seen the same (prominent?) Leviyim take this
task/kibud (or the lion's/disproportionate share) for themselves,
elbowing (figuratively and/or literally) away other Leviyim present,
which seems to be quite wrong.  Or, sometimes, whoever gets to the
washing area first, arrogates to themselves (and their friends/family?)
preference. This brings to mind the mishna re clearing of the mizbeach
(altar), where it is stated that at first this was done in 'kol hakodem
zacha' fashion (first one there gets the privilege), but then, after an
unfortunate incident which led to injury, the Chachamim were misaken
(decreed) that it be allocated by lottery. Presumably, the same logic
could be applied to the case we are discussing?
 I read a while ago, in a letter in a newspaper, that in the KAJ
Congregation of Washington Heights, NY, this is the procedure that is
followed (a lottery chooses the privileged Leviim).
 Also, another interesting thing was stated in the letter-that the
washing there is done with a (large?) silver keli (vessel) to give
beauty to the mitzvah.
 Another thought-If a Levi got an aliya earlier in the
service,would/should he perhaps go to the back of the line or so?
 3)I have seen, at times when there were more Leviyim than Cohanim, that
some Leviyim washed a Cohen's hands together by jointly holding onto the
washing cup and tilting/pouring it.
 Sometimes this is taken to an extreme and some of the Leviyim hold on
to/touch any piece of the cup they can-even if at times they are just
barely touching part of the surface of the cup-but not contributing
significant (or any) energy toward the pouring of the water. Is this
desirable/fullfilling of their goal?
 In my humble opinion, it is not such a good idea, as we have a
principle that if two people do what one normally does, they have not
done a complete action (misayayah ain bo mamash-shnayim shasuhah
 Also-unlike a Cohen, who is (I believe) (every Cohen) obligated to
bless the congregation (once a day, when the blessing is made), I don't
think every Levi is obligated to wash the hands of a Cohen every time
possible-esp. if e.g.  there are 10 Leviim and only one Cohen.
 4)On a related note, I have seen at times, in some places, that this
handwashing is done just in a sink outside a restroom, which is also
used by people exiting that room. I think that this is not a good place
to do it because, one can be bumping into people exiting and entering
the restroom, possibly causing traffic jams, delays-also at times there
can be an odor when the restroom door opens or so. Therefore I think
that one should wash the hands of the Cohanim elsewhere if at all
 5)I think some people think that if a Levi doesn't get to participate
in the handwashing of the Cohanim,he can gain a level of
participation,albeit perhaps on a lesser level,by assisting in the
process,e.g.by handing paper towels to the Cohanim to dry their hands
with after the washing.What kind of status might such lesser
participation have?Perhaps it would be a way for children to participate
also,if there is no slot for them to do the actual washing.That makes me
think of another question-should children that are not yet bar mitzvah
ever be allowed to wash the hands of adult Cohanim?Perhaps they should
be assigned to wash the hands of similar aged young Cohanim?
 6)I sometimes wonder re the quantity of water to pour on the hands of a
Cohen-is it preferable to pour a large amount of water,as in netilas
yadayim for bread?Also,I have noticed that some Kohanim move their hands
to and fro/back and forth underneath,while the Levi just pours a
stationary stream (deluge?) of water from above,while others keep their
hands more stationary and let the Levi move the stream of water to reach
their whole hands.Is any way to be preferred?Also,I am wary at times of
pouring too far up on the hand,as it A)could conceivably wet the Kohen's
shirt and/or jacket,but,on the other hand,B)I want to wash the full
hand,up to the wrist,of the Kohen.How could B) best be
accomplished,while avoiding A)?
 7)I heard from a Kohen friend that when he first came to Eretz
Yisroel,he waited in vain to have his hands washed by a Levi,only to
learn that the Kohanim there wash their hands by themselves.Is this
correct?Everywhere?Always?Why is this so-Is the reason Leviim wash the
hands of Kohanim in chutz laaretz not applicable in Eretz Yisroel?



From: Meir Shinnar <meir_shinnar@...>
Subject: Previous generations

With regard to Levi Reisman's response to my post:

> In Igros Moshe Even haEzer, Volume 1 No. 56, Reb Moshe talks about mixed
> swimming in terms of "gilui arayos" and "yeherag veal yaavor."  This is
> something more emphatic than "halachic tradition."

(sigh) The problem of course is two fold.  First,(from memory) Rav Moshe
is talking about being on the beach in the presence of arayot.  Of
course, the same issur should apply to being in the subway in New York
in the summer or anywhere outside of shul in Miami Beach.  The answer
that he gives is that one has to go to work.  Clearly, yehareg v'al
ya'avor does not apply literally, but is to emphasize the seriousness of
the avera.

Second, many responsa of Rav Moshe deal with fundamental issues.
However, that does not mean that he would have forced another rav to
agree with them.  While everyone agrees that Rav Moshe Feinstein was a,
or perhaps even the major posek of his time, that does not mean that
everyone agreed with him, or that he would have forced others to agree,
especially on issues that remain personal (as distinct from issues that
impact the entire community, such as gerushin) THat is the meaning of a
different halachic tradition.  It does apply to different
interpretations and understandings of extremely serious issues.

>How many of them actually went swimming, or even to the beach in the
>daytime?  And which rabbis?  Also, what written halachic sources are
>there supporting mixed swimming?

Most went to the beach in the daytime (that is why they went to
Trieste...)  Whether they actually went into the water or merely on the
beach for the air I don't know, but is irrelevant for almost all shitot
about mixed dancing.  I don't have all the names, but some became
respected roshe yeshiva in America.

This raises again a fundamental issue: It is clear to any one who knew
the dati community in the 1960s and before that it was the norm of many
rabbanim, some of whom were gdolim, to engage in behavior that seems by
current Boro Park norms to be scandalous.  One has only a few options,
and unfortunately we have seen them all.

1) One could accept the validity of the actions, and then debate whether
the circumstances have changed sufficiently so they are no longer a
valid precedent for us today.  This seems to me to be the only
intellectually and halachically valid approach.

2) Deny history.  This is very common ( a la My Uncle the Netziv and
Artscroll), and has been proposed by some (e.g. denying the validity of
a film, denying that rabbanim went to the beach or opera, denying that
many rebbitzens of gdolim did not cover their hair...)

3) Deny the halachic compliance of the previous generations - seems very
popular as it applies to the masses.  I think that this is fairly
problematic, as per the Iggeret Hashmad of the Rambam, as it besmirches
many people whose devotion to halacha in difficult circumstances far
exceeds ours today.  The prohibition of being motzi la'az (slandering)
and the mitzva of being danl'chaf zchut (putting a favorable
interpretation) are clearly forgotten.  Furthermore, as this behavior
was engaged in by major rabbanim, this becomes truly problematic.

I am sometimes shocked at the level of denigration that this can descend
to.  We never stop to think that perhaps our understanding of the
halacha might be incomplete.  Thus, in response to my post about mixed
dancing (by the way, Rav Yehuda Henkin has several responsa in Bne Banim
where he deals with the sources of mixed dancing, even though he is
opposed) someone cited the Remo in Even Ha'Ezer (21:5) who prohibited
public displays of affection.  Question: Does the poster not think that
Rav Soloveichik knew the Rama???  Clearly, either he didn't rule in
accordance with the Rama, or he held that that type of social dancing
does not come under the Rama's rule.  (See rav Henkin for other sources
that allowed mixed dancing between husbands and wifes)

 I was present at the wedding of one of the list members more than 20
years ago.  Near the end, the bride and bridgegroom were dancing holding
a handkerchief, and the Bostoner Rebbe (who was m'sader kiddushin) came
in and removed the handkerchief, so that they could dance together.  I
had a private email a while back with a former member of the group,
where he told me that he just couldn't reconcile this behavior with his
understanding of halacha, and threfore couldn't believe it.  I think
that this is our problem - we emphasize the importance of our
understanding of halacha, rather than being willing to admit that there
may be different opinions, and we need to learn more.

The issue of the lack of a written tradition has been raised by several
posters.  Of course, it is not true that there isn't any written
tradition, there are tshuvot for many of these actions (see for example
Rav Broyde's article on covering hair).  The tshuvot may not have been
written by what are considered in Boro Park major poskim, but the fact
that so many gdolim acted in accordance with these tshuvot suggests
their acceptance.  Furthermore, for other actions, we have tshuvot by
later poskim that refer to oral traditions from earlier poskim (I am
thinking of Rav Yechiel Weinberg's responsa on women singing zmirot,
where he said that he was told that Rav Hoffman and Rav Hildesheimer had
allowed it, and therefore allowed it, even though there was no written
tradition...)Not all of these earlier traditions made it into the
written literature.  That does not invalidate them.

Furthermore, the attacks on people who seem to deviate from right wing
norms are not a purely modern phenomenon.  In the 19th century, much of
German modern Orthodoxy (Rav Hildesheimer, although not rav Hirsch) was
put in herem by rav Hillel Lichtenstein for such major transgressions as
giving the sermon in German.  Perhaps the reluctance to publish heterim
is related to the tenor of the times.

I would furthermore add that the need for a written tshuva, as distinct
from an oral one from the local rav, seems a distinctly modern
phenomenon, and in some ways antithetical to the notion of torah
shebe'alpe.  This is related (although not identical) to Rav Dr Chaim
Soloveichik's discussion of the written versus mimetic tradition.
Furthermore, most of us do things which may be questionable without a
formal written tshuva, because our rabbis and communities do them.

Thus, reading the Yated Ne'eman or the Jewish Observer, with all of
their personal attacks, might be seen as a transgression of an issur
d'oraita (Torah level prohibition) of lashon hara (gossip and slander).
However, I am sure that many of the posters read these journals, even
though I am not familiar with a formal written heter, as their rabbis
read them.

Perhaps we should, instead of trying to claim the uniformity of halacha,
admit that there are many opinions and traditions.

Meir Shinnar  


End of Volume 30 Issue 3