Volume 30 Number 55
                 Produced: Thu Dec 30 15:09:44 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Mi Sheberach for Cholim
         [Carl M. Sherer]
Mi Sheberakh and Anthropology
         [Yoel Finkelman]
Previous generations
         [Chaim Mateh]
Separate Seating
         [Eli Clark]


From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Dec 1999 20:34:46 +0200
Subject: Mi Sheberach for Cholim

In a recent edition someone wrote:

> Having been in the position of having to read a list of names
> approaching 40 different people, some of whom had already died or
> recovered, followed by the inevitable line-up of 20 people, some of whom
> know personally half-a-dozen sick people (isn't it amazing how the same
> people always tend to know sick people?)

As someone whose child may well be alive today in the merit of all of
the prayers and, yes, Mi Sheberachs offered on his behalf by people who
only know him as "the son of those people on the net," I have to answer

Did it ever occur to you that maybe the reason why some people "always
tend to know sick people" is that they spend too much of their time
hanging around doctors' offices and hospital wards out of necessity?
That once one goes through an illness, there are inevitably calls for
support from other people dealing with the same or similar illnesses?
That one of the ways a Jew offers support to his fellow Jew is by
offering tfillos to alleviate his fellow Jew's suffering? 

I hope you never find yourself in the position that we found ourselves
three and a half years ago, two years ago, or eighteen months ago (in
the latter case, HUNDREDS of people who didn't know us took a whole hour
of their time on Shiva Asar b'Tamuz to say Tehillim for my son).

Carl M. Sherer
mailto:<cmsherer@...> or mailto:sherer@actcom.co.il
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son, Baruch Yosef ben
Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  Thank you very much.


From: Yoel Finkelman <finkel@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999 09:33:45 +0200
Subject: Mi Sheberakh and Anthropology

A few weeks ago there was some discussion recently about the Mi
Sheberakh prayer for the ill.  I would like to ask a different question
which has been on my mind for some time.  My informal impression,
confirmed by other informal observers, is that the amount of people
approaching the Gabbai to recite a public Mi Sheberakh has grown by
leaps and bounds.  In the past, it seems, the few individuals with
seriously ill relatives would ask for a Mi Sheberakh.  Today it seems in
each and every synagogue, tens of people line up each week, many of them
with long lists of names, sometimes names of people who they have never
met.  Some people like this phenomenon, as it reflects great concern by
individuals for their sick friends.  Others dislike the phenomenon, on
the theory that it involves "tircha detzibur."

Ssudden changes in liturgical and ritual pattern often reflect much
larger social and religious changes which lie under the surface.  And
so, my question: what changed?  Why are so many more people saying
public Mi Sheberakhs than in the past?  Is there greater belief in the
efficacy of petitionary prayer in general, and public prayer in
particular?  If so, why?  Or, is there a greater desire by individuals
to feel like they are taking part in public service than there was in
the past?  Or, does attendance at public services play a different
social, psychological, or religious function for people than it did in
the past?  Are there common denominators among those people who seem to
be "regulars" on the Mi Sheberakh line?  If so, why were those factors
less forceful in the past?  Or, are my facts wrong?


Yoel Finkelman


From: Chaim Mateh <chaimm@...>
Date: Sat, 25 Dec 1999 22:09:21 +0200
Subject: Re: Previous generations

In Vol 30#42, Meir Shinnar <Chidekel@...> wrote:

<<a poster wrote that all of the Litvishe rebbitzens who wore their heads
uncovered transgressed a d'oraita level prohibition, and all their husbands
thought their wives were transgressing; however, this didn't require a
divorce.  I find this statement to be incredible >>

The above implies that someone is passing judgement on them.  This of
course isn't the case.  However, in the discussions about the actions or
inactions of Rabbonim and Rebbetzins of pre-war Litta (Lithuania), it
was brought up that since the women went hair uncovered, it shows that
it's permitted since it cannot be that they were transgressing.  It was
this latter point that was contended.  IOW, it is indeed possible if not
probable that the Gedolim of then whose wives didn't cover their hair,
did indeed know that it was forbidden but couldn't do much about it.
Does this mean that they told their wives that they were transgressing
and therefore they (the wives) did it bemaizid (intentionally)?!  No it
doesn't.  This isn't the issue.  The issue is only whether it's
permitted or not.  And if it is not, then anyone who didn't abide by the
Hallacha, was intentionally or unintentionally transgressing that
particular din.  Why is this incredible?

<<It should be understood that it was not only the wife of one gadol, ...
who did not cover their hair, but that it was common in litvishe yeshivish

This is an historical issue which should be clarified.  I was told (and
I corroborated it with a pre-war Litvishe Rosh Kollel) that the main (if
only) area in Litta where uncoverred hair was widespread was
north-Litta.  But this is really irrelevant to the issue itself, which
is the Hallacha itself.

<< I would think that such an incredible claim would require precise
documentation, not merely that he heard that once one rav pushed off a
questioner with an offhand remark.>>

One documented source would be the Litvishe Aruch Hashulchan who lived
in that time and place and talks about the "breaks in our generation
that because of our sins ... that the daughters of Israel did this sin
and go hair uncovered....  woe unto us that that this happens in our
generation" (Aruch hashulchan Orech Chaim 75:7).  And in Even Hoezer
21:4, he says that hair covering is de'oraiso.

IOW, a Litvishe Posek who lived then, writes about the sin of uncovered
hair that some/many women did in Litte.  Whether the husbands of these
women knew or didn't know that it is forbidden de'oraiso or not, and
whether they told their wives or not, is totally irrelevant to the
discussion of the permissability or forbiddenness of hair covering.

OTOH, is there ANY documentation of ANY Litvishe Posek ruled for the
people in Litte during that time period, that it is permitted not to
cover the hair?

<<We may feel that we have surpassed the past, but we should have some
minimal respect for them.  There are significant halachic issues about
slandering the dead.>>

I agree.  So let's assume that the husbands of all the Litvishe women
who went hair uncovered did _not_ know that it was forbidden.  The
bottom line though is that it was and is forbidden.

<<One poster has made repeated claims that he has not seen any tshuvot.
Several posters made reference to rav Messas and Yad Halevy as permitting
uncovered hair for women.  Each poster (or their halachic authority) can
decide whether these are sufficiently authoritative for them, but sources
have been presented.>>

Since I was one of those "posters", I'll reply.  I personally cannot
reply to or about a Hallachic responsa if I didn't see it myself.
Slowly but surely (thanks to MailJewish) I am being made aware of rare,
hard to find Responsa that supposedly permit uncovered hair.  I wrote in
a different post that after studying the Shvus Yaakov (who is the only
well-known Responsa that was mentioned), it is clear that he did NOT
rule that uncovered hair is permitted.  What he did do was to posit a
possible pshat in the various relevant Gemoros and Poskim, and then rule
according to the accepted known Psakim (that covering hair is de'oraiso
etc), while also writing that "also" according to his posited pshat, the
ruling would be the same.  (The ruling was whether a single woman who
was raped, must cover her hair.)  So the Shvus Yaakov is not a source
for a heter not to cover hair.

Regarding the Rav Mesas responsa, which I found (as mentioned by others)
in the Otzar Hamichtavim 1884.  The question put to Rav Mesas (in
Algeria) was the following: A person living in Vajda (?) was married to
a woman who covered her hair.  He found work in CasaBlanca and sent for
his wife to join him there.  She agreed to join him only if she can go
hair uncovered, as was widespread in CasaBlanca.  The husband, "after
much pain", agreed.  However, the husband's parents would not hear from
it.  So the fellow wrote to Rav Mesas asking whether to listen to his
wife or his parents.  Rav Mesas replied: "The prohibition against hair
covering was stringent by us in this region.. before the French came,
but after they came, the daughters of Israel "broke the fence" (portzu
geder) in this issue, and the Rabbonim and Chachamim rose against
it....And when I went to serve [as a Rav] in Talmasan... I saw that it
spread to there too...  I decided to be melamed zchus (find a positive
point) because we can't reverse this as it was...  and when I searched
the Poskim I only found stringencies and prohibitions.  And so I told
myself, I will search farther away to take from the source, Mishna
Gemoro and their commentators, perhaps I will find for them an opening
of hope (pesach tikva) to enter, because it is difficult for women and
their husbands to transgress a time-dependant law (mitzvas aseh
she'hazman gromo --- ???)... and thank G-d I found many openings to
enter as permitted and not as forbidden."

The main purpose of Rav Mesas' response (as he writes) is to give the
questioner a reason to tell his parents so that they will agree to allow
his wife to join him.  If he doesn't find such a reason, the fellow
might divorce his wife, or remain apart from her.  Since, as we know,
uncovered hair is not grounds for divorce, giving such a reason so that
they can live together is fine.  Rav Mesas' language, in the question
and preamble to his answer (which I partially quoted) shows that the
response is not a lechatchila ruling that women needn't cover their
hair.  The response OTOH goes quite far is saying it's OK, but we must
remember the reason for his searching for an "open door to enter".

Regarding the content of the responsa itself, IMO it causes many
questions to be raised that are unanswered.  I could discuss these
questions with whoever wants to, but I don't think such a discussion
(too long probably) is for this list.  Also, as someone else posted, Rav
Uziel came out against Rav Mesas' views.

The bottom line is that the questioner was permitted to be with his
wife, even if she doesn't cover her hair, and Rav Mesas supplied the
questioner with a positive response in order for the questioner to
overcome his parents' objections.  IMO, Rav Mesas would not rule that
lechatchila a woman does not have to cover her hair.

Kol Tuv,


From: Eli Clark <clarke@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Dec 1999 15:37:00 -0500
Subject: Separate Seating

Vol. 30 #44 Digest contained a number of posts on the subject of
separate seating, focusing primarily on some interesting anecdotes.  For
those who are also interested in some sources, I present the following
(a more exhaustive survey of the surces can be found in an article I
wrote on the subject in the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary

As many people are aware, the source for separate seating is the Gemara
(Sukkah 51b-52a) discussing the separation of men and women at the Bet
ha-Mikdash (Temple) during the gala celebration known as the Simhat Bet
ha-Sho'evah.  Yet, a number of passages in the Mishnah suggest that men
and women did sit together during dinners, such as during the eating of
the korban Pesah.

The work that became the major source for separate seating at weddings
is Sefer Hasidim (13th century): which provides that, if men and women
are sitting together at a wedding dinner in a manner that could arouse
improper thoughts in the men, then there should be no recitation of the
berakhah "she-ha-simhah bi-mono" because Hashem derives no joy from such
a situation.

This statement is cited approvingly (for the first time) by Maharshal
(R. Shelomo Luria) in his Yam shel Shelomoh, some 300 years later, who
laments that not everyone follows this.  His student the Levush (R.
Mordekhai Jaffe) also quotes the Sefer Hasidim, and also writes that
people no longer follow this.  But unlike his rebbe, the Levush
justifies the practice of mixed seating by explaining that since men and
women mingle routinely, there is no longer the danger of improper

A survey of later posekim reveals that many Jewish communities had mixed
seating at weddings and continued to recite "she-ha-simhah bi-mono,"
which the posekim justify by reference to the Levush.

But a fascinating comment of the Bah (R. Yoel Sirkes) served as a basis
for prohibiting mixed seating.  The Bah was bothered by a strange minhag
in Cracow, whereby the berakhah "she-hasimhah bi-mono" was skipped on
the second day of sheva berkahot.  The Bah suggests that, on the second
day, the meal was held in a confined place with men and women close
together, and therefore the minhag developed to skip that berakhah in
accordance with the rule of the Sefer Hasidim.

This statement of the Bah was interpreted by some as requiring the
omission of that berakhah where there is mixed seating.

Contemporary authorities took different positions on the issue of mixed
seating.  R. Moshe Feinstein does not require a mehitzah and, as noted
by R. Eli Turkel, there was mixed seating at the weddings of his older
children.  R. Ovadyah Yosef approvingly cites the Levush, but adds that
le-khathillah (ideally) men and women should sit separately.

In response to some of the posts on this issue:

The statement of the Sefer ha-Minhagim, cited by Zev Sero, is clearly
based on the Bah.  Those who are interested should read the Bah's own
words at Even ha-Ezer 62, s.v. yesh omerim, and more fully in his
teshuvot (responsa), ha-Hadashot, Yoreh De`ah, no. 55.

Both R. Eli Turkel and Robert Book refer to communal pressures on the
issue of mixed vs. separate seating.  Certainly, there has been a change
within the halakhic community on this issue.  I know of many situations
in which the bride and groom prefer separate seating, while the parents
wish to preserve the mixed seating format of yore.  In my view, both
have a halakhically valid position, but I think most people make their
decision on this issue based on the conventions of the community of
which they are a part.

Rabbanit Boublil relates the position the late R. Ellenson z.l., that
dinners with assigned seating do not require separate seating, because
their atmosphere is dignified and there is little opportunity for
mingling in the context of kalut rosh (frivolity).  However, R. Ellenson
argued that receptions where people mill about are problematic; as most
people are aware, in both yeshivish and (to a lesser degree) hasidish
circles, many weddings have separate seating with a mehitzah, but permit
men and women to mingle during the reception before the huppah.

Levi Reisman relates a conversation he had with R. Reuven Feinstein
regarding his father's view.  I spoke with R. Reuven on the same issue,
and he told me that the early weddings had mixed seating for the benefit
of relatives who would not have felt comfortable sitting separately.  By
the time the younger children were married, however, there were no more
relatives who fit into this category, so there were no mixed tables.  I
also spoke to R. Tendler (R. Moshe Feinstein's son-in-law) whose wedding
did have mixed seating.  He maintained that there was some mixed seating
at all 4 weddings of the Feinstein children.  He added that R. Moshe
thought it was very important for families to sit together.

Kol tuv,

Eli Clark


End of Volume 30 Issue 55