Volume 44 Number 49
                    Produced: Sun Aug 29  7:40:29 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Binyomin Segal]
Follow-Up on Clothing/Sleeves
         [Chana Luntz]
Mock weddings
         [William Friedman]


From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2004 04:07:44 -0500
Subject: Re: Chumras

On Mon, 23 Aug 2004 04:54:44 -0400 (EDT), Carl Singer wrote:

> When the dust settles, "MORE" is not better -- "MORE" is only different.
> You choose blue, I choose red -- we have a difference of opinion.
> ...
> With all due respect to the lengthy treatises on this topic --
> fundamentally the "more is better" phenomenon whether it is driven by
> Yirai Shemayim, by a limited understanding of halacha, by social
> pressures or by personality traits is divisive.
> We see this in the artificial grouping of Torah observant Jews into all
> sorts of externally defined subcategories and we see it on the streets
> as Jews interact (or fail to interact) with each other.

While I share Carl's concern, I think his implication that therefore all
chumra is either bad or neutral is incorrect.

First off, to add weight to Carl's concern, I think it worthwhile to see
the Netziv's introduction to sefer Breishis where he explicitly agrees
with Carl that chumras are a source of divisiveness. In fact, they are
the source of the sinas chinam that brought with it the destruction of
the Temple. Poskim throughout the ages have been concerned with this
issue. The Mabit (1500s in Tzefat) discussed the fact that certain
chumras in kashrus were preventing people from eating at each other's
simchas. He was, shall we say, not pleased!

However, and this is where I part company with Carl, even while these
gedolim were concerned about the effects of certain chumras, they did
NOT think that chumras should be abolished. The mesilas yesharim speaks
at length about the NEED for chumras.

Chumras however have different rules than halacha.  

1. they are personal - reflecting a personal relationship with
   Hashem. (As a result, no one can fault a person for not having a
   particular chumra. On the other hand, a deep relationship with Hashem
   does require that a person develop some area(s) of chumra!)

2. they are conditional - just because I am generally machmir to do X
   does not mean I should do X under every circumstance. indeed, in a
   situation where the chumra might lead to a kula (eg divisiveness) I
   may be required to give it up 

3. intent matters - with halacha, simply keeping the law is sufficient
   to "get points". That does not seem to be the case with chumra. A
   person doing it for the wrong reason will not "get points" while
   someone who is doing it for the right reason will "get points". (for
   sources see nazir 4b where it is clear that the intent of the person
   accepting nezirus is crucial, and see baba kamma 80b where the
   difference between a sincere person and insincere person was the
   possibility of cherem) 

As a result of 1 and 3, publicity of a chumra is indeed often yuhara or
of appearing like yuhara. That is, a chumra is personal and need not be
public. The publicity of the chumra then is evidence of an inappropriate



From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2004 23:36:01 +0100
Subject: Follow-Up on Clothing/Sleeves

Leah S. Gordon writes:

 >My friend Ari Trachtenberg asked for clarification on different
 >genders and their upper arm coverage.  The reply that he got (I'm
 >sorry that I did not note who wrote it) was that men have to cover
 >various parts of their bodies during prayer,

The fundamental sources that we were discussing vis a vis men were
centred around the obligations when a man says kriat shema, but the same
obligations also apply to a man when engaging in torah learning or
saying devarim shebekedusha (which includes in this context things like
brochas).  Strictly speaking "prayer" in the form of Shmoneh Esrei
actually has higher standards attached to it, - it should be the type of
dress the man would feel comfortable wearing if meeting great (ie
important) people (see Shulchan Aruch Orech Chayim siman 91, si'if 5)
(and interestingly here, issues of covering the upper arms and not
wearing short pants (shorts) are indeed discussed - see eg the Magen
Avraham there, the Bach etc).  There are even higher standards applied
for a man functioning as a shaliach tzibbur [leading the prayers of the

There are also halachas [Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim siman 1, si'if 6 and
siman 2, si'if 2 and 4 regarding how a man ought to behave in private -
eg in the toilet.

 > and women have to cover other parts of their bodies/voices [with no
 >specific instructions as to when].

I think you missed the very first posting on this topic which opened
this discussion, in which David Oratz stated that he did not understand
on what basis certain modern orthodox women went out in public with
sleeves that do not go down to their elbow.  He then mentioned that as
he understood it, in regard to this topic (ie women going out in
public), there were two loosely related halachas (or groups of
halachas), which related to this question, the one being requirements
for a woman (in fact as discussed in the gemora specifically a wife) to
cover up when her husband says the shema - this is found in Brochas 24a
(hence when men are at prayer or saying devarim which relate to kedusha)
and the second based on the concept of daas yehudis which is discussed
in a completely different place in the gemora Ketubos 72a and which
Rashi there defines as "the customs of the daughters of Israel even
though they are not written".

  In the main though, questions of daas yehudis are framed in the gemora
there in relation to how a woman behaves or goes "in the marketplace" ie
how she behaves in public places.  Hence this was the focus of our
discussion, what women are expected to wear in public (which is where
men are present).

 >To me, this begs the question--how in the world could a woman hide her
 >singing voice while she is davening (and presumably singing)??  And if
 >this is not what is meant, then could it be that the sources are
 >considering only men davening, but both genders dressing to facilitate

The sources that we have been citing up until now are unquestionably
only considering men davening, but both genders dressing to facilitate

There are however sources that discuss the questions you are raising.
The gemora in Mishna challa and Brochos 24a discuss the question as to
whether a woman who happens to be kneading dough stark naked [is this
something that was common at the time of the gemora or was it merely a
hypothetical?] is required to go and clothe herself in order to make the
bracha to take challa.  And the conclusion of the gemora is that she
need not go and clothe herself, so long as she is sitting down in such a
way that she effectively covers the key parts - a position that is
brought as the halacha by the Rema in Orech Chaim siman 74, si'if 4 and
the Mechaber in Orech Chaim siman 206, si'f 3.

And there is further discussion among the poskim about women making the
brochas in the mikvah, with some holding that the woman should make the
brocha before she totally disrobes and gets into the mikvah, and others
saying so long as the water is a bit cloudy/moving around and she is
standing in it it is OK to make the brocha, and others who approve of
what certainly seems to be the common custom here in England which is to
make the brocha in the water even if it is clear (although I am not sure
what the draping of the towel several inches above her head is supposed
to do).

But this is all vis a vis the woman herself, what about the woman vis a
vis other women.  Well this is a maklokus rishonim [dispute among the
rishonim] between the Rosh and the Rashba.  The Rosh holds that for a
woman to make a brocha in front of another woman, the other woman must
be clothed to the same extent required as for a man (I think this was
the position already suggested to you on this list).  However the Rashba
holds not like this, but rather a woman can make a brocha in front of
another woman, just so long as the key parts are covered (ie as per

The Beit Yosef holds like the Rashba, and hence so do the Sephardi
poskim.  The Rema bring the Rosh (in Orech Chaim siman 75, si'if 1), so
one would have thought that the Ashkenazi poskim would have followed
this position.  However, the later Ashkenazi poskim (including the
Levush) hold like the Rashba, as does the Mishna Brura and the Aruch
HaShulchan suggests to be lenient (see there in siman 75).

 >This still leaves open the question of what parts of men's bodies
 >should be covered when they are in front of women who might be aroused
 >by seeing their bodies.  This is not answered either by what a man
 >must cover for his private prayer, nor by what a man should not see of
 >a woman.

No it is not.  Nor, by the way, is the halacha regarding what may remain
unclothed of a woman vis a vis a man necessarily and fully linked to
whether a man "might be aroused by seeing their bodies".  The gemora is
unquestionably of the view that many if not most men can be aroused by
gazing at the little finger of a woman (and such gazing is banned - see
eg Brochas 24a), but it and the poskim that follow do not therefore
conclude that a woman is required to cover her little finger either for
prayer or general matters.  Nor does it require a woman to be more
covered in front of a particular man who tends to be more aroused than
the norm and allow them to be less covered if such a man is aroused

There is a discussion among the poskim about whether the ban on gazing
at the opposite sex in an arousing manner extends to women or not.
Oversimplistically, Rav Ovadiah Yosef holds no and Rav Moshe Feinstein
holds yes.  But the obligation to cover up during words of kedusha
[holiness] and the forbidding of gazing are two separate and distinct
mitzvos, with two separate and distinct derivations from different
psukim [verses] in the Torah, so while we might look for and see links
between them (eg in terms of questions of hirhur [impure thoughts], as
the rishonim and others indeed sometimes do) - they do not necessarily
correspond one to the other.

Regarding women's singing and davening, again there are multiple sources
surrounding the issue.  Suffice in this already long posting to say that
if you have not run into it, you are almost certainly living among and
davening in communities where they do not hold it a problem for women to
sing during davening.  On the other hand, many other communities do, and
you should in all fairness be sensitive to that (although nobody
requires you to daven in such places).

One of the things about being on a mailing list like mail jewish, is
that you get to meet, at least in a virtual way, people from communities
with which you would otherwise not necessarily have very much or any
contact.  And people very often only know the positions held by their
particular communities.  So that, for example, the poster who stated as
the simple halacha, without sources, that a woman is required to cover
up herself in front of other women saying matters of kedusha in the same
way as she is required to cover up in front of men, was, no doubt,
citing the practice of his community, and the particular psak that he or
his wife may well have been given.  But it is often true that the
particular psak of a particular community is not the universal psak, and
that there are (as in this case) differing opinions from rishonim and
achronim, and other communities doing differently.  On the other hand,
that does not mean that everything is under dispute, and there are also
lots of core shared positions.  This is a classic case - there is no
dispute throughout the halacha that the rules for men and woman are
different regarding the way they dress.  But how that plays out in
practice does differ and in order to understand that, you have to
understand the sweep of the halachic spectrum, and how the halachic
process plays out, both in terms of the sources and the communities that
live by them.

Chana Luntz


From: William Friedman <williamf@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Aug 2004 23:38:17 -0400
Subject: Re: Mock weddings

Akiva Miller responded to my citing of SA EH 42:1 as evidence that mock 
weddings shouldn't be considered weddings as follows:

>But an action *has* been done, and the legal system must judge whether
>or not that action has the legal standing of a wedding or not. And for
>something as serious as a wedding, the law must have rules with which
>to ascertain whether the marriage is valid or not. And among those
>rules is that we go by what people say and do, not by what their
>internal intention might be -- "dvarim shebalev aynam dvarim".

Except in cases of umdana [estimation], or umdana d'muchacha [proven
estimation], or anan sahadei [we witness, i.e., everyone knows], or any
number of other terms used when we mean that actually, we're certain (or
certain enough) of the intention that our certainty does in fact
override the evidence of the acts which have occurred.

>I haven't read that inside, but I'll take your word for it. Now, let me
>ask, are you saying that the ONLY case where the Rema would consider
>the marriage valid is where the woman instigated it, but that if the
>two of them came up with the idea together, or a third party suggested
>it, that this is a different case, so that the Rema would consider it

It doesn't really matter what the Rema would actually pasken -- all that
matters is that his language allows the posek to read him restrictively
(that is, as pertaining only to the case in question) and therefore
discard the Rema's objection when dealing with a different case.

I also happen to think that yes, the case of instigation discussed by
the Rema is vastly different than the case of mock weddings.  In a mock
wedding, everyone knows in advance that the wedding is _fake_, and the
actions taken are being done for educational purposes; the case the Rema
is discussing is when the woman deliberately treats kiddushin as a sort
of joke, and is deceptive about it to boot.  The values at play are
completely different.

><<< Also, IMO, any poseik or rabbi who ruins a woman's chances to marry
>a cohen (or possibly deprive her of a week of sheva berakhot if she
>ends up marrying a divorcee or widower) because of a joke or a mock
>ceremony has acted with complete insensitivity and
>irresponsibility. >>> As befits a couple of teenagers who have acted
>with complete insensitivity and irresponsibility.

Huh?  First of all, we're talking about organized mock weddings, in
which case there is no insensitivity and irresponsibility.  Second, on
the scale of teenage insensitivity and irresponsibility, engaging in a
joke kiddushin is pretty far off the nonserious side of the scale.
Finally, the punishment (barring a woman from marrying a kohen) doesn't
fit the seriousness of the crime, and in fact, if this woman does fall
in love with a kohen later whom she is prevented from marrying, she'd be
more likely to dismiss the halakhic system as ridiculous, which is the
opposite effect than what was desired.

>Perhaps it is better to draw a line in the sand, and not allow any
>of these pretend weddings at all. (And I do mean "perhaps"; I can see
>where you and others might not want to dig in your heels, but I hope
>that you can see where others would see this as very important.)

I certainly can see why some posekim would want to strengthen the
impression of the seriousness of kiddushin.  As I have pointed out,
doing so in this fashion actually weakens the overall integrity of the
halakhic system.



End of Volume 44 Issue 49