Volume 50 Number 12
                    Produced: Tue Nov 22  5:44:25 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Ibn Ezra
         [Eli Turkel]
Obligation for Tefilah with Minyan
         [Chana Luntz]
parshat hashavua vaYeira
         [Rabbi Y. H. Henkin]
The Rav on mixed seating
         [Joseph Kaplan]


From: Eli Turkel <eliturkel@...>
Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 13:30:06 +0200
Subject: Ibn Ezra

> The MAHARSHA"L in his Yam Shel Shlomo commentary on Bava Kamma
> (introduction) gives a scathing attack on the Ibn Ezra placing him in
> the category of Apikorus. I have seen other Acharonim also banning the
> study of the Ibn Ezra for the same reason.

Who gives an acharon the right to declare a rishon an apikorus.
Especially since Ramban frequently quotes Ibn Exra even if to disagree
he obviously did not consider him an apikorus, Furthermore, it is well
known that Ibn Ezra travelled a lot and met many of the gedolim of his
generation including Rabbenu Tam who held him in high regard.

There is a similar problem with the teshuva of RMF on the commentary of
R. Yehuda hachasid. He starts with an assumption about what is allowed.
Given that R. Yehuda hachasid did not follow that assumption he
concludes that that passage was not written by R.Yehuda hachassid. This
is obviously faulty logic.

The obvious conclusion is that Ibn Ezra, R. Yehuda haChassid and other
held different opinions than those accepted today (based on Rambam)
about small changes in our text. To call rishonim that differed
apikorsim or to change what they said is to prevert history.

Note that even when Amoraim stated that Moshiach already came,
R. Yosef's reaction was that it was wrong and they needed kapparah. He
did not call them apikorsim and say one could not quote them in any

Eli Turkel


From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2005 22:46:59 +0000
Subject: Re: Obligation for Tefilah with Minyan

In message <m1EA3Du-000ygwC@...>, Akiva Miller wrote:

>I consider that halacha of the Shulchan Aruch 90:9 to be somewhat 
>ambiguous, perhaps deliberately so. My translation of it would be:
>"A person should make an effort (yishtadel) to pray in the synagogue 
>with the congregation. If he is forced (that he is unable to pray when 
>the congregation prays), and similarly, if he was forced (and did not 
>pray when the congregation prayed) and now prays alone -- even so, he 
>should pray in the synagogue."
>Ben's comment is that the Shulchan Aruch COULD HAVE written "A person 
>is obligated (chayav) to...", but because he chose a different word, it 
>is clear that there is no obligation.
>But this ignores the fact that the same author described the alternate 
>situation as "forced". The only excuse for praying alone is if he was 
>*forced* to miss it, or already missed it. Anything less is not a valid 
>excuse, and from this perspective, we are indeed *obligated* to pray 
>with the minyan.

I think part of the issue that arises, particularly with minyan, is what 
is it that the person is/would be doing if he was not at the minyan.

Lets take several possible examples:

a) wasting his time on idle pursuits;

b) working for his employer;

c) learning;

d) helping/spending time with his wife;

e) spending time with his children.

Now, I don't know that anybody disagrees that a person "ought" however
that is phrased to go to minyan rather than spending time as per a) .
And I am purposely not defining what these idle pursuits are, because no
doubt there are disagreements on this list as to what consists an idle
pursuit. But let us imagine that we can identify something that
everybody agrees is an idle pursuit, I doubt anybody would say that the
person should not be in minyan in preference.

On the other hand, one is pretty much patur [exempt] from anything
(except for idol worship, sexual immorality and murder) if one is
forced, so for the Shulchan Aruch to need to say that one is exempt from
minyan if one is forced is a bit surprising, that would rather be

So the real question it seems to me is not at all about that.  It is
about the place of minyan in the hierarchy of halacha.

Let us take for the moment another halacha, and one where unquestionably 
there is a big chiyuv - keeping shabbas.  Now there is no question that, 
taking all of the examples above, one cannot say that one should not 
keep shabbas (even the positive aspects, such as making kiddush) because 
- one needs to work, one needs to learn, one needs to spend time with 
one's wife or children.  One is only obligated to not make kiddush in 
circumstances in which one is really forced (does not have enough money 
to buy etc etc).

But nobody as far as I am aware, treats minyan like that.  If one did, 
one could never go away on vacation to anywhere one wasn't confident of 
getting a minyan.  And yet it is a commonplace every day that people 
indeed do go away on vacation to places where they know they will not 
find a minyan.

So what is really at the heart of this debate is what is it that minyan 
"trumps" and what is it that it does not.

Take a practical example that happened just today.  We have some friends 
who got married about six months ago and who have bought a new house 
which is something of a drive away.  We haven't seen them since the 
wedding, and they were desperate to show us their house and invited us 
over for the afternoon (Sunday afternoon).  My husband was very keen to 
go to the earliest mincha minyan around here.  I said to him look, if 
you go to mincha, there is just no way that we will be able to leave the 
house with the kids before 2.30, we won't get there before 3.30, and we 
are going to have a very limited time with our friends before we have to 
turn around and come back so that we can feed the kids dinner. And it is 
not derech eretz to turn up for 15 minutes and then disappear.  Either 
you need to daven at home or we need to cancel our invitation.  What 
should we have done?

Now lets take some other common scenarios.  Sunday afternoon is one of 
the few times that a father who works during the week has to take his 
children out for an outing.  But with shkia at around 3.30-4pm, going to 
mincha, whether the earliest or the latest minyan tends to cut very 
heavily into that time, to the point that such outings are probably 
impossible. What should such a father do, take his kids on an outing 
that will help them bond or go to minyan?

Similarly, for a father who works, it is rare to be able to see their 
children in the afternoon.  But if he is a working father, then going to 
shachris will often mean he does not see his kids in the morning and 
when mincha/ma'ariv is scheduled for after work, then almost certainly 
by the time he comes home his kids will be in bed. That may mean he does 
not even see his kids from weekend to weekend.  What should he do? 
Should he prioritise a relationship with his kids or go to minyan?

How about his marriage.  It is pretty generally agreed that marriages 
take time and work.  Between work and minyan, it is often the case that 
the man sees very little of his wife.  What should he prioritise, minyan 
or shalom bayis?

Ah you might say, but the problem here is not really minyan, it is work. 
If it were not for work, then he would have lots of time to spend with 
his wife and kids and still go to minyan?  And that is true, so should a 
man go to minyan on his employer's cheshbon [time account}?  Or 
alternatively should he turn down a job because it does not allow him 
enough time to maintain a relationship with his kids and wife and also 
go to minyan?

Well maybe the solution is to take out of his sleeping time (not that 
that is always possible, but lets say that is a partial solution). 
Should he prioritise going to minyan over sleeping if not sleeping means 
that he performs inadequately for his employer, or is not able to 
provide much of a relationship to his wife and kids (irritable, falling 
asleep on their games, unable to provide the necessary empathy)?

It is these kinds of questions that I believe are really being discussed 
when we discuss the question of the chiyuv of minyan, as well as the 
further question as whether we answer the questions differently when 
dealing with something everybody acknowledges as a clear cut chiyuv. 
Lets take davening itself for an example.  Should one go away on 
vacation if it meant for some reason one could not daven at all?  Should 
one spend time with one's wife and kids to the extent that one is 
prevented from davening mincha?  Should one take employment if it means 
that it is impossible to daven eg mincha?  Is anybody asking those kinds 
of questions?

When you think about this list of questions, it seems pretty clear that 
just about everybody at some point puts going to minyan at a lower level 
than certain other "chiyuvim".  The question is really not about that, 
but about how low.  It is about how much weight one gives to intangibles 
such as relationships with wives, children and friends (as opposed cases 
which are more clearly dealt with in the halacha, like relationships 
with employers). Mostly it is pretty clear that going to minyan does not 
"trump" obligations to employers (although some form of davening itself 
does).  It is interesting that what the Shulchan Aruch (quoting the 
gemora) in fact brings in relation to going to minyan is the statement 
that one who does not come to minyan is a "bad neighbour".  That is a 
statement of relationship.  He does not spend time with the community at 
the time when it is available for visitation.  But if there is a 
question of prioritisation, it might be that the question really is, if 
one cannot do it all, is it better to be a bad neighbour, a bad 
employee, a bad husband or a bad father?

Chana Luntz


From: Rabbi Y. H. Henkin <henkin@...>
Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 19:18:50 +0200
Subject: Re: parshat hashavua vaYeira

An Agreement is an Agreement

           In Chibah Yeteirah I discussed the seeming contradiction in
Avraham's arguments concerning Sodom: although he claimed to be seeking
justice ("Will the Judge of the whole world not do justice?"), in
practice he demanded that G-d spare everyone, righteous and wicked
alike!  Sparing the wicked would not be justice but mercy, and how could
Avraham demand it?.

           Years later I perceived a marvelous diyuk of a far different
sort, in the intricate legal arguments that Avraham was engaged in over
the fate of Sodom. Avraham said to G-d, "Perhaps there are fifty
tzadikim in the cityĆ", and G-d agreed that in that case, He would spare
Sodom. Avraham then continued, "What if five of the fifty tzadikim would
be missing (ulai yachsarun chamishim ha tzadikim chamisha)?" and G-d
agreed, "I will not destroy [Sodom] if I find forty-five."

           The question arises, why did G-d not answer Avraham with the
same language as Avraham phrased the question, i. e., "I will not
destroy Sodom if five of the fifty tzadikim are missing"? The reverse
can also be asked, why did Avraham himself use the unwieldy construct
"fifty-minus-five" and not simply say "forty-five", as G-d did?

           I explained this as follows: after G-d agreed to fifty
tzadikim, Avraham probed what was meant by "fifty": Must they be exactly
fifty, or perhaps "fifty-minus-five" is close enough to fifty to qualify
as fulfilling the agreement?

           G-d answered categorically: fifty meant fifty and not a
single tzadik less. G-d, however, was prepared to renegotiate the
agreement itself to specify forty-five, but not to interpret fifty as
"fifty-minus-five."  An agreement must be clear, unambiguous and then
carried out to the letter.

           This explains how Avraham had the seeming temerity to haggle
over numbers after he had explicitly agreed to fifty. At first, it never
entered his mind to try to get better terms; but only to clarify whether
the number fifty was exact or open to interpretation. But when G-d
Himself raised the possibility of a renegotiated forty-five, Avraham
understood that he, too, could try to change the agreement, as long as
this was done by mutual consent. Avraham therefore bargained down to
forty, to thirty, to twenty and finally to ten (see Chibah Yeteirah as
to why he stopped at ten).

           Yehuda Henkin


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2005 22:40:30 -0500
Subject: The Rav on mixed seating

As I wrote previously, the Rav's prohibition on davening in a mixed
seating shul always referred to mixed seating and not to the lack of a
mechitzah.  And it should be remembered that at the time this was a
burning issue in the 1950's, there were shuls that had separate seating
although no mechitzah.  But let the Rav say it in his own words, which
were written in an open letter,as quoted in Litvin, "Sanctity of the
Synagogue," p.140-41 (no date given for the letter):

"As to whether or not the Halachah also requires segregation, I wish to
say that there is certainly a requirement for the erection of a
partition, and the synagogue which fails to erect one is guilty of
violating a very sacred tradition.  However, there is a basic difference
between this wrong and that of the complete mingling of the sexes, for,
as I indicated above, separation has its origin in the Bible itself
whereas the requirement of a mechitzah must be attributed to a Rabbinic
ordinance....  Although complete segregation is important, since we have
no authority to amend even a Rabbinic institution, yet it should not be
treated on a par with the principle of separation.  While the latter
determines the very essence and sanctity of the synagogue, the former,
if violated, does not place the congregation in the class of a reform

Joseph Kaplan


End of Volume 50 Issue 12