Volume 50 Number 99
                    Produced: Wed Jan 11  4:53:31 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The Case against Upsherin (aka Upsheren, Upsherenish, etc.)
Changing Uses of Shul Space
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
Chupas Nida
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
A Hanuka/Purim-Mordechai puzzler
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Kallah Covering Hair After Chupah (3)
         [Batya Medad, Aliza N. Fischman, M. Press]


From: <Phyllostac@...> (Mordechai)
Date: Sun, 8 Jan 2006 01:59:17 EST
Subject: The Case against Upsherin (aka Upsheren, Upsherenish, etc.)

<< From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
> ......I am curious about those who have questioned and opposed this
> practice.

There is significant opposition to this custom among various gedolim and
kehillos. I will attempt to give some background and explain their
stance, since it seems that some people are not aware of it.

1) The custom is new, of recent vintage, and it's origins are somewhat
murky. It is not mentioned in ancient venerable sources, such as the
talmud (gemara), shulchan oruch or midrash. On the contrary, the talmud
talks about cutting the hair of young boys in their infancy, before
three years of age, with no reference at all to any custom to refrain
from such until a certain age (e.g. Moed Kotton 14a where it says that a
youngster born with long hair can be given a haircut right away). The
Shita Mikubetzes (Nedorim 30a) says that the hair of young boys was
regularly and often cut.

2) It was not the minhag in Ashkenazic kehillos in Europe in the past,
whose minhag is to cut the hair davka (specifically) at a younger age,
with no special celebration. It seems to have originated among a
marginal group called mustarbim a few hundred years ago and was later
adopted by some oriental Jews as well as Hassidim, who then attempted to
teach the custom to others. However, even among oriental Jews and
Hassidim, it was not universally accepted as some seem to believe. It
was not recognized in Sepharadic communities in Amsterdam, Hamburg,
London at all, as it was not done in Spain. In certain Moroccan
communities, the hair was cut at the age of nine months. In the famed
'sheva kehillos'of Hungary, they cut the hair at one year of age. In
Yemen too, the hair was cut with no special celebration. Among Hassidim,
some groups Hassidim (E.g. Gur and Skvira, from my recollection) do it
at two years of age, and not three.  It is evident from the above that
it is far from a standard or universal practice.

3) We have reports of forthright opposition to it from great gedolim.
Sefer Orchos Rabbeinu, an authoritative compilation of practices of the
Steipler gaon (Rav YY Kanievsky z"l), volume one, p.233, reports on his
strong opposition to it. An authoritative compilation of Brisker
practices ('uvdos vihanhogos libeis Brisk', volume I, p.256), reports
that the renowned Brisker Rav, Rav Velvel Soloveitchik (HaGRY"Z), when
he came to Eretz Yisroel and was brought a child for such hair cutting,
declined, saying 'ich bin nisht kein sherer' (I am not a barber).

4) There is a very serious concern that it's origins are from non-Jewish
practice among certain cultures (e.g. certain eastern cultures, where
some local Jews adopted it, where they celebrated when youngsters got
their first haircuts). Such would render it seriously problematic, as a
case of 'chukos akum', and a possible violation of Biblical prohibition
against such. Although such an assertion might appear strange at first
blush, as the majority of the non-Jewish population in the USA, Western
Europe, etc., among whom many of us live now, do not have such a custom
at present, nevertheless, investigation shows it to be a very real
concern and important aspect of this discussion.

5) The practice seems to have been adopted by some, due, at least in
part, to the power of an ingenious attempt to connect it with the
undisputed holy mitzvoh of orla. Proponents claim that the hair of a
young boy is like fruit, which is not to be benefitted from for the
first three years. This connection is questionable, though, however, on
a number of counts, for example the fact that such a comparison of a
young child to a fruit tree is given in some early sources - however,
that is only with regard to starting his Torah education at the age of
three - there is no mention of haircutting. If you look at the major
commentaries to Vayikra 19:23-25, where the mitzvoh of orla is recorded,
you will not see mention of a haircutting custom connected to it.

6) Some proponents also attempt to find backing for it, in a brief
mention of it in the halachic responsa digest Shaarei teshuvah. However,
all that actually is is a citation of a Turkish source (gan hamelech)
that mentions such a custom in a part of the Ottoman empire (the custom
from the mustarbim, as above). It is clear from the citation that it was
not the custom where the author of the work (ST) resided and that he was
just reporting it as part of his broad survey of responsa literature,
but not telling his fellow co-religionists to adopt it. Additionally,
the mishnah berura ad loc does not mention or advocate it, unlike other
cases, where he cites the Shaarei teshuvah to advocate a practice.

Other proponents attempt to claim Kabbalistic justification for it, but
the alleged source for that is also murky and problematic.

7) Some have attempted to merge it with other, earlier customs, such as
starting a young boys Torah education at three years of age, taking the
child to cheder then, having him lick honey from letters. However, this
attempt to piggyback the later disputed haircutting custom on older,
accepted customs and take advantage of their prior acceptance is
historically inaccurate and misleading.

8) Others have tried to fudge the issue by claiming that they are
celebrating the mitzvoh of peiyos harosh. However, that doesn't seem to
solve the problem because it is, and has, for so long, been referred to
with names that stress that it celebrates the cutting of the hair, such
as upsheren, simchas hataglachas, chalaka, despite an attempt by some to
refer to it as 'machen peiyos' (making peiyos). Such terminology seems
to indicate strongly that it's origins were in foreign haircutting
festival customs. Additionally, the peiyos are not being 'made' then, as
even if the child gets no haircut at all, he still has them and is still
in fullfillment of the mitzvoh of not cutting them off.

9) In addition to the sources cited above, there is a very comprehensive
study (a whole chapter) of the issue in the sefer 'Shorshei Minhag
Ashkenaz', volume III. Also, I have seen mention in at least two recent
seforim from Rav Chaim Kanievsky shlit"a, one of the gedolei hador
(Derech Siach and another of Q & A with him), in which he is asked if a
young boys hair can be cut before three years of age, and he answers in
the affirmative.

To sum up, there are strong questions on this custom and strong
opposition to it. I think it would be safe to say (at the least) that if
someone's ancestral minhag is not to do it, they should not deviate from
their tradition, as following ancestral customs are an important Jewish
principle (al titosh Toras imecha).



From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Jan 2006 17:35:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Changing Uses of Shul Space

A discussion recently got going on another list I'm on about the
procedures involved when it is desired to put a mechitza into a space
which was previously all-male.  The context is an aging population, a
creaky balcony accessible only by too many and badly-pitched stairs, and
a shul whose membership has shrunk sufficiently that all of the
shul-attenders would fit well into the downstairs section (that is, the
main shul).

Someone reported on a shul where this was being undertaken and the space
to be used for the women was cordoned off with yellow tape for 30 days
before being allowed to be used.  Someone else reported on having seen a
similar project in process in another shul.  The question arises as to
what is the reason for this?  Aside from the people who are upset about
the change in general (understandable given that it is the dwindling
population which makes such a change even feasible), some of the women
are seeing this as demeaning.  Someone has raised the question as to
whether this procedure is to "desacralize" the space, as the women's
davening is on some lower order of something than the men's, or to
"decontaminate" the space (this is said more in anger than seriously),
or more as similar to leaving dishes to be kashered for Pesach unused
for a period before doing so.

Someone recalled that a very heavy-duty Orthodox shul they were aware of
had, some years ago, set up a small section downstairs for the older
ladies so they wouldn't have to climb the stairs, but could not recall
such a setting-aside procedure.

Does anyone have any sources on this, and any idea of what the rationale
for this is?


Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Sun, 08 Jan 2006 15:02:48 -0500
Subject: Chupas Nida

>There will be some changes which cannot be so easily
>concealed. e.g. The Chosson will not give the Kallah to drink from the
>wine, she will be handed the cup by someone else.

Doesn't the Igros Moshe allow for sharing mitzva cups, i.e kiddush and
the like, where it is not specifically "derech Chiba" and is a mitzva?

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Jan 2006 15:15:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: A Hanuka/Purim-Mordechai puzzler

> Given his vast prime ministerial power and the fact that
> Nebuchadnezzar was dead, I don't understand why Mordechai didn't
> convince Achashvayrus to let us Jews return to Israel en masse. Can
> anyone educate me?

Consider the mefarshim on "Ad chatzi Hamalchu" (up to half the kingdom).
They say that this means "except the land of Israel".  Achashveros had
no intention of allowing the Jews to build the bais hamikdash or to
return even after he made Mordechai the prime minister.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sun, 08 Jan 2006 06:10:09 +0200
Subject: Re: Kallah Covering Hair After Chupah

I've been seeing this more and more here in Israel.  And it's not a
matter of after the chuppah, it's after yichud.  From my observations,
the chareidim have been doing it for much longer; frequently the bride
is dolled up in a wig, and sometimes it looks like her hair.  It's
becoming more common in the "dati le'umi" and "chardal" circles.  Even
when the bride had her hair styled all fancy at the chuppah, she'll come
out of yichud in a simple white tichel, or in some cases a fancy white
hat.  Sometimes a wig is bought specially for the wedding and never worn

One of my friends is very makpid on it with her daughters and
daughters-in-law, making a point of insisting even if the kalla's family
hadn't known of its importance.  She says that yichud changes the status
of the couple, therefore the bride's hair must be covered.

http://me-ander.blogspot.com/      http://shilohpics.blogspot.com/

From: Aliza N. Fischman <fisch.chips@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Jan 2006 10:05:28 -0500
Subject: RE: Kallah Covering Hair After Chupah

Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...> asked:
>I can only remember one frum wedding I've been to where the Kallah covered
>her hair at the reception after the Chuppa.
>Why is that?  Isn't she an Aishit Ish at that point?  Or does the
>requirement not apply until after that night?

In my circles, we rarely see a kallah who covers her hair after the
Chupah.  I remember wondering about this when I was getting married.  My
husband and I were debating if we should go to the hotel in full wedding
attire, or change at the hall.  The hair covering aspect occurred to me
and I asked our Rav.  He told me that as long as it is obvious that I am
a bride on her wedding day, I need not cover my hair for the reception,
or even when I go to the hotel.  In other words, if I was in my wedding
gown and veil, I did not have to put on a hat or my sheitel.

Aliza Fischman

From: M. Press <mpress8@...>
Date: Mon, 09 Jan 2006 02:13:58 -0500
Subject: Re: Kallah Covering Hair After Chupah

This issue involves a major debate among the poskim as to when the 
obligation of a woman to cover her hair begins.  In Brooklyn one can see 
a fair number of weddings in which the kallah either gets married in a 
sheitel or puts one on in the yichud room.

Melech Press
<melechp@...> <mailto:melechp@touro.edu> or mpress8@optonline.net 


End of Volume 50 Issue 99