Volume 51 Number 21
                    Produced: Wed Feb  8  4:57:09 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Does Learning prevent forbidden Thoughts
         [Akiva Miller]
Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah (3)
         [Chana Luntz, Shimon Lebowitz, Samuel Ehrenfeld]
Yiddish in Ritual (6)
         [Mark Steiner, Leah S. Gordon, Carl Singer, Aliza Berger, Ben
Katz, Akiva Miller]


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 2006 13:33:44 GMT
Subject: RE: Does Learning prevent forbidden Thoughts

Russell Hendel wrote:

> Now here is my point of contention with Akiva. Playing games with
> letters (GARTI TARYAG) may give you a momentary high but it cannot be
> in the long run challenging. By contrast differentiating between
> synonyms is challenging. Akiva would probably respond... "No...  maybe
> someone gets challenge from Gematrias." And that is my whole point: If
> we saw a friend involved in a social relationship because of externals
> wouldn't we try and help him... wouldn't we try and make him aware
> that he is looking at externals and there should be more. Why should
> learning be different.

I think the disagreement centers on where to draw the line between when
to get involved, and when to stay out of it.

Let's take your example of where I "saw a friend involved in a social
relationship because of externals".

I am not sure of what you mean by "externals". If my friend was in a
relationship, and it seemed to me that the friend was looking only at
superficial things, and was not involved with more serious things, I
would NOT try to interfere. I have no right to impose my values on my
friend. It is his relationship, not mine, and he certainly sees things
which I do not see, if only because he is the involved one and not me.

I look at many apparently-happy couples, and I wonder what they see in
each other. Of course I have no idea what they see! I was not on their
dates! Why should it suprprise me that they see things which I do not

I would not interfere in their relationship unless I was aware of some
real problem. And if I was aware of such, then yes, I would "try and
help him" and "make him aware", as Russell put it. But that's only if I
really saw something harmful or destructive going on. And NOT if I
simply thought he should be looking for something deeper.

So too for learning. "Playing games with letters" might not be
challenging in the long run for Russell, but it might very well be the
right thing for someone else, and I do not see where Russell or I or
anyone else has the right to dictate what sorts of Torah a person should
be learning.

If someone wants to claim that studying gematrias does not count towards
the mitzvah of learning Torah, then he can offer sources to that
effect. But if it does count as learning Torah, then who is to say that
it is wrong to learn it, or even to make it the main topic of his

Akiva Miller


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Tue,  7 Feb 2006 18:31:55 +0000
Subject: RE: Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah

Ahh, I think I have identified the confusion.

Quoting Samuel Ehrenfeld <samfeld@...>:

> To summarize the discussion up to now very briefly (according to my
> sometimes faulty memory):
> Someone posted to complain of individuals who do not take care to
> maintain a proper appearance for tefillah.  Many posts folllowed on
> both sides of the issue.  (Personally, I do not feel strongly enough
> to take a stand on this, although arguably I should.)  You wrote to
> provide a framework of the history and halacha on the subject.  You
> also added an insight (apparently your own) that suggested it would be
> better to worship as a servant before a master, i.e. without dressing
> up.

Actually, what I wrote was that the halacha gives two modes of worship,
one in times of peace when one is supposed to dress up, and one in times
of trouble when one is supposed to worship as a servant before his
master and that means, according to the halacha, not dressing up.

What I lamented was that people today do not seem to know how to do the
second mode of worship, only the first (I wasn't trying to suggest that
the second mode should always replace the first, only that it seemed
from what people were saying that in fact the first had, at least in
some people's minds, completely replaced the second).  So it is not so
much that it would be "better to worship as a servant before a master ie
without dressing up", but that it would be better if we had both modes
in our repertoire (and if we did, then there would be less likely to be
criticism of somebody worshipping in one mode of somebody who might be
worshipping in another).

>  You wrote that in the days of old it was not the custom for the lower
> class to dress up for meetings with kings and queens.

Again, I was responding to the the views expressed on list that if
somebody was to have an audience with a king or queen they would
certainly dress up.  So I was not saying that it was not the custom for
the lower class to dress up for meetings with kings and queens.  Indeed
if the king or queen came to visit the village eg as part of a royal
tour, I would expect the lower classes to dress up in the king or
queen's honour. What I was saying was that it was not *always* the case
that a person would dress up for a meeting with the king or queen in
those days (although I think they would always do so today) and that is
because in those times a king or queen in those days had a dual function
- one of pomp and ceremony and one of complete power and discretion,
including to grant clemency.  Most of that second function has been lost
today in modern kings and queens, who have been stripped of those
powers.  What I said was that in the days when they still had those
powers, if a person was seeking to beg mercy from the king or queen,
they would probably not dress up, ie the position under the halacha that
there are two modes of address to Hashem was historically reflected in
two modes of address to kings of flesh and blood. You then brought the
example of Yosef, and I certainly understood you as saying - well Yosef
was operating in mode two (after all he was a prisoner who wanted to get
out of prison) and see he did dress up.  So all I was arguing was that
Yosef was in fact operating in mode one, and would have been expected to
do so, not in mode two.  I said rather if you want to see an example of
people operating in mode two, look at Yosef' brothers vis a vis Yosef,
rather than Yosef vis a vis pharoah.

> As I said before, I am just trying to clarify whether it was customary
> in ancient times to change before a meeting with the king.

And my answer is yes in certain situations and no in others (mirroring
the halacha).  But since Yosef fits within the situations where I would
have expected anybody to dress up, his dressing up is not a surprise.

Chana Luntz

From: Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...>
Date: Tue,  7 Feb 2006 23:01:28 +0200
Subject: RE: Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah

> or maybe into the kesones passim (and maybe they were the same).)
> Maybe he had money or a charge card (i.e. he borrowed) to buy new
> clothes.  Nothing to the contrary is expressed in the Torah.

Well, at least regarding the ketonet pasim there is contrary
information.  The ketonet was dipped in goat's blood and brought to
Yaakov, many years earlier.


From: Samuel Ehrenfeld <samfeld@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 2006 17:09:34 -0500
Subject: RE: Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah

Thank you very much for your clarification, Chana, and thanks for your
patience with me.  :) I think we are now on the same page.

Also, I would like to acknowledge a comment I received from Art
Werschulz at <agw@...> who pointed out that the kesones
hapassim was dipped in blood and brought to Yaakov as (circumstantial?)
evidence that Yosef had been killed.  It would have been extremely
unlikely that it came back into Yosef's hands (cleaned and pressed) for
his meeting with Pharaoh.  Thanks, Art.



From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 2006 13:56:04 +0200
Subject: RE: Yiddish in Ritual

To the question of the status of Got fun Avrohom:

Yes, it is similar to "barukh hamavdil beyn qodesh lehol" which is said
by those who have not recited ma'ariv (or who forgot to say atah
honantanu) and want to do work (melakha) before havdalah on wine.  It
was traditionally said by women for this reason.

Raboysay mir veln benshn MAY be actually of lesser halakhic status than
"Got fun Avrohom" because it not strictly part of what is called "birkat
hazimmun" but a pre-zimmun.  Birkat hazimmun is held by some to be a
Biblical requirement on a level of birkat hamazon itself.  At any rate
"raboysay" may be said in Yiddish to make this distinction.  It is
possible however that "raboysay" is intended as Yiddish version of the
zimmun itself.  This needs further investigation.

I would not put the following in the above category, but in Ashkenaz, it
was customary to sing a Yiddish version of Adir Hu at the seder.  ("Bau
dein Tempel shiroh") The Yiddish in question was Western Yiddish, in use
in Germany and Western Europe before the Jews of Germany adopted modern
German.  I am not aware of this song being sung in Poland or Lithuania,
but my late mother-in-law used to sing it; she was from Hamburg.  She
probably didn't even conceptualize the song as Yiddish, but Yiddish it
was (or "Ashkenazis" as it was once called).

According to linguistic historians, when the Jews of German stopped
speaking Yiddish, what remained in their colloquial speech was actually
the Hebrew component of Yiddish ("ganev," "tukhes," "rishes" (meaning
antisemitism)) In fact German Jews use Yiddish-Hebrew words unknown to
Eastern European Jews, and unknown even to Hebrew speakers in Israel:
e.g., "mekhule" meaning "bankrupt," a condition unkown to the starving
masses of the "ostjuden" who never had any money to lose.  The Jews
preserved the Hebrew component of (Western) Yiddish in order to confuse
the "goyim."  Unfortunately, the latter knew these words too: many
German gentiles use words like "ganev" etc. in their own colloquial

From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 2006 09:44:41 -0800
Subject: Yiddish in Ritual

I find very interesting the discussion of Yiddish in ritual.

I am curious if there are examples of Yiddish in ritual that are
'canonized'...i.e.  originally, there were bits of Aramaic in davening
as a translation into the contemporary vernacular...now they are still
said in Aramaic in spite of no one speaking Aramaic daily.  (For
instance, parts of shabbat morning service, and parts of the pre-Pesach
and seder liturgy, and I'm sure others.)

So, are there bits of Yiddish that even non-Yiddish-speakers are
expected to say?  I do not know of any.  Is Yiddish more analogous to
English, where there are translations but no general requirements to say
things in that language?


From: <casinger@...> (Carl Singer)
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 2006 08:05:25 -0500
Subject: Yiddish in Ritual

>  The announcement of the molad in Yiddish is not really a part of the
> ritual. I think it stands alongside "the announcements". I consider it
> as part of announcing davening times for the coming week, which are
> appropriately in the vernacular of the people to whom the announcement
> is directed. Announcing the molad, the davening times, and, on erev
> Shabbos, the status of the eruv (if there is one in the community) is
> properly made in the language which most of the community understands.

I disagree.  The announcement of the molad harkens back to times prior
to "calculations" when aidim (witnesses) actually saw the new moon over
the hills of Jerusalem and relayed that information to the Sanhedrin so
that the starting date of the new moon, and in turn the calendar month,
could be determined.

This thought is, perhaps, seconded by the fact that it is inserted into
the middle of davening at a specific point in the Rosh Chodesh benching
right before we announce when Rosh Chodesh will occur -- as opposed to
at some lull in davening when times, kiddish sponsorship, etc., might be


From: Aliza Berger <alizadov@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 2006 13:31:52 +0200
Subject: Yiddish in Ritual

There are many tekhinot, which were/are recited by women instead of or in
addition to the ritual prayers.

Aliza Berger-Cooper, PhD
English Editing: www.editing-proofreading.com
Statistics Consulting: www.statistics-help.com

From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 2006 12:07:11 -0600
Subject: Re: Yiddish in Ritual

The gemara in berachot states that after one is finished eating, as soon 
as someone says "let's bentch" or the equivalent, one cannot continue 
eating, and those eating must say birchat hamazon.  Thus, this is not a 
matter of ritual - any declaration of the meal's end in any language will 
suffice.  Presumably, a formalization of the gemara's charge to end the 
meal and begin birchat hamazon took place at some point.  Since ~ 
11,000,000 Jews at one time spoke Yiddish, the most common "call to 
bentch" was in that language.  Similarly, any halachic declaration that 
requires intent, such as bitul chametz, might be said in the vernacular 
(the only reason the traditional text was Aramaic was because that was the 
vernacular; there is nothing holy about Aramaic.)  I am sure Sephardim 
never said this or any declaration in Yiddish.  Today, many will say 
"chaveirei nevarech".  Rabbi Henkin, in his zimun for women, reprinted in 
the Edah birchon (which oddly opens from left to right) opted for 
"gevirotai nevarech".

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box # 20, Chicago, IL 60614
e-mail: <bkatz@...>

From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, 7 Feb 2006 13:13:48 GMT
Subject: Re: Yiddish in Ritual

Perry Zamek wrote:
> I have heard (anecdotal evidence, hmmm?) that someone
> once led off with "Let's bench", and the chavurah with
> whom he was eating proceeded to answer "Yehi shem etc."

I do this on Purim. Not as a parody of the real thing, but to
demonstrate that it *IS* the real thing. I'd like to do it more often,
but sociologically, this is the only time I can get away with it.

Akiva Miller


End of Volume 51 Issue 21