Volume 51 Number 27
                    Produced: Sat Feb 18 20:46:22 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

On Yohrtsayt
         [Mark Steiner]
Valentines Day and Halacha
         [Michael Broyde]
Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah (2)
         [Stu Pilichowski, Shimon Lebowitz]


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Sat, 18 Feb 2006 22:30:03 +0200
Subject: On Yohrtsayt

On Yohrtsayt:

(1) The fact that a word is derived from two words, doesn't mean it's
two words.  I doubt that linguists would say that "footloose" is two
words.  The word "something" is one word, though in archaic English it
was writen as two, and slowly fused into one.  If we separate the yohr
from the tsayt we get a different concept, namely something that takes a
year: a wise guy in my shul, after listening to a baal tefilah who had
yohrtsayt, remarked "Er hot gedavent a yohr tsayt."  By the way, the
word Jahreszeit in German is not equivalent to yohrtsayt, it means
"season" (and in German it's also one word).

(2) The Israeli Hebrew expression "yom hashanah," to the best of my
knowledge, does not appear in our Hebrew halakhic sources, but "yom
shemet bo aviv..."  I would surmise that it is (like many Israeli words)
an attempted literal translation of the Yiddish).  In Israeli Hebrew,
indeed, it is two words.

On raboysay mir veln benshn; it occurred to me that Yiddish is used here
in order to make clear that this is not part of the zimmun.  Otherwise,
we have just "nevarekh" without any object.  The gemara (Berakhot 50a)
insists that language must be used in the zimmun that makes clear that
it is Hashem who is the object, not, for example, the host.  Hence
"nevarekh" can't be a zimmun.  It order to make this clear, it is
possible that they used Yiddish to make the distinction clear.


From: Michael Broyde <mbroyde@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 13:21:57 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Valentines Day and Halacha

	Valentines Day and Halacha
	Michael J. Broyde


A number of years ago I wrote an article addressing celebrating
Thanksgiving according to halacha, which concluded that many halachic
authorities accept that:
	1)	Thanksgiving is a secular holiday with secular origins;
	2)	While some people celebrate Thanksgiving with religious
rituals, this is unusual, and does not cause Thanksgiving to be classified
as a Christian holiday;
	3)	Jewish law permits one to celebrate secular holidays, but
not with people who celebrate them religiously.
The article concluded that according to most decisors (including Rabbis
Feinstein, Soloveitchik and many others) Jewish law permits one to have a
private Thanksgiving celebration with one's Jewish or secular friends and
family, so long as one does not treat Thanksgiving as a religious ritual
or holiday.  (See "The Celebrating of Thanksgiving at the End of November:
A Secular or Religious Holiday" J. Halacha & Contemporary Society 30:42-66
(1995).) Such conduct is proper in my view.

Shortly after than, I was asked about trick or treating on Halloween, and
I concluded that halacha prohibits  celebrating Halloween, because
Halloween has a clear pagan origin and in order to celebrate a holiday
with a clear pagan origin one of four conditions must be met:
	1)	Halloween celebrations have an additional secular origin;
	2)	The conduct of the individuals "celebrating Halloween" can
be rationally explained independent of Halloween.
	3)	The pagan origins of Halloween or the Catholic response to
it are so deeply hidden that they have disappeared, and the celebrations
can be attributed to some secular source or reason.
	4)	The activities memorialized by Halloween are actually
consistent with the Jewish tradition.
Since it was clear to me that none of these statements are true, I
concluded that celebrating Halloween was prohibited. (See "Celebrating
Secular Holidays," Emunah Magazine 28-32 (Fall, 2000).)

This short note discusses Valentine's Day (February 14) from the view of

Valentine's Day in History

Valentine's day has a clearly Christian origin.  As the Encyclopedia
Britannica states:
	Valentine's Day also called St. Valentine's Day  (February 14)
when lovers express their affection with greetings and gifts. Although
there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day probably
took its name from a priest who was martyred about AD 270 by the emperor
Claudius II Gothicus. According to legend, the priest signed a letter to
his jailer's daughter, whom he had befriended and with whom he had fallen
in love, from your Valentine. The holiday also had origins in the Roman
festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which
celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing
off of women with men by lottery. At the end of the 5th century, Pope
Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine's Day. It came to be
celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.
There is no doubting the Christian origins of Saint Valentine's Day.  On
the other hand, I went to three stores which sell greeting cards to see
what the greeting cards say about Valentine's Day and to my surprise not a
single one of the many cards I looked at made any mention of the Christian
origins of the holiday or even of the fact that the holiday is actually
called Saint Valentine's Day and has its origins in Roman Catholic ritual.
This is as well reflected in the popular messages of Valentine's Day that
one sees in the general culture, which seem to be without any religious
overtones at all. As attuned as I was to this issue this past February 14,
I encountered not a single Christian reference in the context of
Valentine's day.  Indeed, I did not see a single reference to it as Saint
Valentine's day in print.

Halachic Analaysis

In my view, the complete absence of contemporary Christian celebration of
Valentine's day might reasonably allow one to conclude that Valentine's
Day has lost its status completely as a gentile holiday, just as News
Year's Day has lost that status in modern times.  As Rabbi Moshe Feinstein
(Iggerot Moshe, Even Haezer 2:13) writes with regard to New Years:
	On the question of celebrating any event on a holiday of Gentiles,
if the holiday is based on religious beliefs [by the Gentiles], such
celebrations are prohibited if deliberately scheduled on that day; even
without intent, it is prohibited because of marit ayin . . . The first day
of year for them [January 1] and Thanksgiving is not prohibited according
to law, but pious people [balai nephesh] should be strict.
It is obvious that the status of New Year's Day has changed in the last
three hundred years.  In contemporary America there is little religious
content or expression to New Year's Day, and while there might be many
problems associated with the way some celebrate it, few would classify it
as a religious holiday, as there is a clear secular method and reason to
celebrate New Years day, and thus it has lost its status as a Gentile
Holiday.  (However, Terumat Hadeshen 195, writing nearly five hundred
years ago classifies New Years as a religious holiday and this is quoted
by Rama Yoreh Deah 148:12.  Terumat Hadeshen discusses whether one may
give a New Year's Day gift and refers to January First as "the eighth day
of Christmas."  He clearly understands the holiday as religious in nature
and covered by the prohibition of assisting a Gentile in his worship.
(The text of the common edition of the Shulchan Aruch here has undoubtedly
been subject to considerable censorship; for an accurate rendition of the
Rama, see the Rama's Darchai Moshe in the new edition of the Tur published
by Machon Yerushalyim.)

My inclination is only to note (as Rabbi Feinstein does for New Year's
Day) that the pious should be strict on the matter of celebrating
Valentine's Day, even though the technical halacha permits Valentine's Day
observances, as the day has completely lost its religious overtones and
can be rationally explained.  The reason that this is so is that
Valentine's Day is no longer celebrated even by Christians as a Christian
holiday.  It is a day of love, friendship and candy, each of which is
independently explainaible.

So too, Valentine's Day is quite different from Halloween, which also has
lost much of its religious origins, and understanding the reason for this
difference is very important.  Halloween has an irrational component to it
in which the form of celebrating can only be jsutified and explained by
having it traced back to its gentile origins (dressing in costume and
trick & treating).  On the other hand, the mode of Valentine's Day
celebrations can be explained in our secular society completely
rationally, grounded in such notions as sharing love, noting friendship
and (perhaps most importantly) eating chocolate.  Each of these values are
not inherently religious or can be explained rationally, as the Rama
requires for transposing actions with religious origins into secular
practices that Jews can engage in.  In general, Rama (YD 178:1) seems to
posit that in order to permit engaging in conduct that might have pagan
origins, one must show one of four things.
	1]	The debated activity has a secular origin or value.
	2]	The conduct the individuals engage in can be rationally
explained independent of the gentile holiday or event.
	3]	The pagan origins of are so deeply hidden that they have
disappeared, and the celebrations con be attributed to some secular source
or reason.
	4]	The activities memorialized are actually consistent with
the Jewish tradition.
This rationale is used by Rama to explain why Jewish doctors may wear
white uniforms, even if without a doubt the origin of that practice is
Chistian, and this rationale explains the use of the red cross in modern
times to signal medical care.

  If we celelebrated Halloween by being nice to each other, or some other
explainable secular rite, Jewish law would, I think, permit such -- but we
do not.

The second important issue is the mode of celebration: even when a holiday
is pagan in nature, halacha still recognizes that this does not make all
modes of involvement prohibited.  For example, Rabbi Feinstein (Iggerot
Moshe, Yoreh Deah 4:11(4)) notes the obvious when he states:

Thus, it is obvious in my opinion, that even in a case where
something would be considered a prohibited Gentile custom, if many people
do it for reasons unrelated to their religion or law, but rather because
it is pleasurable to them, there is no prohibition of imitating Gentile
custom.  So too, it is obvious that if Gentiles were to make a religious
law to eat a particular item that is good to eat, halacha would not
prohibit eating that item.  So too, any item of pleasure in the world
cannot be prohibited merely because Gentiles do so out of religious

Thus, eating chocolate on Valentine's Day and even giving chocolate to
another, so long as there is not notation of why such is being giving, is
clearly permissible, even if one disagreed with the analysis above and
thought Valentine's Day was still a Christian holiday  The same can be
said for any activity intrinsically of value, such as a husband expressing
his love of his wife, or giving flowers to a beloved -- each of which
would be a nice gesture all year round.


I think it is the conduct of the pious to avoid explictly celebrating
Valentine's day with a Valentine's day card, although bringing home
chocolate, flowers or even jewerly to one's beloved is always a nice idea
all year around, including on February 14.


From: Stu Pilichowski <cshmuel@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 12:27:13 +0000
Subject: RE: Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah

From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
>Stuart Pilichowski wrote:
>>I am certain that if I were to meet King Abdullah often I
>>would also become more familiar and not make the effort to
>>"dress up" as I did for the first meeting. I think this is
>>human nature.
>I agree that this is human nature. Also known as "laziness".
>If someone (or Someone) is important enough to dress up for, then the
>frequency of such meetings should be irrelevant.
>(Disclaimer: I do not wear my very best three times a day when I meet
>with G-d, but it is for reasons other than the ones described by the
>poster here.)

May I ask why you don't dress in your "very best three times a day" when
you meet with G-d?

I'll guess I'll just agree to disagree with your interpretation of
"human nature." My feeling is that it isn't at all laziness, it's
familiarity breeds comfort and an easing of formailty. The Ministers I
came in contact with during my meeting with the King do not always have
to dress up for the occasion of meeting the King. This is also the case
with Presidents of the US. When the meeting with the President is
off-hours or during vacation time at the ranch, formality and strict
codes are relaxed.

Shabbat shalom,

Stuart Pilichowski
Mevaseret Zion, Israel

From: Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Feb 2006 15:48:54 +0200
Subject: RE: Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah

Bill Coleman <wbcoleman@...> asked: 
> Does anyone happen to know what Natan Scharansky (IMHO one of the 
> greatest Jews of the twentieth century) wore in December, 2004, when he 
> had a ninty minute private meeting with President Bush? 

Google found me this URL with a picture: 

It shows him in a dark suit, white shirt, no tie. 

Shabbat shalom, 


End of Volume 51 Issue 27