Volume 53 Number 01
                    Produced: Wed Nov  1  6:12:08 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Collecting Candy on Halloween: Harmless Pastime or Halachic
         [David Riceman]
GoDaven.com Announces First Kavanah Program for Windows
         [Fishkin, MD]
Hoshanot after Shacharit - Nusach Ashkenaz
         [David Eisen]
JTA: Reform synagogues increasingly interested in Kashrut
         [Shmuel Himelstein]


From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2006 14:14:05 -0500
Subject: Re: Collecting Candy on Halloween: Harmless Pastime or Halachic

I was troubled by a break in Rabbi Broyde's chain of logic.  He cites
the Rama as prohibiting "customs that have a basis in idolatrous
practices".  He summarizes: "Rabbi Isserless is thus clearly prohibiting
observing customs that have pagan origins, or even which might have
pagan origins."

What troubles me about this is the equation of "pagan" and idolatrous.
IIRC (and I hope Rabbi Broyde will correct me if I'm wrong) most of the
scanty evidence about the pre-Christian beliefs of northern Europe come
from Christian polemics, and the authors tend to identify any
non-Christian behavior as devil-worship (even Jews were often so
described).  Halachically, however, not everything pre-Christian is
avodah zara.  Indeed, not every peculiar pre-Christian behavior was

I would have thought, then, that the absence of reliable evidence would
make the claim of pagan origins shakier than his sources require.

I also wonder about how tenuous "pagan origins" can be.  Hannukah, for
example, seems over the years to have aquired a Christmasy sheen that it
didn't have even when I was young (or perhaps I just never noticed).
Does Rabbi Broyde prohibit gift-giving on Hannukah on the same grounds?
It certainly seems a plausible variant of the same argument, and
Christmas's idolotrous antecedents are much better documented than

As far as I know ancient Celtic religions never came to the new world.
Do customs which had been secularized even before they skipped
continents still count as having "pagan origins"? Does that include
things like the directions shirts button, the shape of knife handles,
and the side of the plate one places one's spoon?

David Riceman 


From: Fishkin, MD <Joseph@...>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2006 14:14:48 -0500
Subject: Re: GoDaven.com Announces First Kavanah Program for Windows

In response to Art Werschulz:

> No Open Source version for Unix? :-)

Well, if the demand is there, I'd consider it - that's how the Windows
version came to be :)

> ISTR that Rabbi Dr. Twersky wrote something to the effect that if one
> thinks that they had extra kavanah after davvening, then they most
> likely did *not* have extra kavanah.  It's somewhat like humility--if
> you think you're humble, you're most likely not.

I don't think Rabbi Dr. Twersky would say that the solution is *not* to
work on our kavanah (or humility). We still have to do our best, even
with the difficulties inherent in evaluating our own progress . Just as
with all of our midos, it does take honesty to self-assess and figure
out we are in terms of trying to improve ourselves. This Kavanah program
is just one way to help us accomplish that.

 ...And in response to Ari Trachtenberg:

>> We can debate whether theoretically the program would work or not,
>> but the proof is in the pudding - the Kavanah Improvement Project has
>> been demonstrated to help people improve Kavanah.  > > Oh really
>> ... how would you demonstrate such a thing (I am really quite >
>> interested!).

I demonstrate this by the hundreds of people using the Palm program who
have told me so. Of course, since this is a subjective assessment, it's
possible that all of these people are deluding themselves, and what we
have is some kind of mass metaphysical placebo effect. The more likely
possibility, though, is that this structured method to help people
improve kavanah is actually succesful for some, or most, people.

I would love to do a controlled study on this at some point in time - we
could have a Kavanah Improvement Project group vs a "reading tefillah
books" groups vs a control group that doesn't do anything out of the
ordinary, and have each group subjectively report on their degree of
kavanah over time.

 ...And in response to Jeanette Friedman:

> A software program to monitor Bitul Zman would probably be more
> appropriate than a Kavanah measuring program. What about measuring for
> menschlichkeit? Has anyone devised a scale for that? Seems to me that
> there is a greater need for that than software for kavanah.

Believe it or not, I've actually received requests to make precisely
what you're describing. People who see how this program helps their
kavanah have suggested that I apply the same type of technique to other
areas of religious self-improvement. While I haven't done any work yet
in that direction, since you are suggesting it, as well, I'll take it
into consideration...

> Question: Does this program apply to speed-minaynim, where the faster
> you daven the more brownie points you earn for letting everyone get
> back to work/home/play? Does how fast you shukel get measured in the
> program too? They taught us as children that the harder you shukel,
> the more kavanah you have....

Davening speed and shukeling speed both can easily be detrimental to
kavanah, and there are actually kavanah tips in the program related to
each of those factors. I'm going to assume that you now understand that
shukeling harder does not equal more kavanah, but if you have any
doubts, let me know and I'll explain further.

> Imagine, davening and wondering if you will fill your kavanah quotient
> and earn your points upstairs. G-d's program isn't good enough for
> you?  You need software? Gevalt!

Well, what exactly is G-d's program? How does He want us to improve our
davening? The currently accepted means to improve our davening includes
a combination of introspection with education. This includes reading
books that inform us, and inspire us, to improve our davening. If I read
a book about Tefillah, does that mean I'm saying that "G-d's program"
isn't good enough for me? Think of the Kavanah Improvement Project as a
"davening book", but one with the extra features that it actually
customizes itself to your abilities and provides you with feedback and
encouragement over time. I certainly do not intend to detract from any
other acceptable method for improving kavanah during davening - I'm
simply providing another method.

> Are you going to put a kosher certification on that download to send
> along with the software? Chas ve shalom people would think it fell off
> a truck and was rewrapped for "kavanah" consumption.

I actually was considering the possibility of getting a haskamah or two
for the program. This is pretty much uncharted territory, so I'm willing
to consider all suggestions. Considering the debate that the program has
started here on mail-jewish , perhaps I should consider haskamos for
future versions. :)

Thanks to everyone for all of your feedback! As always, if you have any
further questions or comments, please let me know!

Yosi Fishkin, MD


From: David Eisen <davide@...>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2006 18:58:59 +0200
Subject: Re: Hoshanot after Shacharit - Nusach Ashkenaz

>From S Wise:
>Also, it seems the minhag in Eretz Yisroel that even those who daven
>nusach ashkenaz do hoshanos after Shacharis instead of after musaf as
>done here.  Does anyone know the source for this difference even within
>the same nusach?

In my Ashqenazi, Religious-Zionist shul in Bet Shemesh, we generally
follow Minhagei HaGra and despite the inconvenience, the Hosha'anot are
said after Musaf.

>From Ben Katz:
>Logistically it makes more sense to do Hosha'anot after shacharit as
>you already have your lulav and etrog out after saying Hallel.

This rationale, though ultimately rejected, is given by R. Moshe albeit
on halachic grounds and not out of practical considerations.

From: Gershon Dubin: 
> A local minyan here wanted to do hoshanos after hallel, so they asked 
> a shaila when they started up the minyan.  They were told that since 
> they were a new minyan, and the minhag to say after musaf was not that
> solid, they could indeed "adopt" the more convenient practice.

This ruling is contrary to that of R. Moshe - see below.

>From SBA
>See SA OC: Hilchos Lulav 651 - Shaarei Teshuva (SK 10): quoting sefer
>Korban Chagiga: " ...sheminhag Yerushalayim lomar >haHoshanos acher
>Hallel hu minhag vosikin..."

This "minhag vatikin" is indeed quite old as it originates with R.
Saadia Gaon, though this is generally considered to be the practice of
Edut HaMizrah and later on, it is also adopted by Hassidim.

I believe that variant minhagim are first discussed by the Tur in OH
Siman 660 who states that R. Saadia Gaon ruled that the hoshanot are
performed immediately after the Haftara (on the first day or on Shabbat
Hol Hamoed) or after Hallel (see Siman 653). Interestingly, the Tur
consider this sequence of events to be a "minhag tov" as it obviates the
need to take out the Sifrei Torah for a second time, yet he rules that
this is not the custom (ostensibly the Tur means that the hosha'anot are
performed after Musaf, though this seems to contradict what he writes in
Siman 653 with respect to the practice during Hol HaMoed, v'zarikh

R. Moshe Feinstein in IM OH 3:99 does not mention any of these shitot
(though there may have been no need to do so if the questioner, R.
Ephraim Greenblatt, Shlit"a, already referred to them in his question;
that said, he writes that he did not see the rationale for these
divergent practices - though RS"G as quoted by the Tur clearly provides
a reason that resonates well with the Tur) and brings his own reasoning
for favoring the practice of postponing hoshanot until after Qeriat
HaTorah and Musaf; namely, they take precedence as they are both
bonafide obligations while Hoshanot is only a custom. R. Moshe proceeds
to provide a reason to justify the other custom of saying Hoshanot after
Hallel (though it seems that he finds the recitation of hosha'anot after
musaf to be the preferable practice), which is that it is disrespectful
to put down the lulav to daven musaf only to pick it up again afterwards
for Hosha'anot (ein ma'avirin al hamitzvot).*

This matter is clearly summarized by the Arukh HaShulhan (OH 659:2) who
states that the Sefaradi practice is in accordance with RS"G, while
Ashkenazim act in accordance with the Tur. He further quotes the Ba"H
who compellingly explains the Ashkenazi minhag by stating that since the
hosha'anot are a zekher l'miqdash, when the mizbeah was encircled
*following* the qorbanot musaf, therefore, it makes most sense to
perform the haqafot after our tefilot musaf.

The Shulhan Arukh HaRav rules that hosha'anot are said immediately after
hallel, which I believe is the Hassidic/Nusah Sefarad practice.

* After I summarized the above Teshuva, I came across an earlier Teshuva
from Vol. II of RMF's IM (OH 2:21) in which he deals with the general
question of an Ashqenazi shul that becomes mixed with Nusah Sefarad
congregants. In that case, he rules that even if the kehilla adopts
certain Minhag Sefarad practices, it must nonetheless preserve the
Ashqenazi tradition of saying hosha'anot after Musaf and bases this
ruling on the Ba"H quoted above (and furthermore quotes the RS"G cited
by the Tur and says that the Nusah Sefarad practice does not necessarily
follow RS"G's position as he spoke about Qeriat HaTorah and not Hallel)
- so there should be no doubts whatsoever that R. Moshe was well aware
of all these shitot (without the Bar Ilan CD!!!) and I deeply regret
making any assertions that could have been understood otherwise.

B'virkat HaTorah,

David Eisen
Bet Shemesh


From: Shmuel Himelstein <shmuelh@...>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2006 18:28:21 +0200
Subject: JTA: Reform synagogues increasingly interested in Kashrut

According to ITA's bulletin today, more and more Reform Temples are
observing Kashrut:

"Ten percent reported that their synagogues have kosher kitchens, 80
percent ban pork or shellfish and nearly half won't serve milk and meat
on the same plate or platter."

"More than 500 conference participants, about one-quarter of the total,
answered online questions about their dietary practice. At home, 62
percent say they ban pork, 46 percent ban shellfish and 35 percent
don't mix meat and milk. In restaurants, however, just 51 percent avoid
pork, 34 percent won't order shellfish and 29 percent stay away from
dishes that mix milk and meat, such as cheeseburgers."

"The survey, which has not yet been published, asked about dietary
practice rather than kashrut. It included actions such as eating matzah
at Passover - nearly 71 percent said yes - and saying motzi, the
blessing over bread - 48 percent do it on Shabbat - that Wasserman
explains are expressions of Jewish identity that would be lost in a
survey only on kashrut."

"In fact, it was the movement's 1999 Statement of Principles for Reform
Judaism that opened the doors to serious discussion of mikvah, kashrut
and other traditional rituals widely eschewed by the Reform movement
since its emergence." (Get that? Mikveh! - SH)

In fact, given the Monsey debacle/scandal, the Reform movement is even
considering setting up its own kosher rabbinical supevision, which will
include - in addition to the requirements of kashrut - "a concern for
the people who harvest our food, bring it to market and sell it, a
concern with the pain of living creatures, which has led people not to
eat veal or foie gras, to look for free-range poultry and beef, or more
humane methods of slaughter.

This, they say, may happen within the next decade.

Shmuel Himelstein


End of Volume 53 Issue 1