Volume 54 Number 78
                    Produced: Tue May 29  6:07:18 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bicycle vs Tricycle on Shabbat
         [Rabbi Wise]
Handicapped Accessible shule / bimah
         [Carl Singer]
Historical Data about Hair Covering in Lita
         [Michael Broyde]
Language videos uploaded to TeacherTube
         [Jacob Richman]
Married Women and Hair Covering (2)
         [Shoshana L. Boublil, Rabbi Wise]


From: <Meirhwise@...> (Rabbi Wise)
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 16:29:27 EDT
Subject: Re: Bicycle vs Tricycle on Shabbat

Your correspondents seem to have missed two obvious points in the
bike-trike debate.

Firstly a bike has a chain which can come off (my 2 sons used to ride
bikes to school) and the fear would be that it would need fixing
analogous to a musical instrument. A trike does not.  Also a trike is
meant for a much younger child who doesnt travel very far. Someone did
write that it was more of a toy.

Rabbi Wise


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 07:55:21 -0400
Subject: Handicapped Accessible shule / bimah

> Regarding recent posts about a raised bimah and lowered amud, another
> issue we have dealt with is designing those areas to be accessible to
> all (i.e., handicap compliant). Designing a bimah with ramps at the
> required gentle slope takes a lot of space! I'm wondering if others
> have come up with innovative solutions.

My current synagogue is in an old semi-converted house -- it barely
accessible to the able-bodied let alone handicapped.  A dear friend of
mine who is wheelchair bound needed help (over the 1 step) into the main
sanctuary -- that help was generously forthcoming.

My wife's been on the board of two synagogues at the time when they were
planning new buildings.  One was pretty much a one story layout and had
ramps, the other of necessity multi-level has a Shabbos elevator (which
is, btw, extremely expensive to build / operate -- can't have it going
up & down all Shabbos - 26 hours? - but on timer.)

I believe there are different levels of accessibility to be addressed.

1 - access to the main sanctuary -- or wherever the davening takes place.
2 - access to other rooms -- kiddish room,  classrooms.
3 - access for an aliyah.

I want to address #3

(1) aisles must be wide enough that someone in a wheelchair can approach
the bimah

(2) if stairs are involved there must be sturdy hand rails and stairs
wide enough for a helping hand -- and hopefully not too many stairs.
More than once I've seen people either because they are wheelchair
bound, or simply because they are elderly / frail, being helped up the
few stairs to the bimah for an aliyah.  I realize this doesn't meet the
needs of everyone, but it works for most situations and is a good start.

(3) as for ramps -- I don't think they're practical in most designs --
the only exception I've seen was a synagogue where the bimah was in
front near the Aron (no seats in between, both were elevated as on a
two-level stage) -- and a ramp from the side (i.e. at right angles to
congregants front facing seats) was available.  Such a ramp is, by
necessity, steep and requires that the oleh be assisted for safety

The related issue is the height of the shulchan, itself, can a seated
oleh see over it.

The "Gentle slope" to allow unassisted access requires such a gentle
pitch that it might take a 20 or 30 foot ramp -- is this practical?

I won't get into the halachic issues of erecting (or placing / moving) a
"portable" ramp on Shabbos.


From: Michael Broyde <mbroyde@...>
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 13:32:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Historical Data about Hair Covering in Lita

It is quite clear from both the halachic and historical literature that
this uncovering was the practice of the community in Lita (Lithuania) 50
years before World War I, when Orthodox observance and culture was at
its strongest.  For proof of this, one need only examine the fact that
many poskim note this uncovering in the 1870s as already being well
established; see e.g. Rabbi Yosef Chaim (Ben Ish Chai) Parshat Bo 12
(writing around 1870).  Rabbi Yecheil Epstein's famous remarks on the
commonness of this practice (Aruch HaShulchan OC 75:7) were published in
1903, and Rabbi Kagen's (Mishnah Berurah OC 75:2) in 1881; both of them
are clearly referring to what is then an already very well established
practice.  So too, even a casual survey of Lithuanian Yiddish and Hebrew
fiction of the late 1800s indicates that most of women in the observant
community of Lithuania did not cover their hair in the 1800s; see for
example the well known Yiddish writer Yitzchak Moshe Rumsch's work,
Se'ar She-ba'isha (Vilna, 1894) for a "fictionalized" discussion of
these issues.

Michael J. Broyde
Professor of Law
Emory University School of Law
1301 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322
Email: <mbroyde@...>


From: Jacob Richman <jrichman@...>
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 19:28:13 +0300
Subject: Language videos uploaded to TeacherTube

Hi Everyone!

Several teachers emailed me that their schools block access to YouTube
and that I should upload the language videos to TeacherTube. Thanks to
everyone for the suggestion.

I uploaded all my language videos today to Teacher Tube.
The address is:

If you do not have a TeacherTube account (free) you can still 
see the videos by visiting:
and doing a search on "learn English" or "learn Hebrew" or
"Learn Spanish".

Feedback is welcome!
Have a good day,


From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 18:36:29 +0300
Subject: Re: Married Women and Hair Covering

> From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
> It appears to me that we have probably three related topics under
> discussion here, and being clear on what one is replying to is important.
> The three topics I see are:
> 1) A historical question: What was the common practice of married women
> in Lithuania regarding covering their hair after marriage?
> 2) A halachic question: In a place where the common practice of married
> women is to not cover their hair, is there a prohibition on men (and
> possibly women) to say Shema in the presence on a married woman with
> uncovered hair
> 3) A halachic question: In a place where the common practice of married
> women is to not cover their hair, is there a prohibition on a married
> women to go out of her house with her hair uncovered?

Avi gave an excellent summary of the current knowledge on these 3
issues.  I would like to talk about them from a more sociological point
of view, based on my experience as a Kallah guide; a rabbi's wife and
from interviewing many women over the years.

My mother, a Stern College graduate, from a rabbinical Lithuanian family
told me how her mother (a rabbi's wife herself) started to cover her
hair after my mother covered her own hair when she got married.  This
and other discussions got me thinking.

When the discussion of hair covering comes up, I always ask the women
I'm talking to: "Why do you have to cover your hair?"  The answer gives
a giant pointer to resolving the above 3 issues.  Many women say b/c of
tzni'ut; b/c it is "ervah" for a woman's hair to be loose and seen. Few
talk about halachic sources such as the Isha Sotah whose hair is
"displayed" as a part of the process and testing she undergoes.

But if hair were truly "ervah" -- you wouldn't find Sephardi psika that
allows a certain amount of hair to be seen (and forbids sheitels).  So
apparently the issue is more complex.  In fact "ervah" in other contexts
refers to "things that are covered".  Therefore, if the standard skirt
length in society is floor length, showing the ankle would be "ervah".
The issue is discussed in depth when dealing with the halachic
definitions of tzniut between man and wife in the privacy of their room.
The flip side is that if it becomes common practice for women's hair to
be seen, it is no longer "ervah", and a woman does not need to cover it.

OTOH, when putting this question to women, who have studied in modern
Midrashot, where more time is spent on halachic sources and g'mara
learning, the majority of women answer that hair covering is b/c of Isha
Sotah, as a Chok -- a law which we don't understand, but must follow.

These answers cover the 3 issues raised here.  If covering the hair is
an issue of tzniut (modesty) then "ervah" refers to what is commonly
covered, and in a society where women no longer cover their hair in
public, hair is no longer "ervah" and women go without covering their

In this case, as it is no longer "ervah", you can obviously say Shema in
the presence of uncovered women's hair.

But, for women who were taught that hair covering was "Dat Yehudit" and
a chok derived from Sotah (a woman suspected of being an unfaithful
woman), covering the hair is a law, it has nothing to do with ervah
beyond that the question is how much of the hair has to be covered.  In
such a case, as there is no halachic possibility of accepting uncovered
hair, it remains "ervah" in the sense that it should be covered, and
therefore you cannot say Shema in front of uncovered hair.

But like in all cases of covering, there is a legitimate question of how
much has to be covered, and this is the source of the many different
styles of hair covering found among religious Religious Zionist women in
Israel.  Rav Ellinson brings in his books sources for different measures
and definitions of what has to be covered, by what (is a net sufficient
or does it have to be opaque?) and the impact of location on the hair
covering to be worn.

I see this as another instance in which the women's world of worshipping
Hashem has shifted from the area of pure spirituality, feelings,
"Worship from the Heart" which was more common pre-WW; where mothers
taught their daughters most of what they knew about Avodat Hashem and
halacha, where Avodat Hashem was connected to oral learning and lore;
into the field of pure Halacha, where women's knowledge of Avodat Hashem
has become more connected with book learning and written resources.

Shoshana L. Boublil

From: <Meirhwise@...> (Rabbi Wise)
Date: Mon, 28 May 2007 16:29:27 EDT
Subject: Re: Married Women and Hair Covering

In the married women's hair covering debate surely the Ben Ish Hai was
talking about Bagdad - not Lithuania! I have yet to see a recognised
posek who allows married women to leave their hair uncovered ab initio.
The only disagreement between Reb Moshe Feinstein and Rav Ovaydia Yosef
was whether or not she loses her ketuba on divorce! This is hardly a

Rabbi Wise


End of Volume 54 Issue 78