Volume 54 Number 79
                    Produced: Wed May 30  5:28:50 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Ben Ish Chai on Hair Covering
         [Michael Broyde]
Bicycle vs Tricycle on Shabbat (3)
         [Richard Fiedler, Keith Bierman, Ari Trachtenberg]
Handicapped Accessible shule / bimah
         [Wendy Baker]
Married Women and Hair Covering (2)
         [Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen, Joel Rich]
Par, Shor and Bakar
         [Tom Buchler]
Rise and Fall of the Bima
         [Immanuel Burton]


From: Michael Broyde <mbroyde@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 10:31:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Ben Ish Chai on Hair Covering

Rabbi Wise writes about the Ben Ish Chai's view of 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.

This stands in contrast to the words of the Ben Ish Cha in his sefer
Chukai Hanashim on page 55:

   Our women looked at the women of Europe, whose custom is not to
   reveal themselves to strangers and their clothes are proper and they
   do not reveal their body, but only their face, neck, hands and head.
   Yes it is true that they reveal their hair, which according to our
   halacha (din shelanu) is a prohibited act, but they have a
   justification because they say this practice [to cover hair] was
   never accepted by all their wives, and both Jewish and gentile women
   have made hair revealing like revealing of face and hands, and causes
   not sexual thoughts in men.

It does not sound like he is speaking about the practice of the women of
Bagdad at all, and I would encourage Rabbi Wise to actually look at the
sources to see if he is correct in his understanding of the context of
Ben Ish Chai's remarks.  I think he is trying to explain to his
community in Bagdad why this conduct might be mutar in Lita and yet
still assur in Bagdad.

More generally, one can find a wealth of sources that makes it clear
that many religious women in Lita did not cover their hair as a
historical fact.  Indeed, Rabbi Shlomo Carlbach (a Rav in Germany a
century ago) notes in passing in the sefer hayovel lerav david tzvi
hoffman on page 218 that the practice in Germany was that men shook
women's hands but married women covered their hair and minhag in eastern
Europe was the opposite.

I do not think that anyone who actually looks closely at the historical
data would deny that in 1900 a majority of the married women who were
shomer shabbat and kashrut and taharat hamishpacha did not cover their
hair.  The same can be said about London in 1940, I suspect, and New
York in 1950.  Whether such is halachically mutar is a different topic,
which if I have time I will post on again.  For those who are interested
in a longer conversation on this topic, there is an article in the most
recent issue of techumin on such.

Michael Broyde


From: Richard Fiedler <richardfiedler@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 13:37:30 +0300
Subject: Re: Bicycle vs Tricycle on Shabbat

On May 29, 2007, at 1:07 PM, Rabbi WIse wrote:
> 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.

And you should not have light switches on the walls because if you
accidently flip the switch to off you might flip it back on. Nor should
you have faucets because you might use the hot water faucet causing cold
water to enter the tank and be heated. Now on bicycles the Ben Eish Hai
says (A) you know better so you won't repair it. (B) you (today's
rabbis) do not have the authority to make gezarahs anyway.  

From: Keith Bierman <khbkhb@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 09:02:21 -0600
Subject: Re: Bicycle vs Tricycle on Shabbat

> 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.

Tricycles come in various shapes and sizes. The number of wheels does
not necessarily imply anything about the drive (chain, shaft, or direct
drive) or of how the braking system works.

Chains can be highly reliable, and have no easily servicable
characteristics (e.g. a chain with an internal shift mechanism, like an
old style 5speed) or can be relatively unreliable ("high performance"
15speed external derailer). Indeed, one could easily (the early bicycles
were all direct drive) adult sized direct drive bicycles.

I have no studied the text under discussion so I have no idea how
careful the author was about making his determination based actual
properties of the vehicles in question.

I think it would be very helpful if those explaining the halacha would
not introduce false assumptions (such as the drive characteristics of a
vehicle) based on the number of wheels.

> Also a trike is meant for a much younger child who doesnt travel very
> far. Someone did

Adult sized tricycles designed for long distance *or* exceedingly high
speed are far from unheard of.

Back in the '70s I recall an informal class discussion at West Coast
Teacher's College (then the YU outpost in LA) where we quickly came up
with a bicycle design which overcame all of the obvious objections
(solid tires, shaft drive (there were alternatives, direct and chain
which also seemed to be suitable; no shift or automatic shifting),
integral lock, etc. Of course, the conclusion was that no frum person in
LA would use it despite having been designed for it.

Keith Bierman  | <khbkhb@...> | khbkhb1@fastmail.fm
AIM kbiermank |  skype khbkhb | gizmo: keithbierman 1-747-641-9858

From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 13:06:43 -0400
Subject: Re: Bicycle vs Tricycle on Shabbat

From: David Curwin <tobyndave@...>
> I remember seeing in a different book (I think it was in "Halachos of
> Muktza") that a tricycle is basically a "toy", but an adult bicycle is
> a "means of transport", and, among other things, is used for travel
> outside the 'tchum' (boundary of permitted shabbat travel outside a
> city).

Beyond this, a bicycle is typically used to travel large distances (even
if within the boundary of permitted shabbat travel).  As such, there is
a *much greater* incentive to fix it (improperly) if it breaks on
shabbat.  Incidentally, the same logic should apply to strollers (would
you carry two babies home 4 miles in the heat), although most people
(myself included!) will push a stroller within a permissible area.

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 10:20:43 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: 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.

At Lincoln Square Synagogue in New York City, a Shul in the round, we
have a ramp on one side of the Bima that enables a wheelchair to go up
the one step to the Bima.  It is on one of the aisles that lead to it
and has been used succesfully with wheelchairs.  It is, I guess, a
plywood ramp that was put on over the aisle and step.

In the new building I understand that provision is being made , both for
access to the Bima and for places in the sanctuaary for wheelchairs
instead of having them in the aisles presenting a fire hazard.

Wendy Baker


From: <Rela1@...> (Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen)
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 13:27:41 EDT
Subject: Re: Married Women and Hair Covering

Thank you to Rabbi Broyde for his helpful comments.

I do not usually participate in these discussions, however, the implied
put down of my beloved and pious grandmother has compelled me to write.
My Grandmother z"l, Rebbitzin Sora Hene Geffen who was born, raised and
married to my Grandfather Rav Tuvia Geffen z"l in Kovno and who came to
America with him in 1903 and died in 1960 did not cover her hair except
with a hat in shul or when bentching licht. My Grandfather was a great
halachist who is perhaps best known for his hechsher of Coca Cola in
1934.  Rabbi Yitzhaq Elhanan officiated at the wedding of his sister
Osnat to Chaim Rabinovitz, the Rosh Yeshiva of Tels as well as at my
Grandfather's Bris. I never heard a word of censure or even a discussion
of the fact that my Grandmother did not cover her hair - clearly it was
an accepted minhag among Lithuanian Jews at the time.

Dr. Rela Mintz Geffen, President
Baltimore Hebrew University

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 08:02:53 -0400
Subject: 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
> heter!!!
> Rabbi Wise

So we have testimony that the mimetic tradition in Lithuania was
uncovered hair was not a problem amongst those considered "yereim
vshlaimim".  The question now is whether to assume that these were rogue
actions against halacha by large numbers of women and there is no
halachik trail of protest or that there was an unwritten "psak" in favor
of this tradition.  I don't know the history but generally unless
something is a clear minhag shtut (not judging whether this is) we
assume that there was an acceptable reason for it.

The focus on the written word is of great interest since aiui amongst
poskim there is a desire not to put more meikil positions in writing due
to concern of incorrect extrapolations.  A systems analyst might
conclude that such a system is biased towards convergence to chumra.

Joel Rich


From: Tom Buchler <tbuchler@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 12:30:59 -0400
Subject: Par, Shor and Bakar

Perhaps someone here can explain the difference between Par, Shor and
Bakar; and how they come to be commonly translated as Bull and Ox,

I've seen Par translated as Bull, and Shor and Bakar translated as Ox.
It is my understanding that oxen are simply mature cattle trained as
draft animals -- oxen nowadays, most frequently being castrated males.

This leaves several issues: certainly for use as korbanot, one can't use
castrated cattle.

So what then is the difference between a Par, a Shor and a Bakar?

If there is no difference between a bull and and a male ox for except
size, maturity and education; or as modern dictionaries say, between
uncastrated and castrated male cattle, how do they come to be commonly
used as translations of Par and Shor/Bakar, and if we have to wait a
week before using a Shor as a korban, how can a Shor be an ox defined as
a mature bull with training?



From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Tue, 29 May 2007 11:30:23 +0100
Subject: RE: Rise and Fall of the Bima

In MJ v54n71, Leah Aharoni wrote:

> I am wondering whether this might be related to the Reform attempt in
> the early 1800s to move the bima to the front. Node Beyehuda called
> the bima in the middle an ancient Jewish custom and ruled against
> moving the bima to the front (as did Chatam Sofer).

I have sometimes wondered whether the idea of having the bima at the
front is a Reform innovation or not, or whether tying this to Reform is
a red herring.  The Portsmouth And Southsea Hebrew Congregation (on the
south coast of England) has their bima at the front.  This community is
an Orthodox one, and was founded in 1746, some time before the rise of
Reform.  The bima has two sloping faces opposite each other, such that
the structure is approximately triangular in cross-section.  The chazzan
stands with his back to the congregation when leading services, and
leining is conducted on the other side of the bima facing the

This layout actually makes a great deal of sense.  The chazzan leads the
congregation in prayer, and a leader usually stands at the front of the
group he is leading.  The leining is in effect a reading to the
congregation, and when one is reading something to a group one stands at
the front of that group facing them.  Think how odd the sermon would be
if the Rabbi stood in the centre of the Shul rather than at the front!

I was in the Orthodox Ashkenazi Shul in Rome some years ago, and they
had a similar arrangement for their bima.  I understand that the Rome
community has been in existence since before the destruction of the
Second Temple (or around that time), so they certainly pre-date the
Reform Movement by quite a respectable margin.

I have been told by a learned colleague that there is a strong custom to
have two separate places in the Shul for the chazzan to stand and for
the leining to take place at.  However, I haven't found a source for

While on the subject of Shul architecture/layouts, are there any
Halachic rulings concerning which direction the seats should face?  Must
all the seats face the Aron?  Are there grounds to allow the seats other
than the ones between the Aron and the Bimah to face inwards towards the
Bimah?  Or does it really not make any Halachic difference?

Immanuel Burton.


End of Volume 54 Issue 79