Volume 56 Number 06
                    Produced: Sun Dec 23 10:37:45 EST 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Avoiding Tachanun
         [Joel Rich]
Convert as synagogue president
         [David Riceman]
sh'roroh? s'roroh!
         [Michael Frankel]
Symmetry and asymmetry between the periods AH-Honetz and Sh'qioh-T
         [Akiva Miller]
         [Shalom Carmy]
         [Dr. William Gewirtz]
Z'manim again
         [Akiva Miller]


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2007 08:24:44 -0500
Subject: Avoiding Tachanun

> Joel Rich writes regarding someone who uses any excuse to skip
> Tachanun...
>> Any idea why someone who strongly identifies with the emotional 
>> component of prayer would be eager to skip tachanun?
>Tachanun is strikingly depressing (especially the long Tachanun).
>Therefore one who is emotionally invested in the joy of prayer would
>naturally look for excuses to avoid it. Personally I run through it as
>quickly as possible... not paying too much attention... for that very
>Is that terrible?
>Alex Herrera

Chas vshalom.  Thanks for the clarification, I always assumed that one
who identified more on an emotional basis would be symmetric (e.g. wail
more tisha baav, be more in ecstasy on completing neilah) but I see from
your post and others that this was an incorrect assumption. That's why I
participate in this list!

Joel Rich


From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Sat, 22 Dec 2007 18:41:36 -0500
Subject: Re: Convert as synagogue president

Several people have questioned whether a synagogue president is in a
"position of authority over a community", but I haven't seen anyone
question whether a synagogue is a community.  Yet, the Biur Halacha
rules (OH 468:4 s.v. "v'humrei makom") that, for a synagogue in a town
with multiple synagogues to be considered a community, it must
independently own all of the physical structures pertaining to a
community, including a mikvah.

David Riceman


From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2007 11:25:31 -0500
Subject: sh'roroh? s'roroh!

POW! <much as I fear to disagree with two such great internet
personalities, isn't the word 'serarah' as in 'sar'? In fact, I just
checked in Jastrow, and yes it's serarah, not sherarah.  name: jon baker
web: http://www.panix.com/~jjbaker>

BAM! <Is the word for authority not "serarah' with a sin, and not
"sherarah"with a shin, from the same root as "sar" meaning a prince?
Martin Stern>

oh dear.  the only rational explanation - much as the thought discomfits
me - is that, quite unbeknownst to me, some (gasp) Litvak!  must have
snuck into the family tree somewhere and his genes every now and then
will out.

Mechy Frankel

[For all future postings, I will try and make the above corrections to
posted material. Mod.]


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2007 13:26:58 GMT
Subject: Re: Symmetry and asymmetry between the periods AH-Honetz and Sh'qioh-T

Sammy Finkelman wrote:
> When someone gives times or gives tables they never try to be more
> accuyrate than the nearest minute.

Actually, I was recently in a shul ("Shomrei Shabbos" of Boro Park)
which has a daily "netz" minyan, at which the Shemoneh Esreh of
Shacharis is supposed to begin at EXACTLY sunrise. Prominently displayed
on the walls are copies of a list of the daily times for sunrise for the
week, calculated to the *second*, so that the shul can begin as
precisely as possible.

Of course, such a calculation would be useless without a correspondingly
precise clock, and so several of the clocks in the room are the
super-accurate "radio clocks" which display the seconds and are
constantly kept accurate by satellite. (These clocks are often
mistakenly called "atomic clocks". (For more info, see the Wikipedia
articles at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_clock and

Some posters will be tempted to comment that this effort to be on-time
will be futile, since the calculations (which are prepared in advance)
cannot possibly account for the current atmospheric conditions, which
can (and DO) push sunrise a few seconds in one direction or the
other. To such posters, I would comment that "lo nitna Torah l'malachei
hashareis - the Torah was given to humans, not to angels". Hashem
expects no more than that we make our best efforts, and I suspect that
these calculations and clocks do meet that standard.

But beyond that, I often wonder how the Netz Minyan functioned in prior
centuries and millenia, before the availability of accurate clocks and
calculations. Back then, even their best estimates could easily have
been a few minutes off. In my imagination, I see a minyan having one of
the gabbaim outdoors, or near a window, watching the sky brighten up;
based on his familiarity with the situation, he would signal the chazan
to slow down or speed up, until reaching Tzur Yisrael when the sky is
very bright and sunrise is imminent. Then what? I suppose that when the
gabbai actually saw the actual first edge of the sun, he would signal
this fact to the shul, but at which part of the davening were they
waiting? If they waited at Tzur Yisrael, then they would not begin
Shemoneh Esreh until a few seconds later. And if they waited after Ga'al
Yisrael, then there would be a delay between "Geulah and
Tefila". Neither of those is an ideal procedure.

All the above makes me suspect that absolute precision is not only
impossible, but not even worth trying too hard for, and that a
reasonable approximation is good enough. In which case, a calculation of
sunrise to the nearest second, together with a clock which is accuarte
to the second, is quite sufficient.

Akiva Miller


From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@...>
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2007 10:02:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Tahanun

> Tachanun is strikingly depressing (especially the long
> Tachanun). Therefore one who is emotionally invested in the joy of
> prayer would naturally look for excuses to avoid it. Personally I run
> through it as quickly as possible... not paying too much
> attention... for that very reason.

I'm a bit confused here. The argument seems to be that tahanun is
depressing and therefore a person for whom prayer is an emotional
experience will avoid it.

But if we take emotion seriously that includes all emotion, doesn't
it. And since awareness of sin, alienation and so forth are as much part
of human emotional life as joy and celebration, why would one downplay
these realities?

If one doesn't take emotion seriously--if gratitude, praise, the sense
of need, the sense of sin and so on, are not real to us, then what
exactly is prayer beyond the rote performance?


From: <wgewirtz@...> (Dr. William Gewirtz)
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2007 18:46:13 +0000
Subject: Zemanim

I really appreciate Mechy Frankel's comments and I hope this is more
than a private dialogue!

First, the easy stuff: RYB is Rabbi Yisroel Belsky who is RY at TV
(Torah Vodaath) and along with RHS, are the in house Poskim for the OU
together with R. Genack.  He also happens to have been my Rebbe years
back and expert in zemanim.  myzmanim, like many sites, gives multiple
times to be useful to people whose local rabbinic authorities follow
other opinions.  Search around the top of the site and you can click
into a pdf of the haskomah. The reason myzmaanim needs a haskomah, I
assume, is largely for the way they present/modify RMF; you will note
that it is different than most Rabbis quote him and even my reading of
IM.  (BTW myzmanim is open on Shabbos!!)  RYB "adjusts" RMF assuming
that if RMF understood the astronomy as RYB does, he would have modified
his psak accordingly.  For shabbos RYB aligns RMF with RYMT (the Gadol
Hadorot in zemanim, aveilut, and many other topics - Rav Yechiel Michal
Tukitzinsky); wrt to fasts, RMF ends a very few minutes later than RYMT,
a detail that I will leave alone for now.

Second, four points relative to Dr. Frankel's posts.

First, you are right that the beginning of sunrise to the end of sunset
(say each takes about eight minutes) versus middle-to-middle, makes the
canonical day 8 minutes longer and the night shorter.  A detail that I
choose to avoid because of a personal bias/conclusion: I do not think
that sunrise and sunset are as critical as most assume. Alot haShachar
and the darkness equivalent of 3 stars are the more critical zemanim to
get a handle on.

Second, 80, 96 and 120 are all mentioned.  80 is very interesting
because it happens to be the most accurate (for the Middle East)
according to modern astronomers; I believe it appears in melamaid
lehoiel by RDTH but I have some difficulty aligning it with the gemara.
It is not a common time in psak.  96 is mentioned in a number of tshuvot
and I classify it as "difficult."  120 is the assumed position of Rambam
and that of ROB (the Bartenura) and perhaps R. Zalman of Liadi, and
completely inconsistent with the Metziut and would create another
anomaly that I mention in the book.  Therefore, I use 72 and 90 and
disregard the other 3 zemanim (and still others that appear in isolated

Third, Rambam uses hours and fractions of hours versus minutes because I
assume prior to the widespread use of clocks that was more
understandable.  The gemara uses the time to walk a mil or some other
physical occurrence, for the same reason.  What did Rambam mean by 1.2
hours - perhaps only at the equinox and some suggest for the equator as
opposed to EY/Bavel - is unclear.  I tend to doubt the equator but
gedolim vetovim mimeni have suggested that.  I very much doubt he meant
zemaniot in the classical sense.  How to resolve with the gemara in
Pesachim is difficult; an area that was brilliantly addressed by R.

Fourth, how did it change from fixed or zemaniot to depression angles?
Alas, you must wait for the book (and then only at the end) for my
opinions/conjectures.  Prof. Stern's book on Time and Process in
Rabbinic Judaism is helpful and a forthcoming article by Prof. Shlomo
Sternberg focuses on a slightly different issue provides insight.  Al
regel achas, depression angles are to zemanim what a clock was to time,
just a modern way to make precise what chazal meant.  We are bringing
back the 'old time religion' that was perhaps 'hijacked' for a few
centuries.  There are a number of areas in zemanim where perhaps poskim
went 'off the derech' for a while, more often in conceptualization than
in psak. Kach hi Darkhah s hel To rah.


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Fri, 21 Dec 2007 14:08:36 GMT
Subject: Re: Z'manim again

Michael Frankel wrote
> now we should ask - just what is sunrise and sunset.  i think - need
> to check but in hurry right now - according to the US navy tables
> (which I assume everybody uses) these refer to the rising and setting
> of the center point of the sun.  but halakhic honetz refers to the
> rise of the first "edge" of the suns's orb.  similarly for sh'qioh -
> until the last "edge" sets.

Nope. They use the same definition that we use. My source is "Tables of
Sunrise Sunset and Twilight - issued by the Nautical Almanac Office,
United States Naval Observatory, under the authority of the Secretary of
the Navy - 1945".

>From page 7: "The times of sunrise and sunset in the main table are the
local civil times at which the upper edge of the Sun's disk is actually
seen ..."

>From page 18: "In computing the main table, it was assumed that the
upper limb of the Sun appears on the horizon when the center of the disk
is geometrically 50' below the horizon. This corresponds to a constant
semidiameter of 16', and an adopted refraction at the horizon of 34'."

Translation to layman's English:

Sunrise and sunset are calculated to occur when the center of the Sun is
50/60 of a degree BELOW the horizon. This is for two reasons.

First: The diameter of the sun is 32/60 of a degree. In other words, if
you draw a line from your eye to one edge of the sun, and another line
from your eye to the opposite edge of the sun, those two lines will form
an angle slightly wider than one-half of a degree. Remember that sunrise
does NOT occur when the center of the Sun crosses the horizon, but
slightly before that, when the upper edge reaches the horizon, and the
center is still a quarter-degree (16/60 of a degree) below the
horizon. Similarly, sunset does not occur when the center of the sun
crosses the horizon, but a little later, when the center reaches a
quarter degree below the horizon.

Second: The atmosphere bends the sun's rays. Because of this, we can see
the sun in the morning even before it reaches the point described
above. And we can see the sun in the evening even after it passes the
point described above. This is called "refraction", and it cannot be
calculated precisely in advance, because it changes depending on
temperature and barometric pressure. Refraction is an even more
significant factor than the size of the sun itself. In fact, the Navy
figures on the refraction adding (on average) another 34/60 of a degree
to the calculations.

In total, the Navy calculations are based on the same concepts that
Halacha would want. Namely, when the upper edge actually becomes
visible. Sunrise is approximately when the sun's center is 5/6 of a
degree below the horizon, and sunset is approximately when the sun's
center is 5/6 of a degree below the horizon.

(Interestingly, this means that during the daylight portion of the day,
the sun's center travels NOT 180 degrees of its daily 360-degree
circle. Rather, it travels 181 2/3 degrees during the daytime, and only
178 1/3 degrees during the night. This strikes me as very significant,
but I'm not sure in what ways.)

Akiva Miller


End of Volume 56 Issue 6