Volume 56 Number 60
                   Produced: Wed May 20  6:28:16 EDT 2009

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birchat Hachama
        [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
        [Robert Schoenfeld]
Question regarding saying the Viduy before tahanun on weekdays
        [David Ziants]
We don't paskin by Gra, Jeanette, OR Shulchan Aruch
        [Russell Jay Hendel]


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, May 18, 2009 at 9:20 AM
Subject: Re: Birchat Hachama

> From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>

> It is extremely unlikely that any ancient civilization could come up
> with a more accurate calendar than the Gregorian (unless you believe
> they were Divinely inspired). Also, "our" calendar, by which I assume
> Mr.  Schoenfeld means the current Jewish calendar, is NOT particularly
> accurate (it is off about 0.75 days per hundred years, which is why the
> traditional time to insert vetayn tal umatar moves up about a day a
> century).

> From: Michael Gerver <mjgerver@...>
> Also in v56n53, Hillel Markowitz writes:
>> In any case the whole setup of birchas hachama was to have a
>> celebration in such a way that everyone could have several during
>> their lifetimes and not because it was the exact same day.

> Not everyone, rachmana atzlan, but for most people this is true. If
> this is the aim, then it is possible to have a system in which Birchat
> Hachamah occurs once every 28 years on average, but only occurs on the
> actual (astronomical) vernal equinox. In this system, which was
> suggested to me by my friend (and "Kiddush HaChodesh" chevrusa a
> couple of years ago) Phil Jerichower, whenever the actual vernal
> equinox occurs between 6 pm and midnight, Tuesday night, Jerusalem
> local time, Birchat Hachamah would be said the following morning. This
> would occur at irregular intervals (but with long range order) of 21,
> 28, and occasionally 49 years. Phil also suggested only saying it in
> sight of the ocean (other than the Mediterranean), or high mountains,
> when one would say the bracha "oseh ma'aseh breishit" anyway, to avoid
> any question of saying a bracha mevatala, because it is not being said
> on the traditional date for Birchat Hachamah. Though I think one could
> make a case that it is consistent with the gemara, especially if lots
> of people started doing it, so that it became the established minhag.

> Mike Gerver
> Raanana, Israel

As I recall from the shiur that I attended, the explanation for using
the (admittedly) inaccurate estimate of Shmuel was to keep a standard
interval and allow for the celebration based on the commonly used (and
easy) calculation. The gemoro IIRC specifically gives this reason.
Similarly, the 28 year interval is kept constant for the same reason
rather than the irregular intervals mentioned by Mike Gerver.  Wikipedia
has this as part of its writeup


Shmuel's calculations, however, are imprecise because the earth does
not travel around the sun with a constant speed.[4] His imprecision,
according to Abraham ibn Ezra, was a function of the desire of the
time to avoid the necessity of manipulating fractions.[5][6]

# ^ Sefer HaIbbur, page 8
# ^ Rabbi J. David Bleich. Bircas Hachammah, Blessing of the Sun:
Renewal of the Creation: a Halachic Analysis and Anthology. Brooklyn,
N.Y.: Mesorah Publications ltd, 1981. ISBN 0-89906-176-1., page 50

The 28 year cycle is based on a solar year of 365.25 days, which is only
nearly precise. The Hebrew calendar itself uses a solar year of 365.2468
days, but utilizes the less precise approximation of 365.25 for Birkat
Hachama so that the blessing might occur with some frequency.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<SabbaHillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water


From: Robert Schoenfeld <frank_james@...>
Date: Mon, 18 May 2009 02:11:01 +0000
Subject: Calenders

> > Interesting enough at least 2 ancient civilizations used a 56 year
> > cycle between the sun and the moon One was the neolithic one in
> > Britian and the other was the Mayas. The Maya long count was of the 56
> > year cycle and their short count was our year. Both were more acurate
> > than even the current Gregorian civil calender and equal to our
> > calender
> The above post makes no sense to me.
> It is extremely unlikely that any ancient civilization could come up
> with a more accurate calendar than the Gregorian (unless you believe
> they were Divinely inspired). Also, "our" calendar, by which I assume
> Mr.  Schoenfeld means the current Jewish calendar, is NOT particularly
> accurate (it is off about 0.75 days per hundred years, which is why the
> traditional time to insert vetayn tal umatar moves up about a day a
> century).

What I tried to say is that compared to the Julian and Gregorian
calenders Our current Jewish Calender and some ancient ones are much
more accurate And that the 56 year cycle was known to other
civilizations but lost to history except for us



From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Tue, 19 May 2009 14:50:44 +0300
Subject: Re: Question regarding saying the Viduy before tahanun on weekdays

First I am very happy that this list has started again, and I wish Avi
together with the moderation team he is forming much success. I have
learnt a tremendous amount from the discussions here.

> Vidduy & 13 midot slipt into some Ashkenaz on Mondays & Thursdays,
> like other changes (e.g. - Kabbalat Shabbat, Brich Shemai).

This is the normative Nusach Ashkenaz of the Land of Israel (and was
introduced by the students of the Gr"a). Although most Ashkenazi shul's
in Israel use Nusach Sepharad or the Nusach of the sha"tz, a shul that
uses Nusach Ashkenaz should say Vidduy & 13 midot on Monday and Thursday
before tachnun (if this was not a day of selichot as on days of selichot
this would have already been said earlier on). I am sure that this point
has been made on this forum, in the past.

I did speak to an influential person once and understood from him that
there might be a few Nusach Ashkenaz congregations in Israel that follow
the chu"l (outside of Israel) customs, but I understand that these are
far and few between. The claim was that a number of the "big" Rabbannim
(I assume from the chareidi world) want to turn the clock back and bring
the chu"l Nusach Ashkenaz to Israel. Does anyone on this forum know
about this movement, or the Rabbannim behind it?

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel


From: Russell Jay Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, May 17, 2009 at 1:51 PM
Subject: We don't paskin by Gra, Jeanette, OR Shulchan Aruch

(Was: Bracha on Mail Jewish)

One purpose of this posting is to simply "prove" that according to the
Shulchan Aruch you SHOULD say a bracha on learning mail jewish
(especially if you do so before davening before you have said the
Birchat Hatorah) First however a CONFESSION

CONFESSION: I like many other people am happy that Mail Jewish is back.
During the absence I had a chance to think how I would change when
mail-jewish came back. Several of my mj postings have focused on "what
does Jewish law say." Several discussants have questioned (online and
offline) whether I should be paskening (deciding) Jewish law. As I
reviewed my postings I noticed that what was wrong with them was not
their content but their lack of citation of authority. That is I contend
that my postings (such as this one) are perfectly legitimate decisions
in Jewish law except that they lack the citations to prove them. In that
spirit although this posting is on a specific topic I am broadening it
to discuss generally HOW one PSAKS (Decides a questions of Jewish law)
as well as dispel some myths about pesak (Jew law decision)

In preparing this posting I used a beautiful new edition of the Tur put
out by Rabbi Bitton of Maor. Just to give background (See the
introduction of this edition) the "Principles of deciding Jewish law" as
listed by the Seday Chemed (13:1) clearly and explicitly state that "one
does not decide Jewish law simply by citing the code of Jewish law (SA).
Instead one has to read the Beth Joseph (BI) commentary and understand
the reasons of the law."

This Maor edition in addition to the standard commentaries (Beth Joseph,
Bayit Chadash, Perishah and Darchay Mosheh) also has a "COMMENTS"
commentary which gathers many opinions from acharonim. This facilitates
discussion and ariving at a true psak (Decision)

Before beginning I point out that this posting is relevant to a
situation in which one reads mail jewish before davening. One should say
a brachah.  It is also relevant "theoretically" - even if one says the
torah blessings in the morning the FACT that mail jewish has the same
brachah requirements as learning Gemarah elevates its status.

So let us being. One starts a decision in Jewish law by reading relevant
sections. As pointed out previously Chapter 47 paragraphs 3,4 of the
Orach Chaim states that a) one DOES make a blessing if one is writing
Torah but b) one DOES NOT make a blessing if one is simply mentally

If one reads the COMMENT commentary in the Tur one sees that the TAZ and
SHACH see a CONTRADICTION in these two laws. CONTRADICTION is very often
a starting point in reaching a final decision since it requires
clarifying principles. What is the contradiction? Since writing and
thinking both avoid  actual speech they are both classified as
"thought."  It therefore is contradictory that writing SHOULD require a
BLESSING but THINKING/READING should not. The Beth Joseph himself notes
this contradiction. In fact if one reads the COMMENT commentary or if
one reads the ARUCH HASHULCHAN (Chapter 47 paragraphs 9,10,11) one sees
that there is a "suggestion" that paragraph 4 is a "retraction" of
paragraph 3-that is perhaps the WRITING LAW requiring a blessing was
later retracted by the THINKING LAW (not requiring a blessing...towards
this end it is pointed out that Paragraphs 3 and 4 come from two
different authorities - the Avudraham and the Agur)

However it is not necessary to resolve the contradiction by retraction
and no commentary uses retraction as a resolution method. Resolution is
possible. All in all 5 methods of resolution are proposed.The simplest
resolution is that "TRANSIET thought (non vocalization) does NOT require
a blessing while FIXED thought does require a blessing. Hence a) WRITING
which is something FIXED requires a blessing b) SPORADICALLY "thinking"
some verses would not require a blessing but something FIXED (like
reading mail jewish) would c) The SA clearly states that citing verses
while writing a letter or citing verses during petitionary prayers does
NOT require a blessing (even though it is verbal) because it is
transient d) Rather startingly (but consistent with the above
explanation) the SA states that a VERBALLY declared DECISION in Jewish
law WITHOUT reasons does NOT require a blessing (e.g. if someone asked
if they had to say Tachanum if there is a brith...then saying "No" does
not require a blessing on learning Torah).

As can be seen this TRANSIET-FIXED distinction is a concise explanation
of the contradiction and several laws. Using it we find that reading
mail jewish on a fixed basis (From cover to cover) WOULD require saying
a blessing.

I should close by citing some of the other opinions cited in the
COMMENTS commentary, comments by the book Sefer Pelaim and Shav
Yaakov. Some additional comments are also brought down in the Aruch

The Shav Yaakov gives an alternate explanation for why WRITING requires
a blessing but READING does not: "The main Biblical source of learning
is the verse TEACH YOUR CHILDREN - hence WRITING which is ONE method of
teaching requires a blessing while THINKING does not require a blessing
(Because there is no possibility of transference)." But I would add:
Since the act of READING-RESPONDING (e.g. you read Mail jewish and
answer some posts) is a natural way of teaching others therefore the
blessing should be said (My point here is that the READING is intended
as an INTERACTIVE reading not as a musing).

Finally some delightful textual analysis is gone into. Sefer Pelaim
finds a verse "He SPOKE BY A WRITTEN LETTER" indicating that writing is
SPEECH.  It is also pointed out that a secondary source for the mitzvah
of learning is the Joshua 1:8 verse "think about it day and night" Hence
READING would be a fulfillment of Learning but not on the same level
(One commentator cites verses with THINK BY HEART and THINK BY MOUTH and
points out that the Joshua verse does not mention MOUTH).

Finally one could "cop" out of the CONTRADICTION (The approach of the
"Levush") and simply say that WRITING is NON VERBAL ACTION while
THINKING is not.

Bottom line: I have brought the above to show the Halachic decision
process. It does not consist of "citing the SA" It consists of studying
reasons The simplest resolution and one consistent with a variety of
other laws is that TRANSIENT TORAH LEARNING requires no blessing while
FIXED TORAH LEARNING does require a blessing (Whether done mentally or
in writing).

Finally after I prepared this posting and prior to sending I noticed the
comment that "Some parts of mail jewish are not torah (but discussion of
social events, politics etc)" I woudl respond by pointing out that the
Talmud also has numerous non-halachic passages touching on Science
politics etc. But you ALWAYS make a blessing on Gemarrah.

I hope this posting opens people's eyes to the complexity of the
decision process and look forward to using this posting format to
discuss other Mail Jewish matters.

Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.d. ASA http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


End of Volume 56 Issue 60