Volume 57 Number 09 
      Produced: Tue, 25 Aug 2009 14:03:35 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A Question in Learning (3)
    [Harlan Braude  Alex Heppenheimer  Dov Teichman]
A Rule (5)
    [Francine Weistrop  Akiva Miller  Carl Singer  Martin Stern  Ari Trachtenberg]
Is "Nusach Ari" synonymous with "Nusach Sepharad" 
    [David Ziants]
Nusach Achid (2)
    [Batya Medad  David Ziants]
Nusach Eretz Yisrael 
    [Binyamin Lemkin]
    [Carl Singer]


From: Harlan Braude <hbraude@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 12:01 AM
Subject: A Question in Learning

In mail-jewish Vol.57 #07, Baruch C. Cohen asked:
> Am I allowed to offer a Pshat in a Posuk in the Torah, that is based on my
> personal experience, that could be contrary to a Rashi?
I've heard very strong opinions spanning the spectrum, and not limited to 
Rashi alone.

Those opposed warned against comparing our abilities with those of the 
sages. It's not simply a matter of offering an opinion, but the dangers of
misinterpreting the Torah which can have grave ramifications beyond merely
misunderstanding a term or phrase.

Sometimes, it was believing that the Rishonim/Achronim had "heavenly" powers 
of insight, something beyond intelligence. This argument was more difficult to
explain, since the accomplishment of a person given an advantage isn't as
impressive as that of an average person. But, again, the key was preserving the
mesorah (tradition).

Those arguing the supporting position claimed that one gains a strong 
appreciation by experiencing first-hand how challenging it can be to explain
things properly, without contradicting basic tenets along the way. That,
however, presumes a familiarity with a wide range of material to spot those
contradictions. That's a tough row to hoe for an expert, let alone an 
amateur (no offense intended).

At any rate, if you do offer your own pshat, there are a couple of things to 
keep in mind:

First, always make clear to whom you offer your pshat that it is your own 
and not based on someone more "authoritative". You should point out the
contradiction with the commentary (e.g. Rashi).

Secondly, try to figure out why the commentary you're contradicting didn't 
draw the same conclusion(s) as you did. Resist the temptation to assume that you
thought of something they didn't. Perhaps they rejected the whole train of
thought upon which your conclusion is based. Sometimes, a minor navigational
error early on in a voyage leads to a major deviation further down the road.

Lastly, consider that these commentaries have survived the test of time and 
that people of great ability since have given them their approbations. One
shouldn't take something like that lightly.

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 01:01 PM
Subject: A Question in Learning

In MJ 57:07, Baruch Cohen <adbarcoh@...> asked:
> Am I allowed to offer a Pshat in a Posuk in the Torah, that is based on my
> personal experience, that could be contrary to a Rashi?
It's a normal part of Torah study to offer one's own explanations (in the spirit
of "my ancestors left me an area in which to accomplish something" - Chullin
7a), while at the same time realizing one's inadequacy relative to the greats of
previous generations ("If the earlier ones were like angels, we are like humans;
if they were like humans, we are like donkeys..." - Shabbos 112b).

So in a way, I'd venture to say that to ask the question is to answer it,
because it demonstrates that sensitivity to the relative standings of Rashi's
explanation and yours. That alone, I think, makes your pshat well worth hearing!
(And indeed, someone else may even be able to reconcile it with what Rashi says.)

Kol tuv,

From: Dov Teichman <dtnla@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: A Question in Learning

Baruch C. Cohen, Esq. wrote:
> Am I allowed to offer a Pshat in a Posuk in the Torah, that is based on my
> personal experience, that could be contrary to a Rashi?
See the preface of the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh on Chumash where he writes that
anyone may innovate their own explanations on Chumash as long as it does not
come to change any halacha or go against the accepted mesorah of how to
understand the Torah.

-Dov Teichman (your neighbor)


From: Francine Weistrop <francine.weistrop@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 09:01 AM
Subject: A Rule

> If Israel doesn't care about the tourists, who come from all over the  
> world and often it is a once in a lifetime trip and at sacrifice for many,
> then   maybe we could stop going and stop feeding the hand always held out,
> that bites us.  In this Recession this is happening as less are traveling.

When frum American Jews feel this way about our Jews in Eretz Israel,  
than we are really in trouble.  It reads like Israelis should be so  
grateful for the largesse of American Jews that they should give up  
their religious needs to pray at the Kotel.

These are the Jewish people she is talking about, not some usurpers  
getting ahead in the line at Radio City Music Hall.  I imagine some of  
them were also tourists who wanted to pray.  There is no way of  
ascertaining one's motivation for going to the Kotel.  One would hope  
that it was for religious reasons, not to check off the visit on a list.

> Again in fairness the students should take their turn standing in
> line with others and should not hog the Wall for long prayers.

I found this line to be totally inconsistent with the idea that one  
goes to the Kotel to pray.  It is shocking that the writer wants to  
make prayer at the Kotel a rationed thing. Perhaps each person should  
carry a "Kavanah timer".

I, for one, have found this discussion very painful and I hope that  
there can be a point where we agree to let go.

Francine Weistrop

From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 01:01 PM
Subject: A Rule

I am most definitely NOT saying that Marilyn Tomsky was wrong or mistaken in her
posts about the situation when she went to the Kotel. All I want to say is that
I really don't understand the details of the situation.

In her original post, she wrote:
> At the Wall in the female section I found that the Jewish
> female students had taken over the place. ... The students
> dominated the chairs and the Wall praying from their
> prayer books.  Jewish women came from all over the world,
> ... and this was the only chance we had to go to the Wall
> and pray. We saw that we could not reach the Wall in time.
> Some of my group were in despair and one was crying. I was
> mad! The Jewish students could come at any time and
> certainly not when tourists came in full.  

Who are these "students" that she keeps talking about? Was it an organized group
from some specific school? If so, then I hope a letter was written to the
administrators at that school!

Maybe they too were tourists, and this was their only chance in a lifetime to be
there, and that the main difference was that their tour allowed them more than
the "20 minutes" that Marilyn had.

Perhaps they were even Israelis, perhaps even from Jerusalem, and she is
describing them as "students" for no other reason than their apparent ages?

> The students should go during the late Fall or Winter when
> few tourists are there.

I'm not aware that any particular season has more or fewer tourists than any
other season of the year. I think the holidays are what attracts tourists. In
any case, whatever it is that attracts tourists to a certain time, that attracts
students and locals as well. Advising a student to go when there are very few
tourists is a good idea, but it is also a good idea to advise a tour group to go
when there are very few tourists!

In her latest post, in one paragraph, she suggests this idea:
> People can spread out along the Wall, pray and then leave
> their message in the Wall, if they wish and then leave.

She seems to make the same suggestion in the following paragraph:
> Again in fairness the students should take their turn
> standing in line with others and should not hog the Wall
> for long prayers.

But in the paragraph after that, she wrote:
> who made up that rule that Jewish women/girls have to
> keep moving ...

Huh? In this line, it sure sounds to me like she does NOT like any rules that
the women/girls have to keep moving. Does she want people to keep moving, or
does she want people to have the option of staying put? I must have missed

So, as much as I REALLY WOULD like to sympathize, I can't, because I don't know
what problem she is talking about, or what solution she is proposing. It is very
true that the Kotel is very crowded at certain times. But I think the only way
to avoid that is by restricting entrance in some way, such as with some system
of admission tickets. But that would offend even more people than under the
current system. Even if the tickets would be free, or structured in some other
extremely fair way, it would still smack of commercialism and/or antisemitism.

If anyone has a better idea, I'd love to hear it. I have no way of implementing
it, but it would still be interesting to hear.

Akiva Miller

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: A Rule

Getting away from the specifics of who, what and when.

We need to realize that a vital component of bringing up our children is
teaching them manners and, more broadly, the importance of mitzvahs bayn
adam l'chavyroh.

Personally, I can recall many instances both positive, VERY positive, and
negative, VERY negative, re: the behavior of people of all ages whose
clothing would lead me to believe that they are Torah observant Jews.    As
a result I cherish going to certain venues and avoid others like the plague.

I know, for example, if I'm visiting the Philadelphia Yeshiva at 10:15 PM
for Ma'ariv that as soon as I (or any adult for that matter) walk in, a
bochur will make sure that I have a seat and provide me with a siddur if I'm
not carrying one.  And I imagine there are other Yeshivas where the same
will happen -- reflecting on the leadership, the teaching and the hashkofah
of same.

There are, no doubt, contrary examples - - unfortunately.

Carl Singer

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 01:01 PM
Subject: A Rule

On Thu, Aug 13,2009, Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...> wrote:
> In regard to Marilyn Tomsky's point re the "punch in the back", if she should
> ever live here, she'd know that's par for the course at the bank, the post
> office and the bus queue.

It is precisely this sort of uncouth behaviour that puts many of us off from
living in Israel. I am disappointed that Yisrael seems to accept it as

Martin Stern

From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: A Rule

I think that it is important to give the benefit of the doubt to others, 
especially at the Kotel, and especially during the month of Elul.

People go to the Kotel for many reasons, some of them deeply personal
and possibly even painful.  Personally, I would be happy to miss my 
opportunity to daven at the kotel, even if I spent an inordinate amount
of money and time shlepping my family half way across the world to get 
there, in order to let a person with a deep-seated need have a 
chance to pray in a meaningful way.

Lo aloinu (not for us),


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 23,2009 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Is "Nusach Ari" synonymous with "Nusach Sepharad"

Regarding the discussion(s) concerning issues of Sephardim (Aidot 
haMizrach [= Middle Eastern Communities]) accommodating Ashkenazi 
practice and vice-versa, the Ashkenazi "Nusach Sepharad" [nusach = prayer 
rite] as well as the Ashkenazi "Nusach Ari" came up in discussion as well.

I was never sure whether "Nusach Ari" is actually synonymous with 
"Nusach Sepharad" or not. For example, Siddur Rinat Yisrael Nusach 
Sepharad says it is *based* on Nusach HaAri. "Based" might imply "not 

I found the the following link which seems to have answered this question:

The explanation there is that "Nusach HaAri" is the Chabad version of 
"Nusach Sepharad".

In that link is also explained that there are siddurim, from all the 
nusachim,  some of which take into account "kabbalistic" issues and some 
of which do not. Actual concrete examples of differences do not 
seem to be so prevalent in the link, but maybe a typical and well known 
example that I can think of is whether "b'rich sh'mai" [a prayer from 
the Zohar that is written in Aramaic] is incorporated, either during the 
week or on Shabbat, when the Aron HaKodesh [cupboard that houses Torah 
scrolls] is opened. According to the link there, the Spanish and 
Portuguese version of the Sephardi nusach do not include kabbalistic 
elements. Can some one please tell me whether this community says "b'rich 
sh'mai" or not?

Of course, I would be happy to receive any other remarks on what is 
documented there.

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

PS In that link he puts plural of "nusach" as "nuschaot" like I did a 
few posts ago, and he justifies this in one of the feedbacks. I am now 
convinced, though, that this is not correct (and neither is "nusachot" 
correct) and the plural should actually be "nusachim" . Please could 
some one confirm what actually the correct plural is.


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Nusach Achid

What a depressing bunch of replies to an attempt to unify our people.
This bothers me even more than the kitniyot question.  It's Ellul.  Our
Nation is in serious trouble, and all I read is nit-picking about Nusach
Achid, a revolutionary and halachik attempt to make it comfortable for
Jews of all Eidot [congregations --MOD] to doven together, instead of
perpetuating chutz l'aretz [outside of Israel --MOD] ghettos.

You may find it ironic that we don't eat kitniyot [category of items similar to
forbidden Passover foods] and our neighborhood shul, literally in our backyard,
dovens the old Ashkenaz nusach.  But our kids consider Nusach Achid their nusach
of choice, and our grandchildren are Tunisian who eat rice at our Pesach table.

We need the Moshiach, G-d willing, bimhaira b'yameinu!

From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Nusach Achid

What I said about Rav Goren ztz"l and Nusach Achid:

 >> Rav Goren tzatz"al tried to create "Nusach Achid" to solve this issue
> > (especially in the army), but this never really took on, even in
> > situations where it could be useful.

And then in a later posting:

> Whether one agrees with Rav Goren or not, his intentions were l'shem 
> shamayim [for the sake of heaven] and he wanted to find ways of creating 
> unity within the constraints of halacha. The Gr"a also came up with his 
> own nusach, from his personal research. Nusach Ari (the basis of, or 
> maybe synonymous with nusach sepharad), AFAIK, did not exist before the 
> time of the Ari.

It was not me that was in disparagement of Rav Goren, but another 
poster. I am in fact in agreement of much of what Meir Shinnar says, but 
still differ with him in the situation where the custom of the place is 
to let the sha"tz [prayer leader] decide the the nusach [order of prayer].

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

PS Often errors such as misquoting someone can be alleviated by CCing 
the relevant parties to that part of the discussion. I realise that it 
is not always easy as sometimes need to search back digests etc, but 
this is something I try and do as much as possible..


From: Binyamin Lemkin <lemkin@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 24,2009 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Nusach Eretz Yisrael

I agree that the issue of nusach [style of prayer service --MOD]
should not be tied to which rabbi of
which generation is greater. Regardless of what one thinks of HaRav
David Bar-Hayim, he has done a great job resurrecting the ancient
nusach of Eretz Yisrael which is based upon the nusach prescribed by
the Talmud Yerushalmi. This nusach has a much greater chance of
becoming a "national" nusach than nusach achid ever did in that it
requires all Jews to make substantial changes from their current
nusachim while at the same time containing commonalities to all the

Binyamin Lemkin


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 23,2009 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Witness?

An article in the Jewish Press tells of a 4-way telephone call where person
A admitted that he owes money to person B.  Since such an admission carries
the weight of 100 aydim (witnesses) if this admission had been made at a
face-to-face meeting then it would likely have been an open and shut case.
Since it was made over the telephone a bet din is now determining the status
of this situation.  (We are, of course, are aware of decisions re: Shofar,
Havdallah and brocahs [blessings] and women's singing heard over the
telephone or other electronic means.)

Here's a related question -- what about video?  What if one witness (of two)
saw something live via a security camera.  What if both witnesses saw
something live via a security camera.  What of a video recording?  For the
sake of discussion let's presume the all videos are of high, lifelike
quality and there are no issues of fidelity, etc.

Carl Singer


End of Volume 57 Issue 9