Volume 59 Number 73 
      Produced: Sun, 07 Nov 2010 01:17:11 EST

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A punctuation question 
    [Chana Luntz]
A Technique for Enhancing Kavanah 
    [David Tzohar]
changing psak / practices / observance (was Using Telephones on Shabbo 
    [Carl Singer]
Electricity on shabbat 
    [Eli Turkel]
Halacha for Special Agents 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Maimonides and Rav Soloveitchik "blundered"?! 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Origin of the Mishnah and Siddur 
    [Sammy Finkelman]
Telephones on Shabbos (3)
    [Meir Wise  Martin Stern  Bernard Raab]
What is life threatening (was use of the Telephone on Shabbos) 
    [Carl Singer]


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Wed, Nov 3,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: A punctuation question

Ira L. Jacobson (MJ 59#66) writes:

> Isn't there a principle of "halakha keyesh omrim"?  (That is, the Law
> is in accordance with the stand of those identified as "yesh omrim.")

I think the principle is the opposite, "stam v'yesh omrim halacha k'stam" -
that is, where two opinions are given, the straight opinion and the yesh
omrim the law is in accordance with the straight opinion.  This is one of
the principles of interpretation of the Shulchan Aruch - as, for example,
set out in Rav Ovadiah Yosef's klalei Shulchan Aruch at the back of the
first volume of Yachave Daat.  In fact he gives two versions:

In rule 22: where Maran (the Shulchan Aruch) writes one position which is
more lenient in the stam, and after that writes a yesh omrim which is more
stringent, the halacha is like the stam to be lenient, and even if there is
a small loss.  [special detail about monetary matters snipped].

Then in rule 23 he writes: Where Maran writes in the stam one opinion which
is more stringent and then a yesh omrim which is more lenient.  The opinion
of Maran is to permit in a situation of great loss like the opinion of the
yesh omrim and in any event the Achronim write that it is correct to be
stringent like the opinion of the stam.

Note that he also writes in rule 25; And if Maran writes "yesh omrim" and
"yesh omrim", the halacha is like the second yesh omrim and even to be
lenient l'chatchila [ab initio].

Of course, this is about the Shulchan Aruch (and indeed focussing on a
Sephardi understanding of halacha, because often the yesh omrim in the
Shulchan Aruch is what is brought in the Rema, and hence is the halacha for
Ashkenazim), it is not about Tosphos.

Indeed Rav Ovadiah has a separate section on Klalei HaPoskim HaRishonim in
which he includes a few rules for Tosphos, but not about stam and yesh
omrim.  A couple of these are:

Rule 17: In a place where Tosphos brings two answers, and in another place
it brings one, this is the essence of the halacha according to their

Rule 18: If there are two answers in Tosphos and one of them is brought
l'halacha in the piskei haTosphos, this is the essence of the halacha.

For all of these rules he brings references, mostly to Yabia Omer, and you
would need to work through these to establish to what extent these rules are
agreed and disagreed with by others.  I do think though that "stam v'yesh
omrim halacha k'stam" in the Shulchan Aruch is one of the best known of its




From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Sat, Nov 6,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: A Technique for Enhancing Kavanah

Seth (Avi) Kadish (MJ 59#72) wrote about kavanah in the context of a
discussion about adding words in the shmoneh esrei. I would like to share a
technique for enhancing kavanah based on the torah of R'Aryeh Kaplan ZTZL.
RAK translated kavanah "directed consciousness".

Take one minute before shmoneh esrei, stand completely still, close your
eyes,take a deep breath and while exhaling slowly, concentrate for 30
seconds on banishing all extraneous thoughts from your mind . Contemplate
the Ein Sof (infinity) in the darkness behind your eyelids. Take 3 steps
back and for 30 seconds imagine that you are in the anteroom of a vast hall.
If you are successful these 30 seconds will seem much longer, the dimensions
of space and time will blur. You are alone in the anteroom and want to enter
the hall. Take 3 steps forward and bow, bend your knees, lower your head and
contemplate your nothingness before the throne beyond the hall. Straighten
your back with your head slightly bowed. You are now ready to pray.

This might seem weird and new-agey to many. It has nothing to do with
halacha or intellectual speculation. It is about looking within yourself
(lehitpallel, a reflexive inner directed action) in order to make some
connection between the divine within and and its ineffable divine source.

Does this sound like an impossible goal? Perhaps. But one minute, three
times a day, it's worth trying.

David Tzohar


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 5,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: changing psak / practices / observance (was Using Telephones on Shabbo

Hillel (Sabba) Markowtiz (MJ 59#72) gives an example of a shul eschewing the use
of a microphone on Shabbos even though it had formerly used one under the
previous Rav.

> I also remember that when one Rav took over a shul that had a
> microphone, it was taken out. His first Shabbos, he went out of his
> way to point out that it was not that he said that the retired rav
> (Rabbi Emeritus, who was there and continued to come) was wrong, but
> that there had been poskim in the previous generation who held that it
> was correct. Since the psak [determination] of the current generation
> was that it was not correct, it could no longer be done. He then
> quoted the gemoro of (this is from memory so I am not sure of the
> name)  of Rabbi Eliezer (?) who told his son (paraphrase), "I was able
> to rely on my teachers so I could continue to rule as I did. I am only
> a yachid [single posek] so you must follow the Rabbis in this matter".

I've witnessed change in many shuls -- usually towards the more machmir
[stringent]: "enhancing" the mechitzah, adjusting davening times (for example,
when Shabbos starts / ends.), etc.   I am not talking about shifting
populations, but shifting within a stable community.

It seems that communities have less problems with going machmir.  Can
any of the MJ readers give examples of machmir to maikel [less stringent]
that weren't considered "slippage" or falling off the derech?  Or for that
matter can anyone provide substantial examples of any shifting towards maikel.

ARE YOU SEATED -- here comes a controversial statement -- I'd appreciate
enlightening comments on same (no heat necessary):

It seems that even though we are yet another generation further away from
Sinai, we believe that the previous generation was neither as frum nor as
knowledgeable as ours (I can in part accept the "knowledgeable" because
knowledge expands despite redacting of some texts).



From: Eli Turkel <eliturkel@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 5,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Electricity on shabbat

Sam Finkelman (MJ 59#72) quoted from R. Broyde and Jachter (Journal of Halacha &
Contemporary Society No. XXI, Spring 91) 

> Rabbi Auerbach additionally states that since the tradition forbids
> the use of electricity, and this tradition received near unanimous
> approval from rabbinic authorities in the normal course of events
> observant Jews should accept this tradition (even though he feels it
> is based on incorrect premises) and operate under the presumption that
> the use of electricity without light or heat is a violation, of
> rabbinic origin, based on molid. Only in the case of urgent need
> does he allow one to rely on his opinion that electricity is permitted
> where no heat or light is generated.

I agree with all of this. I wish to point out that the recent sefer
Orchat Shabbat (a more stringent version of Shmirat Shabbat) claims that all
poskim agree that electricity is prohibited from the Torah on shabbat (or more
exactly "choshishim le-melacha de-oraita). In particular they claim that R.S.Z.
Auerbach wrote his letters to the Chazon Ish only as a theoretical debate but
that in practice he doesn't disagree with the Chazon Ish.

They also bring that R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Wosner also paskened that one
needs to consider electricity as a Torah violation le-chumra. In particular R.
Elyashiv does not allow asking a goy to turn on an appliance on shabbat even in
case of great need or loss of money and it is not a rabbinic prohibition when
asking a non-Jew is allowed in cases of great need. R. Wosner rules similarly.

He does admit that R. Weisz (Minchat Yiyzchak) occassionally treats the
prohibition as rabbinic and occasionally as a Torah prohibition.

He also brings that the Chazon Ish did not allow closing the circuit on shabbat
even if it is open somewhere else and nothing will happen. This in spite of the
language of the Chazon Ish that might indicate otherwise.

In spite of this sefer my feeling is that many organizations do accept R Shlomo
Zalman Auerbach as disagreeing in practice and not just in theory and rely on
his expert opinion. Just to repeat what has been said by others, R. Auerbach
certainly never allowed the use of electricity on shabbat as a general practice.

The question is what happens in times of need.

Eli Turkel


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sat, Nov 6,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Halacha for Special Agents

Since Shmuel Himelstein's post which appeared in MJ 59#72 and followed right
after mine in which I questioned the probability of such a situation and might
seem to "answer" my doubt, I would hope that we know that there is a major
difference between the original case - a volunteer for secret service who might
have to engage in sexual dalliance and the forced situation in the ghetto of
Brest (I think actually either Brest-Litovsk or the Yiddish Brisk).



From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 5,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Maimonides and Rav Soloveitchik "blundered"?!

Seth (Avi) Kadish wrote (MJ 59#72): 

> It was nice to see my "Kavvana" book cited in the discussion of this topic,
> but the way it was used bothered me a bit. Did I ever write that Maimonides
> and Rav Soloveitchik had "blundered"?!

No, not like that. But that was the bottom line. If most Rishonim don't accept
it, and you don't feel we should accept it as practical halakhah, and in fact
you don't feel they are at all right, and can't be right, then - they blundered.
Now, maybe "blundering" implies that it is an error that should have been easily
avoided. Of course then it's really too strong a word for what you said. I think
you can work very long and still "blunder" - in fact a "blunder" is more
something that a great deal of time and effort goes into than the reverse.

What happened was, I hadn't seen the book in some time and was looking for a way
to sum it up in a few words and I couldn't work from exactly what you had said.
There's probably another way to say it.

This was indeed "part of internally coherent and highly convincing view on the
origin of prayer in particular and the formulation of rabbinic texts in general"
on the part of the Rambam. For not only here was the Rambam wrong, but he was
also wrong as to the when and how the text of the Mishnah was composed, thinking
that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi had written it, when in reality, as the Rav Sherira
Gaon wrote in his famous Iggeres, he had merely perfected the text. (whatever
the word tiretz means there)

I think it is generally agreed that the Rambam is just all wrong here about how
and when the Mishneh was composed.

This all happened because the Rambam studied by himself. And later on, he was
too far away maybe, and had too little contact with other people, to think it
over and correct himself on some matters.

The book The Rishonim (Mesorah Publications 1982) writes (page 136) under Rabbi
Shimshon of Sens (the Ba'al Tosfos whose text it says we basically use) that R
Shimshon was drawn into the controversy over the Mishnah Torah. When the Ramah
(R Meir Ha-Levi Abulafia) took objection to the statement of the Rambam that in
Olam Haboh there are no physical bodies, and added other passages in the Mishneh
Torah that he found that he thought were inconsistent with the Talmud, R'
Shimshon said there were even more difficult passages there that he found - but
he thought the Rambam was amazing. He was not able to read the script that the
Mishneh Torah was circulated in, the Hebrew script being different than that
used in France - but some of his students possessed part of the Code and had
read it to him and he was amazed at all the topics covered and the Rambam's
conclusions. He felt the Rambam had discerned wonders in God's Torah and the
gates of wisdom had been revealed to him.

Now all this took place in the few years before and after the Rambam's death.
His son (R Avraham ben HaRambam) the book says, refused to credit a report that
R Shimshon disagreed with his father) so we see that there was not too much back
and forth. I don't know what exactly was the thing which the Rambam's son heard
R Shimshon disagreed with (general disagreement? Feeling that the mishneh tirah
shouldn't be used?)

Some people who disputed with him he did not respect as an equal -
most notably the then current Gaonim in Babylonia. And some of the
other ones got it too late to get any feedback from the Rambam.


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 5,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Origin of the Mishnah and Siddur

The Mishnah probably goes back, in its original form (which might have been one
third or one fourth the final length, which itself is shorter than the Tosephta)
several centuries, and that's the reason it does not cover Chanukah - because it
was composed before those events happened! Chanukah is *mentioned* 6 times in
the Mishnah but always as an aside in places where it could have been added
later.  The Mishnah was always supposed to be recited orally, and like HaTikveh
or the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, the text can be altered, and added to, and
have different versions, only much much more so than those examples. The Mishnah
was copious, and probably doubnled and tripled and quadrupled in size, over the
years, but it consisted of brief memorable snippets of Halakhic rulings. It
never covered the very basics, because nobody needed it, and it never covered
expert details, which could only be taught person to person.

I wouldn't agree that the Siddur overall has to predate the Mishnah, because
Berachos might be later Mishnah than the very earliest Mishnahs. Still at least
some elements of some prayers should precede it since there was a tradition that
it went back to the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah and they should have done that not
too long after they were established. They might very well overlap considerably,
and not only that, but even with some extra sentences or words in the Writings
(like noting that the Acheverosh of the time of Esther was the Achesverosh who
ruled from Hodu to Kush - there being a second one who did not, since Persia
lost Egypt in the interim - and actually finally a third who did again for the
last 3 years of his rule but they lost the power to modify Tanach pretty soon
after since apparently Alexander the Great disbanded them or something).


From: Meir Wise <meirhwise@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 5,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Telephones on Shabbos

I am shocked beyond words at Leah Gordon's posting (MJ 59#72) about telephones
on shabbat/chag. Do she not know that even a safek piku'ach nefesh sets aside
shabbat? Please do not take notice of her posting but either learn the halachot
or ask a competant rabbi.

Shelo nayda mitzarot

Rabbi Wise

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 5,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Telephones on Shabbos

Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...> wrote (MJ 59#72):

> While I agree that "no one" is arguing with either:
> (1) in case of threat to life, use the damned phone!
> (2) in case of casual desire, no phone allowed on shabbat
> There are these middling cases that come up, and so I do think it is
> relevant to discuss, as we have on M.J, the details of the rules.  Two
> instances have come up in my own life:
> (1) When I thought, but wasn't sure, that I went into labor with my second
> son, it was about 3pm on shabbat afternoon (in March).
> ... 
> (2) A few weeks ago, actually the second day of Sukkot, my youngest son
> (3yo) had trouble breathing and needed a nebulizer treatment....

Incipient labour and a child of 3 with breathing problems are certainly
situations where one would be justified in making a phone call for medical
help, especially since modern telephone systems would not involve a melachah
d'oraita [Torah as opposed to rabbinic prohibition]. In general we are
machmir [stringent] regarding safeik pikuach nefesh [possible danger to
life] i.e the rule is "if in doubt do whatever is necessary on Shabbat" and
would even do a melachah d'oraita. Though some suggest it should preferably
be done with a shinui [in an unusual manner] that would reduce the
prohibition to the rabbinic level, if this would lead to delays that could
conceivably be life-threatening, it should definitely be done in the usual

Martin Stern

From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Sun, Nov 7,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: Telephones on Shabbos

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote (MJ 59#72):

> I think that the point *might* be the original connection from the
> phone to the switching station. Since the first "gramma switch" is at
> a remote location, it may be that the direct connection from the phone
> itself to the station would require a gramma switch itself to prevent
> the difficulties that may arise.

That may be the case in a land-line call, but a cellphone call is grama all the
way: there is no connection established before you hit the "send" button, at
which point a computer decides how and when to route your call. On the other
hand, it might be the case that the grama heter is not so much technical as it
is symbolic, so that we prevent the unconstrained use of electric power. In that
case, the Grama telephones in use by the Israeli military may still be still
relevant, even if the telephones are already inherently grama.Nevertheless, this
knowledge might ease the concern of those in situations such as described by
Leah Gordon in MJ 59#72: medical issues that are serious but not felt to be
life-threatening. In case of doubt, use your cellphone.

Bernie R.


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Fri, Nov 5,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: What is life threatening (was use of the Telephone on Shabbos)

Leah Gordon (MJ 59#72) notes correctly:

> While I agree that "no one" is arguing with either:

> (1) in case of threat to life, use the damned phone!

> (2) in case of casual desire, no phone allowed on shabbat

> There are these middling cases that come up, and so I do think it is
> relevant to discuss, as we have on M.J, the details of the rules.

She notes two examples: going into labor and a faulty nebulizer.
I won't repeat the sagas.

Baruch HaShem her son, Gedalya, survived the nebulizer incident.

She notes in the first case that she wishes she had more halachic

> .... but I wish I had known about how prohibited or not it was to do
> so if I wasn't necessarily in mortal danger.

And this is a universal sentiment.  -- In the moment when we need to make
an urgent decision it would be great to have the a priori knowledge and
decision-making ability.

When a storm damaged our Succah on the first night of Yom Tov, this was
not life and death -- I could discuss it with a very knowledgeable neighbor,
then in shul the next morning and finally our Rabbi gave a psak (many
were in the same boat re: the storm.)  But I had the luxury of time as
this was not in any sense life threatening.  I could augment my dusty
memory of learning the hilchos of Succah with texts and with people.

In a life threatening situation undue delay is NOT an option.  One must
rely on their religious gut (or should I say, Talmudic thumb).   I have
no doubt that one can find anecdotes where unfortunately people have
died because they were reluctant to act on Shabbos, and similarly stories
of ridiculous (in hindsight) reasons for not picking up the telephone.

I would offer that the former choice has no "re-do" -- whereas the latter
is something that one can deal with re: tshuva and learning.

Here's a quick example:  Your kid trips and hits the edge of the table --
there's an ever growing knot on his forehead and given that scalp wounds
tend to bleed profusely, blood is gushing from his / her forehead.
What do you do?

I don't pretend to have an answer -- there are too many variables:

Severity (this is after all a second hand story)

Your ability to cope with this situation, specifically, and with
emergencies in general - do you stay calm or panic.  Is this your
first child or number three and you've been here before.

Availability of aid / alternatives.  Is your next door neighbor an EMT?
Do you have butterfly bandages in the house ....

Oh -  and by the way -- what is the halacha?



End of Volume 59 Issue 73