Volume 60 Number 21 
      Produced: Thu, 14 Jul 2011 03:49:26 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Facing Temple Mount in prayer (4)
    [Joel Rich  Akiva Miller  Steven Oppenheimer  David Ziants]
Obscure Midrashim  and Aggadic Reasons 
    [Rabbi Meir Wise]
Time Zones (2)
    [Guido Elbogen  Bernard Raab]


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 8,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Facing Temple Mount in prayer

David Ziants wrote (MJ 60#20):

> My question is - is there any hiddur [doing the mitzva in a better way] if
> one skips a level. For example, if one is in Jerusalem, and makes business to
> find a more exact orientation to face the Holy of Holies, and not just to face
> anywhere towards the Temple Mount, is one making a hiddur?


> A few people seem to be choosing the third option - but is there any real
> hiddur in facing this direction? Maybe more and more people will do this (it
> means turning to left approx. 75 degrees from front wall), and it will start
> a trend.

> PS It took me some work with Google Maps to work out where the directions
> lead, and before now I was able to observe and decide, without understanding
> fully. Within the community, each person seems to face the way they feel
> comfortable, but I have yet to hear a shiur or even any informal public
> debate on the issue, within. This is why I want to try and find out more about
> the principles, from this forum.

My uneducated 2 cents - 

Rule # 2 the most basic principle is everyone in the minyan should face the same
way as to avoid looking like they are praying to different powers and, much
more importantly, to show that they understand that a tzibbur is much more than
a collection of individuals doing their own thing.  

Rule #3 -never turn your back on the aron kodesh.

Rule #1 -CLOR.

Joel Rich

From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 8,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Facing Temple Mount in prayer

David Ziants wrote (MJ 60#20):

> There is a Gemara relating to the direction one must face when
> saying the Amida - I think in Mesechet B'rachot, but I do not
> know the exact source.

Yes, indeed. It is on Brachot 30a, and is also codified in the Shulchan Aruch,
Orach Chayim 94:1.

> It goes something like:- If one is outside the Land of Israel -
> one should face the Land of Israel, if one is in the Land of
> Israel - one should face Jerusalem, if one is in Jerusalem - one
> should face the Temple Mount, if one is on the Temple Mount one
> should face the Holy of Holies.

And it even goes several steps further, for one who is at various locations
*within* the Holy of Holies!

> My question is - is there any hiddur [doing the mitzva in a better
> way] if one skips a level. For example, if one is in Jerusalem,
> and makes business to find a more exact orientation to face the
> Holy of Holies, and not just to face anywhere towards the Temple
> Mount, is one making a hiddur?

I have thought about this question many times, and while I have not seen it
mentioned by any authority, I strongly suspect that the answer is "no". I'll
give three reasons - one technical, one practical, and one philosophical.

Technically: If such an action was advisable, the Gemara would have recommended
it right off the bat. It would have simply told all of us everywhere to face a
certain spot in the Holy of Holies, and saved a lot of ink.

Practically: Take your idea, but take it to the extreme. Next time you are at
the Kotel, take a look. Do you see ANYONE praying while facing left at an angle
of 70-80 degrees? No, rather EVERYONE is facing straight forward. The Jews are a
wise people; if what you suggest is truly a good idea, surely someone else would
be doing it. But we understand that if we would be at the Kotel, and ignore the
Temple Mount for the sake of facing the Holy of Holies directly, then we have
slighted the honor due to the Temple Mount.

Philosophically: When trying to advance in any area - but especially in
spirituality - it is always best to go one step at a time. The Sages warn us,
"Tafasta meruba lo tafasta - Don't bite off more than you can chew." Whatever
level you are at, aim for the next one; when you get there, *that's* when you
can aim for the third step. And this is exactly what this halacha tells us: When
outside of Israel, aim for Israel. In Israel, aim for Jerusalem. In Jerusalem,
aim for the Temple Mount. And so on. But keep your priorities straight, and just
go one step at a time.

Akiva Miller

From: Steven Oppenheimer <steven.oppenheimer@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 8,2011 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Facing Temple Mount in prayer

David Ziants (MJ 60#20) raises an interesting issue regarding the direction one
should face when davening.  He quotes the Gemara in Berachot (30a) that
instructs us in the direction to face when praying.  In Israel, one faces
Yerushalayim.  In Yerushalayim, one faces the Beit HaMikdash, in the Beit
HaMikdash, one faces the Kodesh Kodoshim.  This is codified in the Shulchan
Aruch (O.Ch. 94:1).

David wonders how exact one needs to be in calculating these measurements.
Rabbi Simcha Rabinowitz quotes Rav Sh. Z. Auerbach, z"l (Halichot Shlomo
19:4) that even in Shuls in Yerushalayim, where it is easy to measure the
correct angle in which to pray, we are lenient (as were previous
generations), when the need arises, in not measuring exactly. If the exact
measurement would be northeast but one can get more seating in a shul, one
may select either north or east as the direction to face (and not

Furthermore, at the Kotel HaMa'aravi, the accepted custom is to daven
facing the Kotel and not the actual angle that would face the Kodesh
Kodoshim. (Piskei Teshuvot Vol. 1 page 738).  Perhaps this is based upon the
Mekor Chaim (94:1) who states that the Shechina has never departed from the
Kotel HaMa'aravi, and so we face the Kotel when davening and not in the
actual direction of the Kodesh Kodoshim (Ishei Yisrael page 215, footnote

Moreover the Gemara (Bava Batra 25b) informs us that a person who wants to
become wise should face south (direction of the menorah) and a person who
wants to accumulate wealth should face north (direction of the shulchan).
Rav Auerbach explains that this does not mean one should face north or
south throughout the Amidah, but only when he specifically asks for those
things during the tefilah.  Therefore, when asking for Chochmah (wisdom) one
turns to the south and when asking for wealth one turns to the north - but
not throughout the tefilah (Halichot Shlomo 18:1).

So in summary, the custom seems to be much more relaxed than actually
calculating the exact angle to face when praying.  Thus the Gemara in
Berachot cited above advises that one who cannot determine the exact
direction should direct his prayers to our "Father in Heaven" (yechaven libo
keneged Aviv ShebaShamayim).  (O. Ch. 94:3).  Additionally, if one is
praying beyechidut [by himself --Mod.], and one can concentrate better, he need 
not pray exactly in the proper direction (as long as he is not facing directly 
west).  So one may face a wall in order to avoid distraction even though the 
wall is not exactly in the right direction.  (Piskei Teshuvot, vol. 1, page 

It seems to be far more important to concentrate on one's prayers and to
direct one's heart toward HaShem than to obsess over getting the angulation
just right.  This, most likely, was David's point.

Steven Oppenheimer, D.M.D.

From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 12,2011 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Facing Temple Mount in prayer

I wish to thank both Akiva Miller and Steven Oppenheimer for sending me 
their postings ahead of publication, and this way I can also reply in 
advance. I hope that I am in time, so that my new posting can follow 

>From what I understand from both these postings:-

a) There is no issue of facing more than the next step of holiness up, 
so, for example, people at the kotel need just face the kotel which is 
to har habayit, and need not veer leftwards towards kodesh hakodashim.

b) One need not make a big issue and become obsessed with facing an exact 
direction, and it can also be an approximate direction.

c) Even if one does not know an approximate direction, one should not 
miss davening because of this, and one should direct one's heart to our 
"Father in Heaven."

I have the book Ishei Yisrael in front of me now, and he goes even 
further to say (p297 ; 23:8) that:

d) If a whole congregation faces completely the wrong direction, one 
should still follow their direction, but if possible try and direct 
one's face correctly. He quotes Rav Kanievsky for this.

I would like to humbly disagree on some of the above assessments.

1) At the kotel, there are often people veering left, towards the kodesh 
hakodashim. I looked there earlier on and saw at least a few people 
facing a bit towards the left whilst davening (I assume arvit):-


i) I feel the gemarra was talking practically, because up 'til very 
recently, it was very difficult to obtain exact directions if you were 
far away. So needing to face directly to Jerusalem, and not the general 
direction of Eretz Yisrael, if in galut, was not something that could 
easily be attained. In Europe Jews faced "East," even though for most 
places it should really be South-East, or even more to the South. The 
important thing was - if possible, one should try for more-or-less 
the correct direction.

ii) But if one does know a more exact direction, for example from where 
I am to har habayit - why not aim for it? Especially as there are 
already people in the shul who try and face more exactly. I substantiate 
this by seeing that many shuls where I am have the front wall in a 
pretty exact direction. I did some longitude and latitude calculations 
using http://www.csgnetwork.com/gpsdistcalc.html . The error margin I 
have between the two extrema of har habayit is just over a degree. I 
have the floor tiles underneath me that let me face 45 degrees from the 
front wall. I can also measure 2 across / 1 forward that measure 63.4 
degrees [Arc-tan(2)]. It is somewhere between these tile corners I need 
to face (my first email direction and distance was a bit exaggerated - 
will be happy to discuss privately to anyone on this list who wants to 
check with me). In any case, I doubt I am going to get it really exact, 
but at least I have the knowledge to face more-or less correctly. I 
realise that the halacha does not require any of this but am doing it 
as a hiddur. I am not alone as there are others who do the same (and so 
am not subjected to point (d) above). As more and more people face more exactly, 
I am sure that there will be people who "rebel." I also "rebel" against 
certain things that were once chumrot and there are people who are 
trying to make it general practice. I just like this hiddur for myself 
and despite the small threshold of just over one degree, the principle 
is that once I have initially calculated, I am no longer obsessed, and 
at least some of the time I might actually be exact.

iii) Ishei Yisrael book which as a practical halacha for today, refers 
to 3 stages - Jerusalem, Har HaBayit and then chu"l [outside Israel]. 
The wording is such that it puts in, at least once, Jerusalem and Har 
HaBayit in the same breadth (last words of 23:8) when referring to 
facing the correct direction and uses the same nuance of language as 
the Mishne Berura (quoted in Ishei Yisrael page 215, footnote 27 - 
Mishne Berura entries 8 and 13 on Rama of 94:2 ), i.e. face to Eretz 
Yisrael OR to Jerusalem AND the Mikdash according to where you are. The 
reason why the gemarra mentions Jerusalem (even when it was not built) 
is because of the concept that the Shechina has never departed from the 
Kotel HaMa'aravi. By veering left at the kotel we are still facing the 
kotel. Moreover, until approx 100 years ago, facing har habayit/the 
kotel/City of David/Old City of today - from outside of Jerusalem - was 
more-or-less synonymous in practical terms.

iv) If I try and face towards the more exact angle, I have more room to 
take 3 steps back and forward.

Is anything wrong with any of this?

v) In this second post, I did not yet mention facing either the newest 
Jewish shechunot [neighbourhoods] of Yerushalayim or an Arab 
neighbourhood sandwiched between the newest shechunot and the more 
central areas. I hope that everyone agrees that these can be considered 
Yerushalayim, from the point of view of our discussion, thus despite the 
hiddur of trying to face har habayit and the areas around this, from 
following the halacha, facing any of today's Jerusalem suffices. (Does 
anyone say there is a hiddur to specifically face me'ah she'arim <I hope 
this is a joke>?)

3) I also feel the subject of near-to-exact calculations is similar to 
other issues that effect us in our performance of mitzvot. One mitzva 
that I am thinking of is tephillin. How many of our (great-)grandfathers 
had tephillin that today would be considered kosher? Our measuring 
equipment of today is much more precise than that of a century ago. Thus 
our standards tend to be generally higher.  (Maybe this is a separate 
discussion on MJ.)

4) I like Akiva Miller's idea about going up in stages. After I 
submitted my initial post, I searched the MJ archives and saw that he 
also wrote something similar about 12 years ago. I am sure that many 
topics of discussion that are discussed now were discussed in the past. 
It is good, though, to hear some of the responses again and also to 
receive new perspectives on different issues. I still think, though, 
that if one can go directly from c to a without having to stop at b - 
why not?

Thank you for bearing with me (pun intended), and I look forward to more 

David Ziants


From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Fri, Jul 8,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Obscure Midrashim  and Aggadic Reasons

In response to Ira (MJ 60#20), re shalom zochor (and not nekevah) is brought by  
the Tur Yore Deah 265 "it is called shalom zochor because of what they  
said: when a male comes to the world peace comes to the world" (Talmud  
Bavli, Niddah, Perek Hamapelet).

The origin of time zones is in the Torah itself. The first occurance  
of the otherwise superfluous phrase "bechol moshvoteichem" (in all your  
dwellings) occurs in Shemot 12:20. Where else would one eat?
Therefore the rabbis learnt that yom tov and shabbat commences in all  
your dwellings wherever they are. The alternative would be that  
shabbat and yom tov commence all over the world at the same time as  
Jerusalem which in antiquity would have been impossible.

With blessings
Rabbi Meir Wise, London


From: Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...>
Date: Sun, Jul 10,2011 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Time Zones

Larry Israel <larry.israel@...> wrote (MJ 60#20):

> Where in the rabbinical writings is the first mention of the need for
> different time zones,

The artificial non-regulated construct of Time Zones over 150 years ago was
a brilliant concept designed to aid trans-continental commerce and transport
by use of standardized clocks.

Prior to this standardization, each town would designate the current hour
with the clanging of church bells, obviously not synchronized with any other

>  i.e., that it is not simultaneously noon everywhere?

There never was or could be "simultaneously noon everywhere".
For religious usage, the astronomic times of sunset, sunrise etc were
transliterated into the standard clock.

In Israel the standard time is according to the Cairo Timezone (GMT),
however there is the well known "Jerusalem Time" dividing the day into 24
equal hours each with 60 equal astronomic minutes and designating astronomic
sunset as being exactly at 6pm each day. Each day clocks have to be
readjusted to account for the various length of days.

> And where is the first mention of the need for a date-line?

There are references in the Talmud that reports of the new moon cannot be
accepted after astronomic noon in Jerusalem which is 18 hours after sunset
implying the day begins 6 hours to the west. Also brought down in the
midrash is that on the first Wednesday when the sun was put in position over
Jerusalem (ie noon) and at that point in time the whole world was Wednesday
until the first sunset began to hit the extreme east.

There are other opinions that since Jerusalem is the center of the world the
dateline should be 180 degrees from Jerusalem. The Muslims hold by 180
degrees from Mecca, while international agreements holds by 180 degrees from
Greenwich UK.

While there is a zigzag IDL allowing countries personal choice of
hemisphere, the Chazon Ish has a zigzag line forcing land masses straddling
the date line to maintain the same date.

Date conflict occurs in the areas between the Jewish and the International

From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Tue, Jul 12,2011 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Time Zones

In MJ 60#20, Guido Elbogen responded to me:
> Bernard Raab  wrote (MJ 60#19) in reply to me (MJ 60#18):
>> Crossing the date line (halachic or otherwise) requires that you change the
>> date on your watch. (I always wear a watch with the date on it -- my
>> mishegas)  If you are travelling west, you will move your date
>> ahead one day. If you keep traveling west (or never come back) you will
>> indeed have "lost" a day. Your next birthday will come a day sooner than it
>> would have if you had stayed home.
> You've got it the wrong way around. If you DON'T adjust the date on
> crossing the dateline, the date according to your determination -
> measuring by sunsets or midnights on which you will arrive at your destination
> will NOT be in sync with the local populace.
Which is exactly the point I was trying to make!

> Date is detemined by location and not personal calculation. For a location
> Shabbat always begins 7 sunsets after the previous Shabbat of that location.
> but for an individual, crossing the dateline, Shabbat could begin 6 or 8
> sunsets after his/her previous Shabbat.
>>> Up to the introduction of the International Date Line  every place on
>>> earth had at one time in their day exactly the same date and same day of
>>> week as everyone else.
>> Not really. A gedanken (mental) experiment: At any given moment, somewhere on
>> Earth they are experiencing midnight. The timezone to the west is 
>> experiencing 11 PM; the timezone to the east is experiencing 1 AM of a new
>> day. 
> No - its 11 PM and 1 AM of the same day. When the sun sets on or close to the
> dateline, all the landmasses that don't straddle the dateline will have the
> same date and weekday for a short period of time.
You seem to be operating on the assumption that the day/date changes for the 
whole world when it becomes midnight at the International Date Line. A moment's 
reflection will convince you of the fallacy of that assumption. When it becomes 
midnight in your house you change the date on your calendar immediately, while 
your neighbor one time zone to the west will have to wait another hour to do so, 
and your neighbor to the east has already done so an hour ago. None of us waits 
for the new day to begin at the IDL. None of us would ever know or care when 
that is. The IDL is a convention for globe-trotting travelers, and so that the 
whole world can have the same calendar; NOT the same day of the week; that is 

Samoa wants to be on the same day of the week as Australia and new Zealand, so 
they have moved the IDL just to the east of their island. They are now west of 
the dateline. (Just the same, Samoa will get to the new day a few hours before 
those countries.) American Samoa, just a few miles to the east of Samoa, will 
remain east of the dateline, since they prefer to be on the same day of the week 
as Hawaii. Since the two countries (Samoa and American Samoa) are in the same 
timezone, they will NEVER have the same day or date. If midnight on AS becomes 
Monday May 10, on Samoa it will become Tuesday May 11. AT THE SAME INSTANT!
They are looking forward to this feature becoming a tourist attraction. The 
implications for observant Jews are eye-twisting.

Bernie R.


End of Volume 60 Issue 21