Volume 60 Number 31 
      Produced: Mon, 29 Aug 2011 17:07:05 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Anonymity (3)
    [Kenneth Ryesky  Josh Backon  Batya Medad]
Does Halacha require a person to make up a minyan? 
    [Martin Stern]
Giving food to someone who said they couldn't feed their children 
    [Carl Singer]
Kavod HaTorah (2)
    [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Orrin Tilevitz]
Rabbainu Tam tephillin (was Family Mesorah) 
    [Chaim Casper]
Tzedakah (4)
    [Martin Stern  Chaim Casper  Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz  Susan D. Kane]


From: Kenneth Ryesky <khresq@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Anonymity

Martin Stern writes (MJ 60#30):

> I have noticed that in some newspapers, mainly those of a more chareidi
> ethos, letters to the editor often do not carry the author's name. While, in
> some exceptional circumstances, I would agree that this should be withheld
> so as to avoid embarrassing third parties, this is not usually at all
> evident in most cases. In my opinion, one should be prepared to stand by
> one's opinions and normally make one's name public, and not hide behind
> anonymity.
> What do others think?

I have, of late, made the same observation, and agree with Martin 100%.

Having stated this, I hasten to note that in some communities and
social circles the price of standing behind one's opinions can be
steeper than in others.  As has been amply demonstrated, some people
with opinions that do not tow the party line 100% actually do run the
serious risk of having their children expelled from yeshiva, having
the tires of their car slashed, having their windows broken and
having their houses burnt down.

Ken Ryesky

P.O. Box 926
East Northport, NY 11731

631/266-5854 (vox)
631/266-3198 (fax)

From: Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Anonymity

Martin Stern's submission (MJ 60#30) reminds me of the story about the 
shul fundraiser: "And I, Irving Bernstein of Bernstein Hardware, 29 Main 
Street, where you get the best deals in town, not like at that Ganiff Murray 
Cohen, he should choke, hereby pledge $500 ANONYMOUSLY !!!"

Josh Backon

From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Anonymity

I agree with Martin Stern (MJ 60#30) on this.  I blog under my own name.  
I stand by what I say.  I think that when you use your name, admit who you 
are it encourages honesty, integrity and clean language.  Halachikly it's on 
a much higher level than those who throw out words, whether as 
writers/blogger or commenting on what others write.

In terms of Hilchot Lashon Haraa, when talking about a person, leaving 
out the name is considered worse than using a name.  That's because 
those who hear the story start wondering who it is, toying with all 
sorts of possibilities. That wondering, going through a list in the mind 
makes it worse.

And in terms of the anonymous letter write or commenter, some people 
would try to guess who it is, which can cause the same sort of halachik 

Batya Medad


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Does Halacha require a person to make up a minyan?

Ralph Zwier <ralph@...> asks (MJ 60#30):

> It's the advertised time in a shule for Mincha (the afternoon daily prayer).
> There are twelve men currently in the shule. None has davened Mincha yet.
> Seven of the men are learning (or perhaps talking). The other five want to
> begin Ashrei. Is one (or five) of the seven non-daveners required by Halacha
> to daven in order to allow tefilla betzibbur (a public prayer service) for the
> Shule itself?
> I put the above scenario to a group of knowledgeable colleagues expecting a
> yes or no answer. (Albeit with a bit of fuzziness at the "edges.") The
> question completely divided the discussion into two divergent camps.

IMHO, the five who wish to start should appoint a shliach tsibbur who should
start Ashrei loudly (possibly banging on the amud [lectern] first to attract
attention). There is no need to ask them in advance since all members can be
assumed to know the advertised times for the tefillos and there presence in
shul at that time creates a presumption that they wish to participate. If
those who are learning, or r"l talking, do not join in, let them bear any
halachic consequences for their non-participation

Martin Stern


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Giving food to someone who said they couldn't feed their children

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...> wrote (MJ 60#30)
in response to my submission (MJ 60#29):

> 2. Since she is not in your community, how would she get the food to her
> family? This is similar to ma'aser sheni, where the food had to be
> converted to money in order to get it to Yerushalayim. While it would normally
> be correct to give her the food, the fact that she would be unable to  transport
> it, may require you to give her money. Similarly, if you shop at the same
> store that she does, perhaps you can then give her a gift certificate from
> that store. If you get enough people from wherever she comes from, perhaps
> you can arrange to get gift certificates (via the internet?) from her local
> store.

I want to clarify and simplify -- Woman said they needed food for their
children, so we gave them a bag of groceries.

As to getting it home -- the same driver (green Lincoln w/white vinyl roof)
who brought her (and 3 others) was going to take her home.
If or how she splits her loot with her driver is not of my concern.

Giving money to someone has its problems if that person is not necessarily

First, they may need to share it with their driver.   Second, they may not
use it for the purpose which you donated it.

I was once in a pizza shop when someone asked for money for food -- the
shopkeeper was none to happy and made some comments about this person's
drinking problem -- I offered to buy the man a slice of pizza rather than risk 
giving him money for liquor.  So I did NOT give him the benefit of the doubt -- 
but who knows?



From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Kavod HaTorah

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote (MJ 60#30):

> The minhag to which I am accustomed is that the shliach tsibbur [prayer
> leader] goes up to the Aron and the person given hotsa'ah vehachnasah [the
> honour of taking out the Sefer Torah and putting it back] hands the Sefer
> Torah to him. I have noticed that in some places the shliach tsibbur stays
> at the amud [lectern] and the Sefer Torah is brought down the steps to him.
> Another occurrence that also disturbed me was where the shliach tsibbur,
> when taking the Sefer Torah to the bimah [reading desk], made a detour so
> that some individual should not have to trouble himself to move from his
> place to kiss it.
> These struck me as showing a slight lack of respect for the Sefer Torah and
> I wonder what others think.

I would say that this is not necessarily the case. It could be that the
individual is handicapped in some way or would not be able to get to the
Torah otherwise. Similarly, I have been in shuls where this is done so that
the tzibbur can kiss (and show honor) to the Torah rather than trying to
crowd the area around the amud if the Torah is taken there directly.

This depends on the layout of the aisles in the shul.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Kavod HaTorah

Martin Stern writes (MJ 60#30): 

> Another occurrence that also disturbed me was where the shliach tsibbur,
> when taking the Sefer Torah to the bimah [reading desk], made a detour 
> so that some individual should not have to trouble himself to move from
> his place to kiss it.

In our little Young Israel in Brooklyn, the women's section is on the right side of the shul, extending from 
the back wall to roughly the shulchan. Most of the mechitza is a partition made of wood paneling, but 
towards the back there are a few feet worth of curtain. The men's section consists of several rows of seats, 
separated by a central aisle, running from roughly the shulchan to the back of the shul, with some tables 
in front of the women's section. As is true (with variations) in nearly every shul I've been in, in the U.S. and 
Israel, on Shabbat and Yom Tov the sheliach tzibur parades the Torah through most the men's section, 
down the center aisle and back. He also stops at that piece of curtain so that women who feel so inclined 
can reach out and kiss the Torah. Several years ago, one sheliach tzibur did not bother to do so, and one of 
the women (an elderly Ukranian immigrant who is not exactly meek) rushed into the men's section and 
kissed the Torah there.

There is one fellow who sometimes comes to our shul who loudly refuses to follow this custom, saying it is 
forbidden to bring the Torah to people. As the gabbai, I no longer let him be sheliach tzibur.


From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Rabbainu Tam tephillin (was Family Mesorah)

In reply to Martin Stern (MJ 60#30):

For what it's worth..... Rav Moshe, zt"l, wrote a tshuva to the Lubavitch
Rebbe, zt"l, dated the winter of 1980 talking about the obligation (or lack
thereof) of Rabbenu Tam tefilin.    Rav Moshe said that when he was in 
Europe he used to have two pair of tefilin, including a Rabbenu Tam version, 
but he didn't have Rabbenu Tam's version now that he was in the US (he 
said he couldn't find a pair that he "liked" though the tshuvah concludes with 
Rav Moshe thanking R' Schneerson for pointing out a sofer who could produce 
an Ashkenazic set of Rabbenu Tam tefilin)  He goes on to say that our hiyuv 
(obligation) for tefilin rests solely on Rashi tefilin.

As to someone taking off his tefilin during hazarat hashats as that might
distract him from answering Amen to the shaliah tzibbur's brakhot: This is
the position of Reb Chaim of Brisk, that one needed to be at attention
during the Amidah (tfilat hatzibbur) in order to focus on the Amidah just as
one is at attention during the private Amidah (tfilat b'tzibbur--see the
mishnah in Rosh Hashannah).  The Mishneh Brurah (obviously cognizant of this
shitah) said one need not stand at attention; one could sit but he had to
concentrate on the repitition of the Amidah (and the Mishneh Brurah
specifically ruled out learning during hazarat hashas).  Finally, the Arukh
haShulhan permits learning during hazarat hashats.

Consider also, if you would, the custom of giving tzedakah during hazarat
hashats.   On one hand, the mehaber paskins that we should give tzedakah
before the start of davening while the Sha"Kh suggests giving tzedakah when
we say the pasuk, "v'ha'osher v'hakavod milfanekhah v'atah moshel
bakol....."    Yet the closest thing I have seen to a universal custom for
tzedakah is that a representative of the kehilah goes around collecting
during hazarat hashats.

Taking the above into consideration, it would seem there is a stream of
thought that would permit doing something other than just paying attention
to the shaliah tzibbur and answering amen to his brakhot.

Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Tzedakah

Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...> wrote (MJ 60#30)::

> In any event, I was in the Rav's, zt"l, shiur when he was yelling at us that
> according to the RaMBa"M, it is an issur d'oraitha to refuse to give someone
> who is asking you for financial help.   Now, this does not mean that we have
> give our entire bank account.   The halakhah is clear: what we give just
> needs to be given with a lev tov--a positive disposition.

Even in the middle of saying Shema Yisrael? Surely that would be a case of
ha'osek bemitsvah patur min hamitsvah [someone busy with one mitsvah is not
obligated to perform another one]. Of course I am assuming that the person
asking for help is not starving and one's donation would be a matter of
pikuach nefesh [saving him from immediate death] though a sweet or a cookie 
might then be more apprpriate than a coin.
> Finally, Carl mentioned that some of the m'vakshim are driven around our
> neighborhoods by people who point out the dati and non-dati/non-Jewish
> homes.   On the other hand, there isn't a major (and many minor) institution
> in the US that doesn't have a full time fund raiser or development director
> who is paid primarily by commission based on the amount of money raised.
> Why should there be a difference with someone who drives the m'vakshim
> around?  They are giving their time, automobile gas, wear and tear and
> knowledge of the community.

>From what I have heard they take a very hefty percentage of the donations.
> And so I usually advise people to budget their donations but do it with a
> lev tov.   That way one does it like a mitzvah should be observed while
> still taken personal needs into account.

That is probably the most important point. It is not so much how much one
gives but how one gives it. During davenning, it is difficult to do more
than make a donation since, even in places where one is allowed to interrupt
ones tefillos, that is only for the donation itself not to carry on an

Once a gentleman came to our house and asked for a donation for hachnasat
kallah, I apologised to him that I could give him a large amount,saying
prutah prutah mitstareif [little amounts add up] and that I hoped he would
eventually be successful in raising sufficient funds. He looked at the
amount and said "But I have SIX daughters!" to which I could truthfully
reply that I had eight. His response was to offer to return the donation
because he felt I needed it more than he! However I told him to keep it.

Martin Stern

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Tzedakah

I do not mean to monopolize the discussion regarding tzedakkah by posting a
second time to the discussion, but I did want to add two additional points
as a follow up to Martin Stern's post (MJ 60#30).  (By the way, a grosser yasher koach
to Martin for his yeoman's efforts on putting together this discussion

I once was davening in a shul in Flatbush when a m'vakesh (petitioner) came
in off the street, went once around to everyone in the room during davening
(without saying a word) to collect tzeddakah, and then walked out presumably
to go to the next shul in a premapped route.   No one objected and from what
I observed, everyone gave something.   He didn't show a te'udah from the
local (or any other) community va'ad.   It was as if this was an accepted
part of our heritage. Very dignified and very matter of fact.

Finally, we in North Miami Beach struggled with this question on how to
balance the needs of the m'vakesh versus the needs of the kehillah.   Martin
listed five points in the davening when it would be awkward for the m'vakesh
to ask me for a contribution or for me, the potential donor, to respond.
All five are valid issues.   So we resolved the issue by asking the
m'vakshim to stand by the (inside) door to the davening room (shielded from
the elements) and to ask people for a donation as they are entering or
exiting the room; we make it clear that our custom is that the m'vakesh is
not welcome to go around the room soliciting the mitpallelim as they are
davening.  It has worked pretty well through the years and has allowed the
mitpallelim the opportunity to concentrate on their tefilot while allowing
the m'vakshim to ask for the help they are entitled to under the halakhah.

B'birkat Torah,
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Tzedakah

 Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote (MJ 60#30):

> Carl Singer <carl.singer@...> wrote (MJ 60#29):
>> For many of us tzedukah involves choices.   And it's the time of year
>> when Tzedukah requests start flowing in.
>> Halachically, we can iron out the "how much" -- the question then becomes
>> "to whom" -- both from a halachic and a social point of view.
> He lists various situations to which I would like to add the fellow who
> comes up to you in shul and loudly demands a donation:
> 1.  after you have put on your tefillin shel yad but are just taking the
> shel rosh out of the bag
> 2.  during birchot kriat shema
> 3.  while you have your hand over your eyes while saying the first verse of
> the shema.
> 4.  while you are in the middle of shmoneh esreh
> 5.  during chazarat hashats (even to the shliach tzibbur)
> OK, I have not actually seen case 4 but the others have really happened on
> several occasions. I just wonder why they cannot collect at more
> appropriate times such as during Psukei Dezimra or Ashrei/Uva Letsion. I have yet to
> see any who were on the verge of collapse from starvation for whom pikuach nefesh
> [danger to life] would justify interrupting (and in such a situation money
> might be too late, they would need food on the spot - imagine their reaction if one
> offered them  a sweet!) so it appears that we are being expected to do so purely for
> their convenience.
> Any comments anyone?

I have seen people put dollar bills or "tzedakah scip" on their shtender
(lectern) so that the people who come would be able to take without
disturbing them. I have not seen the situations described above as the
people who come know enough not to disturb the davening.

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz 

From: Susan D. Kane <suekane@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 29,2011 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Tzedakah

Two questions on this topic -- references to written material are welcome
if this is old ground and not interesting enough to discuss.

(1) I recently changed jobs and now I commute to a place where I pass a
significant number of homeless people begging on the street.  I know that I
should give people money (even a token amount) when asked, but I find it
incredibly difficult to do so.  This is not due to some sophisticated
political or religious objection -- I simply find the whole situation
emotionally difficult and my impulse is always to pull away.

In my ideal world, I would pay more taxes and my city would have no
homeless people and walking to work would be more pleasant.

Any stories of encouragement to share about how to overcome this impulse?
Also, is it acceptable to give food instead of money or some kind of token
(small gift certificates) instead of money?  I feel that if I carried
something specifically for tsedakah around, I would be more prepared and
able to give.

(2)  What are some general rules around tsedakah if you have debt?  My
understanding is that everyone must give at least a token amount, but
beyond that, if taking 10% of your after-tax income means that you cannot
pay creditors, which obligation comes first?

I've read a few things on this topic, but most of them deal with people
who have *significant* extra income.

What about debt vs. tsedakah or something like shul dues or day school
costs vs. tsedakah?  In North America, it's not uncommon for a middle
class family to have mortgage, car, and education loans in addition to
credit card debt.  There are also costs for day school and childcare,
summer camp (so that parents can work, not just for enrichment), health
insurance, and one should also save money and put away money for

None of the things above are part of "basic needs" as defined by the
Talmud.  The major costs of a household today are not food, shelter or
clothing.  So how does one calculate modern "basic needs" appropriately so
that tsedakah is not squeezed out of the calculation?

Let's say, for example, that you need to pay your child's college tuition.
There is no way to pay it and also to pay 10% of your income to tsedakah
that year.  Should you ... go into debt in order to pay tuition so that
you can pay tsedakah?  Not send your child to college?  Take the money
from something else on the list (retirement? savings? health care?)

Upper middle class and wealthy households may only use 50% of their budget
to meet modern basic needs.  For them, it may be a choice between giving
the correct amount of tsedakah or taking an international vacation for 4-6
people or giving up a business opportunity in order to give tsedakah.

But everyone else runs much closer to the bottom line, such that 10% of
their income may very well cut into a modern understanding of basic needs.
How does one calculate one's obligation in that case?


End of Volume 60 Issue 31