Volume 61 Number 40 
      Produced: Fri, 28 Sep 2012 09:16:33 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Simpler piyutim? (5)
    [Dov Teichman  Poppers, Michael  Katz, Ben M.D.  Yisrael Medad   Martin Stern]
The latest chumra? 
    [Martin Stern]
What is the meaning of "TiTonu" 
    [Elliot Berkovits]
Whose baby is it? (3)
    [Robert Israel  Joel Rich  Yisrael Medad]
Yom Kippur machzor problem 
    [Stuart Wise]


From: Dov Teichman <dtnla@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 25,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Simpler piyutim?

I recently saw an explanation that the paytanim deliberately wrote in a complex
manner in order to avoid having their piyutim copied for Avoda Zara use. 

Dov Teichman

From: Poppers, Michael <Michael.Poppers@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 25,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Simpler piyutim?

I empathize with Stuart Wise's thoughts (MJ 61#39).  In general (re davening and
other aspects of Yiddishkeit), I prefer to emphasize quality (and understanding)
over quantity (and structure), but each methodology has its place.  Specifically
re davening (and this would apply in spades re
relatively-arcane/infrequently-said piyutim), I would humbly suggest that time
invested in understanding what one says is time well-invested. 

All the best from 
-- Michael Poppers via BB pager

From: Katz, Ben M.D. <BKatz@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 25,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Simpler piyutim?

Stuart Wise wrote (MJ 61#39):

> As we have completed two weeks of Selichos, I must admit that I do not  
> understand much of what I said. It makes me wonder whether people in the era  
> when the selichos were composed were so learned in lashon Ha-kodesh that the  
> tefilos held meaning for them. Some of the grammar is quite complex as is 
> the vocabulary.  It may be poetic and beautiful but for whom does that have  
> meaning other than lovers of literature.  Would it not have been better to  
> compose simpler piyutim?
> In addition, what is the source that the more you say the better? ...

This is an old problem - at least as old as Ibn Ezra, who complains about
piyutim with complex/improper grammar in his commentary somewhere in Chronicles
(can't remember exactly where right now) yet wrote piyutim himself.  I always
think it's better to say a few and understand what you say, otherwise they are
just a mantra.  I also believe people used to appreciate them more, otherwise
they wouldn't have survived, despite much rabbinical opposition (esp for  the
ones that were "mafsik" [interrupting the prayers]).  And just as it may take a
bit of effort to understand Shakespeare, but at the end it's worth it, I feel
the same about many of the piyutim.  Rosenfeld's British edition and even
ArtScroll do a pretty good job of translating/interpreting them; Goldschmidt's
edition (for those who know Hebrew) is a masterpiece, often explaining the
background and themes as well as listing the relevant citations and manuscript

From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 26,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Simpler piyutim?

Stuart Wise's desire (MJ 61#39) for simpler piyutim reminds me of my first thoughts
back in 1960 when I was introduced to Talmudic discourse, a great deal of it in
Aramaic with some of the explanations in Yiddish.  And yes, I am aware of the
woeful state of Hebrew even in YU (not to mention more Yeshivish yeshivot) but
nevertheless, if you want them made simpler, read a translation.  Just trying to
understand one stanza is a labor of love and, I will not hesitate to say,
holiness, given the intrinsic value of Lashon HaKodesh (Hebrew as sacred). 
Don't dumb down knowledge earning -  increase your Hebrew skills.

Yisrael Medad

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 26,2012 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Simpler piyutim?

Stuart Wise wrote (MJ 61#39):

> As we have completed two weeks of Selichos, I must admit that I do not
> understand much of what I said. It makes me wonder whether people in the era
> when the selichos were composed were so learned in lashon Ha-kodesh that the
> tefilos held meaning for them. Some of the grammar is quite complex as is
> the  vocabulary.  It may be poetic and beautiful but for whom does that have
> meaning other than lovers of literature.  Would it not have been better to
> compose simpler piyutim?

Stuart's criticisms have a venerable pedigree. Avraham ibn Ezra made much the
same observation in his commentary on Kohelet (5,1) with, in addition, strong
criticism of Kalir (the prototype payetan for Ashkenazim) for his neologisms
such as using words and conjugations that did not exist in (Biblical) Hebrew,
changing the gender of words etc., using veiled references and obscure allusions
and mixing Talmudic and Biblical language.

It seems to me that what is at issue in this dispute is "What is the nature of
language?" Ibn Ezra takes the 'classicist' position that it has an independent
existence (grammar, syntax etc.) to which people should adhere, whereas Kalir
sees it as something 'organic' that reflects the usage of people and therefore
varies from generation to generation, giving the payetan much more leeway in his

In general the Sefardim have followed Ibn Ezra and removed most piyutim from
their liturgy, retaining only a few composed in pure Biblical language by such
poetic giants as Ibn Gabirol, Yehuda Halevi and the several Ibn Ezras - the
'simpler' ones to which Stuart refers, though sometimes the simplicity is more
apparent than real.

Ashkenazim, on the other hand, have retained many of the compositions of Kalir,
and later followers of his genre such as R. Shimon Hagadol and R. Kalonymos of
Mainz, and include them in birchot kriat shema and the chazarat hashatz.

What we need first to understand is why Kalir and his successors made their
piyutim so difficult to understand. While there are other opinions, Kalir
probably lived during the Byzantine period in Eretz Yisrael when the government
was trying to pressure the Jewish community to apostatise to Christianity. Under
the Theodosian code, the teaching of 'deuterosis', i.e. Torah shebe'al peh -
Mishnah and Midrash, was prohibited to cut Jews off from the traditional
understanding of the Biblical text and leave them more vulnerable to Christian
(mis)interpretations. The payetanim therefore composed their works to transmit
these teachings through the liturgy but had to do so in such a way that the
police attending at the synagogues to enforce the ruling would not understand
what was being taught - hence the allusive style used. They could assume that
the people were familiar with the actual text of Tenakh and would also be
reminded of the midrashic interpretations by a brief comment, something that
cannot be assumed of most people nowadays.

They also managed to smuggle in polemic against the dominant religions but had
to be extremely careful to do so in a manner that would not arose the latter's
wrath with potentially fatal consequences. An example is the reference in the
pizmon [selichah with refrain said responsively] "Yisrael nosha Bashem" (10
according to Minhag Polin and 7 according to Minhag Lita and Minhag Ungarn) by
Shefatia of (Byzantine) Bari in South Italy to "kaleih [destroy] Seir vechotno"
which the police might not have recognised as referring to the Christians (Seir
= Esav/Edom = Rome = Christianity) and Muslims (chotno, Esav's father-in-law,
Yishmael = Islam). An even stronger polemic is R. Yitzchak ben Sa'adiah's
shalmonit "Eich uchal lavo (62 according to Minhag Polin and 64 according to
Minhag Lita, not used in Minhag Ungarn). 

The conditions under Byzantium were replicated throughout the Middle Ages in
most of Europe which explains the persistence of this sort of obscure style. The
Spain of Ibn Ezra's era was a relatively tolerant society, allowing a more open
expression but, even there, Jews had to be careful. The likelihood of rioting,
like that across the Muslim world in response to the recent amateurish film
caricaturing the founder of Islam, is the sort of thing Jews had to be aware of
everywhere throughout this period, both from Christians and Muslims.       
> In addition, what is the source that the more you say the better? Yeshivos
> tend to limit selichos to a few recited with great concentration.  I have
> no problem rising early for selichos, but other than feeling accomplished
> for having completed the extensive texts from before Rosh Hashanah, I can't
> say that I feel inspired other than by the few I can understand, or which
> the congregation says together.

Unfortunately at the speed selichot get said, most people probably are not aware
of their meaning. I try to say them with the traditional tunes but that means I
can only get about half way through each one before the shatz starts Kel Melekh.
Since that is more important I tend to skip the rest. This way I get some of the
inspiration and pick up some of the meaning. The alternative would be to sit
down each evening and spend a couple of hours looking over them in advance but
who has so much time to spare? Incidentally the verses (followed by Keracheim av
etc.) before each selichah (except the petichah [introductory selichah] and the
pizmon) are, if anything, more important since the subsequent selichah is based
on them. It is therefore better to say them and say less of the piyut, but not
many people are aware of this and tend to miss them out.

My impression is that the selichot are slightly less obscure than the piyutim
included in the regular tefillot which also get said at such a breakneck speed
that their meaning is lost on almost everybody. The only answer is to say them a
lot more slowly than the more familiar regular tefillot but that would prolong
shacharit on Shabbat or Yom Tov by an extra half an hour or so and on the Yamim
Noraim by several hours, something the average person would probably find
Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 27,2012 at 08:01 AM
Subject: The latest chumra?

Harlan Braude wrote (MJ 61#39):
> In Martin Stern wrote (MJ 61#38):
>> there is, as far as I know, no requirement to abstain from fish after
>> eating meat. In fact I have a copy of the menu of the chassunah seudah in
>> 1898 of my wife's grandparents, [...] at which the fish course was served
>> after the chicken and asparagus soup and the veal in mushroom sauce.
> But, the menu doesn't indicate what occurred between courses. That could
> have included a shot of whiskey and a half hour on the dance floor.

It is unlikely to have been whiskey in nineteenth century Germany - perhaps

Harlan's posting reminds me of a joke my late father-in-law a"h used to tell
as an 'explanation' of this custom of drinking spirits after eating fish,
which is particularly appropriate to this time of year.

Apparently, after Yonah was vomited out by the fish that had swallowed him,
the fish got together and came to the conclusion that the reason for their
fellow's discomforture was that Yonah had prayed to Hashem. They then
decided that, in future, if ever any of them were eaten by humans, they
would emulate his example. However we know that someone who is drunk is not
allowed to pray - in fact his prayer is called a to'eivah [abomination] - so
we drink something strongly alcoholic to prevent the fish from being able to
do so!

Martin Stern


From: Elliot Berkovits <eb@...>
Date: Fri, Sep 28,2012 at 05:01 AM
Subject: What is the meaning of "TiTonu"

I have long noticed that the Viduy section at the back of the very popular
Artscroll Machzor and paperback pamphlet 'Viduy' both translate TiTonu, the last
word of Oshamnu, as 'You have let us go astray.' I have since discovered that
this is based on the translation of the Chayei Adam. 

I do not however understand how this is correct grammatically or conceptually.
First, conceptually - it does not seem correct that a statement directed at
Hashem is somehow a confession (which I think Chayei Adam avoids by saying that
Ta-inu, and *perhaps* also TiTonu, is more of a general overview than a specific
confession), especially as all the other words are in the first person plural
('We have ...').

Grammatically too, wouldn't 'You have let us go astray' be something more like
'Ti-See-Anu' (tav-tav-yud-ayin-nun-vav)? 

I have checked Machzor Hameforash, both of Rabbi Birnbaum's interlinear sefarim,
Metzudah Machzor and one or two others, and all provide either 'We have caused
others to stray' or 'We have tricked/done crooked things'. The second
translation, I suppose, is as per 'Vehayisi Be'Eynav Kimesataya' (thus
justifying the tav-ayin-tav-ayin). I am not sure what the grammatical basis for
the first translation is. (Or is it *essentially* saying the same thing as the
second translation? )   

Either way the Artscroll Machzor and Viduy are the only editions of Machzorim
that I found that offer the translation of the Chayei Odom. Perhaps the
reluctance of the many other Machzorim to use it implies that they share doubts
regarding its veracity. I would only suggest that Lefum Reehato Lo Eyain Boh.

The curious thing is that the newish Artscroll interlinear siddur, translates
TiTonu as 'We have scoffed', the footnote clarifying that this is based on a
Passuk in Nach (I forget which) and then, very interestingly, adds 'Chayei Adam
suggests 'You have let us go astray'. I find it very noteworthy that they do not
use this translation in the body of the Siddur text itself, but only as a
footnote - although for intellectual honesty, if they really believed it was
incorrect, perhaps they should have omitted it entirely.

Can anyone, presumably more learned than myself in the intricacies of
Dikduk, help clarify?

Eliezer Berkovits


Tel: +44 (0)20 8903 5122
Fax: +44 (0)20 8903 7507


From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 25,2012 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Whose baby is it?

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...> wrote (MJ 61#39):

> I would not consider this the same as a "surrogate mother". This states 
> that the women had the uterus grafted in to their bodies. One question 
> would be where the eggs came from. If it was only the uterus that was 
> implanted, then it is still the eggs of the recipient. Even if the 
> ovaries were also implanted, it sounds as if the recipient is getting 
> pregnant naturally and not having a fertilized egg implanted.

> If this is the case, then I do not see how the uterus donor could be 
> considered a "mother" of the resulting infant.

According to the report at 

> ... they would need to go through an in vitro fertilization (IVF) process
> using frozen embryos which were fertilised before the transplants took place.
> The embryos were the result of the women's own eggs fertilised with their 
> partner's sperm

It seems that only the uterus was transplanted, and my guess is that the 
surgeons did not try connecting the recipient's existing Fallopian tubes 
to the transplanted uterus.  Of course this might change in future cases.

Robert Israel
University of British Columbia

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 25,2012 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Whose baby is it?

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 61#38):

> *Two Swedish women are carrying the wombs of their mothers after the
> world's first mother-to-daughter uterus transplants.  Specialists at the
> University of Gothenburg completed the surgery over the weekend without
> complications.  They were waiting until the women get pregnant to consider
> the procedures a success, they said. Michael Olausson, one of the Swedish
> surgeons, told the Associated Press: "That's the best proof."*
> Halachically-speaking, is the baby's mother the woman giving birth or the
> donor whose uterus developed the fetus?


In a Hungarian halachic journal, VAYELAKET YOSEF, published in 1907 [one year
after Dr. Robert Tuttle Morris' case report], a Rabbi from England asked readers
to comment on the halachic ramifications of the operation. He mistakenly claimed
that the medical procedure had been performed in England, even though it was
actually done in New York. The error most probably occurred because the case had
become the talk of the day among medical professionals in many countries, in
Britain as well as in America; he had probably read about it in a British
publication, and had therefore assumed the operation had taken place in England.

He sought opinions on three basic halachic questions:
Who is considered the child's mother - the donor, or the recipient?
Is the child considered a first-born?

Can such a procedure be performed on a mother and her daughter?

Several answers were published, but many seem to be relating to a different
medical reality. Some of the respondents quoted the Gemara in Chulin which
discusses a case of a fetus which moves from the uterus of one animal to
another. This seems to indicate that they had understood that Morris had
transplanted the uterus, or all of the reproductive organs.

Ovarian and uterine transplants are two very different procedures, with
different halachic ramifications. The question that the Rabbi raised about the
first-born status of the child would have been relevant had the procedure been a
transplant of the uterus, but it is almost impossible to apply the answers
published in Vayelaket Yosef to the actual question of ovarian transplants
[there was much ambiguity concerning the question in a previous edition of the
halachic journal, which may have given rise to the misunderstanding].

Joel Rich

From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 26,2012 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Whose baby is it?

Following up on the issue and the input from List members:

a) a brief discussion with a Rav (he supervises the Semicha tests of the
Rabbanut here in Israel) indicates that once the uterus becomes part of the new
body, the baby would be not of the egg-donor but of the surrogate female.

b) I did not ask whether the sperm that fertilizes the eggs is the son-in-law,
for example, which might raise a different Halachic considerations in the situation.

c) the Rav in (a) said that in his humble opinion, any serious Rabbi would
wait until the procedure is proven successful in any case before deliberating.

Yisrael Medad


From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 27,2012 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Yom Kippur machzor problem

It seems to me that it would be virtually impossible to recite the entire  
Yom Kippur machzor even, I think, if you started 6 a.m. (which my mother A.H. 
said is when they started when she was a child). Putting aside the 
different type sizes, I wonder whether it was ever intended to recite it all,
or was it more or less pick and choose. My shul says an average number of  
non-prominent looking tefilos, but I tend to say some of the others on my own.  
Again, similar to my difficulty in selichos, I wonder what went into the 
minds of those who compiled the machzor.
Stuart Wise


End of Volume 61 Issue 40