Volume 61 Number 68 
      Produced: Wed, 27 Feb 13 17:22:10 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Davening from the Bima instead of the Amud? 
    [Baruch J. Schwartz]
Do norms of modest attire change? 
    [Martin Stern]
Is the Torah true? 
    [Martin Stern]
Reading sepher tora in front of bars where aron is locked 
    [David Ziants]
Tu BShvat custom  -how many fruits? 
    [Stuart Wise]
Who Says So! 
    [Carl Singer]


From: Baruch J. Schwartz <schwrtz@...>
Date: Thu, Feb 21,2013 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Davening from the Bima instead of the Amud?

In recent years our shul has begun allowing the sha"tz to daven from the bima in
the center of the shul, a bima that was designed for leyning and previously used
only for that purpose, even though the shul actually has an amud nearer to the
front, opposite the aron kodesh, at which the sha"tz has stood for the last 25

At first, this was practiced on Shabbat and Yomtov, on the grounds that
some people could not hear some of the baalei tefillah well enough when the
latter davened from the amud. 

Next, by the "who cares anyhow?" principle, various minyanim started doing this
on weekdays too, at the whim of the sha"tz or some of the worshippers, on the
logic of "we all sit way in the back, so why should the sha"tz be at the front?"

I imagine that there is no actual prohibition in this, but it still seems
undesirable to me. I'd be interested in any knowledge or thoughts MJ readers may
have, especially in support of the trditional practice, according to which the
sha"tz should stand at the amud and the leyning should be done from the bima.
After, all, isn't this is how shuls are built? There must be a reason for it,
and diverging from it should be the less preferable option. I'd like some help
here from those more knowledgeable on the topic.

Baruch Schwartz


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Jan 22,2013 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Do norms of modest attire change?

This article by Rabbi Shlomo Brody which appeared in his Ask the Rabbi
column in the Va'eira issue (11 Jan.) of the Magazine of the Jerusalem Post
(noted there: he "teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel and directs the Tikvah Israel
Seminars for Post-High School Students") might form a basis for discussion
on MJ:


He introduced his comments with the remark:

> The recent publication by Rabbi Shlomo Aviner in the Shabbat newsletter
> Bahava Ubemuna of detailed guidelines for modest female attire (tzniut)
> led to a storm of controversy. In addition to establishing relatively
> stringent standards, Aviner prohibited certain types of fabric and further
> delineated methods for testing these standards (e.g. one should check the
> transparency of clothing against sunlight)...

He notes that:

> Many objected to the notion that modesty laws should be delineated in such a
> technical manner, as if depicting how to clean an oven before Passover...

> and should not be reduced to detailed discussion about the proprieties of
> bright orange shirts or unbraided hair... The obsessive engagement in pieces
> of clothing is in itself immodest ... [and] modesty norms are best taught
> informally at home or in school.

but, on the other hand, those of Rabbi Aviner's opinion:
> [would] retort that we are bombarded daily with immodest images in a society
> that promotes an uninhibited, provocative ethos. As such, it is important to
> bulwark our firm dedication to modest behavior through clear, unambiguous
> standards ... [which] in turn, relates to a central question: how do societal
> changes impact notions of modest behavior? ...

He then outlines the halachic guidelines toward female attire, as specified
in the the Talmud and the contemporary debate how to classify certain of its
restrictions on attire. He writes that:

> For example, the vast majority of late-20th century Orthodox decisors, ...
> believe that biblical norms mandate a married woman to cover her hair [yet
> some] asserted that this practice was dependent on contemporary norms of
> dress [so that] once modest women in general society no longer covered their
> hair, then modest Jewish women could follow suit because uncovered hair was no
> longer deemed provocative.

He then discusses the related area of dispute as to which areas of the body
should be covered where a similar difference of opinion exists and notes
trhat, similarly, some scholars have adopted a more

> lenient standard, in part because they believe that such attire remains
> fully modest within contemporary society. Yet even advocates of the latter
> approach recognize that there are limits to the impact of contemporary
> standards, especially in societies  including much of Western culture
> which do not share the values of modest dress.

I think I have summarised his article sufficiently and MJ members may well
like to comment on what is quite a divisive issue in the contemporary
Orthodox world.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Jan 20,2013 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Is the Torah true?

This article by one of the leaders of the Masorti movement in Israel, Reuven
Hammer, appeared in his regular Tradition Today column in the Va'eira issue
(11 Jan.) of the Magazine of the Jerusalem Post.
In view of recent comments on the movement in our digests, this might
clarify its difference from Orthodoxy and form a basis for discussion.

He starts with the apparently innocuous statement:
> Of course the Torah is true  but not in the sense of providing us with
> provable scientific facts concerning the origins of the world and humankind.
> For that I turn to scientists.
> If, however, I am seeking ethical truths and values by which to live and
> worthy beliefs concerning God and the way to relate to God and to my fellow
> human beings, then I turn to the Torah  the teaching of Moses. In this
> belief I follow the path of my teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and my
> teacher and colleague, Louis Jacobs, both of whom pursued truth fearlessly
> and did not hesitate to teach the Torah as the Divine book of eternal truths
> while simultaneously seeking scientific and historical truth elsewhere.

He then goes on to say

> the Torah is best understood when seen against the background of the
> religious beliefs of other civilizations of its time that it vigorously
> refuted. The account of creation in the opening chapters of Genesis, for
> example, must be read as a denial of all the creation stories of ancient
> Mesopotamia and Egypt  stories in which creation is a struggle between
> various divinities and primordial monsters.

i.e. the Torah is the work of a particular time and place and not addressed
to all people, in effect a human composition rather than Divine revelation.

While one might agree with him to some extent that

> a denial of all the creation stories of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt stories
> in which creation is a struggle between various divinities and primordial
> monsters

> ... is much more important than the question of how long it took to create
> the world, which is a question best left to science to try to answer.

it is the underlying assumption that the Torah is essentially unreliable
rather than that we may be deficient in our ability to understand it which
is the 'hidden agenda' that, I think, underlies the difference between
Orthodoxy and the Masorti/Conservative theology.

Martin Stern


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Thu, Feb 21,2013 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Reading sepher tora in front of bars where aron is locked

On fast days, if I work from the office, I, together with other regulars 
from the nearby buildings, go to daven mincha at a nearby little shul in 
another workplace which has a sepher tora, rather than daven in the 
building next door.

It happened that today (Taanit Ester), the later ashkenazi minyan could 
not open the aron hakodesh, because the person with the key could not be 
found. It is a sephardi style sepher tora that in any case (it is in a case but 
no pun intended) usually stands upright, so it was read through the 
latched bars of the door as they are wide enough to open the sepher up, etc.

It was an unusual situation and there was a bit of confusion of whether 
to say: vayhi binsoa, brich shmay, l'cha hashem before starting and yehallallu 
etc after the haftara as the curtain of the aron had already been drawn.
Also hagba was a bit awkward - but someone said the important thing is 
that everyone sees the text. Is there an issue of chatzitza (barrier) 
here or even for the actual reading?

Am interested to hear if anyone has anything to say on this issue.

Another question, relating to the boring old normal situation of sepher 
tora being taken out to be read. Should chatzi kaddish be said or not be 
said after ashrei on mincha of fast day according to various minhagim 
and if so or not so, which minhagim say and which minhagim do not say?

David Ziants


From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 22,2013 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Tu BShvat custom  -how many fruits?

David Ziants wrote (MJ 61#67):

> When I grew up in the UK during 60s and 70s, I was taught that the custom was 
> to eat 15 types of fruit - specifically, tree fruit - which makes sense because  
> the date in the Mishneh is Rosh HaShanna L'Ilanot(New Year for Trees).
> Nowadays, in Israel, it seems that traditional custom is to eat 30 types of
> fruit. Also, people seem to be more lax in including seasonable non-tree fruit
> like banana, pineapple, etc.
> What is really the traditional number of fruit? Are the sources only from
> kabbala books or is this documented as mainstream halacha/minhag? Was 15 used
> in Europe as a compromise because it was hard to find more than that, and 30
> really is the stipulated number, or has 15 fruit also got a well-based source?
Quite honestly, I never grew up with a minhag of eating 15 fruits, let  
alone 30. Are they to be consumed all at once? Given that Jewry was located 
mostly in Europe for a few centuries, where would they have gotten such a 
number  of fruit in the middle of the winter? Even in Israel, 30 would be an 
astounding  number.
Stuart Wise


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Mon, Feb 25,2013 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Who Says So!

One of the challenges of the internet is information overload.

A few weeks ago when, on Erev Shabbos, storms were predicted locally
(Passaic, NJ), several Rebbaim saw fit to disseminate their rulings
(opinions) on whether it would be OK to use the Eruv on Shabbos.
Some of the Rebbaim who sent email were Rabbis of known congregations here
in town, others were not.

I was taken aback because this is NOT the halachic process.  If one has a
question of fact one can ask an expert -- perhaps, in this case the chair
of the eruv committee.  If one has a question of halacha one should ask
their Posek - likely the Rav of their shul.

Since Passaic does not have a Shtut Rav (community Rabbi), is it overly
rebellious to ignore pronouncements from other Rabbaim as psak -- and
consider them only as "nice to know"?


End of Volume 61 Issue 68