Volume 61 Number 93 
      Produced: Mon, 26 Aug 13 15:59:01 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A pronunciation problem (3)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Poppers, Michael  Art Sapper]
Adding 4 lines from Psalms following Shir Hama'alot (2)
    [Alan Rubin  Chaim Casper]
Changing Role of the Rabbinate 
    [Rose Landowne]
Heads up This Rosh Hashanah (2)
    [Richard Fiedler  Sammy Finkelman]
Twelve Months Mourning For Parent 
    [Martin Stern]
Wedding Custom (4)
    [Martin Stern  Abraham Lebowitz  Stuart Wise  Chaim Casper]


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 23,2013 at 01:01 PM
Subject: A pronunciation problem

Martin Stern writes (MJ 61#92):

> While I drew attention in my book (pp. 48-49) to the importance in
> distinguishing between similar sounding letters, in particular an ayin from
> an aleph (and by extension a final unsounded heh), this is virtually
> impossible for Ashkenazim who are have lost the ability to pronounce the
> gutturals correctly, especially the ayin and chet.

Pronouncing a guttural ayin, even a final one, and distinguishing between a chet
and a chaf are not hard with practice. I, a confirmed Ashkenazi with no recent
(in the last several centuries) Sefaradi antecedents that I know of, routinely
do this, at least the former, when I layn (which I do with a Sefardic

And not to universal acclaim: the gabbai (I think he is from Romania) in a
typical non-charedi Israeli (mixed Ashkenaz and Sefard although they daven
nusach Ashkenaz) shul I've layned in several times complained, saying "nobody
does that" (including the Sefaradim).

From: Poppers, Michael <Michael.Poppers@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 23,2013 at 05:01 PM
Subject: A pronunciation problem

In MJ 61#92, Martin Stern wrote:

> It is, therefore,
> difficult to understand the meaning of the comment in the Kitsur Shulchan
> Arukh (17,5) that one should be careful to pronounce the word nishba with a
> final ayin so that it should not be confused with nishbah with a final heh.
> I have tried to ascertain the Oriental Sephardi pronunciation of ayin (the
> Dutch/Portuguese use of ng is certainly problematic) and chet and find it
> extremely difficult to enunciate the former at the end of a word. As an
> Ashkenazi from Hungary, R, Ganzfried would presumably have also been hard
> pressed to make the distinction so it is not clear what he meant by this
> comment. 

I don't know if this is what KSA meant, but an unvoweled ayin at the end of a
syllable closes that syllable (one can see this in a situation where otherwise a
dageish qal would be elided -- to provide just one example from nusach
hat'filah, an oleh's closing b'rachah includes the phrase "nata' b'socheinu,"
where the dageish qal of the initial syllable of the second word would have been
elided if the first word ended with a heih rather than an ayin), and if one is
careful in pronunciation one will try to verbally indicate that "close"/stop
(another example from t'filah would be the aleph with a sh'va nach in "v'ya'dir"). 

All the best from
--Michael Poppers via Blackberry

From: Art Sapper  <asherben@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 24,2013 at 11:01 PM
Subject: A pronunciation problem

In response to Martin Stern's comment (61#92),  that he does not understand why
R. Ganzfried of Hungary, the author of the Kitzur Schulhan Aruch, recommended to
Ashkenzim that they distinguish netween aleph and ayin even though they and he
would been hard-pressed to do so, especially when the ayin ends a word:   

I have two responses.  First, it is possible that R. Ganzfried was aware that,
especially among some Ashkenazim (including, I believe, Hungarian chassidim) the
ayin was pronounced as an "an" sound, i.e., as a velar nasal.  Thus, I have
heard Yaakov pronounced as Yankov.  That is the origin of the "n" in the
dimunitive Yankel.  So he perhaps was recommending that pronunciation -- e.g.,
that "shema" be pronounced as "sheman."  This would have easy to pronounce, even
if odd to our ears.

Second, it is not impossible for Ashkenazim to pronounce the ayin as it likely
should be pronounced (not as "an" but as a voiced pharyngeal fricative, or the
like), though it is difficult to learn, I will concede.  Once learned,
pronouncing it at the end of a word is no more difficult than at the beginning
or middle of a word.  I would be happy to send sound files if anyone wishes.

Art Sapper


From: Alan Rubin <alan@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 23,2013 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Adding 4 lines from Psalms following Shir Hama'alot

This is my idea for the reason these four lines are added. I have no
evidence for it but it is as good an explanation as any other I've heard.

Shir Hama'alot is a very singable psalm being symmetrical and splitting
into two stanzas. There is a very common song structure which requires
three stanzas with the musical form being A B A. My theory is that at some
stage the extra verses were added to accommodate an ABA structure, possibly
for a tune that became popular. That tune is now forgotten but the added
verses remain.

Alan Rubin

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 25,2013 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Adding 4 lines from Psalms following Shir Hama'alot

Aaron Lerner (MJ 61#91) asked:
"What is the source for adding these additional four lines [tehilat, hodo, etc
at the end of Shir Ha'Ma'alot before Birkat Hamazon]?"  

It seems this topic has been discussed at least twice in the past in the Mail
Jewish forum:  

http://ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v15/mj_v15i37.html#CIK "Psukim after Shir
HaMaalot" (25 Sep, 1994) and  

http://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v57/mj_v57i56.html#CSI "Two Birkat Hamazon
questions" (21 Dec, 2009)

The 2009 discussion goes for a number of issues.   Just click on the link at Two
Birkat Hamazon questions -- that will bring to the index. There you can connect
to each issue the topic was discussed.   Just a personal side note.   I once
tried to sing it at my rebbe's (Shlomo Riskin) Shabbat table.   He corrected me
saying that the halakhah is to say tehillah 126 and tehillah 126 only.   No
mention is made of the additional pasukim.   So to this day I do not add those
additional pasukim. 

Chaim CasperNorth 
Miami Beach FL


From: Rose Landowne <Roselandow@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 23,2013 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Changing Role of the Rabbinate

Bill Bernstein wrote (MJ 61#92):

> I live in something of a vacuum so don't keep up on trends like this. I do
> understand that society changes and so does its needs in all things, rabbis
> included. But am I the only one to feel slightly uneasy with the "rabbi as 
> CEO" model, complete with MBA - toting rabbis? Or the congregation that nearly 
> went bankrupt building a $50 Million synagogue? I realize costs in Manhattan 
> (where this was) are higher and all. But is this really a proper use of 
> community funds? What else could have been purchased with those funds? Perhaps 
> I'm an old fashioned romantic but "rabbi as scholar-saint" seems more of an
> ideal to me.

In defense of that synagogue: The original plan was to finance the building with
the money from the sale of the old buildings.  It just got out of hand in a way
that nobody anticipated, more from lack of experience than from intention.  The
cost of steel went up, and there were problems with digging the site out, and
delays caused more cost overruns.  We are all thankful for the miracle which
brought the still anonymous donor to bail us out.

Rose Landowne


From: Richard Fiedler <richardfiedler@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 24,2013 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Heads up This Rosh Hashanah

In MJ 61#92, Avraham Walfish questioned my presumption that the case of R.
Yohanan be Nuri took place on Rosh Hashanah.

There are several reasons why I believe this presumption to be true. 

The sighting of the Old Moon is not normally possible in Lunar Calendar systems.
This is because each new month corrects for the errors of the previous month. If
I erred with a false sighting sunset after 29 days, this would make it very
difficult to see early the next month because in reality I would be a seeing
after 28 days. The length of a lunar month averages 29.530589 days and can vary
from 29.18 to about 29.93 days. 

The Yerushalmi sets the standard with the case of R' Hiyya who walked 4 mil by
light of the Old Moon. In my book I show that this requires that the Crescent
New Moon would happen 3 days after the Molad of Tishrei. This is very similar to
what will happen this year.

To get a 3 day difference 3 consecutive errors would be required - not possible. 

The Old Moon sighting I have predicted for Erev Rosh Hashanah which starts
Wednesday after sunset has a Crescent New Moon which will first only be seen
Saturday night. What makes this happen is that we have an implicit sighting.
Because we presume that the start of Rosh Hashanah occurs at the start of a
lunar month.

To put it succinctly, the only way for the incidents described in the Mishnah to
happen was if Rabban Gamliel was using the very same calculated calendar we use

Secondly I believe that both mishnayot are necessary for R' Yehoshua's claim.
The question here is what the witnesses really saw. In the first case they could
not really see both the Old Moon in the morning and the Crescent New Moon that
night. Perhaps they were mistaken in their sighting of the Old Moon, and the
question becomes, does an error in part of the testimony disqualify a valid
sighting of the Crescent New Moon. Comes the second case to confirm that indeed
the Old Moon was seen because it could not be that the Crescent New Moon would
not be seen again on the next night.

Furthermore in my opinion the second case cannot stand by itself because not
seeing the moon on the second night actually is the norm. The Molad of Tishrei
Study I made which is the basis of my book Sod Ha'ibur shows that 70% of the
time the moon is not seen on the first two days of the Molad of Tishrei. Most
people don't look and if they looked they could be looking in the wrong place or
a cloud could be hiding the moon.

The claim of the witnesses that they saw the Crescent New Moon, though false,
was not malicious but presumptuous. They presumed that since Rabban Gamliel had
opened the court which he would only do if it was possible to see the Crescent
New Moon it was a safe bet to assume that they could claim to have seen it.

Why did they mention a sighting of the Old Moon? Because it was so unusual. Such
happens less than 4% of the time with the Molad Of Tishrei. Such a time was
Tishrei 120 CE which in my opinion was the likely time this whole incident happened.

Richard Fiedler

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 26,2013 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Heads up This Rosh Hashanah

Richard Fiedler writes (MJ 61#91):

> It is a scientifically observable fact that the Old Moon and the Crescent New
> Moon can never be seen on the same day. Hence, Yochanan ben Nuri knew that it
> was impossible that the witnesses upon whose testimony the New Moon of Tishrei
> (and with it, Rosh Hashanah) was to be based could have seen such a thing.
> Notwithstanding, as the Talmud goes on to tell us, Rabban Gamliel accepted
> these witnesses. Not only that, he even forced Rabbi Yehoshua to accept them
> too, demanding from him to "appear before me with your staff and your money
> on the day which according to your reckoning should be Yom Kippur" - i.e. to
> desecrate the most holy day of the year, as it fell out by his understanding.

> What is going on here? Why would Rabban Gamliel accept a testimony that was
> blatantly impossible, and base the dates of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on
> it? It is my contention, along with a handful of traditional commentators
> that the dates were being fixed behind the scenes. Ostensibly using a
> witness-based system, the calendrical court was in fact using a
> pre-established calendar being secretly handed down through the Rabban
> Gamliel family line - a calendar that at a later date became publicly
> acknowledged.

There's very little doubt this was the case. Since the Torah says that people
should not deviate from the rulings of judge (or kohen) at the Beis HaMikdosh
- extended a little bit to a court - left or right, they took that as meaning
that whatever they said would stand.

And somewhere else maybe they had to some right to accept or reject wiitnesses.

It is logical to assume that they needed to encourage people to come, even on
Shabbos, because when the day they wanted to declare a new moon was too early,
or possibly on time but there were clouds, few people would see a moon. But on
any day, early or late , there would always be some people who would think maybe
there was a moon. So they used them when they needed them, and when they didn't
want it they disqualified these witnesses on one ground or another no matter how
good the they were.

Later on Rabbi Akiva explained how it was completely legitimate to accept those
dates declared by the Beis din  because it says in the Torah "asher tikr'oo
Osom" - "I have no holidays except those that have been declared." They had to
be declared.

Maybe some kind of freedom for the Beis din was also accepted as legitimate but
I am not sure where that comes from.  Anyway the idea of complete freedom to
declare whatever day they wanted was even eventually incorporated into the
Kiddush and the Shemonah Esrei with the phrase Mikadesh Yisroel V'Hazemanim,so
it's accepted.

Later on they dispensed with witnesses (about 358 CE)

After that there was no more proclamations, at least any that anybody waited
for, and if it continued for a long time, they surely hadn't been accustomed
anyway to wait for any proclamations outside of Eretz Yisroel, since they knew
what dates Rosh Hashonah and Pesach would be.

Still hundreds of years later than that, there was a calendar controversey in
the time of Saadia Gaon when the Chief Rabbi in Eretz Yisroel tried to adjust
the calendar differently from how it had been settled for generations, but
Saadia Gaon was successful in preventing that from being accepted.

The question is, when did all this start?

At an early point, they had also used calculation, or at least the Babylonian
months, which must be how the months got their non-Hebrew names.

Then, they decided the time had come for a Beis Din to proclaim the month,
perhaps to give honor to Eretz Yisroel. (or maybe indeed to use different dates
if possible)

For some reason they decided they needed witnesses. Maybe that was because they
were adjusting the calendar against the facts.

It was not always adjusted against the facts, or adjusted all the time the way
it is now, because the Mishnah and Gemorah deal with the possibility of Yom
Kippur coming out Motzai Shabbos as well as other things that are impossible to
happen now. You can find this in more than one place in the Gemorah.

But this must have going on at least a century before the destruction of the
Beis HaMikdosh because Erev Pesach on Shabbos was rare enough in the time of
Hillel for this to be a big event where Talmidei Chachomim had forgotten what to
do, and it is rare only when the calendar is adjusted as now.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 23,2013 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Twelve Months Mourning For Parent

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 61#92):

> The Shach (Y"D 344:9) states that if a parent commands a child not to observe
> the 12 months of mourning, it is a mitzvah to follow their command.  Does
> anyone know whether this is the generally accepted halacha?  Has anyone seen
> anything on whether "ruach chachamim" would be "noche" (The Rabbis would have
> a positive view)  towards a parent who did so command?

Strictly speaking aveilut [mourning] only lasts until the end of the
shloshim [thirty days after burial]. The long established custom that
children observe the restrictions for a full year is part of the mitzvah of
kibbud av ve'eim [honouring one's parents] so if the parent commands a child
not to observe it, it would seem that that is his or her honour, and it
would be wrong to go against their express wishes, as the Shach states.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 23,2013 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Wedding Custom

Katz, Ben M.D. Wrote (MJ 61#92)

> I know of no halachic reason why there should even be separate seating at a
> wedding.  Pretty soon men and women will not even mix UNDER THE CHUPPAH!  :-)

I have thought precisely the same. In not more than 50 years (present trends
continuing) I would expect the men and women to be at the very least in
different locations (possibly with CCTV connection if that has not also been
banned by then). The kallah will appoint a male relative, such as her
brother, to be her shaliach [agent] and he will accept the ring on her
behalf, thus effecting the eirusin. I am not sure how nissuin will be dealt
with but I am sure someone will come up with a way to avoid, what by then,
will be considered prohibited lascivious behaviour!

Martin Stern

From: Abraham Lebowitz <asaac76@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 25,2013 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Wedding Custom

Though there have been a number of postings on the subject of whether the
parents of the bride and groom should bring their son or daughter to the
chuppah, no one has referred to what I believe is the origin of the custom.

The mishnah (Ketubot Chapter 4 Mishnah 5) says: "She (the bride) is in the
custody of the father until she enters the husband's custody for marriage
(nissu'in). If the father hands her over to the husband's agents she is
then in the husband's custody.  If the father, or the father's agents,
accompany the husband's agents she remains in the father's custody."

Marriage/nissu'in, in contrast to the betrothal/erusin, included physically
moving to the husband's home, today symbolized by the chuppah. The mishnah
refers to a girl under 12 1/2 years of age but the principle is evident.

Therefore, it would appear that today it is the father's responsibility to
accompany his daughter to the chuppah.  If the father and daughter are to
be joined by a third person it seems much more reasonable that it be the
mother of the bride rather than either of the parents of the groom.

The Zohar, commenting on the phrase "and brought her unto the man" in the
verse "And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from the man, made He a
woman, and brought her unto the man." (Genesis 2, 22) says: "From this we
learn that it behooves the father and mother of the bride to bring her to
the custody of the husband".  The Zohar is specific in including the mother
of the bride. [The reference to the Zohar was called to my attention by R.
Reuven Kamenetsky, a grandson of R. Yaakov, cited in one of the earlier

It would seem that there is no reference to bringing the groom to the
chuppah as it represents his home and he is expected to be there already.

In any event, based on these sources, I would like to come down squarely
in favor of the parents of the bride and groom accompanying their own child
to the chuppah.

Abe Lebowitz

From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 25,2013 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Wedding Custom

Thanks for all the responses concerning walking down the aisle. If those  
are the accepted reasons, so be it, though I am still not convinced that it  
should be an overriding reason to deny a parent the joy of taking their own  
child to the chupah. Certainly if the acceptance of an in-law child is 
the  reason, one would have to ask why anyone would think otherwise, or as 
sometimes  happens, they don't accept that in-law child. Sabba Markowitz, I 
would curious what some of the other several reasons are. I hope the real 
source is not something that relates to the custom among chasidim of women 
eating in the kitchen while the men are in the dining room.

Stuart Wise

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 26,2013 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Wedding Custom

Stuart Wise wrote (MJ 61#91):

> I am still bemused every time I attend a wedding where the fathers walk  
> down the chasan and the mothers walk down the kallah, according to chasidish  
> custom. 
I would posit that if it is a Hasidishe custom, it has expanded beyond the
Hasidishe community.   When my son was married to a Har Nof girl a number of
years ago, the parents of the kallah insisted that the fathers escort the hatan
and the mothers escort the kallah.   My protest that in cases of minhag, the
minhag of the hatan (and by extension his family) is the way to go fell on deaf
ears.   In their minds, we would have committed a terrible (social or halakhic)
mistake.  And please understand, I dearly love my mehutanim (my litvishe mehutan
has written at least three serious halakhic books).   But I could not convince
them to do otherwise.   So he and I walked my son down the aisle and my wife and
the mehutenet walked the kallah down the aisle. 

I would add that this is one of many ways that our contemporary times have added
layers of "frumness" (if I may coin a phrase) to our weddings.   

37 years ago, my wife and I were married without a mehizah on the dance floor. 
 There was separate dancing, but no one thought anything the worst for it.   

15-20 years ago I noticed that people were using plants as a mehizah on the
dance floor.   

5-10 years ago people here in Miami were using 6ft high mehizahs on the dance

Today, I cannot go to a simhah here in Miami with a mehizah less than 8ft tall.
  After all, one can see through the plants and one can look over the 6ft high
mehizah (most people standing on a chair will be able to look over a 6ft mehizah
but not over an 8ft mehizah).   

Alas, it is only a matter of time before the trend setters realize that one can
see around from the sides of an 8ft high mehizah.      

B'virkat Torah and wishes for a shanah tovah u'm'tukah,

Chaim CasperNorth 
Miami Beach FL


End of Volume 61 Issue 93