Volume 62 Number 33 
      Produced: Sat, 13 Sep 14 16:31:45 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Altering Halacha (6)
    [Martin Stern  Chaim Casper  Chaim Casper  Dr. William Gewirtz  Robert Schoenfeld  Sammy Finkelman]
Blowing Shofar during Elul and not eating Matzah after Purim 
    [Irwin Weiss]
Hareidi enlistment into the IDF 
    [Chaim Aharon]
Is there an obligation to serve in the Army? (2)
    [Elazar M. Teitz  Rabbi Meir Wise]
    [Chaim Casper]
Loud Music 
    [Carl Singer]
Superstitious practices (was Reciting L'David Hashem Ori) 
    [Martin Stern]
Unmarried minor wearing tallis over his head (3)
    [Joel Rich  Martin Stern  Chaim Casper]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Altering Halacha

I wrote (MJ 62#29):
> Yisrael Medad  wrote (MJ 62#28):
>> Are there reasons so that a paradigm can be constructed?  And, finally, what
>> does that reflect on how halachic practice can be changed?
> Perhaps I am reading too much into the way Yisrael frames his final question
> but it seems to imply that there is some desirability in changing halachic
> practice and the only problem is what criteria can be found for so doing. I
> would strongly reject this (and hope that I have misunderstood Yisrael) as
> this was precisely the mind frame of the initiators of the Reform movement
> such as Aaron Chorin. They wanted to alter Judaism to fit in with
> contemporary fashions and tried to find pseudo-halachic justifications for
> their 'modernising' innovations.

It has been pointed out that my response might be misunderstood as implying that
Yisrael might be suspect of Reform leanings, rachmana litzlan. This was far from
my thoughts - the only point I wished to make was that his using rather
ambiguous phraseology in asking "how halachic practice can be changed?" could be
misinterpreted in that way. I apologise for not perhaps having made this
distinction absolutely clear. 

I wish to humbly suggest we all be careful about the nuances of our written words and 
not rely on other readers (or moderators) correctly interpreting them.

Martin Stern

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Altering Halacha

Bill Bernstein wrote (MJ 62#32):

> I remember in a tape by Rav Frand on Mourning the Destruction of the Temple he
> cites an example where the Shulchan Oruch states that when one renovates or
> builds one's house one should leave part of one wall unfinished "zecher 
> churban [in memory of the destruction]".  And R' Frand notes people don't do 
> this anymore.  I don't recall what reasons he gives for it, more than klal 
> Yisroel just doesn't do it.  And I suspect that is the reason in many things: 
> the specific din (law) fell by the wayside from disuse.

There is a rule that in determining what is the practical halakhah, one does not
extrapolate from what people do, or do not do, to determine what is the
practiced and normative halakhah.   With that being said, many of my friends and
family in Israel leave a part of the wall near the front door that is never
painted or otherwise finished.

I and many of my friends here in the US would like to observe this halakhah
except that we have bought pre-used (ooh, I hate that term) homes; as a result,
the previous owners have completely finished the house so leaving an unfinished
part of a wall is a moot question.

Thus, I do not understand Bill's and Rav Frand's comment that "the specific din
(law) fell by the wayside from disuse."  

B'virkhat Torah,
Rabbi Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL 33162

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Altering Halacha

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 62#29) as an example of the altering of the halakhah:

> One that comes to me immediately is the widespread practice outside of Israel
> of not eating in the sukkah on shemini atzeret. 

Orrin correctly quotes the gemara [Sukkah 41a] and the Shulhan Arukh (Orah
Hayyim 668:1) that the normative halakhah is that people outside of Israel eat
in the sukkah on Shmini Azeret without making the b'rakhah, Leyshev Basukkah.  
(The Mishneh B'rurah 668:5 says the universal custom is that people do not sleep
in the sukkah on Shmini Azeret.) 

I believe I saw in Eliyahu Ki Tov's Sefer To'da'ah a number of reasons why, in
spite of the gemara and Shulhan Arukh's ruling, some people have a custom to not
eat in the sukkah on Shmini Azeret: 

A) Shmini Azeret kiddush includes the brakhah "She'he'hi'ya'nu" because as the
gemara says, Shmini Azeret is a holiday by itself.   She'he'hi'ya'nu wasn't said
at all over hol hamoed.   Thus, if we start saying it anew on Shmini Azeret,
that must indicate we have a new holiday.   And since this new holiday isn't
Sukkot, we have no need to be in the sukkah. 

B) We no longer bless lulav and etrog on Shmini Azeret (in fact, I believe they
are mukzah on Shmini Azeret).   Thus, how can one say it is still Sukkot?  It
must be another holiday which doesn't require us to eat in the sukkah. 

C) We daven the prayer for rain on Shmini Azeret.   Why would we ask for rain
while we are eating in the sukkah?   That would go against the first mishneh in
Masekhet Ta'anit. 

There maybe other reasons (I don't remember).   But the point is simple:  All of
these reasons are halakhikly based answers which were developed through the
halakhah.   They came about through an appropriate process which in of itself is
part of the halakhik system.

Maybe it's me, but "altering halacha" implies that people on their own (on a
whim?) decide to change the halakhah, something I don't see and cannot accept.   

B'virkhat Torah,
Rabbi Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL 33162

From: Dr. William Gewirtz <wgewirtz@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Altering Halacha

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#32):

> The custom here in Manchester among non-Chasidim is to eat all meals (but
> not sleep) in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret. I believe the Chasidim eat the
> day meals, but not the evening one either because they have hakafot or they
> are excused since the lights will have gone out before they return
> afterwards.

Manchester is slightly further north than Warsaw, but I suspect slightly more
temperate.  Both sleeping in the Sukkah as well as the custom of eating lunch,
but not the night meal, on Shemini Atzeret are discussed in a paper of mine
published a few years ago on the Seforim blog.

From: Robert Schoenfeld <frank_james@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Altering Halacha

In reply to Bill Bernstein (MJ 62#32):

One reason we do not leave a small section of a house unfinished is that we do
not usually build our houses ourselves. A builder does it for us and in most
cases does it for many other houses at the same time, or we buy a house already
built that has one or more previous owners who may have been non-Jews.  

There may be people that still leave a small section of a house unfinished like in 
Kiriat Joel etc.


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Sep 12,2014 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Altering Halacha

Yisroel Medad asks (MJ 62#28): in regard to altering halacha

> As to why we do not practice this in places where this suspicion does not
> exist, I have no answer except the above suggestion that there is a
> replacement custom in place. As for places today, such as student dorms or
> single's digs, where beds are used for sitting, and why the custom is not to
> turn them over, I do not know.

The answer is very simple. There is no longer any Mesorah for it (in terms of
personal experience). Also, of course, if it no longer accomplishes its original
purpose, and would in fact not be the same thing.

> But my query is: are there other such examples of withering or altered
> halachot?

The biggest, of course, is wearing tzitzis without techeiles, even though we
may have finally figured out correctly in the 1980s what it is and how it is made.

This is a truly amazing thing, because it is Halacha D'Orosiyah to have dyed one
string with techeiles, and the problem can be avoided altogether. Yet the Geonim
must have ruled differently.

It is thought that by the 600s, because the same color dye could be made more
cheaply from the indigo plant, techeiles was only being made for Jews, and the
works (in Lebanon) must have been destroyed in the wars between the Byzantine
Empire (or the Roman Empire as it was then still called) and the Persians, or
the later wars with the Moslems.

Previously, before techeiles became completely unavailable,  it must have been
unavailable or scarce in places - the way esrogim can be - and rulings must
have been issued by the Geonim as to what to do in the absence of techeiles.

I think the reasoning was (based partly on something maybe I read) that, first
of all, the strings are a separate Mitzvah from the techeles (Devorim 22:12)

See http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0522.htm

And it was a mitzvas aseh but not a mitzvas lo sa'aseh (except for the general
mitzvah of not going against the Torah)

So if you didn't have techeiles and you had a garment you should just put the
strings without the techeiles.

And they said this maybe because they didn't want to lose an entire mitzvah -
especially one that fell into the category of eduyos - witnessing - Jews who
could not get techeiles should wore garments with strings but without techeiles.

Perhaps there was also something a little bit of horayah here - the halachah of
following rulings.

Another example may be tearing keriyah upon seeing the ruins of the Temple
because we don't know precisely where the Temple was. (see Tosfos Shevuous 14b
at V'ne'elam which describes the situation circa 1210-1244)


More recently we have such things as making kiddush over grape juice with a
brochah like for wine; how to handle the second day of Yom Tov in Eretz Yisroel
and how it should be handled by people who live or lived in Eretz Yisroel when
they are in Chutz L'Aretz; and what is, or is not, kitniyos or to be treated as

And there is another thing. This one is more a change in halacha L'Maaseh than
actual halacha: Putting out an uncontrolled  fire on Shabbos.

We read in the Gemorah and also in some Halachah books like Artscroll's study
for the sedrah, and even in places in Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah about not
putting out a fire on Shabbos.

Yet we never read of this actually happening - about a fire being allowed to burn.

The closest I read was of some Talmid Chacham in the pre-World War II period who
didn't take advantage of a heter.

Chapter 41 of  Shemiras Shabbos K'hilchasah starts off by saying:

"1. a. If a fire breaks out and there is even the remotest fear that human life
may be in danger, one must do all one can to see that it is put out ...

e. the rule set out in this paragraph ought to be given the widest publicity"

I am not sure what the reason for this is. A whole sugya in shas may be lost
here. But I think the reason could be:

1) It is now much more possible to put out a fire than it once was.

2) We are much more makpid on Pikuach Nefesh than we once were.

Another one  is the change - that changed already before the Rambam put it in
his Mishneh Torah in Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh - of not declaring a leap year in
a shemittah year.

The Rambam says that although the change is mentioned in the Talmud Yerushalmi
Shekolim Perek 1 Halachah 2.

> Are there reasons so that a paradigm can be constructed? And, finally, what
> does that reflect on how halachic practice can be changed?

There are several different ways:

1. something dies out for practical reasons and later there is no mesorah to
reinstate it,

2. there is a revival of an old ruling, or what is thought to be one,

3. some are things that could be interpreted in different ways.

4. It is not an actual change in Halacha, but a change in L'Maaseh [how it is
implemented in practice].

5. It is not a Halacha but a customary practice.


From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 10,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Blowing Shofar during Elul and not eating Matzah after Purim

I note that the custom is to blow shofar every weekday morning at the conclusion
of Shacharit during the month of Elul, which, obviously, precedes Rosh Hashana.
Then, on Rosh Hashana, sometimes called Yom Teruah (day of the blowing of the
shofar) we blow shofar with great fanfare at shul.

I note that also the custom is NOT to eat Matzah after Purim in the final month
prior to Pesach.  Thus, when at your Seder, after the appropriate Berachot, you
eat Matzah, it has a new and fresh taste and it is unmistakably Pesach.

Why do we NOT eat Matzah for a month so that that taste is fresh at the Seder,
and yet, we blow Shofar each weekday in the month prior to Rosh Hashanah? Is
there not a contradiction here?

Irwin E. Weiss
Baltimore, MD


From: Chaim Aharon <chaim.mat@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 10,2014 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Hareidi enlistment into the IDF

In reply to Yisrael Medad (MJ 62#32):

The article he posted shows how numbers are manipulated for political purposes.
Another analysis


states inter alia that

"Hiddush CEO Uri Regev explains in fact, chareidi enlistment is down
sharply, cut by half as a result of the new draft law. Hiddush details that
in the first half of the July to December of the 2013-2014 draft year,
1,235 chareidim entered the IDF but what is more significant is the
remainder of the draft year, January to July during which induction numbers
dropped to 623 chareidim as the consequences of the draft law were seen."

Kol tuv,


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Is there an obligation to serve in the Army?

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 62#32): 

> as to the longstanding opinion that the paradigm of "the tribe of Levy"
> frees all Torah scholars, in toto, from this duty, I would humbly suggest
> that this is a manipulation. Incidentally, there is the obverse, that "they
> have no portion".  I would note that those refusing to serve are invited to
> refuse as well all that the state provides monetarily for them.

Without getting involved in the discussion of which this is a part, it should be
pointed out that the verse quoted, "that they have no portion," proves the exact
opposite of what Yisrael seeks to derive from it.  What the verse states is that
because the tribe of Levi has no portion (in the land), it is the obligation of
the rest of the nation to support them, by giving them a tithe of all crops.


From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Is there an obligation to serve in the Army?

In response to Yisrael Medad (MJ 62#32):
It was Yisrael Medad who raised the "paradigm" of the tribe of Levi. Wriggle as
he might, they were supported by the other tribes!

With best wishes

Meir Wise


From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Latecomers

In MJ 62#32, Martin Stern raised the issue of what should latecomers daven when
they finally get to shul.

There is an order in Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayyim as to what one should say in
order to "catch up" with the others as s/he could always say after the communal
davening those items that were left out in the attempt to catch up.   

A friend once quoted the Mishneh Brurah (I never saw the original quote) who
said that if a latecomer felt skipping certain things in order to catch up would
take away from one's davening, then one should say the entire davening in
sequential order even though one would not be davening with the community. 

True, the world is not filled with Yekkes (German Jews, a synonym for people
being on time).  As a result, the halakhik process accomodates those who have
yet to internalize, z'rizim makdimim l'mizvot (those who are meticulous in doing
the mizvot come early).

B'virkhat Torah,
Rabbi Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL 33162


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Loud Music

In reply to Deborah Wenger (MJ 62#32):

I bring earplugs to weddings and keep several sets in my glove box. However they
are not that effective or that comfortable -- and conversation / voice
modulation is difficult

It seems that handing out earplugs is akin to dispensing a cure to go with the
poison rather than removing the poison.

*Carl A. Singer, Ph.D.Colonel, U.S. Army Retired
70 Howard AvenuePassaic, NJ  
my website:  www.ProcessMakesPerfect.net


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 10,2014 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Superstitious practices (was Reciting L'David Hashem Ori)

Stu Pilichowski wrote (MJ 62#32):

> With reference to previous contributors' comments, I don't understand why
> "later additions" to our traditions is taboo in the eyes of the GRA and
> others. Isn't halacha and tradition a vibrant organism that grows and changes
> with the times? Why do practices close with the Rishonim? If Klal Yisroel
> accepts something upon itself (there are many examples) why isn't that
> acceptable enough?

While I cannot comment on why the GRA and others objected to "later additions"
to our traditions, Stu's suggestion that we can rely on Klal Yisroel having
accepted something upon itself without specific rabbinic approval, or at least
the absence of disapproval, opens the floodgates to all sorts of superstitious
practices which may themselves be contrary to halachah.

Martin Stern


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Unmarried minor wearing tallis over his head

Chaim Tatel wrote (MJ 62#32):

> Yesterday I had the opportunity of leining in shul. A kid was called up for
> Kohen (he was 13, maybe 14). Before the bracha, he put the tallis over his 
> head. This is the second time I saw a kid do this in shul. I commented to him 
> that this must be a new minhag. He replied that he was a Yekke (Jew of German 
> origin) and that's what they do. I know a lot of German Jews, having davened in 
> their shuls occasionally, and never saw this. Seems to me this is mechze 
> keyuharah (giving the appearance of arrogance)

R' Yosef Ber Soloveitchik held it should be done for all dvarim shebekedusha.

For a range of opinions on tallit head covering listen to: 

Joel Rich

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Unmarried minor wearing tallis over his head

In reply to Chaim Tatel (MJ 62#32):

The German Jewish minhag was that ONLY the Rav of the kehillah covered his
head with a tallit, all other men wearing a hat except on the Yamim Noraim
when everyone wore a white cappel. It was deemed mechze keyuharah for anyone
else, even a recognised talmid chacham, to put his tallit over his head and
the shammas would tell anyone seen doing so to stop immediately. Wherever
this boy found his custom, it certainly was not as a Yekke.

Martin Stern

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 9,2014 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Unmarried minor wearing tallis over his head

In reply to Chaim Tatel (MJ 62#32):

Many years ago, when I was in Yeshiva, I had a rebbe, Rabbi Sherman Siff, the
Rabbi of the Young Israel of the Lower East Side (Manhattan, New York), who said
that according to all poskim, such a thing was halakhikally improper.

However, there was one exception:  Rabbi Siff quoted the Rav, Rabbi Joseph Dov
Halevi Soloveitchik, zt"l, who permitted it.

I never saw in writing any of the piskei halakhah (practical halakhah) in question.

B'virkhat Torah,
Rabbi Chaim Casper
17350 NE 12th Court
North Miami Beach, FL 


End of Volume 62 Issue 33