Volume 62 Number 35 
      Produced: Sun, 28 Sep 14 04:14:22 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

An Increasingly Difficult Annual Decision 
    [Yaakov Shachter]
Blowing Shofar during Elul 
    [Perets Mett]
Kappel (was: Unmarried minor wearing tallis over his head) (2)
    [Perets Mett  Jeanette Friedman]
Mangled piyutim 
    [Martin Stern]
Reciting L'David Hashem Ori 
    [David Ziants]
Some points from selichot 
    [Martin Stern]
Who was Kalir? 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Yaakov Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 24,2014 at 01:01 AM
Subject: An Increasingly Difficult Annual Decision

I just finished studying Parashath Ha'azinu, and, however much I
would like to, I cannot avoid the awareness that soon I shall have to
make the increasingly difficult annual decision of what to read next
year for Shnayim Miqra V'Exad Targum, a Jewish man's obligation to
read the Parasha every week

(Footnote: If you live in or come from a community that divides the
Torah into weekly Parashoth, and -- ever since the Christians
exterminated the native Jewish communities of Eretz Yisrael during the
time of the Crusades -- we all do.)

twice in the original Hebrew, and once in a translation or commentary
(although the terminology is somewhat redundant, since every
translation is perforce a commentary).

For the past several years, I have sought help in making this decision
from my erstwhile editor, he should live and be well biz hindert in
tzvantzik, but each year the decision gets harder, and this year, for
the first time, I am soliciting advice from the mail.jewish community.
So that you not be placed into the conversation in medias res,
herewith are excerpts from past correspondence with my editor, he
should live and be well:

 Reb ______,

 It has been 5 years since you sent me the following advice:

 > The question is whether at some point you will be willing to leave
 > the derekh ha-peshat and go on to a less time-bound approach to
 > Humash.  All commentaries are time-bound in that their set of
 > questions and methods are rooted in their own historical time; but
 > the derekh ha-peshat (at its purest) attempts to unravel the
 > historical development of culture and bring us back to the "original
 > meaning" in its original context -- in the case of Humash, to the
 > Dor Hamidbar.  If you are, then there are other approaches, such as
 > more philosophical, kabbalistic or hasidic.  At any rate, in my
 > teenage years I really enjoyed the Malbim, even though even then I
 > began to realize that his idea of peshat was very far from that of
 > the Rishonim.  Alternatively, for a profound hasidic approach I
 > wiould recommend Shem mi-Shemuel.  However, be warned: neither of
 > these is short, though the latter is perhaps more doable than the
 > Malbim.  Kol tuv, and let me know what you decide and how you make
 > out.  Since Hodesh Elul has already begun, shanah tovah u-metuqah.

 You asked me to let you know what I decide and how I make out.  Here
 is an update, and then I shall ask you for more advice.

 I did read the Shem mi-Shemuel that year for my Shnayim Miqra V'Exad
 Targum.  It was not short, but I dealt with that: each parasha of the
 commentary is divided into parts: this part was written in Year A,
 this part was written in Year A+1, this part was written in Year A+2,
 this part was written in Year A+3, et cetera.  So, I just read, for
 each week, the parts that were written in the first two years.  I
 could always read other years on another occasion.

 That was my Exad Targum for that year, two years' worth of the Shem
 mi-Shemuel.  I did not like it, and, what is not quite the same thing,
 I did not think that I derived much benefit from it.  My core problem
 with the Shem mi-Shemuel is that he allows himself to say whatever he
 wants, regardless of logic.

 Let me explain.  Normally, when intellectually responsible people
 speak, and even more so when they write, they feel obligated to
 observe certain laws of logic.  Thus, if you assert that A=B, and you
 assert elsewhere that B=C, you are obliged to assert (or, at least,
 not to deny) that A=C.  Similarly, your assertions that A<B and that
 B<C obligate you to assert that A<C.  And (forgive me if I belabor the
 point), if you assert that A=B, and that B!=C (that's supposed to look
 like a "not equals" symbol, I don't have one on my keyboard), then you
 must assert that A!=C.

 The author of the Shem mi-Shemuel does not subject himself to any of
 these constraints.  He evades the obligations of logic, by using words
 without meaning.  He will say, for example, A=B in pnimiyuth, whereas
 A=C in xitsoniuth, so the fact that B obviously does not equal C does
 not trouble him.  Or he will say that A=B bkhoax, whereas A=C bfo`al.
 Or, since everything has a nefesh, ruax, and neshama, the nefesh of A
 is B, whereas the ruax of A is C, and the neshama of A is D.  As far
 as I can tell, these are all terms entirely without semantic content,
 and he is not teaching Torah, or anything else, since he is not
 uttering articulate propositions, he is darkening counsel with words
 without meaning.  I was therefore genuinely surprised that you, who I
 have other reason to believe are a highly intelligent man, describe
 this book to offer a "profound hasidic approach".  Despite your
 intelligence, you seem to have been taken in by the scam that when
 people use words like "nefesh", "ruax", or "neshama", they know what
 they are talking about.  They do not.  No one does.

 The following year, I read Mendelssohn's Beiur (a misattribution; he
 only wrote parts of it, although he did edit the entire work).  I had
 asked your opinion about that before, prior to receiving the
 above-quoted advice, and you told me not to, but I did it anyway
 (although I postponed it, and didn't do it the year you told me not
 to).  I told you that Reb Itzele of Volozhin used to study the Beiur
 every week.  You wrote back that the xiyyuv of Shnayim Miqra V'Exad
 Targum is to study "with the tzibbur", and that, regardless of what
 Reb Itzele of Volozhin did, the "tzibbur" in our day has rejected the
 Beiur, so one cannot be said to be fulfilling the obligation of
 studying with the "tzibbur" by studying a work that the "tzibbur" with
 which one is contemporaneous has rejected (I am expanding your
 argument, you used fewer words).  I have learned more recently that,
 not only did Reb Itzele of Volozhin study the Beiur himself, but also
 it was part of the yeshiva curriculum -- all of the yeshiva students
 were required to study it.  Anyway, I did the Beiur the following
 year, and derived much benefit from it, but it was time-consuming.

 In more recent years I did shorter commentaries, including the
 commentary of Sa`adya Gaon, and the commentary of the Vilna Gaon, the
 Adereth Eliyahu, although I don't think that either one of those men
 wrote an actual commentary on the Torah.  Rather, if I am not
 mistaken, scattered throughout their writings or oral teaching were
 sundry observations about various verses in the Torah, and someone
 later collected these writings or oral teaching and arranged them by
 sefer and posuk, thereby claiming to have provided a commentary on the
 Torah.  Most recently -- i.e., during the year that is about to end --
 I did Targum Onkelos for my "Targum", which I have done twice before,
 but it's such an influential work that it's worth studying several
 times, plus I was looking for something that would make little demands
 on my time.

 I am once again looking for advice on a commentary on the Torah.  I
 read somewhere that Avraham the son of Rambam wrote a commentary on
 the Torah (although more likely it's something more like Sa`adya
 Gaon's commentary, an anthology of writings published in other
 contexts), and that's mildly intriguing, but I actually know almost
 nothing about the man and have no idea whether I am likely to enjoy
 reading what he has to say about the Torah.  To give you an idea of
 what I like, among the commentaries that you have recommended to me
 the one I liked the most was that of Shemuel David Luzzatto, and among
 the commentaries in the standard Miqraoth Gedoloth (I have read them
 all) I think the best one is the commentary of Ramban (which is trite,
 I know, but he really is my favorite, what can I say).  Among the
 shorter commentaries my favorites are those by Rashbam and, as you
 would expect, Avraham ibn Ezra.  Among the commentaries that you did
 not recommend and that are not in the standard Miqraoth Gedoloth, I
 enjoyed Abarbanel, although he was greatly in need of an editor.

 I have not yet read the Malbim, although I cannot read him this year,
 for the same reason that I could not read Abarbanel this year -- it is
 a year when Simxath Torah is on a Friday.  It may seem a little odd
 that a single calendar day will determine my choice of learning for
 the entire year, but it does.  I deliberately scheduled Abarbanel, for
 example, not only for a 13-month year, but also for a year when
 Simxath Torah was a Sunday (I also remember, parenthetically,
 deliberately scheduling Ramban for a leap year -- I particularly
 remember being grateful that Behar and Bexukkothai were not combined
 into a double parasha -- but I don't remember whether the day of
 Simxath Torah played a part in my considerations).  This year, Simxath
 Torah is going to fall on a Friday, and I shall have only about 24
 hours in which to do shnayim miqra v'exad targum on Parashath
 Bereishith.  That would be great for Rashbam, not so good for Malbim.
 Bearing that in mind, can you provide me a list of recommended
 commentaries on the Torah from which to select one for my shnayim
 miqra v'exad targum this year?  Thank you in advance for your reply.

 I hope that you and your loved ones are well, and I wish you and all
 your loved ones a ktiva vxathima tovah.  If you are still suffering
 from the effects of your car accident (I know that it was a very long
 and slow recovery), you have my continued wishes for a refuah

 ______ wrote on Tue Sep  3 23:42:55 2013:

 > I return your good wishes.  However, I am recovering from another
 > spinal cord operation and so am somewhat disabled.  I am using a
 > walker and it may be some time before I can get back to walking with
 > one cane.  I also cannot drive.

 You have my wishes for a full recovery, and my prayers will be with

 > To your question.  I suspect that you will not like the Malbim, who
 > makes up rules as he goes along and also contradicts himself.  You
 > might try Mecklenburg''s Ha-ketav veha-Kabbalah; he is responding to
 > the same crisis as the Malbim, but in a more restrained way.
 > Avraham ben HaRambam is not available for all of Humash, as far as I
 > know.  If you want to stick to peshat, you might try Ha-Rechasim
 > le-Vik'a.

 Reb ______, you have been advising me about this matter for many
 years, the result of which is that I have already read Ha-ketav
 veha-Kabbalah (and once wrote an essay that refers to it; see
 http://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v59/mj_v59i92.html#CAAO) and I have
 already read Ha-Rechasim le-Vik'a, in both cases because you
 recommended them to me.  I liked them both, although, as I pointed out
 in my essay, there are many places where Ha-ketav veha-Kabbalah is
 implausible, and it is full of bogus etymologies.

 I am thinking about other well-known commentaries.  You have already
 told me your opinion about Ralbag (where he is within the mainstream,
 he adds nothing, and where he does add something, he is outside the
 mainstream -- words to that effect).  I would have no difficulty
 finding a supercommentary of Rashi that I have not read -- the printed
 xumashim are full of them -- but I don't think that would be a good
 use of my time.  I did do the unabridged Siftei Xakhamim one year, and
 didn't think it was a good use of my time.  Ultimately, I want to
 understand the Torah, but I don't care whether I understand Rashi or
 not; I care about understanding Rashi only insofar as it helps me
 understand the Torah.  For example, when the three mal'akhim visit
 Avraham, and the Torah says that they ate "taxath ha`etz", Rashi
 explains that to mean, "taxath ha'ilan".  Ni, so they ate under a
 tree, I already knew that.  Siftei Xakhamim explains that the word
 `etz (like the Yiddish "boim") can mean a tree, or it can mean wood,
 as a material, and thus Rashi was pointing out that they weren't
 eating underneath a wooden roof, they were eating underneath a tree.
 Well, this is interesting -- it really is -- but I already knew that
 they were eating underneath a tree -- it hadn't even occurred to me
 that they might be eating underneath a wooden structure -- and I
 really don't think that I fulfill the mitzva of Shnayim Miqra V'Exad
 Targum by studying why Rashi perceived a need to explain something,
 because, although it does tell me what Rashi was thinking, it does not
 tell me anything about the Torah that I didn't already know.

 I haven't done Rabbenu Baxya; is he worth reading?  Did he do a
 commentary on the entire Torah?  I'm also thinking that one of these
 days I should do the Ntzi"v (or am I thinking of someone else?  --
 but I think it actually was the Ntzi"v of whom I am thinking, who
 wrote a commentary on the entire Torah, he comments on every verse)
 but I started him one year (unless I am thinking of someone else) and
 I couldn't keep up; I fell behind, and had to switch to someone else
 toward the beginning of Breishith.  It certainly isn't something I
 would undertake to do in a year when Simxath Torah falls on Friday.

 Or, are there other commentaries that are worth reading, but for some
 reason are not well known, perhaps (and preferably) because you and I
 would like them but the general public would not?  It doesn't matter
 if they are obscure, because I have access to the Asher Library of the
 Spertus Institute, and I also have access to the library of the Hebrew
 Theological College (the "Skokie Yeshiva"), and they are very large
 collections even by New York standards.

 I would greatly benefit from your continuing to advise me on this
 matter, and I thank you in advance for your reply.

                Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
                6424 N Whipple St
                Chicago IL  60645-4111
                        (1-773)7613784   landline
                        (1-410)9964737   GoogleVoice

                "The umbrella of the gardener's aunt is in the house"


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 21,2014 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Blowing Shofar during Elul

Sammy Finkelman (MJ 62#34) wrote:

> We don't blow shofar on Erev Rosh Hashanah in shul, unless it is a Friday and
> Rosh Hashonah comes out on Shabbos, so that there should be a one day
> interruption between the blowing of the during the month of Elul and the blowing
> on Rosh Hashana.

In fact, we don't blow shofar on Erev Rosh Hashana ****even when it is a
Friday****. (Mishno Bruro 581)

Perets Mett


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 21,2014 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Kappel (was: Unmarried minor wearing tallis over his head)

David Ziants (MJ 62#34) wrote:

> Because I grew up in the UK, the term "cappel" was very familiar to me. Since it
> was not an English word like "cap" - I just assumed it was Yiddish - maybe
> meaning "a small cap".
> Very much later in life, I found out that this is not Yiddish and "yamulka" is
> the Yiddish term. People outside the UK actually had hardly heard of a "cappel".
> In any case, I prefer the Hebrew word "kippa".

I don't know where David got his information from, but "kapel" is a perfectly
good Yiddish word, with the same meaning as"yarmelke".

Perets Mett

From: Jeanette Friedman <friedman.jeanette@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 21,2014 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Kappel (was: Unmarried minor wearing tallis over his head)

In reply to David Ziants (MJ 62#34):

Kappel (plural kappelech) is Polish/Hungarian Chassidishe Yiddish. That's what
my father called it, that's what the chassidim call it, and that's what it is:

Kesiva vechasima tova

Jeanette Friedman


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 21,2014 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Mangled piyutim

In many shuls, the Melekh Elyon piyutim on Rosh Hashanah get mangled by
those who are unaware of the composers' original intentions. In particular
each stanza is sung as if ending with laadei ad yimlokh Melekh Elyon. This
was not, however, what the composers, Kalir for the first day and R. Shimon
Hagadol of Mainz for the second, wrote.

The words Melekh Elyon are the introduction to each stanza which then ends
with laadei ad yimlokh. This is clear from the Machzor Roma where the full
piyut is said with alternate 'Melekh Elyon' and 'melekh evyon' stanzas,
contrasting the King on high with an earthly monarch. For some reason,
probably because the aron was opened and shut for each alternate one,
leading to confusion, the melekh evyon stanzas were dropped in Ashkenaz.
This also explains the peculiar acrostic which appears to miss alternate

To compensate for their deletion, the first and last melekh evyon stanzas
were added at the end. Unfortunately, probably because of an early printing
error, the ones from Kalirs piyut for the first day were put at the end of
the second day's one instead of the correct ones, hence the different style
which may have been noticed.

If only we could restore these wonderful piyutim to their original form but
I fear that may no longer be possible.

Martin Stern


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Sat, Sep 20,2014 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Reciting L'David Hashem Ori

Thank you, Martin (MJ 62#34). Correction taken. Because it is printed this way
in my old Routledge Machzor, I assumed that this was the German custom and so it
would also be so in Siddurim of that orientation.

It was in Marble Arch shul, in the West End of London (UK), some approx 32 years
ago, that I came into shul for weekday shacharit and they were chanting the shir
hayichud for that day before pesukay d'zimra.  I don't remember whether they
said shir shel yom at that juncture or after alainu.

(The atmosphere seemed to give me the impression that I came into shul late, but
if I remember correctly I had enough time to put on my tephillin and catch up
for baruchu and tephilla b'tzibur.)

K'tiva V'chatima Tova,
David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 24,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Some points from selichot

As usual at this time of year, I must comment once more about the way
selichot (and, for that matter, other piyutim) get rattled off at breakneck
speed, despite their unfamiliar, and often difficult poetic, texts in too
many shuls. Today (Erev Rosh Hashanah) we took about 90 minutes, starting at
6 a.m., but I only managed to say about half of each selichah and had to
miss out whole chunks towards the end to be able to finish in time to put on
my tallit and tefillin. At least we had a 5 minute break before birkhot
hashachar for that, though many shuls seem not to have one. In the end,
davenning did not finish until about 8.30 which meant a bit of a rush, even
if one did not make hatarat nedarim. Of course it might have been a bit much
to expect others to come at 5 a.m. Do others have similar problems?

On another point I did notice some interesting linguistic points regarding
the pronunciation of Hebrew current in early mediaeval Germany. From the way
the composers of the selichot made their rhymes, it would appear that they
made no distinction between:

1. tav (with a dagesh) and tet

2. vet (without a dagesh) and vav

3. quf and kaf (with a dagesh)

and, surprisingly, between a patach and a kamats (i.e. they used the Sefardi
pronunciation of the latter).

Since all these must have originally been originally pronounced differently
in Hebrew (otherwise why have different letters), I wonder if anyone knows
when these distinctions were lost.

May I take this opportunity to ask forgiveness from any mail-jewish members who
may have felt slighted by anything I have written or, with my moderator's hat,
the way I have edited their submissions, and wish everyone a gemar chatimah
tovah and a chag samei'ach

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 21,2014 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Who was Kalir?

In Daf Yomi, while recently learning Chagigah 13a, we discussed the Tosafot,
s.v. Veraglei hachayot, which mentions Kalir's kedushta piyut for Mussaph on Rosh 
Hashanah (an exceptionally fine work unfortunately no longer said in most shuls)
where the Ba'alei Tosafot opine that Elazar Kalir was the Tanna, R. Elazar ben

As evidence they state that he must have lived at a time when the New Moon was
declared on the evidence of witnesses, and not on the fixed calendar we now use,
since he only wrote piyutim for the first days of Yamim Tovim.

What I cannot understand is how they can make this deduction since it appears
that all one can deduce is that he lived in Eretz Yisrael where there was, as
there still is, no second day.

The Ba'alei Tosafot seem to acknowledge that Kalir might have lived much later,
since they state that he often follows the opinion of the Talmud Yerushalmi when
it disagrees with the Talmud Bavli. If that were the case, it would be possible
for Kalir to have lived, for example, in the Byzantine era when the Talmud
Yerushalmi was redacted, which would seem more likely from many of the allusions
in his compositions.

Can anyone explain the Ba'alei Tosafot's reasoning for their identification of
him as a Tanna on the strength of the evidence they cite?

On another point, someone pointed out that Kalir never wrote any selichot though
he was a prolific composer of almost every other genre of piyut. Is this
evidence that this was solely minhag Bavel and it was not the custom to recite
selichot in Eretz Yisrael at all?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 62 Issue 35