Volume 62 Number 39 
      Produced: Tue, 28 Oct 14 03:06:41 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birkat Hakohanim on Yom Kippur (2)
    [Martin Stern  Dr. William Gewirtz]
Calendrical musings - alignment of solar and lunar calendars 
    [Martin Stern]
Judaism and Extraterrestrial Life: 
    [Yisrael Medad]
    [Martin Stern]
Mangled piyutim (2)
    [Martin Stern  Michael Rogovin]
Serving other gods (2)
    [Yisrael Medad   Frank Silbermann]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 15,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Birkat Hakohanim on Yom Kippur

Steve Bailey wrote (MJ 62#38):

> I heard that the reason BK is not said at mincha on YK is because it is
> never said the rest of the year at mincha because of fear that the kohanim
> would drink wine with their lunch and bless the people while intoxicated (a
> biblical capital crime). So, although all fast on YK, we do not want to
> confuse the rule for the rest of the year; thus, we say it at neila instead.

This cannot be correct since Birkat Hakohanim is said at minchah on every other
public fast day, even though there will be a significant number of people who
are (legitimately) not fasting, so a fortiore it should be done on Yom Kippur,
when almost everybody fasts, at minchah.

Martin Stern

From: Dr. William Gewirtz <wgewirtz@...>
Date: Mon, Oct 20,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Birkat Hakohanim on Yom Kippur

As Dr. Backon points out (MJ 62#38), there are those who allow duchening even at
night (when Neilah began earlier) because parts of the Temple service normally
occurred at night.   On the other hand, the position of those who do not allow
duchening that late, depends critically on the disagreement between the Geonim
and Rabbeinu Tam.  

There are 4 points in time -

1) sunset, 

2) the beginning of bein hashemashot, 

3) the end of bein hashemashot, and 

4) nightfall.

Followers of Rabbeinu Tam's opinion would certainly allow duchening well after
sunset proper, as normally defined, (at least) until Rabbeinu Tam's defined
point of (a second) sunset.

According to the Geonim, most, following the formulation of the Vilna Gaon,
disallow duchening after sunset (proper).

The opinion of many decisors follow one or the other of the latter two
approaches. Despite this clear conceptual dispute, practice in a number of
communities was more complex.  While most decisors equate points 1) and 2), some
do not.   

For followers of the Geonim, practice sometimes seems to have allowed duchening
after sunset but prior to beginning of bein hashemashot, in other words during
the interval between 1) and 2).  Though I am at this point uncertain, some may
have allowed duchening even after 2) the beginning of bein hashemashot, but up
to some point prior to 3) the end of bein hashemashot.

This entire area needs a careful historical study where latitude and halakhic
viewpoint on the disagreement between the Geonim and Rabbeinu Tam must both be


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 18,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Calendrical musings - alignment of solar and lunar calendars

Avram Sacks wrote (MJ 62#38):

> The Hebrew calendar is supposed to be on a 19-year cycle in order to align the
> calendar with the solar cycle.   However, there is still a three-day
> difference between the 19 year lunar and solar cycles. Because it is not
> exact, there is no guarantee that any given date will coincide with the same
> Hebrew date in 19 years.   However, is there a cycle that is, perhaps a
> multiple of 19 that guarantees alignment?

The 19 year cycle only can be used to decide whether a particular year is a
leap year (one extra month) or not.

The problem with the Jewish calendar is that it is a "boundary value"
problem where one needs to calculate molad (the time of the new moon) of
Tishri for both the year's beginning and end. Having done so, one must next
apply the dechiyot (postponements) which can get rather complicated. The
simplest is that the day of Rosh Hashanah must not fall on a Sunday,
Wednesday or Friday, so it gets postponed if the molad calculation would
suggest one of these days of the week. Unfortunately, there are other more
technical dechiyot as well and Rosh Hashanah can be postponed by two days
sometimes as a result.

Having established both dates for Rosh Hashanah, one can calculate the
number of days in the year and, from that, determine whether Cheshvan and
Kislev will be regular (one 29 the other 30) or both chaser (29 days) or
both malei (30 days).

It is this latter complication that makes the coincidence of Gregorian and
Jewish dates irregular. So the answer to Avrum's question:

> However, neither website answers my question about a truly aligned cycle.
> Does one even exist?

must be no.

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 19,2014 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Judaism and Extraterrestrial Life:

I found this in an interview regarding a new book that has been published:

> Vanderbilt University astronomer David Weintraub decided to find out what the
> world's religions had to say on the question of aliens. In his new book,
> Religions and Extraterrestrial Life: How Will We Deal with It? (Springer Praxis
> Books, 2014), Weintraub investigates the implications of life beyond Earth on
> more than two dozen faiths...

> Do any religions explicitly discuss the possibility of life beyond Earth in
> scripture? The middle of the 19th century is when a whole bunch of new
> religions were born, and many of those religions had something to say about
> extraterrestrials. In Seventh-Day Adventism, for example, the founder had
> visions of extraterrestrials-Saturnians-in which she saw them and saw that
> they were pure; they had not sinned.

> What about other religions, such as Quakers or Jews?
> Quakers don't really care if there are extraterrestrials. In Judaism it doesn't
> matter - there's very little in Hebrew scripture that relates to the question.

Is there any disagreement with the above?

Yisrael Medad


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 15,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Koppel

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 62#38):

> I am pregnantly waiting for the return to the name Koppel discussion.

AFAIK, we have not been discussing this recently so this must be treated as
a new thread with no connection to headgear.
> GENDER: Masculine
> USAGE: Yiddish
> OTHER SCRIPTS:  (Yiddish)
> Meaning & History
> Yiddish diminutive of JACOB

Such affectionate names formed by adding the diminutive ending -el, changing
the previous (final) constant from a fricative to a plosive where
appropriate, and then deleting the first syllable(s) were quite common in

In Israel's example the progression was

Ya'akov > Ya'akov-el > Kovel > Koppel

Other examples are

Yitzchak > Yitzchak-el > Tzchakel > Seckel

Yosef > Yosef-el > Sefel > Seppel

Sometimes there are also backformations like

Yisrael >  Yisar >  Isser

where the final -el was incorrectly treated as a diminutive.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 15,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Mangled piyutim

Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 62#38):

> Here is the reason for the custom to recite each pair of lines beginning with
> "vechol maaminim" as opposed to as the piyut is written: the paragraph before
> the piyut ends with the words "hamelech hamishpat" and the custom is for the
> hazzan to recite them together with the first line of the piyut, as in
> "hamelech hamishpat haochez beyad midat mishpat", with the aron kodesh opened
> precisely while this going on. That leaves everything else to begin with
> "vechol maaminim".

Doing the latter would be entirely correct and precisely as the payetan
intended. The mangling occurs when the cogregation continues and says the first
part of the
next line which was meant for the chazan.

Martin Stern

From: Michael Rogovin <michael@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 19,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Mangled piyutim

Orrin Tilevitz's response (MJ 62#38), while it may be factual is his experience,
does not really resolve the problem. He states a custom to connect the last two
words (hamelech hamispat) of the prior paragraph with the beginning of the piyut
without offering a logical reason to do this or why this should override the
meaning of the poem. In any case, this is not the prevalent custom as observed
in any shul I have been in or as directed in the siddur.

Too often people do things for a mistaken (or no) reason and then people say
that this is the prevailing custom and we should not change it. I am sorry, but
that is not a good reason to continue to mangle tefilah, alter its meaning, or,
for example, on simchat torah create a tircha or opportunity for bitul by
insisting that everyone get a personal aliyah, delaying the service for hours.  

Another example is the destruction of nusach b'tefilah by baale tefilah who
don't know the difference between (for example) the kaddish tune for maftir and
musaf (that is a minor example). 

Although Rav Soloveitchik gives a reason to recite the stanzas differently from
how they are written, his reasoning only works if one recites the poem as a dvar
shebekedusha, responsively back and forth. Since almost no one does this
(despite his insistence), the poem should be recited/sung as written.

At some point we have to look at what is being done and say it is wrong, no
matter that people say it is the "custom," and correct the error.

Michael Rogovin



From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 15,2014 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Serving other gods

On Martin Stern's 'dangerous progression' idea (MJ 62#38), I think the Rambam
covers that well in Avodat Kochavim 2:1 -

"The essence of the commandment [forbidding] the worship of false gods is
not to serve any of the creations, not an angel, a sphere, or a star, none
of the four fundamental elements, nor any entity created from them. Even if
the person worshiping knows that " is the [true] God and serves the
creation in the manner in which Enosh and the people of his generation
worshiped [the stars] originally, he is considered to be an idol worshiper.

"The Torah warns us about this, saying [Deuteronomy 4:19]: "Lest you lift
your eyes heavenward and see the sun, the moon, and the stars... [and bow
down and worship them], the entities which God apportioned to all the
nations." This implies that you might inquire with "the eye of the heart"
and it might appear to you that these entities control the world, having
been apportioned by God to all the nations to be alive, to exist, and not
to cease existence, as is the pattern of [the other creations with] the
world. Therefore, you might say that it is worthy to bow down to them and
worship them."

and for that matter 1:1 -

"During the times of Enosh, mankind made a great mistake, and the wise men
of that generation gave thoughtless counsel. Enosh himself was one of those
who erred.

"Their mistake was as follows: They said God created stars and spheres with
which to control the world. He placed them on high and treated them with
honor, making them servants who minister before Him. Accordingly, it is
fitting to praise and glorify them and to treat them with honor. [They
perceived] this to be the will of God, blessed be He, that they magnify and
honor those whom He magnified and honored, just as a king desires that the
servants who stand before him be honored. Indeed, doing so is an expression
of honor to the king.

"After conceiving of this notion, they began to construct temples to the
stars and offer sacrifices to them. They would praise and glorify them with
words, and prostrate themselves before them, because by doing so, they
would - according to their false conception - be fulfilling the will of

Yisrael Medad

From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 15,2014 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Serving other gods

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 62#38):

> One thing that has always puzzled me in the second paragraph of the Shema is
> the verse "Be careful lest your heart be deceived, and you stray and SERVE
> [va'avadtem] other gods and bow down to them" (Dev. 11:16). Since bowing
> down is one of the ways of serving (worshipping) idols (San. 7:6), the
> previously used word "va'avadtem" cannot mean "serve" in that sense.
> One idea that occurred to me is that this verse is indicating a dangerous
> progression to idolatry:
> 1. self-deception, i.e. thoughts that idolatry may not be so terrible
> 2. straying, i.e. actions to associate with it in some neutral manner
> (interfaith dialogue?)
> 3. serving, i.e. working for the idolatrous system such as taking an
> administrative job with it (e.g. as a caretaker or secretary) which would
> not involve any punishable idolatrous ritual service
> 4. worship, which would then carry the death penalty

To me, it would be most obvious to interpret this as a reference to slaughtering
/ burning / offering sacrifices to the idol or star.

> If this is correct, the verse is warning of a "slippery slope" by which one
> might be seduced into idolatry, something Christian missionaries have used
> by setting up ostensibly charitable "outreach" activities such as medical or
> food aid to target groups.   What do others think of this analysis?

If the Talmud or Rashi interpret it this way, then fine.  Otherwise, it sounds
to me like you're just trying to create a new chumra or add to the list of

Frank Silbermann
Memphis, Tennessee


End of Volume 62 Issue 39