Volume 62 Number 40 
      Produced: Sun, 02 Nov 14 01:53:09 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birkat Hakohanim on Yom Kippur (2)
    [Menashe Elyashiv  Perets Mett]
Calendrical musings - alignment of solar and lunar calendars (2)
    [Roger Kingsley  Michael Poppers]
Judaism and Extraterrestrial Life (2)
    [Dr. Josh Backon  Chaim Casper]
Mangled Piyutim 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Serving other gods 
    [Martin Stern]
Silent El Maleh Rachamim 
    [Martin Stern]
Some Yom Kippur liturgy problems 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Birkat Hakohanim on Yom Kippur

Two points about birkat kohanim in neela:

1) the current Ashkenazi nusah really does not allow birkat kohanim. Why?
because the nusah is a long hazarat hashats ending at dark so, if you have 
birkat kohanim right before sunset, you are left with 2 pages to say in 20 

2) the Sefardi and Temani nusah has a hazarat hashats almost equal to the 
silent amida, and then about 20 minutes of selihot etc., leaving time for 
birkat kohanim. this year we started the silent amida 30 minutes before 
sunset, and had birkat kohanim right on time.

One could move the Ashkenazi selihot from the hazara to after it. I know 
one place that tried, but the next year the LOR refused because "hadash 
assur min hatora [innovation is Biblically forbidden, i.e. don't change things]"

From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Birkat Hakohanim on Yom Kippur

Martin Stern (MJ 62#39) wrote:
> 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.

Steve is right (see Gmoro Taanis). The Gmoro goes on to ask Martin's question
and answers that Mincho on a normal taanis takes place late and is deemed to be
Neila, which is therefore  a reason to allow Birchas Cohanim.

The practical halocho is that on a taanis, Bircas Cohanim is performed when it
takes place after the time for Mincho Ktano (less than 2.5 hours before the end
of the day). If Mincho is said during the period of Mincho Gdoilo then the
recitation "borchenu babrocho" of the Shliach Tsibur is substitued fior Bircas
Cohanim, just as on Yom Kipur.

Perets Mett


From: Roger Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Calendrical musings - alignment of solar and lunar calendars

Martin Stern  wrote (MJ 62#39):

> 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.

Professor Leo Levi, in his book Jewish Chrononomy at the top of page 8,
calculated a cycle of 689,472 years.

He added the note "A period of this length clearly has no practical

Roger Kingsley

From: Michael Poppers <the65pops@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Calendrical musings - alignment of solar and lunar calendars

In MJ 62#39, Martin Stern replied to Avram Sacks (MJ 62#38):

> 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.

A Website whose explanation might be helpful:


All the best from
*Michael Poppers* * Elizabeth, NJ, USA


From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Judaism and Extraterrestrial Life

Yisrael Medad queried [MJ 62#39] if there is any mention in Jewish sources on
extraterrestrial life.

Perhaps the NEFILIM (Gen. 6:4) which the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon
based on Targum Onkelos describes as giants.  The Targum Yonatan indicates
mating of angels with humans. See also the Gemara in Yoma 67b (angels Uza and
Azael). Google anunnaki [anakim].

How could I end without a joke?

Two astronauts land on a dark and foreboding planet and they're not sure if
there's enough oxygen in the atmosphere to support life. One takes out a match
and as he's about to strike it, a little green thing  pops out behind a rock,
waves its hands furiously and screams "SHABBES ! SHABBES !"

Josh Backon

*<backon@...>* <backon@mail.huji.ac.il>

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Judaism and Extraterrestrial Life

Yisrael Medad asked (MJ 62#39) about the possibility of life on other planets
according to our tradition writing

> 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?

Norman Lamm in his book Faith and Doubt (Ktav: New York, 1971) boils this
question down to a mahloket (argument) between Saadia Gaon and the RaMBa"M and
their understanding of the midrash (Avodah Zarah 3b and Bereshit Rabbah 3:9)
that God has built 18,000 worlds (see the essay, "Extraterrestrial Life," pp

Sa'adiah holds that the worlds have been created successively; each prior world
is destroyed prior to the creation of the next world.    Thus, our world is
(currently?) the only world and hence the Torah is a unique gift to the Jews in
particular and mankind in general.   

The RaMBa"M, on the other hand, holds that the 18,000 worlds exist
simultaneously.   Thus, life exists here on earth and in other places throughout
the universe (with the possibility of Torah being given to other worlds). 

The RaMBa"M, tz"l, and Prof Carl Sagan, a"h, are on the same plane when it comes
to the possibility of life on other planets.  Amazing!   Who'd have thought it?

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


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Mangled Piyutim

To my suggestion that we start VeChol Maaminim on the wrong foot, so to speak,
because we join the first line to the previous paragraph, Michael Rogovin writes
(MJ 62#39):

> 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. 

I thought it would be obvious.  With the forced connection, the prior paragraph
now reads:"When there is no one to plead and ward off the accuser, speak for
Jacob in the matter of law and justice, and declare us not guilty, King of
justice, who holds in his hand the scale of justice."

> In any case, this is not the prevalent custom as observed in any shul I have
> been in or as directed in the siddur.

We have evidently davened in different shuls.  And the hoary Kol Bo machzor
instructs, "Hamelech hamishpat ve-haochez be-yad omrim be-neshima achat".

BTW, I grew up in Young Israel whose high holiday baalei tefilah davened with 
eastern European traditions which I have since learned were authentic.  Everyone
sang Vechol Maaminim in the way that Martin and others think improper.  (That
improper way is, as I recall, how  the piyut is printed in the Birnbaum mahzor).
 By contrast, in school -- not Orthodox -- we were taught a Louis Lewandowski
melody to Vechol Maaminim that has the piyut sung "properly" -- the way Martin
and others think it should go.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 28,2014 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Serving other gods

I fear that the two responses (MJ 62#39) to my posting (MJ 62#38) have
missed the point I was trying to make. I was neither suggesting an
alternative to the Rambam's history of how avodah zarah started (Yisrael
Medad) nor trying to introduce a new chumra (Frank Silbermann). I had

> 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
> 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.

I thought that I had made it clear that this interpretation might have
served as a warning to individuals today of how easily one can be 'seduced'
by a progression of progressively less innocuous steps. Unfortunately I seem
not to have been sufficiently explicit.

An alternative way of dealing with the apparent problem of 'serving'
followed by 'prostrating' might be through the exegetic rule of klal ufrat
[generalisation followed by particular case] in which the former is deemed
to include everything in any way similar to the latter, i.e. liability to
the death penalty. Tsarikh iyun [further investigation required].

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 18,2014 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Silent El Maleh Rachamim

Harlan Braude wrote (MJ 62#38):

> In MJ 62#37, Martin Stern wrote:
>> Orrin Tilevitz wrote (MJ 62#36):
>>> Where I davened today, the two yahrzeits in turn took the sefer torah
>>> and recited it (I assume; it was inaudible) silently. Any basis for this?
>> Such inaudibility seems to be all too common. I often ask why the gabbai in
>> many shuls wants us not to know for whom a Mi shebeirach is being recited.
> My guess - and this is purely conjecture on my part - is that some people -
> even gabbaim - are not confident in reciting the 'Mi Sheberach' and do so
> quietly to avoid public embarrassment.

This was what I had also thought but did not want to say.
> I consider this a different matter from the custom in some communities to
> publicly request prayers on behalf of an ill person and only the Hebrew name
> (so-and-so ben/bat mother's name) is revealed out of respect for the privacy
> of the person or family. While I certainly empathize and cooperate by not
> asking questions, when I find out months later that the name is of someone I
> know (knew?) and care about, I consider how much more heartfelt my tefillos
> might have been had I known the identity of the person (yes, perhaps I should
> have the same feeling for any ill person anonymous or not, but I have just not
> yet reached that spiritual plane).

I raised this point regarding saying Tehillim for a seriously-ill person, but
nobody seemed to take any notice. It is difficult to have any kavannah while
saying Tehillim if one has no idea why they are being said.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 23,2014 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Some Yom Kippur liturgy problems

David Ziants wrote (MJ 62#37):

> Our Ashkenazi machzorim are obviously built with in mind that Mincha will be
> straight after Musaph, and after Mincha there would (or might) be a break
> until Neila.

Actually the minhag used to be to daven non-stop on Yom Kippur with no
breaks whatsoever. To allow for later/earlier nightfall depending on the
time of year, more or fewer selichot were inserted in shacharit, mussaf and
minchah. This was done in Germany and other Western European communities where
the machzorim contained the selichot (which were numbered, a list of those to
be said being handed out each year). In Eastern Europe the printers did not
include the selichot (at most printing kan omrim/amru selichot [here one
inserts/inserted selichot] at the appropriate points), and during the 19th
century most congregations stopped saying them. Also, many other piyutim were
dropped (or only their headings were chanted). This gave rise to the now-widespread 
custom of having a break, since there was no longer enough liturgical material to fill 
the day.

> ...
> Also should we not be saying Alainu after Musaph like at any other time. Rosh
> HaShanna included - so to answer that it is part of Musaph does not seem to be
> a valid excuse.

I have often wondered why Aleinu is not said, and the only answer I can think
of is that it is a hangover from when there were no breaks -- people were
just too conservative to bring in such an innovation.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 62 Issue 40