Volume 63 Number 01 
      Produced: Wed, 28 Sep 16 16:02:11 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A message for the new volume and new year 
    [The moderation team]
A seat by the eastern wall 
    [Martin Stern]
Gender Relationships 
    [Dr Russell Jay Hendel]
Interaction with Non-Observant Jews (3)
    [Martin Stern  Chaim Casper  David Tzohar]
Loud davening (4)
    [Martin Stern  Joel Rich  Carl A. Singer  Yossi Ginzberg]
Purim Torah 
    [Martin Stern]
Saying Amen after Goel Yisrael 
    [Yisrael Medad]


From: The moderation team
Date: Tue, Sep 20,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: A message for the new volume and new year

As moderators, may we take this opportune moment of starting a new volume to
wish all contributors and readers of Mail Jewish, a ketivah vechatimah tovah
and a happy and sweet year. We thamk you for your many thoughtful and
incisive contributions and look forward to many more in the future.

The moderation team


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 20,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: A seat by the eastern wall

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote (MJ 62#89):

> Joel Rich wrote (MJ 62#98):

>> I'm looking for references as to why such a seat is considered honorific.
>> Can anyone help?
> The main reason is that it is the wall on which the Aron Kodesh with the Torah
> is kept so that everyone faces that direction. The Rav of the shul usually
> sits next to the Aron kodeh ... The Ark is the holiest place in the Synagogue.
> In most synagogues the Holy Ark is on the Eastern wall, so that when we face
> the ark, we are facing the holy city of Jerusalem, where the Holy Temple once
> stood.

This is the crucial point. The most honorific seating is on the wall nearest
the Aron Hakodesh. In Western countries this is the eastern wall - hence the
question - but in countries to the east of Eretz Yisrael, where the Aron
Kodesh is on the western wall, the eastern wall would be the least
honorific. Perhaps the terminology is too heavily slanted to Ashkenazi

Martin Stern


From: Dr Russell Jay Hendel <rashiyomi@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 22,2016 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Gender Relationships

In MJ 62#99, Yisrael continues his debate with Martin (MJ 62#98) on whether
Rabbi Neustadt who reached a conclusion (MJ 62#96) that a religious man can
extend a hand to a women who fell, should reach this conclusion by citation of
sources or by commonsense.

Yisroel states on Martin's position that it is not objectionable to reach such a
conclusion by citing sources, as follows:

> But while Martin is essentially correct, my point is that sometimes a Rabbi
> can err by being too methodological, too arcane, too tedious, too picayune or
> whatever.  And to be clear, in this particulate instance I think, IMHO, that a
> better overall lesson that the Rabbi could have passed on is that in the
> specific case under discussion a "cut to the swift", as it were, probably could
> have been the better lesson to teach.

I, however, would like to defend the position that commonsense can be used by a
layman to justify a legal decision without having to go to a Rabbi. I do so by
addressing the issue of commonsense. Commonsense is a very broad category.
However, halachah has certain broad principles which we may losely classify as
legal commonsense. The layman who knows these broad categories may apply them
with certainty that he is reaching a valid legal decision *without* citing
seeking further guidance.

Yisroel himself gives such an example:

> A woman, old, or even young, who has fallen and needs to be assisted to
> prevent further injury or to help transport her to an ambulance or stretcher
> that necessitates physical contact, is a question of life and death - and
> life overrides.

Here Yisroel uses the principle that "life overrides" an instance of what I
called above halachic commonsense.

Another very broad principle of halachic commonsense is the principle that to
avoid public embarassment one may override rabinnic commandments. In this case
extending a hand to a women who fell, is (possibly) violating a rabinnic
commandment to remedy the embarassment and shame the women is going through.

I think such a use of halachic commonsense justifies even a layman reaching a
conclusion without the necessity of further checking on Rabbinic permission.

Russell Jay Hendel; Ph.D. A.S.A. 


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 20,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Interaction with Non-Observant Jews

Harlan Braude wrote (MJ 62#98):

> In MJ 62#98, Martin Stern quoted from Rabbi Neustadt's Weekly Halacha
> Discussion:

>> The halachic definition of a mumar, an apostate, is a Jewish person who
>> denies the existence of G-d, rejects His Torah and wilfully desecrates the
>> commandments.

> Not to quarrel with Rabbi Neustadt since I'm not qualified to do so, I need
> some clarification of the definition offered here of "mumar".
> I thought the word "min" is the term for an apostate and that the term "mumar"
> is more often used to describe a specific type of habitual violator.

The word "min" really means a "sectarian" and in the Gemara refers to a
Jewish Christian or Gnostic. Usually the censor insisted it be changed to
"tzedoki" which, from the context, makes no sense from what we know of their

The same sort of thing happened with the word "meshumad" which is the
accepted term for an "apostate" which the censor insisted be changed to

> For example, a "mumar l'tayavone" is one who consistently violates one or more
> commandments by succumbing to his/her passions and desires like eating
> "irresistible" forbidden foods or having illicit relations because of physical
> desire as opposed to conviction.
> Even the "mumar l'hachis" - meaning one who intentionally violates a
> commandment out of spite or rebellion - could be argued to have essentially
> demonstrated a powerful belief in the One against whom s/he is rebelling, r"l.

In these contexts, the term "mumar" is used correctly but there is a
considerable halachic distinction between a "mumar l'tayavon" and a "mumar
l'hachis", the latter being essentially a "meshumad". Most non-observant
Jews nowadays are, at worst, under the former category, and then only if
they grew up in a traditional home. Probably they are not even that but come
under the designation of "tinokot shenishbu [kidnapped children]" who never
were made aware of the obligation to keep mitzvot, i.e. as if they were
acting under ones [force majeure] .

Martin Stern

From: Chaim Casper <surfflorist@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 20,2016 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Interaction with Non-Observant Jews

In MJ 62#99, Isaac Balbin wrote: 

> On the matter of Kohanim Duchening, Mori VRabbi Rav Hershel Schachter has made
> it clear that today's Mechallel Shabbos is not the same as one of yesteryear.

If I may expand on Rav Schachter's, shlit"a, point (not that he needs my proofs
or support):   Rabbi Shlomo Riskin mentioned to me that when he was a young lad
living in Brooklyn, he used to go to the schvitz (steam bath) where he would
meet Jewish men who grew up in Europe.   These men knew page after page by heart
of gemara, yet they would intentionally use electricity, drive, smoke and work
on Shabbat and eat in non-kosher restaurants.  They knew the halakhah in its
minutiae yet intentionally did the opposite.   These men fit the definition of
mumar (see Yoreh Deah Chapter 2).

Gershom Scholem in his book, "The Messianic Idea in Judaism," quotes numerous
examples of Jews who gave up being shomer mitzvot (observant of the commandments
and halakhah) when Shabbtai Zvi was unmasked as a false messiah.   They knew
what to do.   They just didn't want to do it anymore.

In "The Making of a Gadol," the author, Rabbi Nathan Kamenetsky, quotes that
there were numerous men who learned in the famous Volozhin Yeshiva who would
take a break from their studies in the yeshiva on Shabbat, go outside and light
up a cigarette.   These men loved gemara learning, understood the halakhah, and
yet just didn't want to observe the halakhah.   (My apologies for quoting from a
banned book.) 

Now, think of today.   Virtually all of the non-observant I know can barely if
at all read Hebrew.   Ask them about Shabbat and they will say its a day of no
work.  In fact, if you ask them, they will give you a definition that more
closely resembles the Karaitic definition of Shabbat observance instead of the
Rabbinic definition of Shabbat observance.   Kosher is a primitive form of
keeping food clean which we don't need today, etc.   These Jewish men and women
know nothing about nothing (or, in Yiddish, they know gornisht mit gornisht).  
So how can you call these people mumarim or apostates? 

On the other hand, a number of years ago, I founded a synagogue that met across
the street from a very large and beautiful Lubavitch synagogue.    The Lubavitch
synagogue attracted many non-observant people who celebrated life events there
(bar mitzvahs, aufrufs, etc).   Many of the people would drive to shul on
Shabbat.  And when they wanted a break, they would go outside, light up a
cigarette and call someone on their cellphone on Shabbat.   Based on their
connection to the Lubavitch shul, they knew that as Jews, we are not allowed to
use cigarettes on Shabbat (at least those of us who smoke) or to use a cell
phone or to drive to a synagogue on Shabbat.   Even so, these people are not the
apostates or mumarim described in the halakhah as they never received adequate
training and education in traditional Jewish observances when they were young;
in fact, most were taught the opposite. HaBa"D Lubavitch allows this because
they are committed to "helping every Jew wherever they [spiritually] are" (in
the words of the late Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, zz"l) in the
hopes that by exposing these men and women to Torah/traditional/Orthodox
Judaism, they will come to appreciate and observe the mitzvot and halakhah.

B'virkat Torah
Chaim Casper
North Miami Beach, FL

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 22,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Interaction with Non-Observant Jews

I would like to point out that in my service in the IDF (2 yrs chovah and 25 yrs
in reserves) the question was brought up many times whether or not to count
those who were mechallelei Shabat befarhesia in the minyan. I remember that when
I was in boot camp (45 yrs ago) I was assigned to a "mixed" unit. That is there
were some datiim, one or two Charedim and a majority of chiloniim and masortiim. 

By masortiim I don't mean members of the Conservative movement who in Israel
call themselves Masortiim' but rather those who came from religious families,
got a religious education (mostly but not all Sefaradim) and rebelled at some
point against their upbringing. It is a stretch to call such Jews "tinokot

Even so when I asked a military Rabbi on what to do his psak was unequivocal.
Even soldiers who are known to be "mumarim lehachis" if they come to daven with
us they are to be given a head covering and be counted in the minyan. When I
asked how could this be he replied that they are considered at that point of
time to have "hirhurei teshuvah" which makes their previous conduct irrelevant.
In my 27 yrs of service in the IDF this psak was the norm. I never saw a soldier
rejected from being counted in the minyan. In most, but not all, places they
were given aliyot latorah as well.

KT and berachot for a good Ellul and 10 yemei teshuvah and a happy and kosher
New Year!!

David Tzohar


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 20,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Loud davening

David Tzohar  wrote (MJ 62#99):

> I think that Carl (62#98) should be a little more tolerant of "loud daveners".
> According to the Mishnah Brurah it is incumbent on those who feel they must
> say the words out loud for kavannah to do so. It is questionable if those who
> say all of the prayers silently are yozei. Davening is not meant to be only
> silent meditation (except according to some Braslavers, others are extra
> loud). 

The only place where one is encouraged to say anything loudly is "Amein,
yehei shemeih rabba ..." in kaddish. Elsewhere the most that is reqired is
that "one's ears should hear what one's mouth says", even for the fist pasuk
of Shema to which Harlan Braude refers, which does not mean that they should
be audible to "one's NEIGHBOURS' ears"

> The problem is that often the speed of the shaliach tzibbur is such that most
> of the daveners can't keep up with him...

If most of the daveners can't keep up with him, such a person should not be
allowed to be sheliach tzibbur in the first place. Many shuls have a
"timetable", at least for the components of weekday shacharit, which avoids
this problem. For the minority who still find this too fast, it is up to
them to come early and not disturb others. Since, strictly speaking,
tefillah betzibbur refers to shemoneh esrei, they can judge how long they
must allow to reach it and act accordingly.

Martin Stern

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 20,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Loud davening

Chaim Casper wrote (MJ 62#99):

> I remember seeing R` Yosef Caro or the Mishneh Brurah codify that it is
> forbidden to walk around during t'fillot (perhaps someone can remind me where I
> saw this; I couldn't locate this).  

In an audio shiur I once heard The Rav (Soloveitchik) compare the prayer
experience to a date with HKB"H and just as one wouldn't pace on a date one
shouldn't pace in prayer.

Joel Rich

From: Carl A. Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Sep 20,2016 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Loud davening

In reply to David Tzohar (MJ 62#99):

Intending no offense, I do not need to be told to be more tolerant. I abide by
these "loud davners" and do not rebuke them.

The fact is, as in the many examples discussed, one person's behavior is
negatively impacting on another individual and the original actor is either
unaware or unwilling to change their behavior or location.

Last Thursday I davened maariv at a rather large shul near my home, at least 100
in the minyan.  Two teenagers (post bar mitzvah given their garb) were in the
hallway along with a woman who appeared to be their mother.  They were having a
loud time of it, knocking into each other, etc. And it could be heard in the
shul during the silent Amidah.

I went into the vestibule and scolded them, loudly and succinctly, "We are
davening inside".  Their mother looked up from her smart phone and belatedly
shushed them.

That was an act of intolerance on my part -- and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Carl Singer

From: Yossi Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 21,2016 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Loud davening

Carl A. Singer while raising the issue of loud davening (MJ 62#98) also
(correctly IMHO) objected to men wandering or pacing around during davening.

Rav Chanoch Henach of Alesk in the introduction to his Siddur Lev Sameach asks a
question: The famous description of the miracle of the Temple was "Omdim
Tzefufim umishtachavim revachim [they stood crowded but had plenty of room to
prostrate themselves]". If there was a miracle already happening, why did they
need to stand tightly packed?

He answers that from here we see that one must not parade around during the

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Sep 25,2016 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Purim Torah

Since the Arizal said that Yom Kippurim is so-called because it is a day
like Purim, I would like to suggest a little Purim Torah. After Rosh
Hashanah the traditional greeting among Ashkenazim (in Ashkenazi
pronunciation) changes from "kesivah vechasimah tovah" to "gemar chasimah
tovah [May you have a good sealing]".

Might I suggest that this latter would be an entirely suitable sentiment to
convey to those who endeavour to undermine Torah values with the slight
emendation of the spelling of "chasimah" from a sav (sealing) to a samekh

Martin Stern


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sat, Sep 24,2016 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Saying Amen after Goel Yisrael

The general principle is that nothing should intervene between reciting the
blessing of Go'el Yisrael and the beginning of the Silent Amidah of Shacharit as
per OC 111, not even (and especially) an 'amen', except for the words "Hashem
sefatai..." which are considered as part of the Shmoneh Esreh prayer.

However, on Shabbat, as the Rama adds, based on a verse that compares prayer to
an act in response to distress and Shabbat cannot be considered within a
definition of distress, one can add that 'amen'.

In my synagogue, we have someone who's habit is to make sure to answer 'amen',
loud enough for most to hear.

My question is: although permitted, should he be told that in doing so, he may
inadvertently be suggesting to those less knowledgeable that also during the
week one may do so or should one ignore the situation being that his probable
answer would be 'but I am directing people to the Halacha that explicitly
permits its utterance'?

Yisrael Medad


End of Volume 63 Issue 1