Volume 63 Number 02 
      Produced: Fri, 07 Oct 16 09:11:05 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A seat by the eastern wall (2)
    [Susan Buxfield  Ed Greenberg]
Gender Relationships (3)
    [Martin Stern  Susan Buxfield  Yisrael Medad]
Kol Nidrei: A Symbolic Idea 
    [Martin Stern]
Loud davening (2)
    [Martin Stern  Yisrael Medad]
Power of the press 
    [Martin Stern]
Saying Amen after Goel Yisrael 
    [Dr Russell Jay Hendel]
Simanim for Rosh Hashanah 
    [Martin Stern]
Venikeiti mipesha rav (was Purim Torah) 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 29,2016 at 04:01 AM
Subject: A seat by the eastern wall

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#01):

> Perhaps the terminology is too heavily slanted to Ashkenazi dominance.

Yosef Caro - the author of the SA as prime posek of the Sfardim often uses
"mizrach" in referring to the Aron Kodesh wall even if its not strictly "east".

In modern Hebrew, being seated in the Mizrach, is terminolgy for a seat of
honor. Also in a taxi, the back seat close to the door is often called the mizrach!

From: Ed Greenberg <edg@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 29,2016 at 07:01 AM
Subject: A seat by the eastern wall

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#01):

> 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
> dominance.

How are shuls laid out in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, etc, which was the Jewish
Pale of Settlement? Going by the map in Wikipedia, it stretches roughly from the
Black Sea north to the Baltic, arcing westward. It seems to be north of Eretz

I note that in Fiddler on the Roof -- a Halachic authority if I ever heard of
one :) --  The line in "If I were a rich man" is "maybe have a seat by the
eastern wall. Of course, the song was written in the US, not in the Ukraine.

Ed Greenberg
Glens Falls, NY USA


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 28,2016 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Gender Relationships

Russell Jay Hendel wrote (MJ 62#01):

> 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 loosely 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.

This is certainly true but has to be very carefully monitored as the case
with which he continues shows.

> 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.

Unfortunately, some non-religious people will invoke the principle that
"life overrides" to allow situations where it clearly does not apply. A
recent example that springs to mind was the"permissibility" of scheduling
rail infrastructure works on Shabbat in Tel Aviv. Here "commonsense" was
used entirely inappropriately by those with no real interest in Shabbat
observance as a weapon against "religious coercion" (as they would consider
it) when the works were only scheduled for Shabbat to avoid (hardly life
threatening) inconvenience to road users on working days.

Martin Stern

From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 29,2016 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Gender Relationships

In MJ 63#01 Dr Russell Jay Hendel writes:

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

Halachic commonsense is an oxymoron even though sometimes the halacha on a
particular issue would appear to be commonsense. If halacha is just commonsense
then Judaism would be just a form of Humanism.

Except in life threatening situations where a delay for a rabbinic consultation
would perhaps cause death, commonsense has to take into account normative
halachic customs.

Thus while a male helping a woman up after a fall or shaking a woman's hand may
not be considered "chiba" - affection - normative halachic custom is to try and
avoid it especially if the action could be done by another woman or, as in the
shaking of hands, the woman understands the concern and is prepared to forego
that courtesy.

From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 29,2016 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Gender Relationships

Dr Russell Jay Hendel (MJ 63#01) commenting on what I wrote in my response to
Martin Stern's submission of Rabbi D. Neustadt's Halachic review writes (MJ 62#99):

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

Sorry, but just the opposite!  My whole point was that in this specific case, I
did find it objectionable. I thought, even in Halachic terms, that the response
should have been quite short, with a minimum of sources, two of which I noted
were not in the material Martin quoted and that the overriding message should
have been: not every situation requires deep Talmudic learning and going to the
books of Rishonim and Acharonim. Commonsense is also a thinking paradigm.

Yisrael Medad



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Oct 7,2016 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Kol Nidrei: A Symbolic Idea

In his Weekly Halacha Discussion for Parashat Vayeilekh, Rabbi Doniel
Neustadt brings a rather interesting explanation of why Kol Nidrei has such
a strong emotional appeal despite its being essentially a dry halachic
procedure concerning the annulment of vows and oaths. After an extensive
discussion of this halachic analysis of Kol Nidrei, he writes:

> But as noted earlier, there is more to Kol Nidrei than meets the eye. If Kol
> Nidrei were merely a dry halachic procedure concerning vows and oaths, it
> would hardly evoke such deep emotional sentiment throughout the Jewish world.
> Why are the Sifrei Torah removed from the Aron ha-Kodesh, a haunting
> centuries-old melody chanted and an atmosphere of sanctity and awe created if
> all that is taking place is hataras nedarim? While the commentators offer
> various answers, we will quote just one, which is based on the teachings of
> the Zohar.
> In Kabalistic teaching, Kol Nidrei is a plea to G-d to nullify His oath that
> He will punish or exile the Jewish people because of their sins. The Talmud
> (Bava Basra 74a) relates that Rabba bar Bar Chanah heard a Heavenly voice
> saying, Woe is Me that I have sworn to exile My people, but now that I have
> sworn, who can annul it for Me? Kol Nidrei implies that just as we seek to
> absolve ourselves of vows and oaths that burden us, so, too, may G-d annul His
> oath to withdraw His Presence from the Jewish people. In this sense, Kol
> Nidrei is a prayer and a supplication to G-d to quickly end the bitter exile
> and bring salvation to the Jewish nation. Thus, it is a very appropriate
> prayer for inaugurating the holiest and most awesome day of the year. It is
> this hidden message and prayer, cleverly camouflaged by what seems to be a
> technical, halachic procedure, that evokes those deep emotions, and brings
> almost every Jew, observant or otherwise, scholar or student, to shed a tear
> and resolve to better his ways in the coming year, a year which we hope will
> bring the final redemption that we so eagerly await.

Wishing all readers a gemar chatimah tovah

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Sep 28,2016 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Loud davening

Carl Singer wrote (MJ 63#01):

> 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.

Hopefully it will never again be necessary though, unfortunately, too many
people simply do not think of the negative effects there behaviour may have
on others. I have always wondered whether they have learned in the Mir (not
the famous yeshivah of that name but the the literal meaning of the word

Martin Stern

From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Thu, Sep 29,2016 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Loud davening

On Chaim Casper's words (MJ 63#01):

> 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).

But *Berachot* 31a relates how Rabbi Akiva would conduct himself in prayer:

When he was with the congregation, he would pray quickly so as not to be a
burden on those praying with him (who would respectfully wait for him to
finish). But when he prayed alone, one could leave him in one corner and
afterwards find him in another corner, due to his many bows and prostrations.

Yisrael Medad


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 6,2016 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Power of the press

On Rosh Hashanah, I could not help noticing that the gentleman sitting next to
me said 'teruateinu' in Areshet Sefateinu after the shofar blowing after
Malkhuyot but 'tekiateinu' after the shofar blowing after Zichronot and
Shofarot. As I was a intrigued by this inconsistency, I asked to see his machzor
which was printed in Hanover in 1837 and found that that was what was printed in
it. Obviously it had not been carefully proofread and he was merely following
what was in it.

Somehow I suspect that a lot of 'minhagim' in matters of tefillah may have
arisen from similar failures of publishers who were not careful enough (or even
might not have been scholarly enough) to check the machzorim they issued. 

Especially with the relatively unfamiliar piyutim, this has led to their recital
in a manner that either makes no sense (the most notorious example being 'Kol
ma'aminim' in mussaf) or a distortion of the authors' intention (e.g. the Melekh
Elyon piyutim in which 'Melekh Elyon' was the beginning and 'le'adei ad yimlokh'
the end of each stanza - NOT as usually sung 'le'adei ad yimlokh Melekh Elyon').

Martin Stern


From: Dr Russell Jay Hendel <rashiyomi@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 2,2016 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Saying Amen after Goel Yisrael

Yisrael Medad (MJ 63#01), citing the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch, Orach
Chaim, paragraph 111, asserts that:

> 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.

A careful reading of the OC 111 and other relevant texts shows the exact
opposite to be true. One *is required* to answer the Shatz (congregational
cantorial  leader) with an amen after his recitation of the blessing go'el
yisrael. To clarify this position I review sources, logic, exceptions and
relevant distinctions.


The Tur, and Rema both decide that one should say amen. The Mishnah Berurah as
well as the Aruch Hashulchan also decide this way as the bottom line  halacha. I
also personally heard from Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchick several times that
one is required to say amen and since that time have acted that way.

Some more details are as follows. The main text of the SA does say that one
should not say amen. However, the Rema clarifies that we do say it. The AH
and MB both indicate that this is the proper way to behave (final law). The
AH notes that the Bais Yosef (BY) agrees with the main text, that amen
should not be said.


When deciding among competing decisions on a Rabbinic matter (such as
saying amen between go'el yisrael and the shemoneh esray) one should always
first ascertain the logical drivers of the decisions since, with very few
exceptions, all rabbinic matters are derivationally founded by logical flow
from primary considerations.

Both the AS and MB point to the Magen Avraham on OC, 66:3. The laws discussed in
OC 66 are relevant to OC 111. OC 66 discuss under what circumstances one can
interrupt in the middle of the recitation of the shema for example by answering
amen. This of course is similar to the discussion in OC 111 on whether there can
be an amen interruption between go'el yisrael and the shemoneh esray.

The MA explains that saying amen is not an interruption because amen is a
biblical word meaning affirmation. The person saying amen has simply
concurred with the content of the go'el yisrael blessing recited by the
cantor. Since the amen echoes the content of the blessing it is not an


But the MB seems to indicate an exception. Although one should recite an amen in
response to the cantor's go'el yisrael, one should not recite amen in response
to say one's neighbor's go'el yisrael. In other words, if you recited go'el
yisrael, answered amen to the cantor's go'el yisrael, and then hear your
neighbor saying go'el yisrael, you should ignore it and begin shemoneh esray.

This seems problematic. If the driver of requiring answering amen is because the
amen corresponds in content to the go'el yisrael blessing, why should it make a
difference if the amen is in response to the cantor's go'el yisrael or one's
neighbor's go'el yisrael.


To properly answer this I use the Brisker method and introduce the following
relevant distinctions: attention (Kavannah), distraction, and

The primary driver requirement for the recitation of shema and shemoneh esray is
attention. Consequently, any distraction is prohibited since it interferes with
attention. But distractions come in two flavors: quantitative and qualitative.


Suppose a child eats a candy when I begin shmoneh esray. If I were to answer
amen to the child's blessing I would be distracted since I would be thinking of
the candy, and take my mind off shema and shemoneh esray (I leave out the
question of whether adults should be answering amen to children's blessings).
Thus my saying amen would be a qualitative distraction, a distraction in content.


The following law may help us understand the concept of quantitative
distraction. OC 66 points out that if the congregation begins saying modim (a
shemoney esray blessing of thanks) while I am reciting the shema then I 

i)  should say the opening sentence of this prayer, "We thank to You," but 

ii) should not complete the prayer.

Why? If the recitation of the first three words, "We thank to you," is not an
interruption of the shema because it deals with themes of prayer, then why can't
the same be said over recitation of the entire paragraph. The answer is that
reciting the entire paragraph is a quantitative distraction, a distraction, not
based on content, but on length of recitation. If it takes me a half minute to
say a content relevant paragraph then I am removing my attention from recitation
of the shema.


The requirement not to interrupt between go'el yisrael and shemoneh esray is
not violated by saying amen to a cantorial recitation of the go'el yisrael
blessing since this amen simply affirms the content of go'el yisrael. However,
if I was required to respond to each of my neighbor's recitations, there would
be a distraction not because of content but because of the amount of time
required to answer each one of my neighbors.

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


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 2,2016 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Simanim for Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat foods whose names suggest desirable outcomes.

These are not restricted to the Hebrew names, for example the German /
Yiddish for carrots is 'mehren' which sounds similar to the word for 'mehr'
meaning 'more' and they are substituted for rubia which has a similar suggestive
connotation but was not readily available in Europe.

I have heard that some people have 'updated' this to their current vernaculars.
For example, among English speakers, some eat Waldorf salad (minus the nuts)
since its primary ingredients are raisins and celery - the corresponding wish
being to have a raise in salary!

Similarly among French speakers bananas are eaten - 'banane' sounding like 'bon
annee [a good year]'. Has anyone heard of other similar examples?

While on the this topic, perhaps one should adopt the custom of not buying fresh
flowers for Rosh Hashanah but leave those from the previous Shabbat, which will
be beginning to fade, as a reminder of the 'tzitz noveil' in the Netanei Tokef.
They might also be left until after Yom Kippur by when they will certainly have
done so.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Oct 2,2016 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Venikeiti mipesha rav (was Purim Torah)

Haneshamah lakh concludes with "veslachta la'avoneinu ki rav hu". Why do we
blame the rabbi for our sins?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 63 Issue 2