Volume 63 Number 04 
      Produced: Thu, 27 Oct 16 11:28:43 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Approaches to Jewish Law (psak) (was Rabbi Doniel Neustadt) 
    [Dr Russell Jay Hendel]
Avinu Malkeinu at YK Mincha 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Blessing on viewing a hurricane (was Gender Relationships) 
    [Abraham Lebowitz]
Chillull Shabbat vs. Pikuah Nefesh (2)
    [Martin Stern  Rabbi Meir Wise]
    [Yisrael Medad]
Gender Relationships 
    [Susan Buxfield]
L'David Ori after post-YK Maariv 
    [Orrin Tilevitz]
Power of the press 
    [Martin Stern]
Venikeiti mipesha rav 
    [Rabbi Meir Wise]


From: Dr Russell Jay Hendel <rashiyomi@...>
Date: Sat, Oct 22,2016 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Approaches to Jewish Law (psak) (was Rabbi Doniel Neustadt)

Yisroel Medad (MJ 63#03) mentions Rabbi Neustadt's approach to deciding Jewish
law (pesak).

> "... each *posek* develops a formula for how to deal with issues that are a
> *machlokes* among the *poskim*. In actual practice, the way the final ruling is
> presented would depend on the exact case. Sometimes, we follow the majority
> opinion, other times we follow the accepted custom, while still other times we
> have no choice but to bring down several opinions without a clear-cut ruling
> since none is available. In cases of this last nature, people have to choose
> which opinion to follow, depending on the level of stringency they want to 
> adopt for themselves and their family."

> That seems rather clear.

While this is clear, I thought I would mention the Rav's (Rabbi Joseph Baer
Soloveitchick's) approach to pesak as he outlined in his shiurim which I
attended for 7 years, an approach which in some respects differs from Rabbi
Neustadt's approach. The Rav approached each psak situation as a challenge to
build a logical edifice whose conceptual structure consisted of clean, clear,
precise definitions which covers and harmonizes all basic situations as well as

Having learned Talmud with the Rav for 7 years, I would witness such logical
constructions weekly. Such an approach has a satisfying transparency and
objectivity which harmonizes all opinions and their exceptions. I might also
point out that if one reads the Rav's, Ish Hahalakha, Halakhic Man, a beautiful
and profound book describing the person who "lives" in law, one finds that the
entire part II of this book is devoted to halakhic man's capacity for
creativity. Indeed, the Rav saw both learning and psak as an intensely creative
process in which a conceptual structure is created into which everything falls
neatly into place.

This creative process very often harmonizes what appears to be conflicting
opinions among the early authorities (rishonim). The Rav would also, when
necessary, show how later authorities overlooked certain distinctions.

While writing this posting, I came across an interesting one-page article in the
Fall 2016 AMIT magazine which may be relevant to our discussion of differing
approaches to law. The Ramatkal, the supreme commander and chief of staff of
Israel Defense Forces (IDF) requested that senior leaders of AMIT help with what
he saw as the most serious problem facing Israel security. The largest threat
facing Israel are the rifts among the various groups comprising Israeli society.
He asked AMIT, which oversees a religious network of schools in about 30 cities
with about 33,000 students to form a plan to strengthen components of unity
while still celebrating our diverse backgrounds. (AMIT has been instrumental in
creating tolerance and respect for diversity in its religious network). I would
like to think that on a small scale, we at Mail-Jewish, can participate in the
need for unity by showing understanding and respect for different approaches to
halacha and psak.

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


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 13,2016 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Avinu Malkeinu at YK Mincha

The Koren YK Mahzor says that some shuls in Israel omit Avinu Malkeinu at YK
mincha to insure that that birkat kohanim is done before shekia. Has anyone seen
this in practice? If so, how exactly would that work? Shekia is at least 40
minutes, maybe more, from the end of the fast, and it takes only 15 minutes at
most to get from birkat kohanim to the end of davening. Do they blow shofar
early? Or is there a pre-shofar break?


From: Abraham Lebowitz <asaac76@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 11,2016 at 04:01 AM
Subject: Blessing on viewing a hurricane (was Gender Relationships)

Russel Jay Hendel wrote (MJ 63#03):

> I was watching footage of hurricane Matthew last week.....I felt like saying
> the blessing on natural displays of might, shecocho o'gevuratho malay haolam
> [Whose Strength and Might fill the world]. I didn't have time to ask a question
> (By the time I would get to a Rabbi the TV footage would be over).....I did ask
> four Rabbis the next day .... Three of them said no, the blessing should not be
> said, on the grounds that the sight has to be personally experienced. I in turn
> pointed out that experiencing hurricane winds could not possibly be a
> prerequisite for saying a blessing on them.

Russel says that the reason he was given for not saying the blessing on seeing
the effects of a hurricane on TV was that he did not personally witness the
event. But what of a resident in Florida who did?  Would he have to say a
blessing? I think not. We make a blessing on seeing natural events which
demonstrate to us God's creation (oseh ma'aseh bereshit) but we do not say the
blessing upon seeing an eclipse, because an eclipse was thought to be a
harbinger of bad tidings. As a hurricane can hardly be described as beneficial,
I believe the
same principle applies.

Gmar tov


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 11,2016 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Chillull Shabbat vs. Pikuah Nefesh

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 63#03):

> Martin Stern (MJ 63#02) managed to insert this into the topic regarding using
> commonsense in the matter of Shabbat work on the railways here in Israel
>> the works were only scheduled for Shabbat to avoid (hardly life threatening)
>> inconvenience to road users on working days.
> Actually, all the Rabbis in my circle certainly supported that Shabbat work on
> the basis of pikuach nefesh in that if those particular works were done on a
> weekday, according to their reasoning, the too-heavy traffic jams would block
> ambulances, fire trucks, police vehicles, army vehicles if the need arose and
> would definitely cause immediate death which would thereby justify the works
> done on the Shabbat.

Clearly this is a matter of dispute between rabbinic decisors. However it
does seem as if Yisrael's rabbis use a rather elastic definition of pikuach
nefesh since this is not a case of "choleh lefaneinu" since it is only
possible, and not certain, that a pikuach nefesh situation may occur and
then only on a subsequent weekday. I have heard that the required works
could be carried out at night instead, when traffic is not very heavy, but
this was deemed to be inconvenient compared to Shabbat (which, in any case,
is not considered by non-religious workers to be of any great significance
except possibly as a way of obtaining lucrative overtime pay rates).

> This may be a case of a galut Jewish mindset versus the consciousness of the
> requirement to take responsibility for the maintenance of a state and all its
> apparatuses.

I get the distinct impression that certain rabbis consider "the maintenance
of a state and all its apparatuses" as more important than the desecration
of the Shabbat and are inclined to bend their decisions accordingly.

The same would seem to apply to the way they turn a blind eye to the obvious
insincerity of prospective 'converts' who quite clearly have no intention to
commit themselves to mitzvah observance.

Martin Stern

From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 11,2016 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Chillull Shabbat vs. Pikuah Nefesh

In response to Yisrael Medad (MJ 63#03) and his anonymous rabbi, it seems to me
that building roads on Shabbat is not a question of pikuach nefesh or safek
pikuach nefesh. At most it is a case of safek pikuach nefesh rachok.

For over 60 years roads have not been built on Shabbat as per the status quo and
the country has not only survived , thrived but the population has increased hugely.

Let me explain what I mean by safek pikuach nefesh rachok. Despite the fact that
in cases even of safek pikuach nefesh which are in front of us, two cases were
brought to the late Rav Eliyashiv zatzal who had been a Dayan in the Bet Din and
could pasken a shealah. Rav Shach, Rosh Yeshivat Ponevitch used to ask him his

First case:

An hour before Shabbat a yeshiva bochur and his friend had not arrived. The
mother was anxious that something bad had happened. Should the police be called
or a search started?

Rav Eliyashiv answered. Who says that he is in danger? And who says that a
search would find him?

In other words, its not even a safek pikuach nefesh.

Second case:

A baby died a week after receiving a vaccination. The doctors wanted an autopsy
to see if there was a link.

Rav Eliyashiv answered. Millions of children in Israel and abroad have received
this vaccination without mishap. Yes, one child in a million has a bad reaction.
Some die. (perhaps they had some undiagnosed illness or problem). Is Yisrael
Medad and his rabbi going to oppose vaccination because of pikuach nefesh?

Unfortunately, more people die on the roads (weekdays) in Israel than have died
in all the wars put together. It is a horrifying statistic. There are
organisations and a lot of talk but the numbers steadily climb. One could make a
case that less roads would lead to less fatalities. Arguing to build roads on
the holy Sabbath in the Holy Land where millions of Jews are alienated from
Judaism is just unbelievable.

Rabbi Meir Wise

(Stuck in a traffic jam on road 38 near Bet Shemesh whilst its being widened!)


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Wed, Oct 12,2016 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Commonsense

In relation to the discussion in the past few issues on Commonsense and Halacha,
I found something relevant.

Recently, Avraham Elimelech Biderman's parshat hashavua booklets (this Yom
Kippur one was 46 pages) have been appearing at my synagogue. For those
interested, there is also an English edition, which can be downloaded, along
with dozens of others, from:


Biderman, born 1967, is connected to the Lelov, Perlov and Zevil dynasties.

In the Yom Kippur issue, he quoted a saying from R' Naftali of Ropshitz (which I
cannot independently confirm at this moment but given it is Hassidic, anyone
could have "said" it) that:

"All the Torah is included in just one "do" commandment and one "don't"
commandment. The "do" one is: be wise and clever. The "don't" one is don't be a

I think that summarizes at least what I was saying on the matter.

Yisrael Medad


From: Susan Buxfield <susan.buxfeld@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 27,2016 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Gender Relationships

In MJ 63#03, Dr Russell Jay Hendel wrote:

> In MJ 63#02, Susan Buxfield, responding to a posting of mine about halachic
> commonsense (MJ 63#01), responds as follows:
>> 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.
> There are three errors in this statement.
> First, I never claimed that *all* halacha was commonsense. I made the simple
> observation that certain parts of halacha *are* commonsense and that these
> commonsense principles can be used by a layman in a sudden situation.

What I claimed is that NO halacha is based on common sense even though it may
sometimes seem that way superficially.

> Susan would agree that "Love thy neighbor like thyself", is commonsense.

Not so. Would you buy your neighbor also a Rolls Royce when you became rich? If
he is a wicked person do you still have to love him?

When reading the whole verse: "Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any
grudge against the children of thy people but thou shalt love thy neighbor as
thyself: I am HaShem" - and then understanding within context of the various
commentators what exactly is vengeance and grudge is surely not a simple
commonsense approach ...

> It is even ethical humanism.

Ethical humanism is surely an unnecessary elaboration since there is no such
thing as unethical humanism!

> The division of halacha into apodictic and commonsense statements is reflected
> in the often used biblical phrase "Chukim and Mishpatim", "Statutory laws and
> Civil laws."

Absolutely not so. Chukim are laws like that of the red heifer for which there
is no logical or commonsense understanding.

Mishpatim are laws that have been debated back and forth by the various
rishonim, acharonim and commentators that are often at variance with civil law
and as such are also not commonsense to all and sundry.

> Let me give a simple example. Everyone knows Hillel's maxim that "Love thy
> neighbor like thyself" is a basis for all Torah law (The famous conversation
> with someone who wished to convert).

Love thy neighbor is from Leviticus. Hillel's statement was: What is hateful to
you, do not do to your fellow!

> The commentators ask how grace after meals or donning tefillin fit into "Love
> thy neighbor like thyself". The classic answer is that if you get married you
> expect your wife to proudly wear the wedding band you gave her

Nothing to do with being proud! You made a kinyan kiddushin and gave her a ring.

> similarly, since God married us,

A rather simplistic viewpoint. If He married us divorce would would not be a
facet of life.

> we should wear His wedding band - the tefillin;

Is this a midrash?

> we should also thank God for food the same way we expect guests to thank us
> for meals. Now this is certainly logical.

Certainly not logical. According to a recent Pew survey a majority of those Jews
that did believe in the Almighty did not bless before or after bread or on any
other food.

> But no ethical humanist would wear tefillin or say grace after meals.

Because the most basic concept of Humanism is the denial of Divine responsibility

> The fallacy in calling ethical humanism logical is that ethical humanism only
> believes that humans should treat each other in terms of logically based 
> ethical imperatives.

Did Russel read what he wrote before submitting? There seems to be a
contradiction between the first part "The fallacy in calling ethical humanism
logical" and the last part " ethical humanism ONLY believes that humans should
treat each other in terms of logically based ethical imperatives"

> I did ask four Rabbis the next day

Four Rabbis? It is generally forbidden to ask more than one rabbi for a psak.
Which opinion will you follow next time?

> Susan further states:

>> 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

> I disagree with this and would challenge Susan for a source.

Trying to avoid non-chiba contact is perhaps what most halacha orientated people
would call commonsense!

> The whole point of my posting is that "embarrassment" (of a woman falling)
> overrides normative halacha. One should immediately rush to help her.

Embarrassment is not the issue. If she has fallen and can pick herself up not
suffering undue injury then there is no heter for a man to touch her even if not
for the reason of chiba although he may ask her if she needs any other help.

If she is about to fall and only a male at that point in time would be the most
appropriate person to save her then of course it is his duty. Rushing to help
her should only be an option when considering that perhaps there may be no one
else in the vicinity.



From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, Oct 13,2016 at 12:01 PM
Subject: L'David Ori after post-YK Maariv

The Birnbaum mahzor doesn't print L'David Ori after maariv for motzaei Yom
Kippur and doesn't indicate it's said. I've always assumed that this is a simple
error, but then I didn't see it in my brand-new Koren mahzor. Did I miss
something? is there any custom not to say it then?


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 11,2016 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Power of the press

Michael Poppers wrote (MJ 63#03):

> Martin Stern (MJ 63#02) blamed publishers/proofreaders:
>> 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.
> The nusach [liturgical text] Martin considers to be in error is also in the
> Roedelheim-print machzor ["cycle" of additional/festival prayers] that was
> originally edited by R. Wolf Heidenheim:
> http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=43504&st=&pgnum=207)
> and is still in use at "Breuer's"/KAJ and other q'hilos [congregations]...

I checked my fifth printing of R. Wolf Heidenheim's machzor (1828) and
Michael is quite correct so I must withdraw my comment on the 1837 Hanover
machzor. If this is an error, it must have crept in much earlier.

> Certainly, errors can occur thanks to intentional or unintentional changes by
> publishers or editors, but seems to me that in this case the error may be
> one of hypercorrection on the part of any editor who wished to eliminate
> "inconsistency."  If I may, my thought on the reason for "t'ruaseinu" is
> that the "t'ruah" is the key sound, with the "t'qiyah" needed as the "rye
> bread" for the "sandwich."

This is a nice idea, especially as the tekiot are only blown because the
terua has to be sandwiched between two of them. But this still does not
explain why "t'ruateinu" is ONLY used after the Malkhuyot while terua is
sounded in the other places as well (shevarim is, after all, only a version
of terua that arose because of uncertainty as to the precise way it should
be blown). Surely it should, according to this reasoning, be said all three

Martin Stern


From: Rabbi Meir Wise <Meirhwise@...>
Date: Tue, Oct 11,2016 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Venikeiti mipesha rav

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 63#02):

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

The Maharitz (Morenu Harav Yehia Tzalach) who was perhaps the greatest rabbi of
the Yemenites writes three explanations of the phrase "Ki Rav Hu" in his
commentary on the Siddur (Tichlal). I bring him as he is unfortunately not known
amongst the Ashkenazim.

1. Literally our sins are great/many

2. It is a reference to the Satan/Yetzer Hara who is strong.

3. (My favourite) Rav is a reference to Hashem. He is our Rabbi (teacher) and
the Talmud states "Rav ki mochel al kevodo, kevodo machul. A Rav who forgoes His
honour, His honour is forgiven.

It's a drash, but a lovely one.

Rabbi Meir Wise

(Nearly out of the traffic jam on kvish 38)


End of Volume 63 Issue 4