Volume 64 Number 17 
      Produced: Sun, 10 Mar 19 06:07:31 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Derech psak (halachic methodology) 
    [Joel Rich]
Halakha in the days before clocks 
    [Dr. William Gewirtz]
Omitting tachanun for a bris 
    [Yisrael Medad]
Pekudei problem 
    [Martin Stern]
Unetaltani or unetalatni? 
    [Martin Stern]
Yeshaya's son's name 
    [Sammy Finkelman]


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, Mar 6,2019 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Derech psak (halachic methodology)

Many RIETS/YU Rabbis are very machshiv [consider highly] Rav Asher Weiss. I'm
just curious if anyone has any thoughts on his psakim [rulings] being based on
an approach which differs from the one I assume they received. I've heard him
say in the past that he is not enamored with the tzvei dinim [two different
aspect - Brisker dialectic] approach. At the recent yarchei kallah, he made a
point of saying that he stresses in his Yeshiva that often modern questions are
not based on competing underlying rishonic conceptualizations (I assume he meant
chakirot) but rather on nuanced differentiations [That's what I pretty much
heard] Does anyone agree with my assessment from his experience and, if so, how
should that affect a YU/RIETS product's evaluation of his psak.

Joel Rich


From: Dr. William Gewirtz <wgewirtz@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 23,2019 at 01:01 PM
Subject: Halakha in the days before clocks

Sammy Finkelman wrote (MJ 64#16):

> I could give you a real almost incredible example, of an basic unsettled
> issue, not settled in the Gemora and in fact not even to this day: Just when
> a day begins and when it ends.
> The reason that is unsettled is that, originally, it depended on your, or a
> community's, perception of when daylight ended or began - and it couldn't be
> any other way. It's not like anyone had clocks, or that many people made
> calculations. All you could have is doubt as to what day it is.

Sammy's comments about day and night in a time before clocks is a bit more
complex then he indicates. The statements of Tannaim define Alot Hashachar and
the point of transition between days with incredible accuracy while lacking the
precision that clocks provide. Later, Amoraim like Shmuel, and of course Rambam,
the greatest astronomer of his age, make astronomic observations that have a
long history of not being understood. Unfortunately, Jewish scholars of most
generations were ill-equipped to interpret the profundity of Rambam's
astronomy-based observations throughout Mishneh Torah, and particularly in
Kiddush Hachodesh, or the isolated statement of Shmuel about the appearance of
stars around sunset.

The fact is that the Rabbis of Mishnah were able to state the point of
transition between days very accurately. The argument in Shabbat 34a addressed
Bein Hashemashot, how long it extended before the non-disputed end of the day -
hisif ha-elyon ve-hishveh le-tachton. Furthermore, Tannaim assumed a widespread
understanding of that point of transition when specifying halakhot based on it
including safek hashekhah, safek aino hashekhah. Incidentally, that definition
remains approximately accurate even in the modern era with increased illumination.

The rabbis knew the length of the average month, correct to 6 decimal places.
Modern science has improved that result by 2 additional decimal places. That
difference is about one hour every 500-600 years. Commercially available watches
cannot hope to maintain such accuracy.

There are numerous such examples well before the appearance of clocks; clocks
were first referenced in rabbinic literature in Leket Yosher by R. Yosef ben
Moshe, a student of R. Yisroel Isserlein (Terumas Hadeshen),  who lived in the
15th century and about 150 years after the first introduction of clocks. Well
beyond the determination of the days point of transition, Rambam plotted what we
now recognize as a trigonometric sine curve in the 12th century.

There are many halakhic impacts that the introduction of clocks and the later
proliferation of watches caused. However, they not as fundamental as what Sammy


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 22,2019 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Omitting tachanun for a bris

Perets Mett summarizes (MJ 64#16) "some situations when tachanun is omitted."

As regards a Brit, he wrote:

> 1 If the bris takes place in shul (or presumably in any other venue), tachanun
> is not said at that venue until the bris takes place. At any subsequent 
> minyanim (Shachris or Mincho) at that venue tachanun is said.
> 2 The main celebrants of a bris: the sandak, father of the baby and the mohel 
> do not say tachanun all day, as that day is their personal yomtov.
> 3 The minyan at which any of the main celebrants (see 2 above) davens, before
> the bris has taken place, does not says tachanun.

I think there are additional instances:

If the ba'alei brit, that is the father, mohel or sandak, pray in a
synagogue even other than where the brit milah is to take place (I am not
sure if #2 was to relate to this instance as to me it is not clear), still
no tachanun is said.

Sefardim, I am informed, do not say tachanun even after a brit at the minyan for
mincha if one of the ba'alei brit are present.

There is also a permitted custom, especially in smaller communities such as a
yishuv, to release all minyanim of shacharit from tachnaun in that location even
if the brit is not in that building/room.

Another custom is that if the Chair of Eliyhau remains in the minyan where the
brit took place, its assumed holiness also rleases all sunsequent minyanim all
day long from saying the Tachanun.

If a father is not even in the same town as the brit due to whatever reason
(trip, business, incarceration), he still does not say Tachanun.

In principle, since tachanun is a reshut (choice/option), all goes according to
the minhag (custom) of the synagogue and/or community.

Yisrael Medad


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Mar 10,2019 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Pekudei problem

The chapter divisions in Tenakh are not of Jewish origin, having been invented
in the 12th century by Stephen Langton, later Archbishop of Canterbury and
Primate of England during the reign of King John. Some definitely had Christian,
as opposed to Jewish implications, the most obvious being at the beginning of
Bereishit where Shabbat is implicitly separated from the Creation narrative by
putting it at the beginning of a new chapter, though there are several other
such tendentious divisions. Since they were used by Christians in disputations,
Jewish scholars were forced to use them for reference purposes.

There are, however, subdivisions of the Massoretic text called parshiyot, which
are either petuchot (with a gap left until the end the line) or setumot (where a
short gap of three characters is left blank), each of which is usually a
self-contained text. There are a few cases where these divisions are difficult
to understand  some even being in the middle of a verse - and these problems are
addressed by the commentators who try to explain them. These should not be
confused with the divisions for the aliyot, mainly of much later origin, which
we also call parshiyot.

This Shabbat, I noticed what seemed to be a case where the chapter division
seemed more logical that of the parshiyot. At its beginning, Pekudei contains an
inventory of the materials used in the construction of the mishkan, commencing
with a parashah setumah (Ex. 38:21-23) listing the people and materials
involved. It then proceeds, in a parashah petuchah, to the audit of the metals 
gold, silver and copper  and for what they were used (Ex. 38:24-31).

This parashah ends with the verse (Ex. 39:1) listing the varieties of dyed wool
used in making the priestly vestments, which are then detailed (Ex. 39:2-31) in
the next six parshiyot followed by a one verse parashah (Ex. 39:32) summing up
the previous listing.

As far as I can see there is no theological reason why Ex. 39:1 has been placed
in a separate chapter. On the contrary, it seems perfectly logical and I find it
surprising that it is included in the previous parashah, where it does not fit
so well. At the very least, I would have expected it to have been a one verse
parashah in its own right, not part of the previous one.

I have not been able to find any comment on this apparent anomaly. Can anyone
suggest one?

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 23,2019 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Unetaltani or unetalatni?

The Kedusha deSidra (Uva leTzion) quotes the Targum to Ez. 3:12 but different
siddurim vocalise the first word differently - either unetaltani or unetalatni.
Obviously the root is natal and the initial vav is merely the conjunction
meaning 'and' but which suffix is correct is not clear to me.

According to the Mikra'ot gedolot I consulted, the Targum itself uses the first
form. Baer in his Avodat Yisrael opts to follow the Targum but most siddurim use
the second form.

Not being very familiar with Aramaic grammar, I am at a bit of a loss as to how
to parse either. Can anyone explain whether the two forms have different nuances
of meaning and why, grammatically, one should prefer one rather than the other?

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 22,2019 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Yeshaya's son's name

Matthew Pearlman wrote (MJ 64#16):

> Breuer uses this explanation but reaches the reverse conclusion. The readers
> of a text will tend to copy notes from similar phrases elsewhere. So the
> Masoretes followed their example since their job was simply to record how
> people said the words.

I don't think the Masoretes just copied what people did. The aim was to get the
correct text of the Torah, and they did their best to get the accurate text from
the time of Agrippa I (41-44 Ce which is when the Sages, whose chief was
Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Garon, went through everything and tried to get
correct texts, and put the rest into geniza, and also all the fake Biblical
books, some of which were deposited near the Dead Sea, and that's probably the
origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Although we don't follow this now, it was an
opinion that anything with Hashem's name in it couldn't be allowed to
deteriorate. The book of Esther does not have Hashem's name and any bad copies
were not put there. There is an almost perfect copy of Yeshaya, but that's only
with all the corrections made in it, so
somebody must have turned it in because it wasn't so good to use.

Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Garon had a hard time saving the Sefer Yekhezkel from
being set aside as well. He stayed up many nights studying it and coming up with
reconciliations with the Torah.

And when the Massoretes did this with the text,  I think also they wanted to get
the correct notes from  approximately 1,000 years before or more, or (if the
exact melody changed) notes which would give you the correct meaning.

The notes convey meaning. There are a few places where there is an extended
pause like when Lot's wife hesitated.


End of Volume 64 Issue 17