Volume 64 Number 21 
      Produced: Tue, 09 Apr 19 16:19:09 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

A deeper structure in birchat yotser? 
    [Martin Stern]
Dancing at weddings 
    [Perets Mett]
Hebrew Grammar 
    [Perets Mett]
Measles vaccinations (2)
    [Carl A. Singer  Ari Trachtenberg]
Not wearing glasses in public 
    [Carl A. Singer]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Mar 31,2019 at 06:01 AM
Subject: A deeper structure in birchat yotser?

In an essay "Some Further Thoughts on the First Paragraph of the Shemoneh
Esrei" included in my book "A Time to Speak" (p.85), I wrote about "the
'four worlds' through which the Kabbalah traces the percolation of Divine
beneficence from the essentially unknowable Ein Sof down to ourselves: olam
ha'atzilut, olam haberiah, olam hayetzirah, olam ha'asiah."

"Each world represents the same concepts, but, as one progresses downwards,
in an attenuated form. An analogy that might explain this is to think of a
pile of paper with clear writing on the top sheet. On the second one there
will be an impression that is still readable, whereas the third can only be
read with difficulty. On the fourth, the impression, though still there, is
almost invisible and will only be readable by someone who is aware of its
existence and examines it with the utmost care and concentration."

Essentially, this is meant to explain how HKBH chooses to 'hide' Himself from us
so that we are not overwhelmed by his presence, which would otherwise deprive us
of any meaningful freedom of will.

This might be seen in the structure of tefillat shacharit which appears to
reflect an 'ascent' through these 'worlds', at each stage bringing one, so to
speak, to a closer connection with the Divine presence:

Birchot hashachar/korbanot          olam ha'asiah [world of action]

Pesukei dezimra                     olam hayetzirah [world of development]

Kriat shema uvirchotehah            olam haberiah [world of creation]

Shemoneh esrei                      olam ha'atzilut [world of closeness]

As I have previously written, the end of each section hints might be hinted to
by sets of, specifically, fifteen items - fifteen having a connotation of a rise in

In my book, I suggested that, having 'ascended' to the highest 'world', the
first paragraph of the Shemoneh Esrei might reflect a 'drawing down' of this
'inspiration' to oneself.

At each of the four levels there appears to be a threefold structure, reflecting
the Kabbalistic concept "that there is an intrinsic tension between gevurah,
power (equivalent to din, justice), and chessed (or rachamim, mercy), in the
universe, the former being represented as the left and the latter the right in
the scheme of Sefirot, emanations of the Divine".

These may be thought of as representing a 'thesis' and an 'antithesis' in the
Divine scheme, which are reconciled in a synthesis, which combines the two in a
harmonious manner. However, what appears as a synthesis in one 'world' is only
the beginning of a fresh division in the next. Thus, the Divine influence is
seen as coming from the Ein Sof through such a three-stage process from each of
the 'worlds' to the one below it.

I have noticed that this threefold structure seems to exist in a condensed form
in the introduction common to every berachah:

Barukh ATAH             Ein Sof

HASHEM                  thesis - rachamim

ELOKEINU                antithesis - din

MELECH HA'OLAM          synthesis - leading on to its specific content

Furthermore, the 'four world' structure might also be detected in the
introduction to the first berachah before kriat shema.

It continues:

Yotzer or                       olam hayetzirah

Uvore choshech                  olam haberiah

Oseh shalom                     olam ha'asiah

Uvoreh et hakol                 olam haberiah

The first two phrases might represent an 'ascent' from the olam hayetzirah to
the olam haberiah, and the second two an 'ascent' from the olam ha'asiah to the
olam haberiah. This raises some problems, which puzzled me for a long time:

1. Why does it only 'reach' the olam haberiah, not the olam ha'atzilut?

2. Why does the second 'ascent' appear to 'jump' levels?

3. Why is there a 'leap-frog ascent' in it?

After much thought, I think I might have come up with a solution.

1. As mentioned earlier this segment of shacharit corresponds to the olam
haberiah, so one might see the first two phrases as alluding to the 'ascent'
just made from pesukei dezimra (olam hayetzirah). This would fit well with not
mentioning the olam ha'atzilut - answering the first problem.

2. Having 'connected' the olam hayetzirah to the olam haberiah, it is possible
to 'connect' directly from the olam ha'asiah to the olam haberiah - answering
the second problem.

3. The third problem can perhaps be answered by postulating that it is meant to
indicate that the 'four worlds' are one as I suggested initially - so the
'leap-frog ascent' is more apparent than real.

It would appear from the above analysis that this passage can be seen as
representing a 'reaching down' from Hashem in its first part (that common to all
berachot) and a corresponding 'reaching up' from us in the second. This
contrasts with the conclusion drawn in my analysis of the first paragraph of the
Shemoneh Esrei, which suggests only a 'reaching down' from Hashem. However, this
should not be surprising since the latter is in the section of the tefillah
corresponding to the olam ha'atzilut whereas the former corresponds to the lower
level of olam haberiah.

Any comments?

Martin Stern


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Thu, Apr 4,2019 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Dancing at weddings

Ben Katz (MJ 64#20) wrote:
> In response to Martin Stern (MJ 64#19):
> I may get into trouble, but here goes:
> This is just one of a myriad of examples of minhag, the ultimate religious
> expression of a community, developing without regard to what the actual,
> technical halachah might prefer.  Perhaps if the dancing were all at the end it
> would be anti-climactic or there wouldn't be enough guests left.  The community,
> not the rabbis, have decided that the mitzvah of mesameach chatan vekallah
> overrides the mitzvah of shevah berachot. 
> Even at the most yeshivish wedding I have ever attended I have never seen
> dancing delayed till after sheva berachot.

That is because Ben lives in the USA where people have got it into their heads
that Bircas Hamozon at weddings has to be delayed until hundreds of guests have
left and there are fewer than twenty people remaining

In Israel and Europe it is common for Bircas Hamozon to take place while most of
the guests are still on site. Dancing continues afterwards and there is nothing
anti-climactic about it

Bear in mind that at American chasenes most of the guests have bentshed already
while dancing continues!

Perets Mett
London England


From: Perets Mett <p.mett00@...>
Date: Thu, Apr 4,2019 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Hebrew Grammar

Martin Stern (MJ 64#20) wrote:
> Irwin Weiss wrote (MJ 64#19):
>> Martin Stern (MJ 64#18), writing about his grandsons' birth 40 years ago and
>> Tachanun issues, wrote:
>>> Their britot were delayed.....
>> If twin boys are born and there is not going to be a single brit milah (bris)
>> but two separate ones, in Yiddish, so far as I know, one says brissim.  (Like
>> Taleisim, while in Hebrew, we say Tallitot)
> There is a general rule in Yiddish that Hebrew loan words always form their
> plurals as if masculine whatever the gender in Hebrew.

Often, but not always. The plural of bris in Yiddish is brisn (NOT brissim,
which does not exist in Yiddish) following the normal (gender-insensitive) rule
for plurals in Yiddish

Perets Mett


From: Carl A. Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Thu, Apr 4,2019 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Measles vaccinations

I realize that this has both medical and halachic threads.

Our synagogue (Young Israel of Passaic-Clifton) does not allow children who are
not vaccinated to participate in our youth groups. Like most things this is on
the "honor system" -- sending one's child to the youth groups implies that they
are vaccinated.

With Pesach around the corner there will be many visiting families -- some from
communities known to have issues with measles, vaccinations, etc.

Any thoughts or suggestions how we should handle this?

Carl A. Singer, Ph.D., Colonel, U.S. Army Retired
70 Howard Avenue

From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Sat, Apr 6,2019 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Measles vaccinations

I am not a medical doctor but I fear that Ben Katz (MJ 64#20) who, as far as I
know, is a very well respected one, is overly simplifying the halachic
obligation to vaccinate.

Let me state outright that the main childhood vaccines literally save lives, and
I agree that, as a result, there is an affirmative requirement from the Torah to
accept them, wherever possible.

For the less widely used vaccines, such as chickenpox for example, there appears
to be some evidence that natural infection provides stronger later immune
response (for the elderly who are more susceptible to serious complications)
than vaccination:


For other vaccines, like for influenza, the effectiveness can be fairly low in
some years, and it may be reasonable to balance the risk of infection against
any unpleasant side-effects.  I cannot state this with medical or halachic
conviction (I have neither credentials), but it logically makes sense that there
is some threshold at which point the uncertainty of a benefit is outweighed by
the likelihood of discomfort.  I would be interested in reading
a cogent halachic discussion of the commonly made argument that one must
vaccinate in order to provide herd immunity to those who cannot vaccinate,
especially for these less widely used vaccinations.

With respect to doctors obscuring evidence, they most certainly do!  For
example, most doctors are well aware that people have a poor intuitive
understanding of probability, and will choose not to dwell (or, in some cases,
even explain) low-probability side-effects to patients who might blow them out
of proportion and, consequently, refuse necessary medical procedures.   In its
less innocuous version, medical professionals may publicly understate or obscure
the risks of medical treatments that they consider to be largely safe. 
Likewise, doctors may lie to patients in order to induce a placebo effect,
which, studies show, may provide real medical value.

We all understand that there is a value in these medical 'lies', but we should
not be surprised when they consequently lower public trust in the profession,
sometimes with deadly consequences.  As the Biblical adage proclaims: "From
falsehood you should distance yourself" (Exodus 23:7).


From: Carl A. Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Thu, Apr 4,2019 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Not wearing glasses in public

An acquaintance (I'm deliberately being vague) informed us that her son who is
learning in Israel now removes his glasses when walking in public so as not to
(chas v' challilah) see women who may not be dressed to his standards of tsnius.
Apparently, his friends do the same.

Any thoughts on this one?

Carl Singer


End of Volume 64 Issue 21