Volume 64 Number 49 
      Produced: Mon, 17 Feb 20 15:37:38 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Alternatives to traditional hagbaha 
    [Perry Zamek]
Mistaken Minhagim? 
    [Joel Rich]
The decapitated heifer (3)
    [Martin Stern  Michael Mirsky  Sammy Finkelman]
Times Change, Circumstances Change, Halachah Changes 
    [Yisrael Medad]


From: Perry Zamek <perryzamek@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 4,2020 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Alternatives to traditional hagbaha

In our shule we recenly had an instance in which the person lifting the Sefer
Torah (Ashkenazi sefer Torah) evidently lost control of one side, which then
fell to the floor. The Rav of the shule addressed certain aspects of this
(whether there is a need to fast, and how to ensure that such an event does not
occur again).

I want to ask a question along different lines: How important is lifting the
Sefer Torah for the congregation to see? Are there alternatives to the
traditional mode of lifting? (For example, in the Italian synagogue I saw that a
decorative frame was placed over the atzei hayyim, and then two people, one on
each side, would pick up the Torah.) What is done in synagogues where all or
most of those present are elderly?

I would appreciate the thoughts of those on the list.
Perry Zamek

C: 054-7513819 | E: <perry.zamek@...> | W: perryzamek.com


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 4,2020 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Mistaken Minhagim?

In a recent piece on Torah Musings R'Gil Student wrote about R' Chaim Pilaggi
mentioning minhagim which were incorrect but the Rabbis were unable to stop
them. Does anyone know the earliest example of such? This is an issue I wonder
about since we often seem to say that minhagim should continue since "obviously"
earlier Rabbis approved them and the communities were all holy.

Joel Rich


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Feb 3,2020 at 01:01 PM
Subject: The decapitated heifer

Ari Trachtenberg wrote (MJ 64#48):

> The ritual of the decapitated heiffer (or broken-necked heiffer - Eglah Arufah)
> is explicitly prescribed as a positive commandment in the Torah
> (Deut. 21: 1-9), when a corpse is found in the field between two cities.
> And yet, the rabbis in Mishna Sota (9:9) states that the rabbis stopped this
> requirement when the numbers of murderers increased.  Indeed, the Mishna goes
> on to describe a number of rituals that were discontinued by the rabbis
> despite being explicitly enjoined in the Torah:
> 1.  Under what grounds did the rabbis have the authority to discontinue an
> explicit Torah injunction?
> 2.  Why could not the same principle be used to discontinue agunot or core
> obligations like Shabbat and Kashrut?

The crucial point is that the Eglah Arufah and the other mitzvot mentioned in
Sota (9:9) are positive, i.e. "Do such and such!", and the rabbis have the power
to say "Don't do it" if they consider the circumstances require abstention. 

On the other hand they do not have the power to override a Torah prohibition
such as to permit a [possibly] married woman to remarry or to permit
Torah-prohibited work on Shabbat. This comes under the general principle of
"shev ve'al ta'aseh adif [when in doubt do nowt]".

Martin Stern

From: Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...>
Date: Tue, Feb 4,2020 at 03:01 AM
Subject: The decapitated heifer

In response to Ari Trachtenberg (MJ 64#48):

Chazal have the power to make a declaration that a Mitzva Asei (positive
commandment) in the Torah not be carried out - known as "shev v'al taase" - sit
and don't do it. An example is to not blow shofar on first day of Rosh Hashanah
if it falls on a Shabbat.

But they can't do this for issues involving Mitzvot Lo Taase (negative 
commandment) such as the others that he mentions: aguna, Shabbat and kashrut.

Michael Mirsky

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Fri, Feb 7,2020 at 02:01 PM
Subject: The decapitated heifer

In response to Ari Trachtenberg (MJ 64#48):

The thought comes to mind that the rabbis discontinued the decapitated heiffer
either because it became impossible to do or could not usually be done properly
(or would not have the intended effect) or perhaps because the measurers would
come under threats.

All this falls under the category of an ones. For a similar reason we longer
offer korbanos in the Beis HaMikdosh. And once that was batul even something
that did not exactly have to be done on the same site was also batul.

The same principle cannot be used to discontinue agunot, or core
obligations like Shabbos and  Kashrus, because those that they stopped were all
mitzvos asay [Do's] and the restrictions on marriage etc. are basically lo
sa-asay [Dont's].

Now there's an interesting variant on this:

Techeiles was also stopped because it was no longer available, It had probably
only continued to be produced for Jews - others used indigo - and the works
were probably destroyed in the course of wars that passed through Lebanon in the
600s. Perhaps the skillled people or managers were scattered and some crucial
persons could have been killed.

But tzitzis, although it could have been avoided, continued to be worn. Probably
because it is a separate mitzvah and what to do probably was decided at the
point when techeilles became rare and hard to get but not totally unavailable -
the Rabbis did not want the mitzvah of tzitzis to become totally batul.

And even though now, finally, since the 1980s, we may have figured out
correctly what techeiles is and how to make it, there is no mesora so it isn't,
and maybe shouldn't, be widely adopted.


From: Yisrael Medad  <yisrael.medad@...>
Date: Sat, Feb 15,2020 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Times Change, Circumstances Change, Halachah Changes

The Rambam in Hilchot Shabbat 25:6, discussing the issue of muktzah, determines
that "an infant born in the eighth month, [although] he is alive, is considered
as a stone and it is forbidden to move him" The footnote at the Chabad site reads:

"Tosafot, Shabbat 135a, states that this ruling is no longer followed ...
Furthermore, the advances in medical technology have enabled us to save the
lives of many babies who would surely not have survived in previous generations.
At present, it is a mitzvah to attempt to save the lives of all premature
babies, even if doing so involves performing a forbidden labor on the Sabbath"

So, times change, circumstances change and subsequently, the halachah changes.
The question is: does this occur only because of scientific advances? Or can
other factors - social, behavioral, etc. - affect the outcome?

Yisrael Medad


End of Volume 64 Issue 49