Volume 65 Number 74 
      Produced: Sun, 21 Aug 22 16:43:22 -0400

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Blessing on netilath yadayim 
    [Chana Luntz]
    [Ari Trachtenberg]
Is Geirus deOraisa? 
    [Martin Stern]
Psalm 145:7 zaycher or zecher 
    [Martin Stern]
Why do people think it's okay to take any empty seat in shul? 
    [Stuart Wise]


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 21,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Blessing on netilath yadayim

Shlomo Di Veroli writes (MJ 65#73)

> I have seen a number of different minhagim for netilath yadayim. Some say the
> blessing upon lifting the hands but before drying. Some say the blessing 
> whilst drying the hands. Some leave a small amount of water captured in the
> palm, say the beracha and then rub their hands together with this water. Some
> dry their wet hands (tumah related) before grasping the handle. However, the
> Yemenites (baladi/dor deiim) or those following the RAMBAM pronounce the
> bracha in accordance with the halachic principle - over l'asiyatan
> [immediately before doing the mitzvah] BEFORE pouring water over the hands.
> This is, even so, when hands may be unclean prior to the beracha. Is any one
> practice more closely aligned with the intent of the talmud, halachic
> principles and perhaps what was practiced by the kohanim?

The principle that one should make the blessing immediately prior to doing a
mitzvah can be found in Pesachim 7b where the gemora asks:  "That everybody
agrees that one is required to make the blessing before the mitzvah - from
where?  That Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shmuel: Every mitzvah one blesses
prior to its performance [over l'asiyatan] - digression to discuss as to how we
know that the words over l'asiyatan means immediately prior to performance.  In
the house of Rav they said: except for tevila [immersion] and shofar. Tevila is
fine that the person is not fit, but what is the reason for Shofar?  If you say
because he might mess up the blowing, if so even shechita [ritual slaughter] and
mila [circumcision] also, but Rav Hisda says: except for tevila only it was
said.  It was taught in a braisa also so: one immerses and gets up and in his
going up he says [the blessing]. 

Now the Rishonim differ as to whether the immersion referred to here that is the
exception is only the immersion of a convert, or it is all forms of immersions.
The Rif and Rambam (following the Geonim) say that the immersion that is
referred to here is only that of a convert - because of course a convert cannot
say asher kidishanu b'mitzvotav vi'tzivanu [who has sanctified us with your
commandments and commanded us] until they are fully a convert, so all agree that
they have to bless after the immersion. However the BehaG (and Rashi) holds that
the immersion referred to in this gemora is any immersion - that because there
were several types of immersion where the blessing could not be said - not just
a convert, but somebody who had a seminal emission (based on a decree of Ezra
which has now fallen into abeyance), they instituted that all forms of immersion
should follow this rule, and hence the BehaG etc held that women in the mikvah
should make the blessing after the immersion.  This Rishonic division is
reflected in the Shulchan Aruch where the Mechaber writes that a woman should
bless before she immerses and the Rema brings the BehaG and says that she should
not bless until after dipping.  The current Ashkenazi minhag of first doing one
immersion, then blessing, then doing more dippings is a way of catering for all

Now then the question becomes, which of these positions does washing the hands
follow?  The Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chaim siman 158 si'if 11): says:

"One blesses before washing like all mitzvot that one blesses before their
performance, and we are accustomed that we should not bless until after the
washing because sometimes his hands are not clean, and because of this we bless
on them after he rubs his hands, that already his hands are clean before he will
put on them water a second time. Rema: also he is able to bless on them before
drying because also the drying is part of the mitzvah, and it is called before
performance (Hagahot Ashri perek 100), and if he forgets to bless until after
the drying then he blesses after this."

So the Shulchan Aruch appears to say that really one ought to bless before hand
washing, but that the custom even amongst Sephardim is to take into account
hands not being fit, while the Rema comes up with a different point - since the
drying of the hands can also be considered part of the mitzvah, one is only part
way through the mitzvah and hence can bless after washing and before drying
(although this is somewhat difficult in light of Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim
siman 158 si'if 13 where Shulchan Aruch says that one can wash without drying if
he washes with a revi'it [sufficient amount] of water in one go, despite siman
158 si'if 12 where he says that if bread is eaten without drying it is as if one
is eating tameh bread).  The Yemenites who follow the Rambam, however, would
definitely first bless and then wash their hands.

What the kohanim did might also depend on whether Rashi/the BehaG were right
that Chazal instituted a blanket requirement for blessing post-immersion or
whether the Geonim/Rif/Rambam were right that they did not, and the reference in
the gemora to immersion refers only to the immersion of a convert.  And the
further question as to whether, even if such a reversal of the normal order was
instituted, whether it extended to handwashing.  Given that handwashing on bread
was instituted due to concerns about the kohanim not washing their hands for
teruma (Chullin 106a), and the issue is impurity, there is a logic to say that
it should follow the rule of full immersion.  On the other hand, one might say
that it is a takana [enactment] on a takana [enactment], and handwashing is very
different from full immersion, so even if Rashi/the BehaG were right, the rule
should not extend to handwashing.  It is not so surprising that the Ashkenazi
position is to try and do something that caters to as many opinions as possible
(by making the blessing between washing and drying) - as this is quite a common
Ashkenazi theme.  The custom amongst Sephardim that the Shulchan Aruch brings is
more surprising, and, as you can see, the Shulchan Aruch feels it important to
bring as the essential halacha of making the blessing first before acknowledging
that the custom is different.  But given that there is someone on whom to rely
for the custom, brings that as well.

Bli neder [hopefully but no promises] I will try and discuss the candle lighting
question in another post - but it needs to be understood in light of the basic
principles that have been set out in this one.




From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 19,2022 at 11:17 AM
Subject: Freeriders

Menashe Elyashiv wrote (MJ 65#73):
> However, what annoyes me & members are the people who come daily or weekly, and
> refuse to pay membership... These huzpanim [freeriders] enjoy full use of
> the facilities,  but do not share the expenses.

Need I remind Reb Elyashiv that we are all freeloaders in this world, and that
there is nothing we could do adequately to "repay" G-d for the bounty He freely
provides us, our parents for their support, our trees for providing fruit, or
the land for providing wheat.

I understand that synagogues have expenses and applaud those who choose to
support them.  However, I humbly suggest that you never forget the true purpose
of the shul ... and perhaps trim shul expenses if there are insufficient donors.

Shabbat shalom,

Ari Trachtenberg, Boston University 
http://people.bu.edu/trachten mailto:<trachten@...> 


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 19,2022 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Is Geirus deOraisa?

Yisrael Medad wrote (MJ 65#73):

> Micha Berger (MJ 65#72), notes that "Geirus is deOraisa" (Conversion is a
> Torah-based issue).
> But is it?
> I ask based on:
> a) no specific process detailed.
> b) no command (mitzva)
> c) the use of 'Ger' is not a "convert" but a temporary resident.
> Any comments?

Yisrael is quite correct that the Torah shebikhtav [written text of the Torah]
does not specify any process of conversion and the literal meaning of the word
ger would seem to be temporary resident.

There is no command because we are not obligated to convert non-Jews, and they
are not under any obligation to convert, but that does not mean they may not do so.

However, the Torah sheb'al peh [authentic oral tradition] uses ger (or more
precisely ger tzedek as opposed to ger toshav) to mean someone who joins the
Jewish people. It also records that the process for his/her admission is similar
to the way the Jewish people came into existence at Har Sinai: milah (for
males), tevilah (immersion in a mikveh) and bringing a korban (sacrifice). (The
last is not essential and is waived in present circumstances where we cannot
bring any korbanot.) It is authoritative in that it tells us how we should
understand the Torah shebikhtav and apply it in practice. Reverting to literal
readings of its text for halachic purposes is basically Karaite and not
consistent with tradition. Something derived from the text by its hermeneutic
rules has the status of a de'oraita, as do halachot leMoshe miSinai, though
there is often a debate whether any specific case is a true limud [derivation]
or an asmachta be'alma [a rabbinic ruling 'attached' to the verse as a mnemonic
rather than derived from it].

One can find a good survey of the various issues regarding gerut in the Chukei
Chaim, a weekly sheet distributed in shuls, 252 (Va'eira 5782) and 253 (Bo 5782)
which one can obtain by email in Hebrew or English from <mail@...>

For a more in-depth halachic study of all aspects of gerut see Mishnat Hager by
R. Moshe Klein (Machon Mishneh Torah, Yerushalaim 5768)

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 19,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Psalm 145:7 zaycher or zecher

Joseph Kaplan wrote (MJ 65#73):

> In discussing how to read zaycher on Parshat Zachor, Martin Stern tells us the
> following story (MJ 65#72):

>> We had the reverse situation. Since its foundation our shul only read zeycher
>> in Parshat Zachor with a tzerei but a new rav (who knew not Yosef) was
>> appointed  who wished to introduce the double reading with both tzerei and
>> segol. Should the congregation have sacrificed truth on the altar of
>> conformism? 

> In that case I actually see truth and minhag on the same side. But what I see
> isn't really important. What I want to know - and Martin leaves us hanging
> - is what his shul actually did.

Since I had written:

>> Should the congregation HAVE sacrificed truth on the altar of conformism?
(emphasis added)

which I think clearly implies that the shul had implemented this innovation and
my question was whether it had acted correctly. If I had not been absolutely
clear, I apologise for any confusion I may have caused.

Martin Stern


From: Stuart Wise <stuart.wise@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 19,2022 at 11:17 AM
Subject: Why do people think it's okay to take any empty seat in shul?

When I go to a shul for a simcha where I haven't davened before, I will just
stand off by the side until someone directs me to a seat. It is usually within a
few minutes and then I don't feel concerned I may be taking someone's regular
seat, or risk being asked to move. I stand for Pesukei D'Zimra anyway.



End of Volume 65 Issue 74