Volume 66 Number 24 
      Produced: Thu, 15 Dec 22 03:46:38 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Aliyah minhag question (2)
    [Carl Singer  Irwin Weiss]
Birkat haMazon: K'dosh Ya'akov 
    [Eric Mack]
Composting a meit 
    [Michael Rogovin]
Ezras Nashim (3)
    [Joseph Kaplan  Leah Gordon  Carl Singer]
Halachic process 
    [Joel Rich]
Kiddush clubs 
    [Joel Rich]
Prayer room with an Ezrat Nashim 
    [Joseph Kaplan]


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 13,2022 at 07:17 AM
Subject: Aliyah minhag question

Irwin Weiss wrote (MJ 66#22):
> I see guys who have aliyot grasp the two atzei Chaim while reciting the
> berachot, and then, as they recite the last few words they lift up the atzei
> chaim an inch or two and then replace them on the reading table.
> Who sees this also? Is there a source for this minhag (custom)?

I don't know the basis, but the minhag I learned from my Father, ztl, and from
watching others was to hold both aytzim when reciting the brocha and to lift the
near end an inch or two when reciting the word "Torah" in the brochas.

Also, I keep the Torah "closed" -- that is rolled up.   There are others who I
see roll it open.  Similarly, some look away (to their right) while reciting the

Carl Singer

From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 14,2022 at 05:17 PM
Subject: Aliyah minhag question

I had asked on the list (MJ 66#22) about the custom of lifting the atzei chayim
at the end of the brachot when called to the Torah.  Thanks to those of you who
provided an answer. After this, I asked a local Rabbi here, who said this:

I too have the minhag of lifting the Torah a bit while saying the b'rakhot
(front and back). I understand it as a gesture of ownership / association with
the Torah that we have been called to. 

Rabbi Ephraim Zalman Margolioth (Margaliot, Margulies, Margolis...), a
rabbi-scholar  at the turn of the nineteenth century in Galicia (Poland), among
his many books, wrote one Sha'ar Ephraim about Torah reading practices. He
addresses the behavior of the oleh in Sha'ar 4, and addresses this in paragraph 4.

He writes (I'm translating roughly and abridging a bit where appropriate):

'An oleh to the Torah must hold the Torah during the blessing. He should take
both hands and hold the parchment on either side (though not with his bare
hands, but with a tallit or other cloth) during the blessing, then after it, he
should release the left hand [whereas others hold the atzei chayim on both sides
rather than the parchment itself], then during the reading he should have his
right hand hold the etz chaim -- as hinted at by "etz chaim hi la-machazikim
bah". Then when he says the brakhah "ve-natan lanu" he should move/shake the
sefer Torah a bit and also in the final blessing "asher natan lanu Torat emet".
-- I judge his intent to be that the gesture is one of taking, reflecting natan
lanu. The move/shake word he uses is y'na'a'neah as in na'anuim, and think of
the woman exagerating the lifting of her get upon receipt, each to indicate taking.'

He goes on to discuss those who bow at the Barchu of the Torah blessing and
opines that that is not required, so if you do it, you should be clear in your
own mind that you are not bowing barkhu, but only as a gesture of respect for
the Torah.

Thank you, Rabbi Reisner for this information.

Irwin Weiss
Baltimore, MD.


From: Eric Mack <ewm44118@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 14,2022 at 07:17 AM
Subject: Birkat haMazon: K'dosh Ya'akov

What is the origin of the phrase "K'dosh Ya'akov" (the Holy One of Jacob) in the
Birkat haMazon (Grace after Meals) and why do we single out Ya'akov in that
bracha (blessing)?

Elsewhere, we see that Hashem is called "Magen Avraham" (Shield of Abraham)
and "Pachad Yitzchak" (Fear of Isaac).  What is the origin of those aliases?

Eric Mack


From: Michael Rogovin <michael@...>
Date: Mon, Dec 12,2022 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Composting a meit

Trigger warning: morbid topic ahead.

In a guest essay published in the New York Times online on Dec 5 and Sunday in
the print edition, Caitlin Doughty makes a compelling case for an alternative to
both cremation and in-ground burial, the latter being the only currently
sanctioned method of burial in Jewish legal tradition (halacha). Ms. Doughty's
rationales include cost and environmental impact, but in addition I would add
the scarcity of land (especially in a small state like Israel) and the cost of
perpetual upkeep of cemeteries especially in areas far from any current Jewish

While in-ground burial is the only currently sanctioned means of dealing with a
dead body, this was not always the case. In the Second Temple period (the time
of the Mishna) and well into and probably past Talmudic times, the common
practice in Israel was to put the deceased's body in a cave where the flesh
would decompose and then the bones would be gathered and placed in an ossuary
(typically a stone chest). The current practice, which is to keep the entire
body intact (including any medical implants) has been in place for a very long
time, but it does not seem to me that alternative practices with similar goals
of speeding decomposition and returning the body to the earth would be
inconsistent with the corpus (sorry) of halacha.

I would be curious how thoughtful experts on Jewish law might look at the
practice of composting remains. Is there still tumat meit in the resulting soil?
In the bones? Do we need to preserve the bones intact? If it is indeed possible,
what might replace the cemetery as a physical place to memorialize our families
and still have connections to them? If composting is permissible, there does
seem to be something beautiful about one's final act is giving of their body to
reforest the land to be enjoyed by future generations rather than take up
increasing amounts of scarce space from the living for internment of the dead.
It is certainly more appealing than cremation, which is how Singapore decided to
address the problem).


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 13,2022 at 08:17 AM
Subject: Ezras Nashim

I love Carl's story (MJ 66#23) of his wife simply sitting in the ezrat nashim to
chase out a male interloper and I commend her for doing so. But the problem is
that many women do not feel comfortable taking that approach  (so I've been told
by many women) for a whole slew of reasons. So the better way to handle it is
for a male member of the minyan (preferably the gabbai or a regular attendee but
it could be anyone) to go over to the male sitting inappropriately in that
section and ask him nicely to move. And if he doesn't, then demand that he do to
the extent of stopping the davening until he does. 

From: Leah Gordon <leahgordonmobile@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 13,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Ezras Nashim

Carl Singer (MJ 66#23) writes about his wife who started davening in the women's
section to indicate that a male interloper needed to go somewhere else.  I'm
really glad she felt empowered to do that, but I wish she had not had to do it.
 Why didn't any of the men davening feel the need to say something before (or
during) that?

I'm considered pretty bold by those who know me, and I wouldn't feel comfortable
just starting davening right by a man.  It's also connected to how I want to
feel when I'm davening, which is not focused on an "issue" or another human being.

Once we were at a bar mitzvah which was set up to have some separate and some
mixed seating, and I was in the women's section.  A man came there because he
felt it was more convenient, someone I have known for decades. Anyway, I said,
"I think this is the women's section," and he said, "oh, no one cares about
that," and I said, "I do care about that," but the whole interaction made it
impossible for me to get my kavana back.

I would be fine "sitting in" as protest when I am in protest mode, but I don't
want to feel that feeling in shul.

I think I've also told this story on MJ, but after my mother died, my sisters
and I were going together to daily mincha/maariv in my parents' shul.  One of
the guys who gave the dvar Torah between mincha and maariv would always stand
with his back to us, leaning on the mechitza, speaking only to the men.  It was
hard to hear what he was saying, and I wish ONE of the men who was sitting there
would have said something.  Probably my father would have said something, but he
was deeply in mourning for my mother and I don't think he noticed much going on
around him in those times.

Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 13,2022 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Ezras Nashim

Further to my submission (MJ 66#23) regarding my wife's encounter with a 'stray
male' who parked himself in the Ezras Nashim. In an ideal world someone would
have seen this man go in and have acted to inform him that the Ezras Nashim was
reserved for the women and asked him to move.

As it was, the Ezras Nashim was behind (West of) the Men's section -- so no one
noticed him go in and/or anticipated an issue.

Woulda/coulda/shoulda may apply to thoughtful, retrospective discussion/actions,
but making decisions on the spur of the moment is a bit more complex.

Carl A. Singer


From: Joel Rich <joelirarich@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 14,2022 at 12:17 AM
Subject: Halachic process

Jonathan Haidt uses the analogy of the elephant and its rider as a metaphor for
the relationship between our reason and our emotions (passions). The rider helps
the elephant make better choices but the rider cannot order the elephant to do
something against its will. It occurs to me this is a good metaphor for what
I've described as the delicate dance between the rabbis and amcha in the
halachic process (eg as in "gzeira shein rov hatzibur yecholim lamod ba [a
regulation thst the majority of the people cannot keep]").


Joel Rich


From: Joel Rich <joelirarich@...>
Date: Wed, Dec 14,2022 at 12:17 AM
Subject: Kiddush clubs

As Leo Tolstoy said in starting Anna Karenina "Happy families are all alike;
every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I'm sure there are many reasons
why people attend kiddush clubs while the minyan they were in continues its
ritual services, but perhaps the underlying cause is lack of connection with
HKBH as mediated through halacha. If so, that's  what we need to deal with, I
only wish I knew how.


Joel Rich


From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Tue, Dec 13,2022 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Prayer room with an Ezrat Nashim

I'm with Deborah Wegner (MJ 66#22) and not Martin Stern (MJ 66#23) on the
message of not having an ezrat nashim (i.e. I agree it sends the message that
women are not welcome).

And I once had an interesting experience in this regard. When I was in mourning
for a parent I found a minyan for mincha in a basement of a nearby office
building. It was a storage room and there was no mechitza. One day, the person
running the minyan announced that a female friend asked to come the next day
because she had yahrtzeit and wanted to say kaddish and asked if anyone minded
if we jerry rigged a mechitza out of some material in the room. No one did and
that what we did for the next day. She came and everything worked out well. When
I returned the following day I saw that the mechitza was still in place. I asked
the man in charge if his friend was planning to return. Oh no, he answered. We
just thought that we should keep it up in case any other woman wanted to join us.



End of Volume 66 Issue 24