Volume 7 Number 72

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Birchat Cohanim
         [Jonathan Ben-Avraham]
Hashem Sefatai Tiftach (2)
         [Eli Turkel, Jonathan Ben-Avraham]
Hesped by R. Twersky, 5/31
         [Mike Gerver]
New List: Computer Jobs in Israel (CJI)
         [Jacob Richman]


From: Jonathan Ben-Avraham <benavrhm@...>
Date: Sat, 5 Jun 1993 22:44:18 +0300
Subject: Birchat Cohanim

in v7n63 Leon Dworsky asks about disqualifying cohanim who are not
shomer mitzvot from bircat hacohanim.

The above correctly states the halaca as "a Kohane was disqualified for
only four reasons - he was a murderer, an idol worshiper, an apostate or
the congregation hated him."

Since this is in fact the halaca, any rabbi who would not allow a cohen
to say bircat hacohanim because the cohen is not shomer shabat would
himself be in violation of the halaca.

Here in erets yisrael is is very common to see cohanim who are not
shomer shabat saying bircat hacohanim, especially since our custom is
to say bircat hacohanim every day.

Why then do we intuitively feel this is wrong? The answer I have heard
(sorry no specific sources) is that the cohen serves as the tsinor, the
pipeline for the braca that comes from Hashem. It is not the cohen himself
who is the source of the braca, which comes *despite* the cohen. After
all, what the cohen says is "v samu et shmi al bnei yisrael v ani avarcem",
you will put my name on bnei yisrael and *I'll* bless them (not you).

Furthermore, it makes no sense whatsoever to *prevent* a person who is
not shomer mitsvot from performing a *very* important mitsva.

(The above is paraphrased from an English language source I read last
summer while a guest of R. Ephraim Feinberg in Boston. Sorry I don't
remember the title.)

Jonathan Ben-Avraham


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Sun, 6 Jun 93 11:00:22 +0300
Subject: Hashem Sefatai Tiftach

>      Over the years, I have noticed individuals, who when repeating the
> amidah as a shliach tzibbur, begin with "Hashem Sefatai Tiftach" prior
> to the first bracha.  I have been told that this was based on the
> opinion of the Rav, ZT"L that this introductory phrase is actually part
> of the first bracha, so it is appropriate to say that aloud as well.  Is
> this accurate?  Could anyone elaborate?

     R. Soloveitchik was indeed insistent that both  Hashem Sefatai Tiftach
at the beginning and the Yehi Razon at the end are integral parts of
the shemonei esreh and are to be said out loud by the hazzan. Actually
this is not a new opinion as Rav Hai gaon already mentions it. The Mishna
Brura (111) seems to indicate that it should be said softly. Sefardim based
on the Kaf ha-Chaim say it out loud. My personal custom is to say both of 
these phrases out loud but somewhat softer than the rest.

Eli Turkel

From: Jonathan Ben-Avraham <benavrhm@...>
Date: Sat, 5 Jun 1993 22:44:18 +0300
Subject: Hashem Sefatai Tiftach

in v7n62 Elly Lasson and Jonathan Wreschner ask about hashem sfatai tiftah
said out loud as part of hazarat hashats.

The custom is based on the tosefta of rabi yohanan that appears in masecet
bracot, daf dalet amud bet and again on daf tet amud bet. Rav Ashi says
there (rough translation:) "...because the rabbis put this verse in, it
is considered an extension to the tfila (i.e. an integral part of the
tfila and not a hefsek)." If it is an integral part of the tfila as the
gemara indicates, then some people apparently think it should be said
out loud just like any other part of the tfila.

Saying this posuk out loud is a very old custom among the sfardim and
teimonim whose roots (the custom's that is) are lost in the dust of


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 1993 3:01:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Hesped by R. Twersky, 5/31

There was a hesped for the Rav given at Maimonides School on the evening
May 31 by R. Yitzhak Twersky. I feel particularly unqualified to give an
account of this, and I am sure I missed and misunderstood a great deal,
but for what they are worth I will summarize here the notes I took.

Before R. Twersky's hesped, there was a brief talk by Abe Levovitz, the
president of the Maimonides board, who repeated a dvar torah given by the
Rav on his mother's yahrzeit, I think in 1968. At that time the Rav quoted
a pasuk in Eicha, which says that Jerusalem remembers all of her treasures
from days of old. How could she possibly not remember? Rather, this means
that only now, when they are lost, does she appreciate them; when she
still had them, she took them for granted. It is the tragic nature of man
to do this. Chazal said that this also applies to the death of a parent
or a teacher. In mesechta Brachot, it tells how after the death of the
amora Rav, his students did not fully realize their loss until they had
a question about birkat ha-mazon that they could not answer, and then
realized that Rav was no longer there to ask. This is the tragedy of the
nostalgic moment of realization of loss, which gives rise to memories
tinged with guilt about lost opportunities. In mesechta Kiddushin, it says
that kibud av va'em [honoring one's father and mother] is equal [hishveh]
to reverence for G-d. The Ramban replaced "hishveh" [equal to] with "shachu"
[interdependent with], which the Rav said was a profound insight. In a
baraita, kibud [honor] is said to consist of me'ora [fear] and ahava [love],
which means personally attending to the needs of one's parent, not hiring
someone else to do it. After death, neither of these are possible, but it
is still possible to honor the person by supporting and furthering the
ideals he stood for.

R. Twersky began his hesped by quoting from Moed Katan, where it says that
a sage [chacham] should be continually honored and eulogized. Does a sage
need so much praise? Rather, the purpose of a hesped is to delineate the
effect he had on us, while our memory is vivid, focussing our thoughts,
and in this way to honor him. He supported this idea with a quote from
mesechta Shabbat.

In the case of the Rav, there is no need for, or room for, exaggeration.
The phrase "talmid of the Rav" has been tossed around a lot, but it should
be used very carefully, and honestly. Chaim Volozhiner, in a letter he
wrote to the community, explained why he did not want to be referred to
as a talmid of the GR"A, that he thought this would be shameful to
the GR"A, although by all accounts he was the GR"A's most brilliant

Most of the hesped was taken up with the theme of defining what is a
"chacham ha-mesorah" [literally, a sage of the tradition]. This is someone
who often appears at a time of despair, when the continuity of Torah
study appears threatened. Times of crisis bring forth especially creative
sages. Thus the Rambam, in the introduction to the Mishneh Torah, states
that, because in his days wisdom had disappeared, he composed the Mishneh
Torah which would be comprehensible to everyone. For similar reasons,
R. Yehuda Ha-Nasi composed the Mishneh. The Ramban said that he stood on
the crest of a great wave of learning, and had to act decisively to keep
those in front of or behind the wave from going under.

What are these periods of intense creativity? Things not revealed to Moshe
Rabbeinu were revealed to R. Akiva, because he lived in a time of Churban.
The light of Torah had to shine more radiantly, that was the only response
to the historical challenge. The same theme appears in Rabbeinu Tsadok
mi-Lublin, who quoted a passage from Menachot and gave it new meaning,
saying that in a time of bitul Torah, Torah study must take a quantum
leap. And the same thing is true of 20th century America. The arrival of
the Rav and his father, also the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe and R. Aaron
Kotler, but mostly the Rav, was responsible for the revival of learning
in America. The Rav not only enhanced the number of scholars, but enhanced
kibud of Torah, when others were demoralized.

R. Twersky quoted a gemara [I don't remember where] in which R. Chanina
and R. Chia are discussing what they would do if the chain of continuity
of Torah learning were in danger of being cut off. R. Chanina says that
he would restore the Torah with his powers of reasoning. R. Chia disagrees,
and says that he would make sure that the chain of learning were not
cut off. He would plant flax, harvest it and weave nets to catch stags,
feed the meat of the stag to orphans, and use their skins to write scrolls.
He would go to a town with no teacher, teach Chumash to five different
children and Mishnah to six different children. This approach is also
seen in a ma'aseh in mesechta Menachot, in which G-d is busy adding tagin
to the letters of the Torah, before revealing it. The angels impatiently
ask "Why are you holding it back?" G-d replies "Because I have to make
this available to Akiva ben Yosef." It is not enough for limud torah to be
accurate, it must also be appealing to people and beautiful.

The Rav embodied both the approach of R. Chanina and the approach of R.
Chia, both scientific/philosophical brilliance and Torah tradition.
He never said or wrote a platitude.

"Lo ken avdi Moshe" [Not like this is my servant Moshe]-- The Rambam says
that the sin of Miriam was in not realizing this. This phrase is also used
in an article on R. Chaim Brisker by R. Chaim Berlin, and in an article by
the Rav on his uncle the Brisker Rav (R. Chaim's son Velvil). And they also
apply to the Rav himself. It is necessary to identify his unique features,
not "gadol ha-dor" but "yachid ha-dor." Those who write eulogies don't have
the vocabulary to describe him, so they distort his image, reducing it to
images they can understand.

A chacham ha-mesorah bases his learning on overarching principles, unifying
motifs, and systematic categories. If he did not do this, if he were only
concerned with details, this would lead to weariness and confusion about
what to do. This had something to do with [and I didn't quite follow
this point] why it was necessary for R. Chaim Volozhiner to found a
large yeshiva at Volozhin, rather than following the previous practice of
having lots of smaller yeshivot with only a few people learning in each

In the gemara, R. Eliezer never gave an answer to a question without
giving a mesorah [tradition] for it, but he often brought out ideas
which no one had realized before that they _were_ part of the mesorah.
Once R. Eliezer pointed them out, they became part of the mesorah. The
Rav described the process of "chidush" [new ideas], of "nireh li" ["it
seems to me..."] as discovering old ideas that were hidden in a dark
corner, that were in galut, and rescuing them.

The Rav had a systematic and comprehensive methodology in halacha and
hashkafa, he had erudition, and he had the ability to illuminate ideas.
To give one example, which is all there is time for, consider the contrast
between "ma'aseh ha-mitzvah" [doing a mitzvah] and "kiyum ha-mitzvah"
[realizing a mitzvah(?)]. The first is external, for example the act of
giving a hesped, and the second is internal, for example the internal
feeling of grief resulting from the hesped. The Rav called attention to
the pulsating inner life of one who is meticulous in his practice.
R. Twersky recalled how the Rav once excitedly showed him a book he had
found, "Kitvei Rakiv[?]", a book of "shirei kodesh" that the Rav had
enjoyed reading in his youth. [I think the point R. Twersky was making
was that these poems expressed this "pulsating inner life".]

Mesorah is intellectual, practical, and ethical. One needs access to living
mesorah as well as formal written or spoken words. Something here about
R. Yochanan ben Zakhai offering R. Elazar to teach him ma'aseh merkavah
[but I'm not sure what point he was making]. Learning is not just cognitive.
One who is close to and sensitive to every nuance of the chacham ha-mesorah
continues to learn from him. The chacham ha-mesorah must relate to the 
whole community, male and female, learned and unlearned. The Mishneh Torah
is written in a way that appears straightforward to a simple reader, but
erudite and profound to a learned reader. Sforno says that G-d does this,
and that the chacham imitates G-d in this respect. The Rav's real greatness
lay not in his dazzling brilliance, but in his ability to teach in a way
that would challenge and stimulate all. This required tzimtzum, a holding
back of his brilliance, or else everyone would drown. He used charm and
pedagogic skill. Moshe Rabbeinu is a paradigm for this.

R. Twersky recalled that about 30 years ago there was a man named Yossel,
who davened at the Talner beis medrash. He didn't seem to have any family.
He was a simple man, who didn't have much to do with the Rav except
occasionally when he would bring him a chicken with a shayla. Yossel died
on the first day of chol ha-moed Pesach. The Rav led tehillim, not only
attending his levaya but went to the cemetery and shovelled earth on the
grave himself. He wanted to do this, even though he as very busy and could
ill afford the time, because, he said, this was a rare case of a genuine
"meis mitzvah." The Rav's students did not have to ask him "Lamdeinu
orchot he-chaim," [teach us the ways of life] he was continually doing

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: Jacob Richman <jrichman@...>
Date: Thu, 10 Jun 93 16:01:20 -0400
Subject: New List: Computer Jobs in Israel (CJI)


Computer Jobs in Israel (CJI) is a one way list which will 
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This list will also send you other special documents / announcements
regarding finding computer work in Israel.

During the first 2-3 months (startup) please do not send any requests 
to the list owner regarding "I have this experience who should I contact".
Eventually this list will be an open, moderated list for everyone to 
exchange information about computer jobs in Israel.

To subscribe send mail to <listserv@...> with the text:

sub cji firstname lastname

Good luck in your job search,

Jacob Richman (<jrichman@...>)
CJI List Owner


End of Volume 7 Issue 72