Volume 8 Number 9

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Blessing Children
         [Howie Pielet]
Obvious may no longer be Obvious
         [Shaul Wallach]
Rav Kook on atheism
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Shabbas Kallah
         [James Diamond]
Women's T'Filah (Vol 8 No 5)
         [Ellen Krischer]


From: <pielet@...> (Howie Pielet)
Date: Mon,  5 Jul 93 12:16:42 CST
Subject: Blessing Children


On a recent trip, I was a guest at the Shabbos table of Rabbi and
Rebbitzin Bamberger in Metz, France.  First he and then his wife blessed
the children, a minhag (custom) I hadn't seen before.  I now note that
the Artscroll Siddur says that "parents" bless the children.

What is the nature of this blessing?  Why do we emphasize it on Erev

How widespread is the minhag for both parents to bless the children?
What other minhagim relate to this blessing?  Do grandparents bless
grandchildren?  Can we also do this blessing on Yom Tov?  How about on
other occasions, such as parent or child arriving from or leaving on a

Howie Pielet   Internet: <pielet@...>  (East Chicago, Indiana, USA)


From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 93 06:28:37 -0400
Subject: Obvious may no longer be Obvious

      Zev Farkas commented as follows on the example of the advice the
Hazon Ish gave Rabbi Binyamin Silber about his newlywed wife's hair

>in this particular case, it is not clear if it is OBVIOUS that ALL of a
>woman's hair must be covered, or is it OBVIOUS that ANY covering of the
>hair is sufficient.  or is the correct answer somewhere in between, which
>should be OBVIOUS.    :)
>the point i'm trying to make is that poskim must be careful in their
>assumptions about what is obvious to us, and those of succeeding generations.

     In this case, I'm sure that the Hazon Ish relied on Rabbi Silber's
sense of judgment to know what should be obvious. After all, R. Binyamin
Silber is one of our generation's poseqim, and his books Brit `Olam (on
Shabbit and Shevi`it) and Az Nidbaru are widely quoted. To other people
(like us :-) who are not so sure about what should be obvious, poseqim
such as R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Ovadia Yosef give more explicit
answers, as the Hazon Ish most probably would have done himself.

Shaul Wallach


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 93 13:06:25 -0400
Subject: Rav Kook on atheism

Frank Silbermann asked if someone could summarize Rav Kook's "The Pangs of
Cleansing" (In _Abraham Isaac Kook_, Paulist Press 1978).  I am certainly
no more qualified than he, but I'll give it a shot, focusing on what
related specifically to atheism.  I am no expert on Rav Kook, but this
essay fits in with the rest of his writings -- Rav Kook saw sparks of
holiness in all Jews, no matter what their religious status, and believed
very much that every individual Jew was a vital part of knesset yisrael. 
It is only a Rav Kook who could find elements of holiness even in atheism!

In this essay, he describes what the purpose of atheism is -- it is needed
to purge the abberations of faith that occur through defeciency in
perception.  Its purpose is to remove "the _particular_ images from the
speculations concerning Him who is the _essense_ of all life and the
source of all thought. (emphasis his).

He feels that atheism _necessarily_ evolves as a revolt against the
remembrance of G-d and institutions of Divine service.  Why?  To separate
between affections and the truly Divine light; "in the ruins wrought by
atheism will the higher knowledge of G-d erect her Temple."

It is preoccupation of thought with the Divine essence which leads to all
this, those who are "anguished victims of the conception of G-d."  The
human heart should not be concerned with the Divine essence but instead
with pure morality  and the heroism for higher things, "which emanate as
flashes from the Divine light and which are at all times connected with
its source."

One can find the element of good in atheism -- it is a form of repentance
in that all forms of repentance are attempts to improve the world, as is

Rav Kook seems to feel that our conceptions of G-d are very skewed; that
one should not talk about the existence of G-d because it is a positive
attribute which we assign to the infinite splendor.  The role of atheism
is to stir up and strip down these corrupt images of G-d, and in the wake
of atheism will arise a new, more perfect human understanding of hakadosh
baruch hu.

I hope that I haven't done his essay a horrible injustice.  As always, any
and all errors lie entirely on my shoulders, and for a true
interpretation, one must read the essay itself.

Eitan Fiorino


From: James Diamond <diamond@...>
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 1993 10:16:28 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Shabbas Kallah

Can anyone refer me to sources for the practice of holding a Shabbas
Kallah?  The best I've been able to come up with is that it's a vestige of
the Tena'im ceremony (minus the document and the men) in that it features
a D'var Torah for the women.  (The men presumably hear their's at the
Chosson's Tisch.)  But I have seen no written sources.
This leads me, incidentally, also to ask why at too many weddings where
there is a Chosson's Tisch, there is no serious Torah said.  That is -
they never let the groom get very far.  It seems to me, considering the
holiness of the moment, that the "King" should actually say some good
Torah to his assembled "court." 
Can anyone enlighten me on one or both of these matters.
 --- James S. Diamond


From: Ellen Krischer
Date: 1 Jul 1993  13:10 EDT
Subject: Re:  Women's T'Filah (Vol 8 No 5)

An open letter:


While I generally have very high regard for your postings, some of
your comments have left me deeply troubled.  Unfortunately, my lack
of broad knowledge of halachik sources (since I am female and was
brought up in the traditional view that women need not (should not?)
be taught such things) puts me at a *tremendous* disadvantage in
answering your points in the framework of a researched halachik 

However, I feel compelled to address some of the other aspects of your

>  So fine; we have a bunch of women who are davening, and who are not
>  all learning Torah without having made birkat hatorah.  This is not right.

Evidently, Rabbi Weiss has poskened that it is "right".  I think you
are really saying "I don't understand, based on Rabbi Weiss' own logic,
how this could be right."  Saying it that way put an entirely different
tone on the matter.

>  There are just too many areas for problems here.

Since when has the potential for problems stopped us from doing anything
in Judaism?  Keeping a kosher kitchen is filled with more problems than
this, but women have been trusted with that for hundreds of years.

>  As far as I am concerned, women's prayer groups can not expect that
>  Orthodoxy take them seriously ...

Sorry to disappoint you, but in some circles, Orthodoxy already *does*
take them seriously.  By the way, this is a rather insulting comment
and probably doesn't belong in the post.  I take everyone "seriously" -
Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc, etc.  I may not agree with them
on most things.   But that doesn't give me a right to dismiss or ridicule

> continuation of halachically questionable practices to be quite
> disturbing.  For me, it severely undercuts (read: eliminates) the
> legitimacy of the whole enterprise.

Do you alway feel the legitimacy of a position is eliminated when
you disagree with the posek?  Or is it just about some issues?

> ...ie, there is no
> halachically valid state of being "dissatisfied" with davening.

I would then ask you to explain people who "break away" from one shul
to form their own because they don't like the davening, or where the shul
is located, or what the Rabbi wears.  And they do this, despite the
precept of "al tifrosh min h'tzibbur"  [do not separate yourself from
the community].  And they do this without a lot of uproar in forums like
this one.

I don't want to cry "double standard" without cause, but I honestly
have to tell you that that is what statements like yours feel like.
Somehow I just feel like if this was a question of how to wear
tefillin or who is allowed to duchen, then the different positions are
discussed and the results end up being "aloo v'aloo devrei alokim chaim"
[both positions are the word of the living G-d].  But, when it comes
to some issues - like women's tephila - it suddenly becomes another
story entirely.  Maybe it's because, being male, you are at a disadvantage
in that you have absolutely no way at all to know what it feels like
to have a women's experience in Judaism.  (In case you couldn't tell,
that was an observation, not a criticism.)

>  ...I may not
>  be "satisfied" with the culinary options available to me, but I am not
>  therefore entitled to violate even relatively minor kashrut laws.  I
>  can't have ice cream after that chicken sandwhich, no matter how
>  "unsatisfied" I feel.

I seems to me that people who wanted ice cream after chicken invented
[an activity that could lead others to get the wrong impression of halacha]
which result.  I'm not saying we shouldn't eat pareve ice cream.  I am
saying that the fact that there are real halachik issues about something
shouldn't stop us from pursuing it.

> If you want to be seen as legitimate, you must be
> legitimate.  You must be accountable at the very least to the objective,
> non-interpretable halachic standards written in the shulchan aruch. 

I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry.  "non-interpretable halachic
standards"!?!  Two Jews three opinions.  Two Rabbis 3 psaks.  Are you
telling me that all Orthodox Rabbis agree on all the statements made in
the Shulchan Aruch?  If so, then we really have reached the days of

One last comment on you remarks about Rabbi Weiss and his shul (which I
will not quote).  I think personal remarks about how a particular Rabbi
should conduct himself and his congregation are inappropriate in this
forum and in this discussion.  To go back to my analogy with duchening,
I did not see anyone say "Yes Rabbi X allows Y to duchen, but after all,
you know all the other terrible things Rabbi X does."  That doesn't belong
in a discussion of duchening, and it doesn't belong here either.

Ellen Krischer
(My opinions sometimes aren't even my own ;-}  )


End of Volume 8 Issue 9