Volume 8 Number 77
                       Produced: Tue Aug 10 12:10:20 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Counting the Torah in a Minyan
         [Shimon Schwartz]
Spiritual Heights
         [Frank Silbermann]
Spiritual Heights Re: mail.jewish Vol. 8 #75 Digest
         [Chaim Schild]
Ta'am Elyon/Tachton
         [Art Werschulz]
Women's Mezuman
         [Miriam Rabinowitz]


From: <schwartz@...> (Shimon Schwartz)
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 10:18:52 -0400
Subject: Counting the Torah in a Minyan

David Sherman <dave@...> writes:

> Several years ago we stayed over Shabbos with a chassidic Rabbi in the
> Catskills (Rabbi Fishbein in White Lake/Kauneonga Lake, NY). He has a
> shul attached to his home; in the summer he gets a large crowd. This
> was winter; with myself, Rabbi Fishbein, those of his sons who were
> over bar-mitzvah age and about 3 others, we had 9. The Rabbi advised
> us that a boy who is old enough to understand the davening, holding a
> Sefer Torah, could be counted, so with his 9-year-old holding the
> sefer Torah we had a minyan. (I don't recall what his 9-year-old did
> while we had the Torah on the bimah to layn, but we did layn.)

There is a concept of finishing something that one has started. E.g.
if there is a minyan at the beginning of the repetition of the Amidah,
but one leaves, we continue through the full Kaddish associated with
that Amidah. In Dave's case, there was a "minyan" when the Torah was
removed, and kal v'chomer [perforce - Ed.] no one has walked out, so
they could complete the reading.


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 15:18:27 -0400
Subject: Spiritual Heights

>> Rav Khayyim Volozhin:  We all have the capability to rise to heights
>> of the Avot, though not as high as Moshe Rabbainu who rose yet higher.
>  Rambam:  Every person can, in theory, reach the heights of Moshe Rabbenu.
>  The Gemara, however, tells a story about Rav Zusha who said that in Heaven
>  he will not be asked why he was not like Moshe Rabbenu but rather why he
>  was not like Rav Zusha (i.e. did not accomplish as much as he potentially
>  could have accomplished given his own abilities).  A friend of mine pointed
>  out this apparent contradiction to Rav Ahron Soloveitchik shlita, and
>  Rav Ahron responded, "That is a very strange Rambam; Rav Zusha was right!"

I don't see the contradiction between the Rambam and the Gemarra.
Though Aaron HaCohen was not as great as his brother Moshe Rabbenu, he
did actually surpass him at least one attribute (Ahavas Shalom -- love
of peace). Even if Rav Zusha had been as great as Moshe Rabbenu, that
wouldn't imply that he would have been exactly _like_ Moshe Rabbenu.
In theory, one could be equally great yet have different attributes.

(In a Purim davar Torah I said that in Heaven I did not expect to be
asked why I was not like Moshe Rabbenu, but rather I would be asked
why I was not like Rav Zusha :-)

Frank Silbermann        <fs@...>
Tulane University       New Orleans, Louisiana  USA


From: Chaim Schild <SCHILD%<GAIA@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 93 13:45:56 -0400
Subject: Spiritual Heights Re: mail.jewish Vol. 8 #75 Digest

In response to Larry Teitelman's posting in mail-jewish (Vol.8, # 75):

"Rav Zusha" is not in the Gemara......He is a Chassidic Rebbee, who is
often cited in stories with his brother Reb Elimelech.....They lived
in the 18/19th Century, well after the Gemara was written......Reb
Zusha was well-known for his humility as reflected in the cited as
well as other Chassidic stories.....



From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Aug 1993 17:35:28 -0400
Subject: Ta'am Elyon/Tachton

There's an interesting discussion of this point in Rabbi S. Y. Zevin's
"The Festivals in Halacha". In the section on Shavuot, (Vol. 3, pg.
278), he says:

  There is a difference in the cantillation of the Torah between the
  reading on the Shabbasos and that on Shavuos. On the Shabbasos the
  melody for the reading is the "Taam hatachton", the "lower
  cantilation;" while on Shavuos "taam ha'elyon", the "upper
  cantillation" is used. [Ref:  Magen Avraham, 428.] Other authorities
  rule that the difference incantillation is not between Shabbos and
  Shavuos, but rather betweeen public and individual reading; an
  individual by himself reads with taam hatachton, while taam ha'elyon
  is used for a public reading.  [Ref: ibid.]  The latter ruling is
  the one followed in our day.

  The essential difference between the two types of cantillation is
  that in the taam hatachton each verse is read as a separate unit,
  while in the taam ha'elyon the unit is not the verse but the

A few comments:

(1) In the various tikkunei lakriah [Torah reader's guides] and
    versions of mikraot gdolot [chumash with commentaries] that I have
    seen, the instructions seem to favor reading the taam ha'elyon in

(2) I have come across a variant of the taam ha'elyon that seems to
    say that the first two commandments should be read as the two
    parts of one verse, aluding to the midrash that states that bnei
    Yirsael heard only these two commandments directly from Hashem,
    and the others were heard through Moshe.

I hope this helps.

   Art Werschulz
   InterNet:  <agw@...>
   ATTnet:    Columbia University (212) 939-7061
              Fordham University  (212) 636-6325


From: <miriam@...> (Miriam Rabinowitz)
Date:  9 Aug 1993  14:37 EDT
Subject: Women's Mezuman

I recently posted a piece on women and mezuman [saying grace together
- Ed.]. Specifically I explained that the machaloket (dispute) was
whether a women's mezuman was obligatory or optional. It was never one
of whether such a mezuman was permissible or forbidden. I also blasted
those that told girls that they SHOULD NOT DO IT. I guess this is my
soap box.

A response appeared in which the writer indicated that she had asked
Rav Scheinberg, one of Israel's most prominent Poskim [authorities on
Jewish Law - Ed.] about a woman's mezuman.

>His answer was (and these are his exact words) "the Minhag is not to".  I
>didn't press him any further, but my understanding is that despite the
>fact that strict Halacha permits it and perhaps requires it, "Minhag
>Yisrael K'Din" (a Jewish custom has the strength of a law).  Since the
>custom for many years had been not to make a Women's Mezuman, this
>became the preferred course of action.

Far be it from me to argue with one of the stature of Rav Scheinberg.
However, I can debate with the writer who posted his response.

Upon receiving the response, the writer states that she did not press
him any further. She then states that her understanding is that since
women had not been participating for many years, and as such,
abstaining became a "minhag" and, since we also follow the principle
of Minhag Yisrael K'Din, therefore, abstaining became the PREFERRED
course of action. I would like to point out that this is HER
understanding and not necessarily the opinion Rav Scheinberg. He
mearly stated that the minhag is not to. He did not say that it should
not be done. He did not state that it was preferable not to perform
this mitzvah.

Additionally, the writer quoted Rav Scheinberg's words exactly.
However, she did not quote her own. Exactly how did she ask this
question. Did she say, "I know that a lot of women don't participate
in a mezuman. However, the sources tell us that the reason women did
not participate was because they were not educated, and hence, were
unfamiliar with the proceedings. Now that we are educated and I know
the halachot, I would like to perform this mitzvah. May I?" Or did she
say something like "A lot of my friends are starting to form women's
mezumanot, and I don't feel very comfortable with it. Do I have to
join them? What can I tell them if I don't want to participate?"

Also, when Rav Scheinberg answered her question, he was answering it
for HER. He did not issue a general Psak [decision, verdict - Ed.]
that "the minhag is not to." It is important to understand this
particular point. It may have been the case that his use of the word
"minhag" was not intended to be interpreted in it's strict sense of
Minhag Yisrael K'Din, but rather that his intention was to tell her
that there are many people in her circle who follow the opinion that
it is optional and that she should not feel uncomfortable if she
chooses not to participate. From what the writer told us, we don't
really know what Rav Scheinberg's intentions were because the writer
did not ask him. But maybe, with a little bit of logic, we can draw a
few conclusions.

First let's review the original sources. (I've taken the sources as
quoted from Elinnson's "Ha'Isha V'Hamitzvoth.") The Tosafot, Berachot
45b state that a women's mezuman is optional. Piskei ha-Rosh, Berachot
7:4 states that it is obligatory. This is the original machaloket.
Never was there an opinion that women SHOULD NOT do it.

Later sources are as follows: The Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 199:6,7,
the Mishnah B'rurah ibid., 16, and the Aruch ha-Shulchan ibid., 2 all
state that it is optional. The Ben Ish Hai, Korah 13: states that
every man should instruct the women of his household to join
together... and the Bi'ur Hagra states that women MUST join together
for Birchat ha-Zimmun. Certainly, Rav Scheinberg was aware of these
piskei halacha. I seriously doubt that Rav Scheinberg's use of the
word "minhag" was intended to imply "Minhag Yisrael K'Din" for if it
had, he, in effect, would have been completely dismissing the psak of
the Vilna Gaon (GRA), something that I doubt Rav Scheinberg would do.
Also, to pasken that it is a minhag and "Minhag Yisrael K'Din," and
hence, "it should not be done" would be a complete perversion of the
intention of the original machaloket of whether performance of this
mitzvah was mearly optional or, in fact, mandatory.

Besides, Elinnson comments (Ha'Isha V'Hamitzvoth, Vol. 1, Chapter 7)
that "There are educational institutions for girls in both Israel and
the Diaspora where the girls consistently perform this mitzvah at
communal meals." While there may be a "minhag" not to perform this
mitzvah, clearly there is a minhag TO perform this mitzvah as well.
Hence, I cannot imagine that Rav Scheinberg intended his words to
imply Minhag Yisrael K'Din.

Finally, there is something that I would like to point out. The
Mishnah B'rurah, which states that a women's mezuman is optional,
explains that "Apparently, the Rabbis did not impose Birchat ha-Zimmun
upon women when they eat by themselves because they are generally
unfamiliar with the proceedings." During the time of the Chafetz
Chaim, the author of the Mishnah B'rurah, women, while being educated
in the secular, were not being educated in Torah. In fact, the Chafetz
Chaim issued a psak that if women are learning the secular, then we
must begin teaching Torah to them as well, because otherwise they may
stray from Torah.

So here's what we have. The Chafetz Chaim tells us that this "minhag"
of abstaining stemmed from the fact that women were not educated. He
paskens that women should be educated in order to keep them from
straying from Torah. What follows from this is that once a girl IS
being educated, she should be made aware of this halacha (or
machaloket), as it applies to her. To put it another way, if we had a
"minhag" not to participate in a women's mezuman, it was because we
also had a "minhag" not to teach women Torah. Now that we have a
"minhag" to educate women, we should also have a "minhag" to
participate in women's mezumanot.

Miriam Rabinowitz


End of Volume 8 Issue 77