Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Nishma-Parshah: Nitzavim-Vayelech

Take a look at what's on
for Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelech

Limits of Rabbinic Authority

Lo Bashamayim Hee

Parsha: Vayelech, "National Torah and Personal Torah"



Jewish Tribune: Media attention and sound bites

In the wake of Gaza, there is a media war now being fought which many believe Israel is losing. The problem is: how do you fight sound bites with the call to actually think?

Further on this, please go to

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Belz School Faculty Lectures for Yamim Noraim

Forwarded with Permission

------Original Message------
From: Cantorial Council of America
To: Cantorial Council of America
Subject: Belz School Faculty Lectures for Yamim Noraim
Sent: Sep 16, 2014 16:14

Dear CCA Members and Friends
We would like to inform you of a special seminar that the Belz School faculty will conduct at Mount Sinai Jewish Center, 135 Bennett Avenue, New York NY 10040 tomorrow evening, September 17, at 7:30.
The sessions will be as follows:
*Cantor Sherwood Goffin - The History of The Great Bor'chu, Aleinu and Kol Nidre  
  Melodies of the Yamim Noraim.
*Cantor Bernard Beer – The Nusach of the Slichos for the week before Rosh Hashana.
*Cantor Eric Freeman – Niggunim and Congregational Singing for the Yamim Noraim.
We are certain that your Yamim Noraim experience will be greatly enhanced by this presentation by our Belz Faculty members. There is no fee for this seminar. We hope to see you there!
If recordings are made, we will try to distribute to you.
Shalom and a Ktiva Vachatima Tovah to you,
Cantor Sherwood Goffin, CCA President

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

JVO: Name

Jewish Values Online ( is a website that asks the Jewish view on a variety of issues, some specifically Jewish and some from the world around us -- and then presents answers from each of the dominations of Judaism. Nishmablog's Blogmaster Rabbi Wolpoe and Nishma's Founding Director, Rabbi Hecht, both serve as Orthodox members of their Panel of Scholars.

This post continues this series on the Nishmablog that features responses on JVO by one of our two Nishma Scholars who are on this panel. This week's presentation is to one of the questions to which Rabbi Hecht responded.

* * * * *

I was never given a Hebrew name. My father is a non-Jew and my mother is a Jew. I understand that the last part of the Hebrew name is the first part of the father's Hebrew name. What would the method be for determining my Hebrew name be?

A person’s name is a way of distinguishing him/her from others, of identifying the individual as distinct from anyone else. As such, a name must have distinctive features so that thereby we are able to, with few exceptions, identify one individual as separate from another. It is thus important that within the mechanism of a name we are able to narrow down, to a great extent, the individual to whom we are referring.
Within the Jewish world, this is accomplished, generally, through the use of an individual’s personal name with a further reference to a parent. In most cases, the parent mentioned is the father so a full Hebrew name would generally be one’s individual personal name with the further mention that the individual is the son or daughter of the father. When the father is not Jewish, however, this reference to the father is not applied within Jewish Law. The essence of your question is as such: what other criteria is used in the name identification of a person if the father’s name is not used, such as in a case when the father is not Jewish? (The same question may be asked when, for example, the father’s identity is not known.)
The usual custom in such cases is to follow the view of Rema, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 139:3 who states that the name of the father of the mother (i.e. the maternal grandfather) should be used instead of the father’s name. There are those, however, who disagree. See Mishneh Brura 139:10. The second option which then seems to have the most weight is to simply refer to the individual as the son or daughter of Avraham Avinu, Avraham our forefather. So in answer to your question, you have two basic options: either to refer to yourself as the son/daughter of your maternal grandfather or as the son/daughter of Avraham.
I should mention, perhaps, that there are actually also two other possibilities. As reference in a name is given to the mother in certain cases -- such as in prayers for health – the option to refer to you as the son/daughter of your mother is also presented, within the literature, as a possibility. The idea that perhaps you should just refer to yourself with one name, your personal individual one, is also found. These two latter options, however, reflect limited, minority opinions and, in the determination of your Hebrew name, it would be best if you choose one of the first two options.

In your opinion: Are Crazy Jewish Superstitions Proliferating?

Guest Blogger
Rav Dov Fischer
* * * * *

Every other Sunday morning, I teach an intense text-based class in halakha and in related Judaic social, cultural, and historic matters to a group of 25 women who attend by invitation only, so the group is not an average group.  They are profoundly intelligent, many with advanced secular degrees, and others equally brilliant just without the documentation.

This morning we covered three subjects, primarily focusing on Eruv Tavshilin, the composition of Avinu Malkeinu, and halakhot regarding who is eligible to serve as shat"z for the Yomim Nora'im.  And then we came to the open-ended questions and answers.

Somehow, as the Q&A discussion unfolded at class's end, one question led to another, as people inquired about a proliferation of crazy superstitions that now are taking hold in segments of the Orthodox community.  Someone asked about an email she had received, advocating a certain outlier practice, and then another mentioned something else crazy, and finally one of our regulars observed her perception that, in an era that boasts so much intellectualism and rationalism and book learning, it seems striking that so much craziness is proliferating within Orthodoxy.  My instant gut reaction — the instant answer I offered at Q&A time — is that, with the wonderful rise of many ba'alei teshuvah, we find many of them desperately seeking to leave behind their previous über-sophisticated secular university worlds and seeking sincerely to return to a pre-modern level of authenticity.  Their problem is that, as they pursue authenticity, they do not know what is authentic and what is nonsense.  Unlike the better educated and committed FFBs among us, who have some sense of sources and learning and authenticity from a lifetime of immersion, who grew up with it and lived among it and grew up with rabbonim and with frum people and got a sense of what is normative and what is bubbe-maisos, a whole new world without roots suddenly is trying to reclaim roots without knowing what is real and what is Memorex and what is utter nonsense.

So we find people wearing red strings, thinking that will make them holy or successful or blessed.  A new craziness where people are calling friends or relatives across the country to bake and distribute 20 challahs on Erev Shabbat, in order to save someone who is ill.  The annual lemming-like pilgrimage of more than 30,000 Jewish men, who leave behind their wives and children for the Yomim Nora'im, to spend the holiest days of the year amid the drunken anti-Semites of Uman, Ukraine.  Again, the insane red strings on the wrists.  People who are m'chalel Shabbat and who eat n'veilot u-treifot, but protect themselves and gain special points in Heaven with a red wrist string.  A new email that every mitzvah that is done between 17 Elul and Rosh Hashanah counts as 12 mitzvos.

Where does this come from?  Has it always been this crazy?  I remember my Mother, zikhronah livrakhah, requiring me to walk back over my reclining sister if I initially had walked over her.  That is, if my sister was lying on the floor reading a book, and I happened to walk over her, then I was required to walk back over her.  But at least my Mom z"l did not couch the rule in religion, as though this was going to change G-d's plan.

Is this only in my inbox?  Or, perhaps, am I the one who is wrong?  Could my father have been saved from dying of leukemia if eight or nine women on the block each had baked 20 challahs — totaling some 160 or 180 challos — every Friday for him?  Do the 30,000 lemmings who trek to Uman objectively register better income and health during the following twelve months than do those who stay home and spend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with their wives and children?  What is going on, and does this concern us as rabbonim who are empowered by our kehillot to lead them on a Torah path?

— Dov Fischer

Kol Tuv

On the Sale of Kibbudim for the Holidays

בנערותי הרגשתי מאוד לא נוח, כשראיתי  את אווירת "שוק הפישפשים" בבית הכנסת, בעת מכירת העליות, לא הבנתי את שמחת ה"עשיר התורן" שהצליח ל"השיג" "עליה במחיר מציאה", ואת קנאת חבריו ששילמו מחיר גבוה יותר שנה לפני כן, עבור אותה עליה..

אף שכשהתבגרתי לא  אהבתי את מה שראו עיני, הרי  אוירת המכירות  יותר לא "כאבה" לי, הבנתי שזו הדרך היחידה להוציא מהעשירים כסף, ...

Kol Tuv,