Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What's on the Menu for Passover?

I probably have a unique view re: eating on Passover

Aside from the ritually required Seder food - Passover to ME is about back to simplicity.

I'm not sure why I feel this way. At any rate Passover foods to me are foods that are basic, require little preparation and are mostly simple foods.

For example
• Potatoes - boiled of baked
• Veggies - cooked or salad style
• Fruits - apples and oranges or the dried ones like raisins and figs,
• Meat - roasted or cooked chicken and meats [EG flanken]

• Hard boiled eggs
• Cheese
Matzah as necessary with butter or margarine
• Nuts raw or roasted

• Fish - fresh or canned EG tuna, sardines, or herring

Many of these foods are quite portable for chol hamo'ed - simplifying travel or going to the office

Water, selzter, coffee, tea, orange or apple juice.

I don't usually stick to this menu. It's just the way I see it. I would probably be happy w/o all the fancy kugels and complex recipes and eat straight food

Friday night dinner might have matzah, wine, soup, roasted chicken, baked sweet potato, another cooked veggie, with a salad on the side [with or without dressing - maybe some lemon juice]

Desert might be dried fruits and some almonds or walnuts along with some tea.

To me getting rid of hametz suggests "simplify"

At any rate, enjoy your family's food this year and have a

Zissen Pesach

Monday, 29 March 2010

Passover as a Pedagogical Prism Phase 1 - Miqra

At the top of our vertical hierarchy of Passover Literature would be Miqra or Tanach.

The entire first half of Sefer Sh'mot is appropriate, but it might be a bit over-the-top.

Where to Start?

I would focus upon all the Torah Readings associated with the Holiday starting with Parshat Hachodesh.

These basic Torah readings and Haftarot would be a great embarkation point.

Add to the scripture your classic commentaries:

Metzudot in Haftarot
Midrashim - such as Sifre, Midrash Rabbah etc. Plus, any popular Torah and Hafatara commentaries would also be appropriate

Plus, any verses found in the Haggadah that have not already been covered would also make sense.

Shir Hashirim fits right into the mix for sure as being read on Shabbat Hol HaMoed.

Passover - even more than Shabbat - has a rich literature in Tanach that makes for a good starting module.

Summary Phase 1 or Module 1 - all Scripture pertaining to the Passover Festival with commentaries ancient and modern

Certainly this could occupy about a semester's work

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, 28 March 2010

On the Rabbah/Maharat Controversy - Preliminary Response

There is far too much to say on this in a simple Blog Post so I will leave you - dear reader - with just a tidbit.

My initial "Centrist" reaction is simple viz. Allow women to be certified for;

A) Handling "women's issues" such as Niddah and Miqveh.
Caveat: so long as they are issur v'eheter and not issues requiring a Dayyan

B) As chaplains for
• Hospitals
• Nursing Homes
• Hillels
• Maybe Military

IOW anything "non-pulpit"

I'm murky as to the "title" but certainly at least "Reverend".

And then wait a generation to see what happens

I'm still waiting for a woman to seek the office of "shames"! ;-)
That would impress me greatly!


May I also direct you to Rabbi Hecht's article in relation to the subject at the Nishma website at

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Passsover's 4 vs. Rosh Hashanah's 3

Rosh Hashanah and Passover
(Copyright) 2000 by Richard Wolpoe

Rosh Hashanah has 3 themes in Mussaf:
1. Malchuyos/Malchuyot (Soverignty)
2. Zichronos/Zichoronot (Memorial)
3. Shofros/Shofrot (Shofar)

Plus there are 3 kinds of notes,

1. Teki'ah
2. Svhroim
3. Truah

The Shevorim is a 3 part note and the truah a 9 part note (IOW 3 times 3).

Passover has numerous 4-fold aspects:

1. 4 Expressions of g'eulah
2. 4 cups of wine
3. 4 sons

At the end of the seder we ask who knows 3? 4? The answers are 3 fathers and 4 mothers respectively. Rosh Hashana is primarily observed in shul, the shofar, the Mussaf etc. While Passover is primarily observed during the Seder at Home The shul is primarily the domain of the FATHERS while The home is primarily the domain of the MOTHERS

Hag Kosher v'Sameyach

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Ta'am of eating matzah - From Avodah

From the Avodah List

I am struck by a different question, however, related to this issue. We
are told that Avraham baked matzos on Pesach. In the above inyan we see
that matzah is connected to leil seder. So who set the calendar before
the mitzvah was given in Parshas Bo?
The calendar is mentioned in Chumash as early as Parshas Noach (Bereishis 7:11, 8:4, among other places). Thus, the question (at least in my mind) is not where did the calendar come from, but rather, what is the chiddush of HaChodesh Hazeh Lachem?

I have a completely different POV on this matter. Based loosely upon archaeology and alleged comments by R. MM Kasher heard from S/A/R High via my daughter Chana Yocheved...

Hypothesis: the issur of Hametz is rooted in the fact that this was an Egyptian delicacy
hence it's issur for BOTH mizbeyach and for Passover....

  1. Hebrews in the Land of Canaan ALWAYS ate matzo, Hametz was "alien"
  2. When HKBH tooks US out of Egypt HE also took EGYPT out of us by forbidding this Egyptian delicacy

[Avraham &] Lot had been to Egypt but he reverted to the Hebrew Minhag of Matza and did NOT make Hametz. Hence Lot was performing a PROTO-yetzias mitzarayim, or simply NEVER being assimilated to Egyptian culture in the first place he was actually doing a "super-Yetzia"

Also: [I had planned to BLOG this a while ago]
  1. Kema'seh eretz Mitzaryyim... becomes a MAJOR" Meta-Mitzva
  2. It answers the Hinuch's puzzlement with the issur of dvash and s'or in the korban Minchah - i.e. BOTH are Egyptian delicacies!
  3. It would seem that we really should have zero hametz all year, but HKBH reduced it to Passover [anniversary] and to Menachos [except lachmei Soda AND shtei halechem...]
  4. While Rashi et. al. seem to point out that Kedoshim is the "Core" off the Torah, the actual preface to this core could be a perek earlier in Acharei mos
  5. Which is another reason to read this meta-Mitzva on YK
  6. Implicit in this Parsha read on Minhach YK is also the Parsah of Kedoshim, but we are mekatzer...
  7. This meta-Mitzva doevtails well with the Rambam's thesis [in the Moreh] that much of the Torah has an anti-AZ agenda [i.e.issur Hametz is related to Egyptian culture etc.]
  8. This probably further supports Rambam's thesis of Bassar BeHalav over Ramban's [see the Hinuch for details] becausue aiui arachaeology supports that this was a pagan ritual

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

When the Chacham is a Tam and the Tam a Chacham

In his newly published commentary on the Haggadah, The Royal Table, Rabbi Norman Lamm asks a question on the Yerushalmi's presentation of the Four Sons. In the Mechilta, upon which the text in our Haggadah is built, the Chacham is given a detailed halachic answer while the Tam is given a simple answer. In the Yerushalmi, the opposite, though, is found. The Chacham is offered the simple answer and the Tam is presented with the detailed halachic answer. Rabbi Lamm asks: why is this so?

He explains that the Yerushalmi may be "thinking of a surrealistic period when the man who is really a hakham will come to be regarded as a tam, and when the individual who is in reality a tam will achieve the popular acclaim due to a hakham. In other words, the Yerushalmi was thinking of days such as ours." In such a world, you indeed can only give this pseudo-hakham the answer deserving of a tam and you must also be prepared to give the presumed tam the answer of the hakham.

Rabbi Lamm applies his words to many situations in our world today, such as the world conferences on human rights where clearly tyrannic dictatorships hold positions of leadership and honour while Israel, the lone, true democracy in the Middle East, is vilified. You may be able to think of others. There is sadly much truth in these words.

In many ways, Rabbi Lamm's commentary will be a welcome addition to your Seder. Luckily, even in our surrealist world, his designation as a hakham is one that is truly deserving.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

HHH Giving Tal its Due [dew?]

When Ashkenazim recite Tefilas Tal on the first Day of Passover the nusach is:
Mashiv Haru'ach umorid Hatal

Question 1:
Would it not make sense for those Ashkenazim who continue to say "Morid Hatal" after the first time until Shemini Atzeres use the very same Nusach and say: Mashiv Haru'ach umorid Hatal instead of JUST Morid Hatal? And if not, why not?

Corollary Question 2:
During the Summer, Instead of saying just: V'sein Brachah, why not say: V'sein Tal Livracha [in other words w/o Matar but keeping Tal in the picture?]

Mo'adim Lesimcha

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Meshubadim Hayyinu - Abarbanel

I wish to credit the great Don Isaac Abarbanel for this interesting insight!

"And if the Almighty had not rescued us from Egypt, behold we, our children, and grandchildren would still be (meshu'badim) enslaved unto Pharaoh n Egypt!"

Well the Pharaoh's haven't ruled Egypt in a long time - and it is hard to visualize us Israelites as slaves unto Pharaoh forever! Plus we would have probably assimilated a LONG while ago into Egyptian society and been just poor old Egyptians just as the rest. To take the statement literally; I.e. That we would still be enslaved is hard to comprehend.

Clear your minds of the image of the "evil Pharaoh". Now go back to the time of Joseph and recall a kindlier, gentler Pharaoh. Now if the Almighty had chosen HE could have appointed a liberal-minded Pharaoh. And THAT Pharaoh might have listened to Charlton Heston and willingly, or even Joyfully released the Israelites from bondage!

Just as Tsar Nikolai I freed the serfs and Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, a generous Pharaoh could have Let HIS people go without a fight!

What would have been the upshot of such a kindlier/gentler ruler? We would be singing "his" praises instead of God's praises!

Thus, Abarbanel homiletically reads meshu'badim in its alternate meaning - mortgaged or indebted or encumbered. Had GOD not forced the issue by bringing Pharaoh unwillingly to his knees we would be be indebted to PHARAOH and not to the Almighty.

Perhaps the most ennobling aspect of our liberation is that we became indentured to GOD HIMSELF. " Kee Lee B'nei Yisro'el Avadim.." The emancipation of other slave societies met with less. Without Divine intervention and inspiration, "Up from Slavery succeeded only for the very few idealists.

A sobering thought to precede our last three cups of rejoicing!

Zissen Pesach

Monday, 22 March 2010

Thanksgiving, Mother's Day, Passover Seder

What do
• Thanksgiving
• Mother's Day,
• The Passover Seder

Have in common?

They all ritualize in a single annual celebration which is ALREADY a daily obligation anyway!

• Thanksgiving ritualizes our gratitude to Hashem -which according to Modim is daily

• Mother's Day ritualizes "Kibbud Eim" which is a constant obligation

• The Passover Seder ritualizes the commemoration of the Exodus which is a twice daily obligation


Sunday, 21 March 2010

Cashering Glass Utensils

In the Journal of Halacha and Contemporay Society, Rabbi Howard Jachter of Teaneck addresses the various opinions re: the Kashering of Glass. (See Number XXVI p.77)

He cites 3 Talmudic Sources:
1) Avot Debrabbi Natan {a pimarily Aggadic Work} 41:6 which states that glass neither absorbs nor exudes.
2) The Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 15b that Glass absorbs Tum'a {ritual impurity} [Reish Lakish states that Rabbanan made glass like pottery]
3) The BT Avoda Zara 75b that essentially compares glass to metal re: Tum'a and Kashrut

He then brings 4 schools amongst the Rishonim:
1) Essentially the same as ADRN above #1 that glass neither absorbs nor exudes. Ergo glass need NOT be Kashered.
2) That glass is just like earthenware - based upon Shabbat 15b for purposes of Tum'ah AND kashrut. [They apparently dismiss ADRN as Aggadic in nature and therefore not authoritative.] Ergo glass may NOT be kashered.
3) Glass is equated to metal - based upon AZ 75b. Ergo glass has the SAME parameters as metal, it CAN be cashered but may require real heat.
4) Glass is unkown, it is doubtful metal or earthenware . Ergo, in case of doubt, default to #2.

Sources in Rishonim:
#1 Tosafot, Ran, Rashba
#2 Rabbeinu Yechiel of Paris, cited by the Mordechai, the Smag
#3 Or Zarua, Ritva
#4 Rabbeinu Yona

NB: ironicallly re: #2 it is the same Ri of Paris that dismisses Kitniyyot as silly. What Ri of Paris giveth with kitniyyot he taketh away with glass!

Cashering Glass - Talmud Shabbat 15b

Translation follows Artscroll:

As regards Glassware, what is the reason that the Rabbis decreed it is susceptible to Tum'ah? - Rabbi Yohanan said in the name of Raish Lakish: Since its very formation is from sand, the Rabbis placed it in the same category as earthenware!

NB: This is consistent with the well-known pattern that Ashkenazic practice often follows the Israeli customs - often articulated by R. Yohanan and Resh Lakish - even despite cases when Babylonian traditions might quibble otherwise.

Is Ashkenazic Tradition simply being stringent re: Glass or is it being loyal to the customs and traditions rooted in our Holy Land?!

Or is the stringency have to do more with the Passover, and not with Kashrut in general? IOW, are strictures based upon the fact that for 8.5 days it is better to be strict in the case of competing Talmudic passages since this is like a "davar sheyish lo matirim"? I.e. that since in just a few days it will be permitted, it is prohibited in the meantime?


Cashering Glass - Avodah Zara 33b

There is a discussion re: Kunya.
  1. There is an Amoraic debate between the R. Zvid and Mereimar
  2. There is a definitional debate between Rashi and Tosafot as to what a kunya is
  3. There is a bit of debate as to the translation of Tosafot betwen Artscroll and my own read.
  4. The conclusion of the Sugya is a bit vague but it DOES suggest - at least in theory - that there a is bigger humra re: Passover - d'oraita , and Yayain Nesech derabban {what we call "stam Yanam"}
On the way to its conclusion the Talmud dismisses the cases of cracked Kunya, and regarding green ones they are slam-dunk not casherable.

The Talmud then asks your question should be regarding SMOOTH ones {D'shiyi}
The Reply of the Talmud is - as per Artscroll -
I see even that these glazed vessels sweat and since they sweat they certainly absorb thus they are fobidden {i.e. they cannot be purged}

Thus SMOOTHNESS is ruled out in the case of glazed vessels that sweat!

Note: going back to Rabbeinu Hannanel in Pesahin 74b, he defines Shiyi or Shiya in the context of there as SMOOTH but as Satum - CLOSED.

The final ruling according to Mereimar is determinative by temperature. I.e. hot glazed vessels ARE a problem while cold ones are not.

If Kunya is equivalent to glass {shiya etc.} Then:
  1. It would seem to me that if you have glass that stores pure Hametz liquor or beer over 24 hours that you have a problem of kavush with regard to Passover.
  2. OTOH, plain old cold glass that is not used for hot coffee, etc. should pose no such problem - if you carry the analogy of Kunya over to glass.
In my course of discussing cashering glass for Passover I recall something to the effect that glass used ONLY for cold was "Casherable" as is but otherwise it would require special handling, etc.

Kol Tuv,

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Source on Qitniyyoth

The Mishnah I found was Shevi'ith 2:7 in the Blackman edition note 44 says that Orez & Dochan pragim [frogs?] are extended to qitniyyoth as well. he cites no further source so i will keep looking

So here is my thesis as it stands:

  1. R Yochanan ben Nuri prohibits orez & dochan [Rice and Millet]
  2. Orez Dochan is lumped together somehow [Yerushalmi?] with qitniyoth
  3. On the Yamim Nora'im we follw RYBN partially when it comes to Kedushas Hashem even thogh we pasken like R. Akiva.
It is conceivable -even likely -that this partial, vestigial acceptance of RYBN is applied by Asheknaz to orez & dochan and hence qitniyyoth.

Also one should note, that this is JUST a minhag because there is no proohibtion of bal Yeira'eh or bal Yimatzei. It can be shown Talmudically that certain Minhaggim and Humrot are specifically applied in a limitted fashion. IIRC the Talmud mentions that R. Meir held that a certain stove had a tum'a problem but since it was g'zeira it was only partial. Aveiluth on Seifra is only partial, too
Examples on Passover:
  1. Matza Ashira is prohibtted but no bal yei'ro'eh and chillim and zkeinim are exempted
  2. Matzah Shruaah is permitted on the last day of YT in the Golah.
Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

Friday, 19 March 2010

Dayyeinu: Several Insights - Questions

We have ruminated about this many times at our Seder. Last year I was privileged to make a short drasha {homily} on the 2nd Day of passover @ Netivot Shalom in Teaneck. , NJ.

  1. Can it be true that had God taken us out of Egypt only to abandon us either at the shore of the Red Sea or in the Desert without provision that it would have really been enough?
  2. What is the purpose of stating the list of Dayyeinu and THEN summarizing them with "Kammah Ma'alot Tovot" - i.e.How many advantages... etc."?
  3. What is the point of God bringing us "CLOSE to Sinai" without giving us the Torah? Isn't the entire point of Sinai the Giving of the Torah?! Clue: Consult the Haftarot associated with the Readings of Torah on Yithro and Shavuot
Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Thursday, 18 March 2010

"Normal" Humrot & Passover

Originally published 3/18/10, 11:30 am.
A Rabbinical colleague has lamented:

"I often decry the "chumra-ization" of kashruth rules,"

Under the influence of several friends I began studying Aruch Hashulchan (AhS)regularly
The AhS articulates something that I had already intuited a long time ago - that two areas have a good deal of Humra-ization. Namely, they are the Issues of Meat and Dairy and Hametz on Passover.
There is a long-standing TRADITION of many humrot in these areas

Why? Apparently this is simple psychology

Hametz is permitted year 'round.
Meat and Dairy are each permitted when distinct and separate from each other
Thus, these over-the-top humrot address a unique psychological need and have a long historical basis.

Unfortunately, humra-ization across the board has taken root since about 1970 or so. It is, as I see it,  itself a reaction to the Kashruth abuses of the 1920-1960 era.
So now we are reacting to that reaction! Anyone heard of Hegel?

As Qohelet says: There is a time for Humra and a time for leniency.



Wednesday, 17 March 2010

On the Peace Process - An open letter to Senator Schumer

From our friend Rabbi David Willig - An open letter to Senator Chuck Schumer D-NY

«I am the Rabbi of Cong Aviv Chadash in Staten Island. At this time, when we are preparing for the SEDER, which ends with the chant "NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM" you must tell the world that Jerusalem is the heart and soul of Israel. One does not make peace by cutting out one's heart. That only is the way to suicide.Every time the US makes a demand of Israel, that becomes a new minimum for the Arabs. They respond by rioting.

The Arabs do NOT WANT PEACE. You must go public. You must, as the Senior JEWISH Senator from New York, lead the opposition to the administrations ill conceived slap down of Israel. This is the time for all friends of Israel to rise publicly in its defense. For the sake of Jerusalem I will not remain silent.

For who knows, perhaps it was for this very circumstance that the Almighty has helped you to rise to your position.

Rabbi David Willig
Congregation Aviv Hadash
Staten Island,
NY 10314»

My Response:

Thanks R Willig!

IMHO the Palestinians are the Amaleiq of our time. Their leader during WWII was the Grand Mufti who was openly allied with Hitler YS"V

Arafat was his disciple. There can be no peace with this Amaleiq.

Whether you repeat zecher and zeicher or not the point is the same Zachor!

And those who DO forget those lessons of history - well you know the rest

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Haftara: Parallels Rosh haShanah & Passover

Originally published 3/17/10, 11:30 am.
There are contrasting parallels between the RH Haftarot and the Haftarot for the first days of Passover.

The Haftarot for the first two Days of Passover have contrasting historical contexts:
The first day is set in the era of Yehoshua Bin Nin, at the beginning of the "First Commonwealth".
The second day is set in the era of Yoshiyahu - near the end of the "First Commonwealth".

Similarly, with Rosh Hashanah. The Haftarot for the first two Days have contrasting historical contexts:
The first day is set in the era of Shmuel near the dawn of the Monarchy of "First Commonwealth".
The second day is set in the era of Yirmiyahu during the twilight of the Monarchy of "First Commonwealth".

Shana Tova,

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Passover and Yom Kippur: Parallel Customs

Originally published 3/16/10, 11:30 am.
  1. Wearing a Kittel
  2. Reciting Leshana haba'ah beerushalyim
  3. When it coincides with Shabbos - No Shalom Zachor
  4. Dietary restrictions
  5. Staying up Late
    1. YK: Saying Shir Hayichud etc.
    2. Passover: Saying Shir Hashirim etc.
  6. Night-time Rituals
    1. YK: Tallis
    2. Passover: Hallel
  7. Preparations
    1. YK: forty days of anticipation
    2. Passover: 4 special Parshiyos
  8. Erev Hachag: No mizmor lesodah, lamnatzei'ach, etc.
    1. YK: Kaparos
    2. Passover: Bi'ur Hametz bisreifah
  9. Clean Sweep - Search and Destroy
    1. YK: Sins
    2. Passover: Hametz
Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

Monday, 15 March 2010

Nissan vs. Tishrei

The RH liturgy states: "Hayom harat olam"
Heirayon = conception NOT birth.

And so the reasoning goes that the world was conceived in Tishrei and created in Nissan"

Rambam's son Rav Avraham cautioned us to neither be too literal nor too cynical regarding Aggadah.

Illustrative digression

If I were to say charcoal = diamonds a literalists would lug worthless charcoal to 47th street and expect to make a huge profit.

Scoffers would say: charcoal = diamonds?! That's outrageous!

Wise people would say:

Hmmm what's the point? Can't be literal. Then after delving into it they would realize that where there's charcoal there be diamonds (at least potentially)

End of digression]

Michdi Let's see. The first mishnah in Rosh Hashanah lists 4 New Years. So both Nissan and Tishrei are already enshrined as New Years. The question about conception and birth must have some symbolic lesson. I don't know what was originally meant. Here is a shot at it anyway.

The physical universe in the northern hemisphere is reborn every Spring. It is no wonder that Christians observe springtime as resurrection time. Mother Nature is doing it simultaneously! So physical (RE)birth is springtime

Autumn is a time of harvest, of completion, of impending winter hibernation. It is a time of taking stock financially and also spiritually. The autumn New Year is not about birth, but of reflection, and introspection.

Now map it out

Autumn = Tishrei = conception = intropsection

Spring = Nissan = birth= = rebirth

Tishrei the world was conceived because it entered "God's Mind" metaporically speaking

In Nissan evidence exists of physical creation or re-creation.

The words of the wise Hazal can be cryptic. Being overly literal misses the point; and. scoffing also misses the point.

Zissen Pesach


Links to Passover Kashrut Websites

Originally published 3/15/10, 7:00 pm.
See this link to the OU Passover Website for information on Passover Products and Procedures:



Star K

Zissen Pesach,

Sunday, 14 March 2010

HHH - Matzah - Difficulty with Sephradic Practice

Originally published 3/14/10, 9:00 pm.
Some [all?] Sephardim do not make Hamotzi on Matzah EXCEPT on Passover since they do not consider it LECHEM but LECHEM ONI
The problem? The Mishnah/Haggadah containing the [so-called] four-questions equates the year 'round eating of Hametz with Matza. This, in turn, presupposes that they are equally valid for kevia's S'eduha all year round. 
I actually heard this quoted from a Sephardic Hacham.

And FWIW - the concept that Lechem Happanim was made from matzah seems to support the Matzah=Lechem equation, too.

Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Ilu Kerivanu lifnei Har Sinai - the Questions

We have ruminated about this many times at our Seder. In 2007 I was privileged to make a short drasha {homily} on the 2nd Day of Passover at Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, NJ.

  1. Can it be true that had God taken us out of Egypt only to abandon us either at the shore of the Red Sea or in the Desert without provision that it would have really been enough?
  2. What is the purpose of stating The list of Dayyeinu and THEN summarizing them with "Kammah Ma'alot Tovot" - i.e.How many advantages... etc."?
  3. What is the point of God bringing us "CLOSE to Sinai" without giving us the Torah? Isn't the entire point of Sinai the Giving of the Torah?! Clue: Consult the Haftarot associated with the Readings of Torah on Yithro and Shavuot

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Friday, 12 March 2010

Rosh and Rif - How Scientific Method Can Inform Traditional Learning

And so it's a given that yeshivot traditionally learn things on the daf that often include:

• The Rif
• The Ran [or Nimukei Yosef] on the Rif

And the Rosh

But most yeshivah bachurs do not realize that generally speaking the Talmud Text embedded within the Rosh is actually the text of the Rif. And therefore, that the Rosh essentially is an expanded Rif - as contrasted to an external commentary such as the Ran.

This factoid is better know in the scientific ["Wissenshaft" or Hochmat Yisrae'l] community than in the Yeshivish Community. One of my colleagues - whose PhD is on the Rif - is most aware of this phenomenon

But many are not aware of this. And so how can this awareness matter?

The sefer M'irat Einayim - who may be the premier commentary on Shulchan Aruch * - states that Halachah follows the Rif EXCEPT when Tosafot disagrees. And now you have the bedrock of Ashkneazic methodology in p'saq.

But this SM"A is not really saying anything new or radical! To a great extent the Rosh and the Mordechai incorporated this very premise into their commentaries on the Halachah. It is a pre-supposition that guides them - for the most part.

The Scientific Component here can show us how the Rishonim viewed Shas better than the less disciplined techniques of seeing Rosh as just commenting without a methodology,

The Ran - who is also a major player in P'saq - employs this technique too - albeit to a lesser extent.

The pure, pristine Rif was a bigger player amongst early Rishonim. But later Rishonim and early Acharonim have mostly filtered the Rif through the prisms of Ran, Rosh, and Mordechai. And this factoid shows the technique that is common to the three.

The Rema seems to primarily favour the Mordechai, but a quick review will show Rosh and Ran as major players, too.

EG Tosafot argues for women's right to recite brachot on EG Shofar, Sukkah, Lulav.
But it's the Ran's formulation and authority that is cited by Beth Yosef and Rema as supporting this P'saq.

As we see from this Scientifically informed view, that Shas was used rarely as the direct source of Halachah - rather it was filtered by the Posqim first

I hope this helps

* How the SM"A became a premier commentary on the SA

The SA was seen by the Levush as simply too brief to be a primary Halachic text.
The L'vush added a "qitzur Beth Yosef" approach. For a generation or so the L'vush largely supplanted the SA

The SM"A took the same approach to the SA by supplementing it with a "mini-BY". He became the first major commentary on the SA and restored the SA to primacy over the L'vush. W/O nosei Keilim, the SA might have sank into the background of the Halachic Universe.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

Scaling Down from the Heights

The story goes that the Vilna Gaon [GRA] required that his students learn the entire Masechta BEFORE attending his Gmara Shiur.

That kind of demand is unrealistic for most Talmidim today.

However, isn't it reasonable to scale down that lofty requirement to have the Students learn all the Mishnayot of the entire Masechta first?
A fairly in depth look at the Mishnayot will take a lot less time than covering every Daf in the Gmara itself, yet, nevertheless, yield a fairly substantial subset anyway


Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Controversy in Canada over Promotion of Israel

A significant controversy emerged in Canada, during the past week, regarding a video and website that were developed by CIJA, a Jewish organization with connections to Federation and UIA, to promote Israel. This campaign was specifically launched to coincide with a coordinated event held on many college campuses in the country entitled "Israel Apartheid Week" which, as evidenced by the title, is intended to attack Israel. The problem many members of the Jewish community have with the video is that it uses obvious sexual innuendo with a focus on oral sex to get across its message. The question is whether this is an appropriate way to promote Israel.

While I am reluctant to direct readers to the actual material under discussion, I recognize that it would be necessary to view this video and website to gain an appreciation for the controversy and critique. I no longer, though, have the url for this video which was shown on youtube. The url for the website, though, is and I think from the name itself you can see the problem. It would seem that the video itself is also no longer available on the website.

In any event, I have commented on this matter in my column in the Jewish Tribune and I invite you to read my thoughts on the matter at

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Four Stated Goals of the Mishnah Brurah

What was the point for R Israel Meir Kagan Z"L for publishing the Mishnah Brurah?

Within his own Haqdamah he states 4 reasons

1 [starts with "ach"]The Shulchan Aruch w/o Tur is a Sefer Hatum. Thus his goal is to make the SA more intelligible.

2 [Sibba sh'niyya] Rabbu haDei'os in the SA. It is hard to pinpoint the correct p'saq given the diversity of opinions.

3 [Od Ra'itti v'hitbonanti] The Ba'er Heitev was out-of-date [obsolescent] and the Mishnah Brurah provided a more up-to-date version of the Ba'ir Hetev.

4 [Zot Od v'Acheret]People have to look hither, thither, and Yon amongst numerous acharonim to find the p'saq. The MB collates them for you providing an anthology of resources and coming to a conclusion.

One might say that #3 - viz. giving more sheetot - conflicts with #4 - I.E.. settling the issue.

If one's goal is to have a clear-cut answer, then a Kitzur SA, Chayei Adam approach is best, give a singular p'saq.

If one's goal is to have a menu from which to select, then a Beth Yosef survey approach is best.

I would think Posqim would prefer the latter. They need the flexibility to tailor a solution depending upon the circumstances.

And I would guess the average baal habayyit or student might prefer the former.


Monday, 8 March 2010

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 5

Originally published 3/8/10, 11:00 pm.
From: D&E-H Bannett
Date: Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 4:15 PM
Subject: Re: [Avodah] (Avodah) Who First Said it?

Regarding RnTK's comment on zeikher/zekher:

I started learn to read the Torah some 75 years ago in Flatbush and was taught to read both ways. We did not repeat the entire pasuk but only the phrase "timcheh et zeikher Amalek". I don't remember if I was taught the order but, many years later, I decided to read the incorrect zekher first and then correct myself by saying zeikher the second time. Similarly, in the megilla, when the megilla has the incorrect bifneihem and laharog I read as written and then correct myself by repeating the phrase only: v'ish.... lifneihem and k'hashmid.... v'laharog. If the megilla is correct I read only once.

Anyone slightly interested in the subject should read R'Mordekhai Breuer's article. Those very interested should go directly to R' Prof Penkower's article. He gives the entire history, about 45 pages, including statistics on manuscripts from the time of ben Asher as well as customs of reading, etc.
The double reading evidently started slightly before the Hafetz Hayyim made it popular. Penkower cites a ba'al Kriah who was instructed by R' Sh'neur Zalman mi'Lublin to read twice. This R' Sh"Z died in 1902. The Mishna B'rura was printed in 1906.

I was delighted to read that R' Penkower read twice despite his indisputable proofs that zeikher is correct. A few years ago I gave a Friday night talk proving that there is absolutely no justification for double reading. On the following morning I read parashat zakhor and read zekher followed by zeikher. I too do as I was taught and do not allow myself to be confused with facts. I am overjoyed to find that I follow the derekh of the expert.

It should be pointed out that no eidah other than the Ashkenazi ever questioned the correct reading. AFAIK, Yekkes are the only Ashkenazi unaffected by the double-reading syndrome.

As to developments in Israel: One of my grandchildren told me his rosh yeshiva told him to read only once (based on Breuer). On the other hand I davenned this year at a yeshiva where in addition to reading in Abazit, Ashkenoz, Moroccan, and Yemenite they also had Parsi and what might have been Iraqi.

I have also heard a ba'al k'riah reading in mivta Ashkenazi repeat Machlas and Mochlas, and yahalom and yohalom. He told me that he was told to do so by Harav Nebenzahl. At this rate, it won't be long before we'll be hearing hundreds of p'sukim read twice.


Sunday, 7 March 2010

Zachor: Zeicher vs.Zecher 4

Originally published 3/7/10, 8:30 PM
Reb Ira Gruscott mentions that, "Of course , what he doesn't say is that prior to and even during the lifetime of R' Y.M. Kagan z't'l, it was never a minhag to repeat....even in Yeshivas Radun."

Check Marc Shapiro's post on this.
This can be spun two ways.Either
A: it's a frum shtick with  no basis either in minhag or grammar or halakha; or
B: Orthodoxy does have a halakha that is -to quote Shapiro- "dynamic" This, of course goes to the post on your blog re: how one "feels" regarding halakha


Look, we live in an ambiguous world!

Let's face the facts. Those who can tolerate ambiguity well,  will be fine, while those who cannot, will be frustrated, angry, railing, and dueling the windmills. Most of us fall somewhere in between! ;-)

Indeed I think "minhag Yisrael" is perhaps a poor choice of words.

What I think he was really saying is that Professor Penkower's academic analysis is irrelevant to the Halachah - one way or the other. Only a Poseiq can make that call, not a professor. As to how the Mishnah Brurah's ruling caught on fire - I do not know. I understand Lubavitch does this, and they are not known to be particularly deferential to the MB

Perhaps, as Hacham Sassoon might say: we believe in continuous revelation. Others might see the Hand of Divine Providence.

What bothers me about the Mishnah Brurah's method is that he presents the safeiq as even. It's not. And as Rabbi Noah G. has noted, a Halachic Safeiq is usually approxximately 50-50.
Here it's clearly not a 50-50. For example, I might say that Rabbenu Tam Tefillin might be 50-50, but Catholic Israel did away with that opinion.

R' Mordechai Breuer's article is brilliant on this matter. I have Professor Penkower's article but I have not yet had the pleasure to complete it.

As I understand Rav Halivni and Rabbis Feldblum and Price, we don't follow "science" when it comes to halachic practice, particularly in nusach. For example, This came up regarding "unetaneh toqef" and "kivnei maron" where Albeck and others suggest "kivnumerion" instead. R' Price dismissed this as academic and not halachic, and so subject to the shifting paradigms in science. For instance, is Pluto still a planet?

The story goes that in Breslau Seminary -
Proffessor Graetz read the Haftara with his emendation based upon science

And R' Z. Frankel apparently re-read the entire passage [iirc with brachot] to make the point that we don't emend Tanach on the basis of our scientific point of view - at least not during the liturgy

Anyway, we can safely say this:
  • The Masoretes deviated from the Talmud in a number of instances.
  • The Kimchi's Grammar deviated from the Tiberian grammatical system on several points.

- I believe segol is one of those areas. Anyway, as far as I know, the Kimchi's PRONOUNCED tzeire and segol the same - obviating any need for repetition. Perhaps our very hakpadah to distinguish the two vowels has led us to this safeiq, though many would claim that this is irrelevant.

'Nuff Said.

Zissen Pesach,

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 3

Zeicher vs. Zecher on Steroids

I attended a Bar Mitzvah on Parshat Ki Teitze. There, the BM boy repeated zecher-zeicher twice
• Once for sh'vii
• Once for maftir

I found this strange. The entire Rationale for the Mishnah Brurah's requirement of repeating this - is predicated upon the premise that Zachor is d'oraitto! That does not apply to Ki Teitze.

Also it would be simple to accomodate Zecher/Zeicher by doing one way during sh'vii and the other way during Maftir! Win-win! After all the Passuq was being repeated anyway.

I asked the local Rav. He claimed that once MB changed the tzurah of how to lain this passage, it gets changed across the board in the same tzurah. I found this incredulous! Would the MB ever have made that suggestion? Seems far-fetched indeed.

But we do see that Halachah or Minhag evolves even twice in several generations. First for Zachor alone and then for Ki Teitze.

Zeicher vs. Zecher on Steroids - INDEED ;-)


Friday, 5 March 2010

Results of Poll on: The Halachic Process

In our last poll, we inquired:

POLL: The Halachic Process

Which statements resonate with you?

A) There is but a single Halachah. It is the posseiq's job to determine Hashem's will and to strive to bring about universal conformity to that r'tzon Hashem. Poskim, as such, should communicate to present a single unified conclusion.

B) Halachah is complex. Each poseiq sorts out the sources as best as he can and presents what he believes is the correct conclusion. As such, there may be competing answers to a given question and this is the accepted reality of psak.

C) Halachah is only a means to an end. Whatever promotes the greatest level of "frumkeit" should be advocated by all, in order to engender higher levels of observance

D) Halachah should be tailored to the asker. For example, certain people should be permitted to eat ice cream and coffee in certain unsupervised establishments, and to rely upon hazaqah. From others - more should be expected. Each case merits a unique tailored answer.

E) Halachah is about communal standards. The important thing as a Halachic society is that all within the community should be on the same page as to kashrut, Shabbat etc. So that people can visit and dine with each other freely w/o fear of practices that deviate from communal norms.

Your Responses (total 10)

Option A - 10% (1)
Option B - 80% (8)
Option C - 10% (1)
Option D - 50% (5)
Option E - 30% (3)

Rabbi Hecht

It would seem that the vast majority of respondents to this poll understand the Halachic system for what it is -- a system of thought that applies variant principles and ideas in the determination of God's directive to us. It is hazy but intentionally so -- for God wanted us to think, investigate and analyze in the determination of His Will. The further issue for this vast majority would seem to have been how to include the specific circumstances in this determination. There is the objective, theoretical determination of what one believes to be the law and then there is the question of this determination in specific circumstances -- when the one asking is poor, when the answer will affect the community. There would seem to be Halachic issues in this regard as well and the disagreement in regard to how we answer these questions seems to have surfaced within this poll as well.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 2

Posted with permission from the author.

This post speaks for itself. -RRW

«Re zeicher and zecher.

My brother-in-law, Prof. Jordan Penkower of Br Ilan University wrote an extensive article proving that the correct pronunciation is zeicher. It's way beyond my expertise although Jordan acknowledged as a leading expert in Bible studies, Jewish manuscripts etc.

I asked a member of my shul, who is also an expert in this field and who often is the ba'al korey on Parshat Zachor, if he had read the article. he said he had and that Jordan was "absolutely" correct. So I asked him (as Jordan had asked me to) whether he would read it only that way (zeicher) on Parshat Zachor. "Of course not," he replied; "what do facts have to do with minhag Yisrael?" And sure enough, he read it both ways.

Joseph Kaplan»

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Zachor: Zeicher vs. Zecher 1

Originally published 3/3/10, 9:13 pm.
Re: Repeating to read Zachor to accommodate both Zeicher and Zecher

There are those with whom I may never agree and in particular there is this one fellow with whom I often lock horns; he sent me a private email that expresses some of my own outrage on this matter...

I think it's safe to snip out these two points:

  1. The practice looks silly.
  2. The practice looks ... to be huqa utelula.

When you think about it, they are almost the same point.
Here is my similar reaction in a private email to a completely different colleague.
I still think it's a bad approach, a bad precedent and a bad example. We're making Reform & Conservative frummer with regards to the Masoretic text than we Orthodox Jews are. As we play more games with it, we thereby making it appear "less holy" and more susceptible to error.

Zeicher and Zecher on steroids. ;-)

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Sh'qalim and Zachor


When do we read BOTH Parshat Sh'qalim and Parshat Zachor on the very same Shabbat?


We just had this! When Tetzaveh is Zachor - the most common case - we read Sh'qalim at Mincha time.


Tuesday, 2 March 2010

When is "muttar" l'chatchila? And when is it b'di'avad?

See Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Dei'ah 69:4

The SA ends with "Muttar"

How does the SA mean this?

Does the SA Mean
It is l'chatchila Muttar to salt only one side of a piece of meat?


Does the SA Mean
B'di'avad it's Muttar to use a piece of meat that has been salted on only one side?

The key here is the position or juxtaposition of the term "Muttar"


Kol haMoseif Gorei'a

Purim morning - a young man who likes to daven a really long Sh'moneh Esrai missed the M'gilla reading at his minyan because he was still davening.

IMHO this is classic Moseif that is Gorei'a

Given "M'vatlin h'oavdoah liqriat m'gillah", maybe he could have cut his davening and kavvanah to finish by the end of laining? After all isn't this a classic application of m'vatlin ho'avodah?

Frelichen Purim

Re: Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 2

See the Aruch haShulchan
Orach Chaim 685:6

And see the new edition with fn to Mishna Brura notes 4 and 5

Kaf Hachaim esp. #33
[Vol. 8 p. 156]

Citing Talmud Bavli Megillah 18a

«Therefore [as per Rabbenu Hannanel on the Talmud there] both reader and listener need to intend to fulfill the positive commandment of the Torah»

Also see Kitzur SA 140:3. Quoting SA, Rema et al.

Next Post - a digression based upon 2 philosophies of P'saq.


Monday, 1 March 2010

Is Parshat Zachor d'Oraitto? - 1

Actually this would be better phrased as:

"What Is the disposition of Parshat Zachor as per Shas and Posqim?"

Let's Start with Sources - Part 1:

See the texts in the Mishnah Brurah

SA O"Ch 685:7
Some say "Zachor" is d'oraitto.
Be'er Hagolah 10
Source: Tosafot Brachot 13

Ba'er Hetev 2 quibbles over Parshat Parah
He also quotes. Tosafot shantz that no other Q'riat Hatorah is d'oraitto other than Zachor

Quoting Magen Avraham - Also Parshat Zachor with 10 is more important than Megillat Esther...

Mishnah Brura 14
"And we learn in the Gmara that Zachor must be "amira mitoch hasefer b'libo"

Next post BEH
Positions of
Kaf Hachayyim
Aruch Hashulchan
Kitzur SA

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Many Paths One Peak

There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but once the pinnacle has been reached, the perspective is the same for all

And so
Who says that advanced science and advanced spirituality will diverge? Maybe at the top they CONVERGE, and all will be seen to clearly emanate from the same Maqor - the Creator Blessed Be He Who Created both Maaseh Breisheet and Maaseh Merqavah