Monday, 30 April 2012

Are Our "Kiruv" Priorities Wrong? - 2

This entry in the "Torah in the News" section on our blog,, caught my attention and after taking a look at it, I wanted to further direct our readership to it and also post a comment. For reasons I explained in Part 1 of this post (see, I left these comments to Part 2.

I find this article in many ways most on point. Indeed, I have also experienced many times, someone, a product of frum schools, raising with me a question for which this person was criticized in the past, only to show this person that a rishon had already asked this question. That this occurs is clearly an indication of a weakness within our school systems. What I find interesting, though, is that the author of this article veered away from truly voicing this conclusion.

The bottom line question is really whether kiruv and chizzuk are psychological issues or philosophical ones. If we say that the problem in chizzuk is the family, then would we not have to also conclude that the motivation behind one's movement in kiruv is also psychological, a weak family environment. If we argue, instead though, that even one with a healthy family environment can become interested in Torah due to its philosophical integrity and strength, do we not also have to accept a conclusion that people may be leaving the Torah world because Torah is presented weakly and thus open to simple critique.

In certain ways, this article does identify the two main forces for life change -- psychological and philosophical. The point is, though, that he does really present them objectively, as two distinct motivations that apply to both kiruv and chizzuk. People become frum because of poor family environments and their acceptance of Torah has nothing to do with intellectual veracity -- they simply found a psychological home. And people become non-religious because they saw through the Pablum that was presented to them as Torah and all the warmth of their family life could not allow them to live as idiots.
There is something in this article, albeit that he does present some truths within our world, that seems to support a myth that the movement to Torah is all about the philosophical strength of Torah and the movement away is all about psychological problems especially on the family level. It is time we start to recognize that these reasons flow both ways and that we have to recognize that, with the success of kiruv, we are sometimes also facing other psychological issues which we may be ignoring to our and the individual's detriment. And that with the problems that demand a solution of chizzuk, we may be attempting to 'solve' the problem without meeting the real problem head-on which may demand a total overhaul of our educational systems and our acceptance, for many people, of Pablum because its easy.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Friday, 27 April 2012

Did 60 Minutes Tell the Truth?

«Sunday night, CBS's 60 Minutes aired a segment titled "Christians of the Holy Land" which cynically distorted a complicated story to slander Israel. Among the myriad errors in the report is the myth of a declining Palestinian Christian population. A report issued by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in 2011 provided extensive documentation that the Christian population in the West Bank is not decreasing – and according to Palestinian sources is actually increasing.  Unfortunately, the 60 Minutes report missed these critical data and repeated the common misrepresentation that the Palestinian Christian population is in a state of exodus. The population decline, even though fabricated, is blamed on Israel   » 

Jewish Council for Public Affairs

Shalom and Regards,

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Customs & Laws of Yom Ha-Atzmaut

Torat HaRav Aviner: Customs & Laws of Yom Ha-Atzmaut

Shalom and Regards,

When Unity Reigned: Yom ha-Azma’ut 1954

The latest issue of Hakirah contains an interesting article with this title.

Subject: When Unity Reigned: Yom ha-Azma'ut 1954

«On the right side of the flyer was the detailed program for the evening that included my late father and many community rabbis.
The Program began with "Presentation of Colors" by B'nai Akivah, the religious Zionist youth group, and Pirhai Agudath Israel, the
youth group of Agudath Israel. What fascinated me most, however, was the fact that among the speakers addressing the topic, "Looking
Ahead with Religious Zionism," was the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, the late Rabbi Eliyahu Meir Bloch, representing Agudath Israel.»

It may be downloaded from

Shalom and Regards,

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

S'firah Questions

גופא אמר אביי מצוה למימני יומי ומצוה למימני שבועי רבנן דבי רב אשי מנו יומי ומנו שבועי אמימר מני יומי ולא מני שבועי אמר זכר למקדש הוא:
The Talmud concludes that nowadays S'firah is a Zeicher l'miqdash
1. How can it still be deemed a d'oraitoo?
2. How come we say a B'rachah? AFAICT It's not found in the Talmud, and as a Zeicher, it might not trigger a b'rachah, particularly since S'feiq B'rachot l'haqeil?
More text below
מסכת מנחות פרק ו

דף סה,ב גמרא
ת"ר (ויקרא כג) וספרתם לכם שתהא ספירה לכל אחד ואחד (ויקרא כג) ממחרת השבת ממחרת יו"ט או אינו אלא למחרת שבת בראשית רבי יוסי בר יהודה אומר הרי הוא אומר (ויקרא כג) תספרו חמשים יום כל ספירות שאתה סופר לא יהו אלא חמשים יום ואם תאמר ממחרת שבת בראשית פעמים שאתה מוצא חמשים ואחד ופעמים שאתה מוצא חמשים ושנים חמשים ושלשה חמשים וארבעה חמשים וחמשה חמשים וששה ר"י בן בתירא אומר אינו צריך
דף סו,א גמרא  הרי הוא אומר תספור לך ספירה תלויה בבית דין יצתה שבת בראשית שספירתה בכל אדם רבי יוסי אומר ממחרת השבת ממחרת יום טוב אתה אומר ממחרת יו"ט או אינו אלא ממחרת שבת בראשית אמרת וכי נאמר ממחרת השבת שבתוך הפסח והלא לא נאמר אלא ממחרת השבת דכל השנה כולה מלאה שבתות צא ובדוק איזו שבת ועוד נאמרה שבת למטה ונאמרה שבת למעלה מה להלן רגל ותחילת רגל אף כאן רגל ותחילת רגל רבי שמעון בן אלעזר אומר כתוב אחד אומר (דברים טז) ששת ימים תאכל מצות וכתוב אחד אומר (שמות יב) שבעת ימים מצות תאכלו הא כיצד מצה שאי אתה יכול לאוכלה שבעה מן החדש אתה יכול לאוכלה ששה מן החדש (ויקרא כג) מיום הביאכם תספרו יכול יקצור ויביא ואימתי שירצה יספור תלמוד לומר (דברים יז) מהחל חרמש בקמה תחל לספור אי מהחל חרמש תחל לספור יכול יקצור ויספור ואימתי שירצה יביא ת"ל מיום הביאכם אי מיום הביאכם יכול יקצור ויספור ויביא ביום ת"ל (ויקרא כג) שבע שבתות תמימות תהיינה אימתי אתה מוצא שבע שבתות תמימות בזמן שאתה מתחיל לימנות מבערב יכול יקצור ויביא ויספור בלילה ת"ל מיום הביאכם הא כיצד קצירה וספירה בלילה והבאה ביום אמר רבא כולהו אית להו פירכא בר מתרתי תנאי בתראי בין במתניתא קמייתא בין במתניתא בתרייתא דלית להו פירכא אי מדרבן יוחנן בן זכאי דלמא כדאביי דאמר אביי מצוה למימני יומי ומצוה למימני שבועי אי מדרבי אליעזר ורבי יהושע ממאי דביום טוב ראשון קאי דלמא ביו"ט אחרון קאי דרבי ישמעאל ור' יהודה בן בתירא לית להו פירכא אי מדרבי יוסי בר' יהודה הוה אמינא דלמא חמשין לבר מהני שיתא אי מדר' יהודה בן בתירא ממאי דביו"ט ראשון קאי דלמא ביו"ט אחרון קאי ר' יוסי נמי חזי ליה פירכא והיינו דקאמר ועוד גופא אמר אביי מצוה למימני יומי ומצוה למימני שבועי רבנן דבי רב אשי מנו יומי ומנו שבועי אמימר מני יומי ולא מני שבועי אמר זכר למקדש הוא:

Shalom and Regards,

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

JVO: Celebrating Holidays of Another Jewish Ethnic Group

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 serves as an Orthodox member of their Panel of Scholars, offering answers from our perspective.

This post is part of a weekly series on the Nishmablog presenting the questions to which he responded and the answers that he gave.

* * * * *

Question: Can Jews of one ethnicity adopt holidays and customs of another? For example, some Ethiopian Jews celebrate “Chag HaSigd” around Sukkot, and Moroccan Jews celebrate “Mimouna” after Pesach. Is there anything wrong with an Ashkenazi Jew taking on these celebrations?

I know of no prohibition to do so  To my way of thinking, Jews should adhere primarily to one set of Community Traditions and not create an eclectic mix.
Personally, and many of my  colleagues dissent, I see no objection to "changing" one's ethnicity, E.G. from Ashk'nazi to S'phardi or vice versa.  But that change ought to be a thorough commitment.
The Talmud decries certain "cherry picking". E.G. to take all the leniencies of both Beth Hillel and Beth Shammai is "evil" ; to take both of their stringencies is foolish.
Yet we do see that the family of Rabban Gamliel took an OCCASIONAL stringency. So the rules are not totally rigid.
The best thing is to stay within one community, but perhaps to visit other communities on occasions of their celebrations as a guest.  E.G. why not attend a Chabad celebration of the 19th of Kislev?  Or a Kabalistic Seder for Tu Bishvat?

Brief History of TSBP* - Part 2

After Rebbe reduced TSBP so much, it was later perceived that it needed to be somehow expanded elaborated upon.
The Tosefta preserved Rebbe's format and expanded the material
The M'chilta / Sifra / Sifrei restored the old sequence and preserved D'rash Format as opposed to P'sak format.


While M'chilta / Sifra / Sifrei used the old format, the material was updated.
Later the 2 Talmudin provided the ultimate expansion of their common denominator, the Mishnah.

** BE"H I will demonstrate a simple case of the same P'sak adhering to the 2 different formats [templates] as per context.

Shalom and Regards,

Monday, 23 April 2012

Nusach Hasfirah: La'Omer Vs. Ba'Omer - 2

I received a private email on this issue with some quick observations on this matter

Dear RRW
  A few thoughts -
-R Saadiah  has aramaic,  be-umra
 -Mahzor Vitry p 301  you just say the day, without saying ba or la omer *
 -kol bo: laomer
-R. Nissim Gaon laomer
 -Rashba: laomer  quoted in Beit Yosef
If Beit Yosef would have disagreed with this, he would have said something. So we think R. Yosef Caro would say "la"
But Shulchan Aruch has the word Baomer, but it is in parenthesis **
I looked at early editions on line, same thing.  I don't understand why there is parenthesis around it, even in early editions. - I don't understand who puts in parenthesis
-the matzevah (cemetery stone) of the Rama supposedly has  la-omer (he died on this day)
a separate issue is to look at early references to Lag Baomer and see if they call it Lag LaOmer or Lag Baomer

* as SA seems to have it without "Omer" - AIUI in context of a B'rachah the word "Omer" is really not needed.

** I explained to him that AFAIK the Ba'Omer in parentheses is a hagaha from the Rema


As I privately emailed a colleague, LA seems to be favored by Rishonim and BA by Acharonim. The above research seems to confirm this.

Shalom and Regards,

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dating Yom HaSho'ah

The choice of the date for Yom Hasho'ah has been controversial from the "get-go"

When I was at a Yekke Congregation, the date they used was a "slam dunk" - namely the anniversary of Krystallnacht - the date that the Nazis declared war on us Jews and upon Jewish Holy Places.

Unfortunately, while there were about half-a-million Jews in the "Anschlussed" Reich, it seems that since that date didn't impact Eastern European Jews, therefore it did not resonate enough for them to observe that anniversary. And it seems that as the Yekke's die out, so will this commemoration.

Shalom and Regards,

P. Sh'mini in EY for "chutznakim"

My son is in Yeshivah in Israel and is observing 2 days of YT
For the last days, he found a YT Sheini Minyan, while visiting Beit Shemesh ,that lained ALL of Sh'mini during Shabbos Minchah time
Now that He's back at his Yeshivah and they will be laining Sh'mini a 2nd time this Shabbos morning [4/21]

Shalom and Regards,

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Mussar: Accept Questioning Cheerfully

R Zelig Pliskin Gateway to Happiness P. 286
It is the nature of wise men to appreciate questions on their viewpoints more than agreement (Kovetz Igros Chazon Ish vol. 1 p. 152)
A person who wants approval is disturbed and irritated if someone questions his attitudes and opinions. But a wise man seeks truth and therefore feels pleasure if someone raises objections since this helps him correct his mistakes.

Shalom and Regards,

Friday, 20 April 2012

Nusach Hasfirah: La'Omer Vs. Ba'Omer

Guest Blogger:
R Daniel Korobkin


Link to Kosher Tube:


1. Quoted Taz, who argues why "B" is more correct. Based on whether the word "Omer" is a reference to the korban or the days.

2. Went through machlokes Rambam and Tos. as to whether Sef. bizman hazeh is biblical and or rabbinic

3. Brought Rabbeinu Yerucham, a 3rd shitta, who says it's part bibl. and part rabbinical (days vs. weeks)

4. Brought shitta of R' Yaakov Emden who puts "yamim" after days, not after weeks

5. Roedelheim siddur argues that  R' Emden holds like R' Yerucham.

6. R' Sternbuch maintains "L" is vestige of Ari's practice like sefardim who follow R' Yerucham

7. Quoted Chinuch who has bizarre girsa that implies it's both bibl. and rabbinical

8. R' Menashe Klein argues that Chinuch's girsa of the formula is like the Tur, to not mention "Omer" at all, since there are two separate mitzvos: (a) the mitzvah to count, (b) the mitzvah to count days from the korban (which cannot be done bizman hazeh).

9. Mipeninei HaRav offers that the machlokes between "B" and "L" is based on whether you pasken like Rambam or Tos., whether it's a biblical commandment or rabbinical bizman hazeh, which is why when one says "L" it's more logical to say the "harachaman" immediately afterwards.

Maskana was that all minhagim are valid, as Aruch Hashulchan writes, but the various opinions are quite interesting.



Mekorot are in a format that we cannot blog as of yet but may be forthcoming later on.

Shalom and Regards,

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Are Our "Kiruv" Priorities Wrong? - 1

This entry in the "Torah in the News" section on our blog,, caught my attention and after taking a look at it, I wanted to further direct our readership to it and also post a comment. This comment on this actual article, though, I will now leave to a part 2 of this post as there was something I also saw at this url that first demands a comment.

"Torah in the News" actually directed one to the website but what I found out there was, though, that this article itself actually was from the Jewish Press. My first inclination was actually, as such, that it would be more correct to find the url for the article on that site and post that. I, however, could not find it on the Jewish Press website so I was left with having to use the url from site. I had a problem with this now as I noticed that this site is actually a Mashichist one. I was hesitant to direct people to a Mashichist website.

My conclusion, as evidenced by this very post, is that I still concluded that even given the nature of this website, it would still be worthwhile to direct people to this article. There was something, though, that actually drove me to do so --  a statement on this site that truly indicates the very problem with the Mashichists. I did not want to direct people to this url, now, to show them the article. The preamble that had before this article needed to be shown to others as a demonstration of the very problem we face with individuals who support this viewpoint. It is not solely that people believe in this that is the problem; it is the motivation that leads people to such a belief that is the greater concern.

In the preamble introducing the article, the following was written:

Although the author of this article is not a Lubavitcher, it is important to remember the Rambam's instruction in his introduction to Shmona Prakim: "Accept the truth from whoever utters it.

The Rambam wrote this in regard to Aristotle; this site now uses this idea to explain why it is okay to 
read an article by another Orthodox rabbi. What does this say, at least, about these Mashichists. In "The Slifkin Affair Revisited", a four part article on our website (in the Commentary Archives Index at I discuss the problem of the Mashichists and describe their weakness as one of arrogance -- to simply think that you are right because you are right? To be a Mashichist, a person must simply discount any challenges from others. There cannot be any introspection. Is this not also what this preamble indicates?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Brief History of TSBP* - Part 1

* Torah SheB'al Peh

First all TSBP was linked to Mikra - much like Torah T'mimah looks today.
Then over time it grew via
1. New D'rashot using Middot
2 New piskei din, precedents. Binding interpretations EG Moavi v'lo Moaviyah

After the Hurban R Akiva began a process of sorting and cataloging by topic. This continued under R Meir and was completed under Rebbe
Rebbe added little to nothing except indexing, formatting, and the latest opinions. Now, TSBP was ordered by subject and had a [new] particular Template of Halachah P'sukkah.
In a sense he did what Rambam and Tur did later on to the Talmud.

Next part - the reaction.

Shalom and Regards,

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Guest Blogger:
Rabbi Avram H. Herzog
Rabbi Y'hudah's Simanim

Why did R' Y'hudah assign simanim to the makkot? Is a simple mnemonic really in order for a short list as simple to remember as the mnemonic itself?

The joke is told that R' Y'hudah was being frugal; why waste ten drops of wine when one only need waste three? The irony here is that we end up spilling thirteen drops!
While one cannot know what R' Y'hudah had in mind, many suggestions have been offered. I'd like to add the following thought to the rich list.

The makkot were basically a showdown between the one true G-d and one who portrayed himself as a god. Our showdown, or ballgame, if you will, begins when Pharoh refused to "let my people go". At that point, Hashem felt the need to intervene, to prove to the world that He, and only He, is G-d. So He played the first inning and brought makkat dam upon the Egyptians. One out. But Pharoh's chartumim were able to replicate this makkah, so Pharoh wasn't moved. 

Next: tz'fardeia. Two outs. This, too, Pharoh's chartumin were able to replicate, and again, Pharoh decided to face the next pitch: kinnim. Three outs. Pharoh's chartumim threw in the towel. Inning over. But Pharoh wouldn't let go of his image of being a god. Instead, he responded: "G-d, all you proved is that you are the god over dtza"ch, natural occurrences and life which emanate from the ground. (The Torah states that the kinnim came from the afar ha'aretz). But I'm still in charge of what lives and occurs on the ground level."
Time for the second inning. First pitch: arov. One out. Next: dever. Two outs. Finally: sh'chin. Inning over. Pharoh now had a chance to forfeit the game. But stubborn Pharoh had other thoughts: "All you proved, G-d, is that you are the god over dtza"ch and ada"sh, the latter which occurs and lives on the ground. But I'm still the boss of the airspace."
So G-d had no choice but to play one more inning and bring about barad, arbeh (which we are informed swarmed in via a ru'ach kadim) and choshech. Three outs. Game over? Not so fast. Pharoh, still determined to fool himself and his subjects, decided to stand up to G-d one last time: "All you proved this time G-d, is that you rule over dtza"ch, ada"sh, and now b'a"ch. So yes, you control all three individual areas which comprise the universe—below the ground level, on the ground level, and the airspace. But just as a corporation has several vice presidents, a solid structure will have a president at the helm. You may be the vice president of all three departments, but I'm the man, or god, who presides over the structure as a whole. I Pharoh, and only I, reign supreme.
Sadly, G-d now had no choice but to pitch one last ball: b'chorot. Game over. G-d had finally shown for Pharoh and all to see, that He, indeed, is the true one and only G-d!
And just as on that day the world recognized the oneness of G-d, we pray and look forward to the day when once again "yih'yeh Hashem echad ush'mo echad."

Monday, 16 April 2012

A Challenge and a Response - 3

A Few Comments

Q: Did Cantor Wolberg need to reply at all? Couldn't he have ignored this fellow?

A: Possibly. Maybe ignoring him had some merit. However, a well-conceived response is also a valid approach, and can possibly turn a negative into a positive.


In this world where "My Way Vs. The Highway" or "I'm OK you're NOT OK". Thinking, maybe it's time to introduce concepts of multiple valid paths, elu v'elu, and win-win thinking. Encounter need not be about winning at the other guy's expense.

I'm not sure why other religions need to advance an authoritarian agenda demanding obeisance from other faiths. What's wrong with every faith community being best at their own path? Why can't Jews be for Judaism, Catholics for Catholicism, Etc. and simply let God sort things out?

Methinks that this Evangelist dost protest a bit too much. Let him work on himself first. K'shot atzm'cha v'achar kach k'shot Acheirim.

Cantor Wolberg has shown the way to allow for a pluralistic and tolerant approach. Let each community follow its own best, holiest, and brightest lights towards Godliness.

Shalom and Regards,

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Jesus Problem

LinkThe article on the CNN website is entitled "Jews reclaim Jesus as one of their own", see

Could someone please explain to me why it is important or necessary for Jews to independently have an opinion on this? Maybe, living in a Christian environment, it is important or necessary for us to have some type of 'proper' language to describe our attitude towards this person -- be it even true or not. That's a question of survival. But why, from an entirely self-defined Jewish perspective is it necessary or important for us to have a view of the historical Jesus?

I am not so much amazed by all the variant opinions on this person -- from one side of the spectrum to the other. What amazes me is the subject actually bothers people. I can't figure out why.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Standing for the Shirah

It is my opinion that the standing for the Torah Reading of the Shirah stems from the standing for the Sh'chinah - along the lines of standing for Kiddush/Birkat L'vanah

Follow the bouncing ball

At the Yam we said Zeh Eili at the Revelation of the Sh'chinah at the Yam Suf.

In Parshas Hachodesh it says Hachodesh Hazzeh. The Talmud says that the common nexus between the 2 cases of "ZEH" is Kabbolat P'nei Hashchincah

We therefore stand for Kiddush L'vanah because it is related to the revelation on the yam by means of ZEH. It stands to reason that if Birkas L'vanah is a reminder of Zeh Eili, then Kol shekein the Laining of Shiras Hayyam itself - that contains the very passuk Zeh Eili - should require/suggest standing

By extension Maamad Har Sinai involved a Kabbolat P'nei Hashchincah - witness "illuy Kervanu Lifnei Har Sinai v'lo bassan lanu es hattorah" that the revelation of the Sh'chinah is itself noteworthy.

This answers the Rambam's difficulty of "How can We stand for some P'sukkim and not for others?

The answer is not that the words themselves are any better rather -when laining certain events - we recall the Revelation of Sh'chinah, and therefore we stand just as we do at Kiddush L'vanah.

This begs the question - why not stand for Parshat Hachodesh, too?

Sanhedrin 42

מסכת סנהדרין פרק ה

דף מב,א גמרא

וא"ר אחא בר חנינא א"ר אסי א"ר יוחנן כל המברך על החדש בזמנו כאילו מקבל פני שכינה כתיב הכא (שמות יב) החדש הזה וכתיב התם (שמות טו) זה אלי ואנוהו תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל אילמלא <לא> זכו ישראל אלא להקביל פני אביהן שבשמים כל חדש וחדש דיים אמר אביי הלכך נימרינהו מעומד

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

A Challenge and a Response - 2

Cantor Wolberg's Response

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Dear E,
It was so nice hearing from you. I always welcome disagreements and intellectual and theological challenges.

First let me clarify that my message was not an Easter message, no more than a Passover message. It was an interfaith message explaining certain connections. To say I "never get there" is [merely] your perception, and just because my belief differs from yours is not to say I "never get there." What in essence you are saying is that I don't concur with your theology, which is not to say that I am judging your theology. Therefore, it is unfair for you to judge my theology.

Your explanation that Passover "was the foreshadow of the 'Messiah' to come" is your belief. We have very good commentaries and explanations as to what the various rituals signified. You are correct about  "Being freed from slavery was not the main point" but for the wrong reason as far as the Jews were concerned. The main point of being freed from slavery was for the Jews to receive the Torah 7 weeks later on Mt. Sinai. And if you read the Torah carefully, you will see that nothing in the Torah was to be changed – including adopting a new theology.

Also, if you studied Judaism, you would realize that we have the Oral Law which is equally as important as the written law (Torah) and without the Oral Law, all kinds of claims are made by people who don't even know what the Oral Law is. For you to say " How can you not get that JC was the Messiah from all the examples found in the Old Testament?"  is condescending and ignorant. You don't think there were scholars a lot greater than you and me, put together times a thousand, who were able to "get it" and understood what the references in the Torah (which you refer to as the Old Testament) really signified.

Unfortunately, you belong to the small sect of Christians who believe you have the sole truth and that everyone else is going to hell. I would urge you to study the Torah and Oral Law as conscientiously as you have studied the New Testament and then get back to me. Though I am pained at your cavalier attitude and approach, I [do] greatly respect the fact that you are not a phony and that you don't smile to my face and stab me in the back.

The other thing I would like to make clear, is that in Judaism, we have no agenda to convert anyone of another faith. We respect all faiths and I would never confront someone indicating that their theology is flawed and that they "don't get it." I will end with one analogy: if you see the color white, you think you are seeing just one color. What's the color that we have in Judaism that illustrates trust in God? White…   Why white? When you look at white, you see a very small percentage of its reality. When you look at white light under a prism, what do you notice? It is separated into its constituent spectrum of colors. You see many colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. But you know what? The colors are hidden. So what white means is that what my eyes perceive is only a small part of reality. The real texture, the rainbow of what's really there is hidden.

And that, Mr. E, is where you're at right now. You see the white and you're trying to convince me that there's nothing beyond what you believe. But, unfortunately, you are seeing a very small percentage of reality. Study the Torah, Talmud and the myriad [works in] Jewish literature, and I think you will become a little more humble. I have studied and have had many scholarly conversations with people like Cardinal O'Malley and many clergyman. I dare say that with very little exception, they would be appalled at what you wrote in your email to me, but again, I [do] respect your honesty. Also, I hold no animosity toward you, even though I feel you are way off in your approach. I respect your theology and only ask that you do likewise.

Very truly yours,                                    
Richard Wolberg

A Challenge and a Response -1

My "Lantsman" from Hartford" received the following letter [*slightly edited]. In a future post we will present his response
Here is the Easter challenge:

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Good Day Cantor Wolberg,

I read your Holiday message in the bulletin today, and was wondering why you come so close to making the connection, but never get there. The reality of Passover was one of the "passing over of death" by an angel of God. When the Angel of Death saw the "Blood" on the door post he passed over that home.

It was the "Blood" of a unblemished lamb, (the sacrifice) that made it possible for the Angel of Death to "Passover". That was the foreshadow of the "Messiah" to come.

Being freed from slavery was not the main point! The Passover foreshadowed that J C would be that Passover Lamb, and thus, death would Passover all that would now believe in him. How can you not get that J C was the Messiah from all the examples found in the old Testament?

Without the Blood sacrifice of J C on the Cross, there would be no passing over of death,.... freedom would not have mattered much,.. then or now! But the greatest thing of all was that J C rose from the grave and like the bondage of Egypt God delivered him out of that grave,... having victory over death the greatest of bondage's.

The Bible tells us that all men are sinful,... and therefore deserve death,... for what does the Scripture say,... THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH!!!! Romans 6:23,.. but please look at the rest of the verse,... "but the gift of God is eternal life THROUGH J C OUR LORD!!!!!! for all those who will place their faith in him and believe with there hearts.

Easter is the GREATEST PASSOVER of all! Will you at least consider that God has done all the work,.. and all he requires   from you is your FAITH!!! Hear Oh Israel, For the "GREAT I AM" is one God, and J C is his name!!!!!

The "Evangelizer"
* all references to the Christian deity were changed to J C

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Perils of a Religious Jogger

«It happened Monday when Mann was out for his daily 3.5-mile run ....
"I'm a religious jogger. I've been jogging since 1985..."»

Phoenix rabbi shot with pellet gun while jogging

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Monday, 9 April 2012

Ben Stein: Israel faces another Holocaust - CBS Sunday Morning

«At many services in people's homes and at synagogues, prayers will be recited which proclaim that in every generation, enemies of the Jews arise to kill the Jews, but God always saves the Jews in the end.

Sadly, this section is now obsolete.»

Ben Stein: Israel faces another Holocaust - 4/8/12 - CBS Sunday Morning

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Jewish Tribune: How can you challenge ‘motherhood and apple pie’?

It seems that there are people who want to re-live the 1960's with visions again of John Lennon singing "Give Peace a Chance". While it will always be a good tune, the message it not always appropriate...especially as it is being used now.

In my latest Jewish Tribune article, I develop this idea further. Please see

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Friday, 6 April 2012

Rambam On Taarovet Hameitz

הלכות חמץ ומצה

הלכות חמץ ומצה פרק א

ה חמץ שנתערב בדבר אחר בפסח, בין במינו בין שלא במינו--הרי זה אוסר בכל שהוא. וחמץ של ישראל שעבר עליו הפסח--אף על פי שהוא אסור בהניה--אם נתערב בין במינו בין שלא במינו, הרי זה מותר לאוכלו אחר הפסח: שלא קנסו ואסרו, אלא בחמץ עצמו; אבל התערובת מותרת באכילה, לאחר הפסח.

הלכות מאכלות אסורות פרק טו

ט חמץ בפסח--אף על פי שהוא מאיסורי תורה, אינו בכללות אלו: לפי שאין התערובת אסורה לעולם--שהרי לאחר הפסח תהיה כל התערובת מותרת, כמו שביארנו. לפיכך אוסר בכל שהוא,

בין במינו בין שלא במינו.

[יב] ייראה לי, שאפילו דבר שיש לו מתירין--אם נתערב בשאינו מינו, ולא נתן טעם--מותר: לא יהיה זה שיש לו מתירין חמור מטבל, שהרי אפשר לתקנו; ואף על פי כן שלא במינו בנותן טעם, כמו שביארנו. ואל תתמה על חמץ בפסח, שהתורה אסרה "כל מחמצת" (שמות יב,כ); לפיכך החמירו בו, כמו שביארנו.

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Parallels between Seder Night and YK

"A Shalom Zachar is not held when this Friday night coincides with the night of Yom Kippur or the night of the Passover Seder

Besides the common absence of Shalom Zachar consider these other common factors

1. Wearing a Kittel
2. Diet is restricted on both
3. Minhaggim to stay up late - EG Shir Hashirim or Shir Hayichud
4. Preceded by D'rashot: Shabbat Hagadol, Shabbat Shuvah
5 L'shanah haba'ah recited Seder Night and N'ilah night
6. Shirah said the same week Shirat Haazinu, Shirat Hayyam, sometimes sharing same Haftarah
7. Special Haftarah, both without a special Maftir.

Any More?

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Illu Keirvanu Lifnei Har Sinai, v'lo Natan lanu et haTorah - Dayyenu!

Doesn't it seem odd to get to Har Sinai and to NOT receive the Torah?! What gives?

In my upcoming post on standing for the Shirah, the idea emerges that REVELATION, even w/o mitzvot, is an end in itself. And at Sinai, just as at Yam Suf, we received a massive dose of Revelation

The liturgy itself reflects this. Once upon a time a friend asked me - is there a connection between the Haftarah of Yitro and of Shavuot?

The answer: Indeed there is. BOTH deal with Revelation and the Kedushah.

In Yisro the Haftarah has a private revelation to Y'shayah. It includes the vision of the Kissei Ram v'Nisso and the threefold Kadosh

Similarly the Haftarah on Shavuot is a private revelation of the Maaseh Merkava to Y'chezkeil, and we end it with Baruch K'vod Hashem. The other major component of the Kedushah.

Thus, Both Haftarot reflect revelation and holiness, and do not directly address "mitzvot". Contrast them with the Haftarah of V'arvah, for example, where Mal'achi makes it a point to close with Zichru Torat Moshe Avdi

Thus, there IS a benefit to Ma'amad Har Sinai, independent of the Hukkim uMishpatim. And for that, we are also grateful!

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Short List of Kosher for Passover Medicines 2012

Courtesy of

Short List of Kosher for Passover Medicines 2012

These medicines have been confirmed to be kosher for Passover [in the U.S.]:

Bayer, Ibuprofen tablets, Tylenol (except for cold drops), Adderall

For more kosher for Passover medicines, contact the Star K.

These mouthwashes are kosher for Passover:
Listerine antiseptic, Oral B rinses, Scope

For more kosher for Passover products, contact the Star K.

SOURCE: BWR Magazine, 2012/3/26, page 25

This message is a Jewish public service announcement
from the moderator of the [DerechEmet] yahoo group.

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Qitniyyot, Stuck in the Middle - Without You! :-)

My understand from the Chok Yaakov is Simple and Centrist

1. We accept the Humra/Minhag of Qitniyyot

2. We are meiqil in all the "gray areas" because -

3. We are not Machmir on what is already a Humra.

To my leftist colleagues who wish to be m'vateil issur Qitniyyot, I say to them Al Titosh Torat Imecha [Chayyei Adam]

To my Machmir colleagues I cite this Chok Yaakov, that there is no need to be machmir on what is already a Humra.

The result? I get universally despised! :-)

Zissen Pesach!
Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Kashering Bechers at Breuer's

Around 1988 we were kashering some of our Keilim at KAJ/Breuer's. There they usually had one of the Rabbonim of the "Kehillo" supervising each item.

That night it was the turn of Rav Eliyahu Glucksman Z"L. I had brought in some small "bechers" to kasher

REG: have these been used for Whiskey or Beer?
RRW: Yes some have
REG: Then, our Minhag is NOT to kasher them!
RRW: ?!?!?
REG: Look it's JUST a [local] Minhag.
RRW: OK [taking REG to mean <wink wink> kasher them elsewhere if necessary]

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Freedom FROM, Freedom TO

Originally Written in 2009 -

As I jot down these notes, today is 5 Iyyar, the anniversary of the modern State of Israel

In God's original 5-part liberation plan, v'heiveiti and I will bring them TO THE LAND was the fifth culminating step in our total redemption. We pray that speedily we drink that proverbial 5th cup next seder!

Meanwhile Review Question: What were the first 4 steps? Three are virtually synonymous expressions of rescue (hatzalah)

The 4th is our focus today. V'lakachti eschem li l'am. I will take (or acquire) ye as a nation (Or people)…

Did this happen at the Exodus? Not really, it actually occurred at maamad har sinai! That is when "asher bachar banu.. V'nattan lanu et torato.." Occurred. Furthermore, this is musically reflected in the Qiddush of EVERY yom tov! The motif for that qiddush is the melody for Akdamut and it highlights: "asher bachar banu mikkol am" which is a Shavuot theme even when recited on other Yomim Tovim!

So Shavuot is the culmination of our g'ulah. And this is because we were really celebrating the Exodus only ONE full day. As Sefer Hachinuch notes, on the 2nd day we counted with the expectation of Mattan Torah on Shavuot. Only for the briefest moment were we escaping FROM. For the next 50 our escape was TOWARDS Torah and the fulfillment of V'lakachti.

This Freedom to, Freedom for a purpose is key. So many Jews who escaped Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries to come to America to become full Jews in the open.

Sadly, when Jews fled Europe at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries it was not just to escape the Czar but to escape FROM Judaism. Only an idealistic handful realized how much American religious freedom could enable Jews to find FREEDOM TOWARDS Torah.

Despite our tragic losses, this remains our goal and focus. To escape tyranny on behalf of a vision not just of Liberty, but of Divine Service. We will be God's People.

Hag Kosher v'Samei'ach

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

JVO: Kitniot

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 the weekly 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.

* * * * *
Question: I live in Israel, where most people eat “kitniot” on Pesach (Passover) and it can be hard to find non-kitniyot products. Can I “break” my family’s tradition of not eating kitniot because it’s so much harder to keep in Israel?

Your question is actually most complex, extending beyond the narrow issue of kitniot and entering into the halachic realm of communal structure, a realm that actually demands much more investigation in our present world.
To start off though, in regard to the specific issue of kitniot itself, I should first direct you to Rabbi Alfred Cohen, "Kitniyot in Halachic Literature, Past and Present," Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society VI which is a very fine article outlining the whole issue. Kitniot, of course, are foodstuffs with which -- while not true chametz -- a custom developed in Ashkenazic (European) Jewish communities to forbid their consumption on Pesach. In this regard, as Rabbi Cohen points out, there is much debate on what foodstuff is included in this custom and this disagreement as to the exact definition of kitniot could be a significant issue in response to your question. The answer may be different depending upon the specific item of kitniot that is the subject of your question. In a similar regard, the answer may also depend upon your specific family custom rather than the general or more prevalent custom. Your family’s history in moving to Israel may also be a factor for the real issue is not kitniot but rather custom.
There is a principle in Jewish Law that custom has the authority of law. Minhag avoteinu Torah, the customs of our forefathers are Torah. See, for example, Rema, Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 376:4. What this means, however, is often misunderstood. What it effectively is stating is that once a Jewish community begins a practice, that practice after it has been established over time, becomes binding on the members of the community. There are caveats upon this statement, though. This only occurs, for example, if the practice developed under the watch of someone versed in Jewish Law, thus allowing for the conclusion that it was developed with the consent of this individual or, at least, without his objection. As such, we thereby assume that there must have been a legitimate reason for this custom to have developed and, even as we may now not know the actual original reason, the custom has the force of law, at least to some extent. This parameter is important. While a Biblical law can be overridden, for example, only when life itself is threatened, it may be that a custom could be overridden because of a lesser issue. This could be another matter that needs to be addressed in regard to this question. What exactly is the problem? Inconvenience itself may not be enough of a reason to override a custom but perhaps the exact nature of the problem may be a good reason.
The essential issue, however, is this concept of custom. Most people think that the rules are tied to actual family; in fact, this is not true. The rule is tied to community. One is bound by the practices of his/her community. The question then arises: what happens if someone moves? While there are many factors involved in presenting a correct response to a specific question of this nature, the simple answer is that (a) if someone moves to a place that has no established custom, that person must continue the customs of the place from which he/she came; and (b) if someone is moving to an established place with established customs, the person must generally adopt the customs of the new place. So if, in 1700, an Ashkenazi moved from a community, let us say Krakow, that kept the prohibition of kitniyot to a Sephardic place, let us say Fez, that did not keep this prohibition, it may be that this person would then be able to eat kitniyot on Pesach but the person would then have to adopt all the Sephardic customs. This may be another aspect of this issue in this case. The question may not be whether you can eat kitniyot or not but whether you can now choose to join a Sephardi community and adopt all their customs?
This leads us to the issue of Israel and the multitude of variant communities within this land. At least, that is the situation today but, historically, Israel was originally a Sephardic community. This has led some people to presently argue that since, when the Ashkenazim, first came to Israel, as they were really now entering a Shephardi community, they should have adopted Shephardi customs, as such, these Ashkenazim should have dropped this prohibition of kitniyot. The problem with this argument is that these Ashkenazim did not come as individuals per se but as a group and formed their own community with Ashkenazic rules, right at the beginning, which was their right. In addition, if one would adopt this argument, it would mean that one would have to effectively become a Sephardi beyond the issue of kitniyot. The question, though, is that, given that there is much choice that one would have as to possible communities, what choice does one have in choosing his/her community? It would seem that regardless of what one’s actual family background would be, if a person is now living in a community, under the leadership of a recognized Rabbinic individual who would provide correct halachic guidance, i.e. an appropriate judge of the Torah law, the person would be bound by the customs of this community – and if this community allowed kitniyot or, at least, took more lenient positions of this law, it would not only be okay but it would actually be appropriate to follow the customs of this community in which one lives.
This leads to a final issue. Can a new community structure with new customs be formed given the past family history of its members? We know what happens if an Ashkenazi moved to Fez and what happens if a Sephardi moved to Krakow. We also know what happens if a group of Ashkenazim or Sephardim move to a place without a community. In speaking to other Rabbis, we found it very unclear of what would happen if 5 Jews from Fez and 5 Jews from Krakow came to a new place – how would they establish minhagim? Of course, much would depend on the Rabbi of this new community as his particular conclusions would have more weight. Anyways, you are beginning to see the true complexity of this question.
So, in conclusion, what I would say is what is necessary is for you, as an individual, to recognize that you do not live in a vacuum but rather within the context of a local Jewish community with a Rabbi who provides halachic direction to the community and its members. The answer lies in determining what is your community and following its practices. It may be that you may wish to determine which community you favour based upon its kitniyot rules. That may be your prerogative – but then you are still bound to the general rules of the community as well.

Happy Passover from

Passover Rhapsody

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,

Monday, 2 April 2012

How did 2 Million + Israelites leave Egypt together?

In an Ancient Near East class at YU, Professor Kedar was "stuck" with a "Tzarich Iyyun" - namely "How could 2.5 million people leave Egypt w/o leaving a great roshem behind?"

Nearly every other phenomenon of the Exodus and sojourn to EY had been explained in detail, much with archaeological support

Later on at the Seder, I realized how Hazal probably addressed this very same issue

"V'es halachatz - zo had'chak". It seems like the Haggadah and Midrash Sifrei are not adding much to our understanding?!

Now in another class on Ethnic History of the USA, we learned how tenement life in the Lower East Side was oppressive; and that nearly 2 million people were crowded into a small area, one NYC neighborhood.

Now we can explain many things. One of the oppressions in Egypt was D'chak, that the Israelites were jammed into a tiny neighborhood. This not only provides us the explanation of the cruelty of the Mitzrim, but it also explains the logistics of how Israelites could be gathered from the four corners of Mitzrayim relatively quickly. It also explains how the Lachatz was not about work or other mistreatment, but was addressing the very nature of oppression via overcrowding.

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Haggadot On Line

Email from a friend

For various Meforshim on Haggadot, go to

Excellent source for various Haggadot.

Hag Kasher v'Samei'ach,