Sunday 31 May 2009

A Qabbalistic Prayer for Forgiveness Before Bedtime

Introduction to Qri'as Shema al Hamittah - The prayer Before Sleeping

Master of the Universe!
I hereby Forgive all who those who:
  • Angered me or
  • Anteganoized me or
  • Who sinned against me -
Whether Against:
  • My body or
  • My property or
  • My honer or
  • Anything else that is mine
  • Against his/her will or
  • Wilfully, or
  • Negligently or
  • Wantonly,
Whether via:
  • Speech or
  • Deed or
  • Deliberation or
  • Fleeting Though - Passing fancy
Whether during:
  • this incarnation or
  • another incarnation
On behalf of any Fellow Human Being.
And May no one be punished on my account...


The Two Faces of Alien Worship Pt. 2

: OTOH alien worship in terms of a "HOW" to worship is not directly or
: so obviously prohibited. Yet the torah unambiguously condemns such
: a practice.

Micha Berger:

This is the whole issur of derekh emori, no?

One can say that conceptually it's a subspecies of AZ, but it's a
different one of the 613.

Tir'u baTov!

FWIW Three other mitzvos come to mind

  1. Matzeiva
    Even maskis

Which are all prohibited EVEN in the worship of HKBH. That is the form is tainted regardless of the Target - Similar to "Eish Zara" IOW the HOW is rejected even if the WHO is Kosher.


Thursday 28 May 2009

What's New in Nishma Cyberspace - May 28/09

In addition to the blog, you may also wish to look at these other items from Nishma in the world of the web.
On the Website

1) New
Hollywood and Sinai
Star Trek

Elsewhere in Cyberspace
with Rabbi Wolpoe

Monday 25 May 2009

Last 10 posts by Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Some of Rabbi Wolpoe's Posts on the Web

Last 10 posts by Rabbi Richard Wolpoe

Cigarettes and Shabbos - Humour

Cantor Richard Wolberg:
"I have seen very frum smokers who claim that they are addicted and cannot stop. Then, like magic, as soon as Shabbos arrives, they put down the cigarettes "

That's easy to explain: Shabbos brings with it a neshima yesiera! :-)


Mishnah, Braisso, and Tosefta - Pt. 1

I recently chatted with R Hillel Danziger at a reunion of "Hartford" people

I posited this model: AIUI before Rebbe there was a "Sea of Tannaitic statements" Rebbe (OK his predecessors ;-) redacted these statements into a coherent whole. Rebbe organized them by seder, maseches, and chapter. One of his biggest tasks was to decide what NOT to include.

After Rebbe finished, Rabbi Chiyya and Rabbi (H)Oshiya said: "wait a minute! A LOT has been left out!" And so they gathered alternate or supplementary collections of their own. And thus we have different anthologies of Tannaitic material


Thursday 21 May 2009

A Black Woman's Journey to the Rabbinate...

The title of this post is the title of an article on at
and it is worth looking at -- but maybe for different reasons than one might at first think.

What hit me about the article is this woman's statement that while she was not born to a Jewish womb, she was born Jewish. I am sure we have all met a ger, a convert, who has made this type of statement -- and in many ways we find the events of this person's life intriguing and even mysterious. It just seems that there are some people who, almost from the point of birth, are searching to be Jews. They talk about how they gravitated towards Jewish friends even as a child and that the stories and lessons of Judaism touched them right from the beginning. Many of us see such individuals as Jewish souls born into non-Jewish bodies who have found their way home.

The fact is, though, the people who we define within this mold are, basically, gerim k'Halacha, converts who converted according to Halacha who are personally observant of Halacha. What is to be said in the case of this woman. Without entering into the question of whether her conversion would be accepted by Halacha (of course, applying lenient standards that, while often ignored today as a legitimate position in gerut, nonetheless are within the spectrum of halachic opinion)m how do we respond to her view of herself as a person who seems to always have been searching for Judaism, of course her view of Judaism? Is there something in a specific soul that could attract a non-Jew to Reform Judaism? And how would we look upon such a non-Jew? While maybe not technically Jewish, would this person not still meet the standard of a righteous Gentile?

I have always found these stories, of individuals who have felt that they were Jewish before even knowing what Judaism is, to be most interesting. I must admit my initial reaction is inherently one of skepticism -- yet when I hear the details of their lives, I often find myself amazed by their uncanny inherent connection to Jewishness that seems to be within them before they even could articulate the concept of Jewishness. What can I now say about this woman? She seems to have also exhibited a similar attraction to Jewishness -- yet this attraction has left her outside the pale of Torah. Did she just miss the mark in following this innate feeling inside her? Is the feeling truly real? Or was her feeling actually some type of inner motivation that took her to something that, although not truly Torah, would be a fine lifestyle for someone not really Jewish -- even as she might think it is?

I have always found the stories of non-Jews, who seem to have been internally motivated to become Jews, fascinating. Now I am wondering how to look at this story. I would appreciate some ideas.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Is Sefirat Ha'Omer 1 Mitzva or 2

Here is what I posted several years ago :

The Rambam firmly construes Sefirat Ha'Omer as 1 Mitzvah. Sefer HaHinuch concurs with the Rambam's read. ... Case Closed.

But it is NOT closed Here is more information gained with a bit of persistence and a lot of assistance!

See Sefer Hamitzvot of the Rambam Mitzva 161 and his reference to Mitzva 140.

Kol Tuv,

Yitzchok Zirkind

And From Micha Berger

See and

It's a machloqes. Rabbeinu Yerucham says that the qorban and counting weeks is one mitzvah, and counting days another. Therefore, counting weeks today is a derabbanan zeikher lamiqdash. The Rambam (asei 161) refers back to asei 140, counting yoveil, as well as points to the fact that there is only one berakhah to show that it's one mitzvah. He also notes that we do mention the weeks daily, unlike the Baal haMaor who only required numbering the week weekly.

In either case, R' "Meish" (Moshe) Taragin discusses it at length. Ayin sham.

The Rambam assumes that tefillah shel rosh rosh einah me'aqeves es shel yad and v.v. proves that they are separate chiyuvim. (Tekheiles and lavan within a single mitzvah of tzitzis is the exception.) I know this is the converse aand not the contrapositive, but does holding that counting days and counting weeks are mutually me'aqvos force one to count them as a single one of the 613?

Tir'u baTov!

And so the Beat goes on. The Count goes on, Too


Sunday 17 May 2009

Reflections on Aveilus 2 - Mourning and Comfort - Mixed Messages?

Getting up from Shiva and reflecting...
  • Is Shiva about healing the wound?
  • Is it about mourning?
  • Is it about adding suffering to the bereaved?
  • Is it about processing grief?
  • Is it about exacerbating a tough time?
  • Is it about the mourner?
  • Is it about the deceased?
  • Is it about the comforters?
  • Is a mourner pampered?
  • Is the mourner entertainer-in chief?
How is a mourner after shiva to feel? Relieved? Or once the comforters leave is the letdown provide even more intense grief - lacking the well-wishers?

Should the mourner discuss:

  • The deceased?
  • The relationship WITH the deceased?
  • The mourner's feelings of shock and grief?
  • The kindness of the consolers?

  • If a mourner needs to be comforted then why does halachah oppose virtually every creature comfort?
  • If a mourner has lost joy why is joy restricted?
  • How come a consoler can bring the mourner joy via his favorite meat balls but the simple joy of bathing is restricted?


Varikra and Catholic Israel

See Leviticus 4:13
"When the entire congregation errs..."

Hazal equate the following :

  • "The entire congregation errs" ==> The Sanhedrin errs.

Now, In the absence of any Sanhedrin it makes sense to go back to the original text. And it follows now to imply the converse - Viz.

  • The Sanhedrin ==> The entire Congregation of Israel.


In the USA Congress - or in Canada the Parliament - Represents all of the people. In the absence of such a representative body then all of the people represent themselves.


Sefer Shmiras Halashon - A Protoype for Other Works?

Originally posted on Avodah during Hol Hamoed Passover

Shmiras Halashon deserves a longer review, but on Chol Hamo'ed I'll be briefer...

The sefer Shmiras Halashon is a tremendous compendium of machshava on why NOT to speak lashon hora, motzie sheim ra, and rechilus. Many may criticise it as "over-the-top" but when taking in small daily chunks as recommended by the limud yomi it makes a profound impact upon one's Machshava

I would likve to divert attention from the MAIN and most obviosu thrust of the work to two "fringe benefits" that imho make this Sefer a real treasure and a pardigm.

Treasure: Aside from the mussar and preaching against gossip, etc. I found the author's Call for Ahavas Yisroel even MORE compelling. It is really difficult to be 100% vigilant in our speech yomam volayla. However, we CAN turn our hearts around and learn to love our fellow Jew and to give him/her the benfit of the doubt "betzedek tishpot amisecha" As such this work's exhortations to love each other strikes a resonatn chord with me

Paradigm: This sefer is a treasury of Aggadah, Midrash, and Zohar on its topic. Bialik's Sefar Ha'Aggadah attempted to do the same for a number of subjects. However, it is quite limited in depth. The Shimras Halashon is a re-arrangement and a re-sequencing of classic Midrashic style texts the way the Mishneh Torah and Shulchan Aruch did a resequencing of Talmudic and Halachic Texts.

I would therefore love to see more sefarim based upon this model addressing different topics. The number of topics coulb bes nearly infinte but here are some
  1. Iyyun Tefillah
  2. Chaggim
  3. Business ethics [eg Moznei Tzedek, fair treatment of customers]
  4. Managment Ethics [lo sallin p'ulas sachi, fair treatment of employees]
  5. Bikku Cholim
  6. Nichum Aveilim
Just to name a few. And the Halachos need not be repeated. The ikkar goal would be to produce a systematic, and topical compendium of Aggadah, Midrash and Zohar in the same mold as the Shemiras Halashon, only the topics would differ.

The Sefer Mishnah Brurah has set a paradigm in designing modern Halachic comentaries [e.g. Badei Hashulchan] The Shmiras Halashon could do the same for machshava

Kol Tuv - Best Regards,

Bike Riding on Yom Tov - A Halachic Perspective

For a fascinating article on Bike Riding on Yom Tov see

Avot DeRabbi Reuven - Four Halachic Perspectives

There at least 4 perspectives on how to view a halachic norm:
  1. The Rationalist
  2. The Fundamentalist
  3. The Consensus-Finder
  4. The Rebel

The Rationalist sees everything as either making sense or as nonsense. He tends to see that Halachah should not play dice (similar to Einstein - G-D does nto ply dice with the univserse)

The Fundamentalist sees Halachah as a fixed target. Stable, but rigidly unyielding. He sees Halachah as another set of Tablets written in stone.

The Conscensus-Finder relies on peer review. He takes a wait-and-see attitude. Like R Joshua at Tanur Achnai, proofs don't matter, votes do.

The Rebel takes an ipcha mistavra point of view. He sees everything opposite of the common wisdom. He is creative and stimulating, but also divisive and needing to call attention to himself.

Let's play this game with a recent query regarding riding a bicycle on Shabbat:

Rationalists will concur that this is a close analogy to existing principles and equate it to musical instruments: Just as guitars are forbidden lest they be adjusted, so too with bicycles.

Fundamentalists will protest against anything but a rigid narrow construction of the text no matter how mindless. So musical instruments set no precedent re: bicycles even if the analogy were otherwise perfect

Consesus-seekers will see which team above wins the vote and follow THAT. They defer their ego reasoning to the greater whole (somewhat analogous to Catholic Israel). Therefore, If most posqim agree with the Rationalists, so do they.

Rebels will do the exact opposite of consensus seakers no matter how unreasonable that position might be in order to be "original". They will make convincing cases to show that the conventional wisdom is "wrong". Sometimes they serve as a check and balance. At other times they seek attention. Therefore, If most posqim agree with the Rationalists, so they protest it and find the few dissenting voices.


Someone suggested that Qitniyyot was a foolish custom day one so why bother? OK if Rema is in error let's ask the following questions re: deviations from Talmudic fundamentals:

  1. Why mourn during Sefira?
  2. Why observe Lag Ba'omer?
  3. Why prohibit polygamy?

  • Why do we not follow Talmudic mores in mourning e.g.
  • Covering the head
  • Turning over the bed
  • Baring one's shoulder.

The Rema says that nonGlatt is acceptable. The mechabber R Y Karo who permis Qitniyyot has a very strict version of GLATT. Much stricter than American Glatt

So are those kvetching re: the "humra" of Glatt the same ones kvetching re: Qitniyyot? If so do they look for eclectic leniencies and favor every lenient position?

Friday 15 May 2009

The Dialectic of Capital Punishment

Avrum's blog recently had an interesting discussion/debate on capital punishment and Nishma's Rabbi Hecht was asked to submit a guest post on his view of the Torah's view. This post is available at :

Thursday 14 May 2009

Reflections on Aveilus 1 - The Holocaust

In learning Hilchos Aveilus I came accross sh'mua q'rova and r'choqaHow was this manifest at the end of the Holocaust? Unknown yahrzeit's were assigned to existing fast days. But how about K'ria following the news that a parent had perished? How was this accomplished?

Wednesday 13 May 2009

The Spirit and the Mind

I just again heard a case of this dilemma of choice. I remember when a close friend of mine mentioned this to me over twenty years ago. He had a choice. He was a relatively new ba'al teshuva and he was at a crossroads. Should he join the charedi world or the modern Orthodox world? He knew the latter was more intellectually challenging and even more intellectually honest but the former had a spirit that was not found in the world of MO. He chose to enter the charedi world. I keep hearing this issue arise again and again. Intellectually, people like my friend recognize the intellectual correctness of the thoughts of Modern Orthodoxy -- yet they still become members of the charedi community, knowing full well that they are thereby compromising the intellectual backbone of their commitment to Torah. Yet they feel that they must do so -- for they need a spirit in their Torah observance that is just generally not found in the world of MO. And this keeps happening again and again.

To be honest, I have met charedi individuals that do meet the highest standards of intellectual struggle, curiousity and honesty. There are possibilities of intellectual heights in the charedi world -- but it is not forthcoming. Any system that places great restrictions of the permitted conclusions must, by definition, restrict intellectual movement. The truth is that these charedi individuals who meet these high intellectual standards somewhat are restrained in their world. They have their reasons for their viewpoints and often it also a result of their intellectual honesty.

Yet finding this elusive spirit that attracts many individuals into the charedi world, even at the expense of their intellectual honesty, is elusive in the MO world -- and the question must be: why? One problem is that while many know what is being alluded to, this spirit is hard to define. Still is it inherent in MO that there be this lack of spirit or is there a problem within the practice of MO that yields this lack of spirit? And if it is the latter, how do we correct it? Do we want to correct it?

Last year, Nishma published an article that, to some extent, dealt with this problem. The article can be seen, on line, at the Blog of Garnel Ironheart at
The fact is that this issue keeps arising again and again. It is time to start thinking about this lack of spirit in the world of Modern Orthodoxy.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 10 May 2009

Changing Religions

It seems that many people are now "changing religions." See, for more details,

The real question is, though: what does it mean? We are told that Yitro went through every religion in his world before he found Torah. That, though, was because he was in search of the truth. Is the truth also what all these people changing their religion searching for? Or is it something else? And then what is it that they are looking for? And is their goal a good one or not?

There are people who may argue that change reflects instability. There are those who would argue that it actually reflects a dynamic personality. The point is that the phenomena of changing religion is not as isolated as one might think. The question, though, is what does it all mean?

Getting closer to home, how much does this national phenomena impact on the movement of individuals both into Orthodoxy and out of Orthodoxy? When I read this article, I wondered what it meant -- but not in terms of the general community but regarding phenomena that we face in the Jewish world.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Monday 4 May 2009

What Happened to Hakeret HaTov?

Recently someone asked me the following question. In a discussion with a major Rabbinical figure from the Charedi world, he noted how much significance this individual gave to the concept of hakeres hatov, acknowledging the good that has been done for you. This individual thus wondered why that Charedi world, as such, did not demonstrate hakeres hatov to the State of Israel, and especially its soldiers, for protecting them and assisting them in the furtherance of their Torah lifestyle. If the value was so significant to them, and it would seem to be from the views expressed by the Rabbinic individual in regard to another issue, why was it not applied by the Charedi world towards Eretz Yisrael? Its one thing not to celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut but wouldn't they at least integrate into their lives some aspect of hakeres hatov? (I would direct you also to which raises the problem within, albeit, somewhat of a different context but further indicates the problem in regard to Yom HaZikaron.)

I should, perhaps, point out that the person who raised this issue is not one who is totally unconnected to the Charedi world. He, in many ways, is supportive of it. Nevertheless, he is bothered by this question especially in that he heard a major figure express the significance of this concept albeit in a different context. I wonder, though, about the matter more generally. I find that hakeres hatov is generally not really stressed not only in the Charedi world but in the general Torah world. Its not only in regard to Israel but in general why is hakeres hatov not stressed? I see people doing almost everything to lessen their school tuitions or their synagogue dues and then extend themselves to give tzedakah to some institution to which they have no connection. Not to take away from the value of tzedakah but why aren't they thinking of hakeres hatov and extending themselves in regard to tuition, dues and other matters from which they benefit? I am not commenting on the final conclusion of such a process but simply the absence of this very process.

So my question is broader. If this Rabbi maintains the significance of hakeres hatov, why isn't he getting it out to his community in general? Why, in general, is this value not truly stressed? But then there is the specific question that I was asked, why is it not expressed towards Israel? I look forward to your comments -- in regard to all aspects of these questions including its assumptions.

Rabbi Ben Hecht