Monday 31 October 2011

Is Massive Outreach Good for the Jews or Bad for the Jews?

Does spreading a wide net of outreach make sense to replenish Judaism? Or will we dilute ourselves by inviting many half-way converts who eclectically except minimal Jewish ideals along with alien dogma.

Note: this may be a subject for an upcoming poll.

Rabbi Celso Cukierkorn The king of Conversion to Judaism. | PRLog


Sunday 30 October 2011

Following in the Footsteps of the "Creative Master" - Part 3

I've been asked to identify the "Creative Master" to whom I was alluding

Suggestions have included:
R Hirsch
RAI Kook
RYD Soloveichik
Even Reb Shlomoh Carlebach's and his music!

There is no individual here. There just is a need to see that some followers are faithful to their Master - not by slavishly following them - but rather by going beyond them by internalizing their teachings and by emulating the Master when adding their own "spin"

And still others are synthesising several masters and are therefore not fully "faithful" to any one. EG RY Karo used a B"D of 3 masters to help adjudicate many issues.

While RY Karo claimed fealty to the Rambam, he still needed to blaze a slightly different trail to update Halachah in light of the many post-Rambam Poskim. This does not mean he did not adhere to the Rambam as his master, rather it means he added a dimension to the Rambam's corpus by incorporating more Poskim to the mix.


Friday 28 October 2011

KOSHERTUBE: On the Return of Gilad Shavit

Nishma is proud of its association with Koshertube which carries, amongst its over 7000 videos, many shiurim from Nishma's Rabbis Hecht and Selevan. This connection is furthered strengthened by Rabbi Hecht's further presence on the Koshertube Rabbinic Advisory Board. If you have not already done so, we invite you to view the site at

In more specific terms, Rabbi Hecht recently spoke about the Torah issues connected to Gilad Shavit and the the deal that brought him home. To view this shiur, please see

Thursday 27 October 2011

Does Anyone Detect the Irony?

There seems to be a subtle irony at work here [courtesy of RNG]

First, see the Artscroll Siddur Friday Night Maariv p.336 in the footnotes to V'shamru.
The first paragraph there prohibits interrupting between Haporeis and the Amidah. It then gives a heter for adding V'Shamru despite that prohibition.

Second, see the very next paragraph. There Artscroll denounces making exceptions re: Sabbath Observance for the sake of constructing the Tabernacle. In this second paragraph, the concept of making exceptions to Halachah for some "higher purpose" is now being opposed!

Does anyone notice the irony of these 2 statements juxtaposed together?


Wednesday 26 October 2011

Hayom Yom R'vii - the Long Awaited Day

When I read today's shir shel yom Psalm 94, I was aroused by the sentiments expressed therein -
"Keil n'makamot Hashem... Hasheiv g'mul al gei'I'm"
[Tangentially -"mashpil gei'im.."]

In just the last few years we have been zocheh to see a "comeuppance" for many of the "gie'I'm" in the Middle East.
And soon perhaps Assad
Yimach Sh'mam.
One might consider even other candidates such as Mubarak, etc.
After we have spent decades crying "ad matay"! It's a real "Zeh Hayyom Asah Hashem" to realized that Saddam is gone after 30+ years and Khadafy is gone after 40+ years. As we had impatiently waited for the termination of their respective evil reigns, Hashem patiently toppled them in HIS own good time
"Kein yov'du chol oy'vecha Hashem.." Bimheirah B'yameinu


Tuesday 25 October 2011

How come there is a controversy re: The sukkah on Shemini Atzeret?

"Arguments about eating in the sukkah on Shemini Atzeret outside of Israel have a long and somewhat baffling history.[1] While not the only example of practice in opposition to the Shulchan Aruch, it appears to be among the most argued. The gemara, Rambam, the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch, written in many locales, all seem to be as unambiguous as possible in requiring one to eat in the sukkah. The Gaon, incensed by the spreading Chassidic custom to eat outside the sukkah, perhaps lemigdar miltah, went so far as to mandate sleeping in the sukkah on the night of shemini atzeret, in opposition to the Maharil, the Magen Avraham and normative custom."

the Seforim blog: The sukkah on Shemini Atzeret controversy


"The question is why it's not put to rest by the gemara's conclusion: 'Vehilkhisa: yesuvei yasvinan, berukhi lo mevarkhinan'".

Here is a simple approach is that there are really 2 different ways [at least] to parse the conclusion

A "The Halachah is that we MUST sit, but w/o a brachah" - this is the normative interpretation of the Poskim

B "The Halachah is we MAY sit, but w/o a brachah" - meaning that despite the ch'shash of bal tosif we are allowed to sit - so long as we say no brachah.


As opposed to the GRA and the Kitzur SA [who EG require even sleeping in the Sukkah ] - the Derech Hachaim and others insist on using the sukkah ONLY when the absence of the Brachah is clearly manifested.

Thus, those who do NOT sit might indeed be flouting the normative Poskim, nevertheless they CAN be harmonized with this "hilchesa" - which is probably Saboraic anyway.

There are other factors involved here "v'ein kan m'komo."


Monday 24 October 2011

Jewish Tribune: Introspection

In emerging from the Yomim Noraim period, we can consider what we have learned from the process that may guide us in the future. One of the most valuable aspects of this process is introspection which should include not only an evaluation of ourselves but also how we make decisions.

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

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 23 October 2011

Stretching the Limits of Creative Parshanut

«I am tired of biblical commentaries that sound the same. Operating within the limitation of accepting all the main interpretations of previous generations, weekly commentators today sometimes seem like they all inevitably arrive at similar conclusions. And then someone breaks through that false image and shows how to be creative within boundaries.


This all seems too much for one book yet R. Kahn brilliantly succeeds in this daring collage. His book contains two essays on each weekly reading in Genesis. Every essay addresses a new topic. This genre has been done a thousand times over yet R. Kahn's contribution is remarkably original. Using midrash, both from standard and kabbalistic texts, he psychologizes the biblical characters, looking into their motivations and reactions, and symbolizes them, attributing to them philosophical and theological significance beyond their personal identities, and with all that usually finds a message relevant to today.»

Biblical Creativity | Hirhurim – Torah Musings


Saturday 22 October 2011

Mussar: A Happy Life vs. A Meaningful Life

« ...[EG] Self-help addresses
(1) loss of productivity; and (2) personal pain.

In Torah (including Mussar) we'd call these yisurim (trevails). But Mussar wouldn't want you to attack yisurim. Yisurim are triggers, part of the solution. They aren't the things that need changing, they are causes to get up and change something. Mussar adds to self-help the notion of duty. One doesn't try to eliminate yisurim, but their causes — which reside in flaws in our ability to carry out our mission.»

| Aspaqlaria



Without necessarily opposing the sentiments expressed in the post above, I still think it depends on the person's situation [matzav]. This post is totally appropriate for some [EG RYDS] but others may NEED to feel better in order to be effective people and effective Jews. EG a person who is so depressed as to not get up out of bed, will also not make it to Minyan.

So I don't see the values of seeking relief from pain or happiness as necessarily opposed to seeking meaning. In my way of thinking, it really depends upon the situation or the madreigah of the individual
That means, if happiness adds to effectiveness, it's a worthwhile middah. OTOH if the pursuit of happiness leads to avoidance of "doing the proper thing" then it can indeed become a negative.

Also, as I posted a while ago [quoting a sefer], public mussar can do as much harm as good, depending upon the audience; meaning good Mussar can motivate some and "turn off" others.


Wednesday 19 October 2011

Dancing On Simchat Torah

The Rema says that one may cry on Shabbat if that relieves his melancholy mood

We may forgo eating fish or meat on Shabbat when we don't enjoy eating it

And so my fellow Jews "Ask not if we MAY dance on Simchat Torah; ask if we MUST dance on Simchat Torah?!"

What if we just enjoy singing w/o tripping over our own 2 left feet? What if we are drained from S'lichot, Yamim Noraim and Yamim Tovim and we're too tired to prance around?

Are we still on the hook to dance? Can't we still have "simchah" w/o dancing?

For those who ENJOY intense dancing - G-d Bless them. Let them express their joy and enthusiasm. For the rest - why bother?


Curmudgeonly Yours


Sukkah, K'vi'at S'udah, Pat Habbo b'Kisnin

These 3 related dinim I find puzzling

1. The Mishnah Brurah* says EG that a kiddush in a sukkah using Pat Habbo b'Kisnin [PHBK] can be enough of a k'viut to trigger a "Leisheiv". But apparently this same k'viut on Pat Habbo b'Kisnin fails to trigger Hammotzi and Benching? Why not?

* SA O"ch 639:2 "im kovei'a alav ..."
MB 16 - b'sheim Maamar Mordechai
Beiur Halacha - D"H "Im Kovei'a Alav"

2. The first point above begs the question in general about kiddush bimkom s'udah with a Pat Habbo b'Kisnin; namely why doesn't every kiddush bimkom s'udah trigger a k'viut on eating PHBK, which should in turn require Hamotzi etc.

3. The Major Poskim talk about the case of washing and hamotzi in one place and finishing one's s'udah in another. Yet - Except for a brief blurb in Kitzur SA** - I find little or nothing of the common case when it rains in the middle of a Sukkah meal. Or conversely when it STOPS raining and one moves back to the Sukkah. One would think that this case being common enough would be outlined specifically in the SA, MB etc.

**See EG
SA O"Ch 178 dealing with changes in location. I do not recall seeing any mention the case of Sukkah to House or Vice Versa.

But also see Kitzur SA 135:3 who does address the case of going from the Sukkah to the house re: the first night when it's raining.


Tuesday 18 October 2011

"Yated" On LW Orthodox Reforms

«Open Orthodoxy is Reform Judaism for those wanting a certain comfort level with Orthodox ritual and some aspects of Orthodox practice, but just as those delis are glatt treif, so is Open Orthodoxy. In this sense, they are worse than conventional Reform. Just as unwitting Jews may mistakenly patronize kosher style delis, look at the menu, and assume it is kosher when it is actually treif - after all, who would sell kishka if not a kosher place? - so too, unwitting, often innocent Jews who don't know any better are being ensnared in the trap laid before them by the Reform purveyors of Open Orthodoxy.»



While I'm NOT defending the LW revisions - however these attacks on the "Others" may be a distraction from our OWN avodah. IOW we need to heed the dictum "K'shot Atzm'chau v'achar kach acheirim" [or here rather nikshot astzmeinu.]

We may be guilty of playing a simple self-deceptive game; Namely, by pointing fingers at Open Orthodoxy etc. we are prone to ignore our own failings and to overlook our own revisions of Halachah Maybe it's more productive to Introspect about ourselves and our own shortcomings rather than to attack the foibles of others.


Monday 17 October 2011

A Miraculous Post-Soviet Religious Revival

«...The quest for Jewish knowledge and community life, pa Ruski, is tangible among people grappling with the challenges of post-Soviet societies. And yet not only can Jews of all ages pray in a variety of synagogues—from Chabad to Reform congregations—they can also engage in bar and bat mitzvah retreats in the hinterlands of Siberia. In Hebrew and Russian prayer books, religious schools and even online, in the world's first Russian-language Jewish education guide, they are learning about the Jewish New Year, the Torah, Israel, Passover and the mitzvot (commandments) ...»

For smart phones use


Sunday 16 October 2011

Following in the Footsteps of the "Creative Master" - Part 2

For Part 1, see

RV responded a week later:

There are TWO aspects to RH Z"L
1. His conclusions [product, output, decisions, psakkim, Minhagim, etc.]
2 His Methods [process, derech, Hashkafah, etc.]
There is a natural tension here

The "Sinai's" are going to adhere to #1.
The "Okeir Harim" will favour #2.
And we cannot pass off revisions as R Hirshelle's own Torah - now can we?

I suggest that R Sh'maryah's efforts at guarding the legacy must continue faithfully...
But maybe we need to relax our rigidity and at least to recognise - as equally valid, alternative school that is inspired by RH's methods and who create brand new Hiddushim.
Maybe we need two separate schools
1 Moreshes Beit Zvi
2 Hiddushim al pi Torat Zvi
Let people admire both and synthesise as they see fit w/o corrupting the original Masorah of RH himself.
I realize that this is an imperfect proposal. That to draw the line between the two can be a tricky task.
I just ask that we all recognise that some followers are inspired by RH works to think original thoughts that do not always match RH's own conclusions.

EG sometimes I use Rashi's own techniques in parshanut to come to a conclusion that differs from Rashi's own published conclusion. Was Rashi trying to davka exclude another read based upon his own methods in other passages? Who knows for sure? But I do think Rashi would approve of such an approach anyway
Either Rashi would validate the approach and dispute the conclusion for some un-articulated reason. Or more likely he would embrace it as a valid "Davar Acheir". Take your pick and Rashi wins as a teacher, either as a Peirush or as a teacher of Parshanut.
R Ben asked:
"But if we get original and interpret R Hirshelle's Torah as WE SEE it, it becomes OUR Torah, not HIS! W/O being rigidly faithful to what RH actually said, we will dishonestly pass off OUR hiddushim as HIS Hiddushim!"
RV responded: You know you have some good points, give me time to consider this.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Mussar: Sitting in the Sukkah with Kavanah

Derech Emet quoting Mishnah Brurah

«Every time we dwell in the Sukkah we must remind
ourselves that we are doing so to remember the Exodus from Egypt [Yetziat Mitzrayim] and the
[miraculous] Clouds of Glory [Ananei HaKavod] which surrounded us at that time to protect us from the heat and Sun [and from animals and enemies].»

DerechEmet : Message: Quick Jewish Quote for 2011 October 15



AFAIK this CONCEPT of doing the mitzvah with Kavanah is hardly unique to the MB

EG R Hirsch emphasized the importance of Mitzvot and their SYMBOLISM.

This reflection upon the Mitzvah is a NISHMA aspect [perhaps THE NISHMA aspect] that follows the Na'aseh aspect. Na'aseh - we will do, Nishma - we will perceive or experience or contemplate.

During Hirsch's 19th Century struggle, most of Orthodoxy had unfortunately devolved into abandoning the concepts and philosophies behind the Mitzvot and had begun merely observing mechanically by rote. In reaction, Reform sought to remedy this with replacing ACTION with CONCEPT. Thereby, they threw out the baby [observance] with the bathwater [of rote performance]. Hirsch, in turm, demanded BOTH observance and contemplation thereof. [The Mussar School AIUI had a similar approach]

I believe that this is also a Central Goal of Nishma, i.e. to go beyond Halachah and to seek meaning, concept, and symbolism.

Observe with body and mind = Na'aseh v'Nishma


Wednesday 12 October 2011

Why Do We Read Kohelet on Sukkot?

I wrote this concept on the Avodah List many years ago. At that time a Chaveir pointed out that the Midrash Rabbah on Kohellet covers about 50% of this - Baruch shekivanti.

Q1. Why do we read Kohellet on Sukkot?

Q2. Why did Sh'lomoh HaMelech refer to himself as "Kohelet"?

"Bulleted" Outline

1. Sukkot is a time of remembering Sukkat David, I.E. the Mishkan and the Mikdash

2. Sukkot is THE time for Hakheill

3 Sh'lomoh was THE first King of the Bayit Rishon

4. Ergo Sh'lomoh was [almost certainly] the FIRST to conduct Mitzvat Hakheil in the BH"M, and likely conducted the first "Hakheil" ever in history.

5. Thereby Sh'lomoh was THE "Kohelet" [the "Hakheiller"]
This means not so much preacher, but rather the gatherer of the People at the Mikdash - reminiscent of Moshe Rabbeinu gathering the people at Vayakheil and other occasions.

6 . Ergo we recall that first Hakheill by reading Kohellet on its anniversary, namely on Sukkot

7. We are thereby commemorating our first Mikdash, our First Hakheil in anticipation of the restoration of Our BH"M and of a NEW, Wise, Melech Hamoshiach [also a ben David] who exhibits the traits of [L'havdil] a "Philosopher King" - as well as the restoration of an era of Peace and Prosperity.


For Some Sources Supporting this Thesis Please See:

Rashi on D'varim Vayelech 31:11 - where he presumes Melech, Beemah, and Azarah

Kohellet Rabbah - Hamvo'ar edition esp. pp. 1, 5-6

The commentary there says

A. This corresponds to mitzvat Hakheil

And re: Kohelet/Sh'lomoh

B. "hu hamlech harishon asher kiyeim mitzvat hakheil zo b'veit hamikdash"


Tuesday 11 October 2011

Why is Sukkot Called Z'man Simchateinu?

It may be shown that each of the 3 R'galim follow a similar pattern which can map onto a kind of matrix.
One dimension is the 3 R'galim themselves

The other dimension is that each regel has various aspects, namely:
• Agricultural
• Liturgical
• Historical
• Other?


Agricultural Aspects:
Pesach - K'tzirat ho'Omer I.E. Barley
Shavuot - Sh'nei Halechem I.E. Wheat
Sukkot - Nissuch Hamayin and Hag Ho'Ossif of other produce.


Liturgical Aspects:
The 3 Z'manim
Pesach - Z'man Heiruteinu
Shavuos - Z'man Mattan Torateinu
Sukkos -Z'man Simchateinu


Historical Commemorations:
Pesach - Y'tzia't Mitzrayim
Shavuot - Matan Torah
Sukkot - ???
We see that the first two Liturgical Z'manim easily dovetail into historical anniversaries., namely:

Pesach - Y'tzia't Mitzrayim = Heiruteinu
Shavuot - Mattan Torah = Mattan Torateinu
The missing piece seems to be Sukkot - to what event can we equate Simchateinu?
If we were to pick the An'nei haKavod or Sukkot Mamash as the Historical event, this presents a difficulty because they seem to be an ongoing process not a singular event. So we perhpas we can say "Simchateinu" but how can we say "Z'MAN"?
I suggest that the answer may lie in another kind of "Sukkah"...

Can we detect a pattern behind these questions?
1. What is the "horachman" we say in Birkat Hamazon for Sukkot
2. What does v'Samachta LIFNEI HASHEM suggest?
3. What are the Haftarot in Chutz Lo'oretz for the 2nd Day and for Sh'mini Atzeret?
4. What is the English name for this Holiday?
5. What anniversaries does Tisha b'Av - our SADDEST day - commemorate?
6. What do we STILL commemorate on the 25th of Kislev - that really no longer exists?
7. Similarly, why do we not say tachanun for the first 12 days of Nissan?

Hopefuly with this approach we can isolate a SPECIFIC historical event that triggers Z'man Simchateinu!

First the Answers
1. ...Yakim lanu Sukkat David hanofelet...
2. In the Mikdash we take the 4 Minnim all 7 days mid'oraisso
3. They commemorate the dedication of Beis Hamikdash during Sh'lomoh Hamelech's reign
4. Tabernacles
5. The Desctruction of TWO batei Mikdash
6. Hanukkat Mamizbei'ach and the Menorah Miracle, etc.
7. The Hanukkat Hamishkan

All of Which suggest an 8th Wonder [Do you detect the Pattern Yet?]
Q8 If we STILL rejoice over the Anniversary of the Mishkan and the rededication of Bayit Sheini why not celebrate the dedication of the First Beit Hamikdash?
A8. We do. On Sukkot our Z'man Simchateinu is the commemoration of the Building of the Mikdash of Sh'lomoh Hamelch; which can treat as the direct converse of Tisha b'av's Mouring of the loss of the BH"M!
Mystery Solved. The Sukkah that brings simchah is that Sukkah on the Har Habbayit, that is to say our Beit HaMikdash
Thus Sukkah cullminates
A The 3 R'galim
B. The Tishrei Holdiays
C. The mourning over the Lost Temple - even beyond the shiv'ah d'nechemta


Monday 10 October 2011

To Do Two or NOT to Do Two?

Margy Horowitz, a 37-year-old mother of two whom I know, is a private piano teacher in Los Angeles. She is an Orthodox Jew, as are about a third of her students. Paid per lesson, she forgoes up to $300 of income on each day she can't teach. And in the fall, when Rosh Hashanah ushers in a month-long series of multiday holidays, that adds up: seven missed workdays in just over three weeks, if no holidays fall on a weekend. "The income I lose," Horowitz said, "is an entire month's rent."

See -
The second day of some Jewish holidays is mandated by rabbinic tradition, not Torah law. In today's world, they're increasingly hard to observe.



Mishlei 10:12, T'chasseh

By means of "Siyyata diShmaya [happenstance?] I hit this Passuk in Mishlei
"...V'al col p'sha'im t'chasseh ahavah"

Some comments:

1. In the Hin'nei He'oni it is re-phrased as:
"V'al ko p'shaim t'chasseh *B*'ahavah"
AFAICT, this amounts to the same sentiment, namely that Love [or Kindness] COVERS all sins
2. Since Love causes the Lover to overlook "pesha", therefore - if the Lover is Hashem and Israel is HIS beloved - this would explain the passage in Hineni He'oni as indicative of the dynamic on Yamim Nora'im of "Overlooking Sin"
3. Following this logic, when one translates v'chofarta as "you shall cover" or "you shall insulate" this would suggest that one may equate "t'chaseh" to "t'chappeir" - with the exception that "v'chofarta" is Kal and "t'chappeir" is Piel.


Sunday 9 October 2011

Can Too Much Deference Actually Inhibit Growth in Torah?

Dear Rabbi Wolpoe

Can too much deference or Bittul towards one's mentor actually inhibit the growth of the Mentor and of Torah in General?
Don't even G'dolim need challenging questions to keep them sharp? That giving in all the time like yes-men may actually reduce the Gadol's effectiveness and mental acuity?
It seems that many people insist that the Gadol's Word is the LAST word and that the subject is closed. But nearly every major Sefer has provoked debate. There'd be no Mikra'ot G'dolot if Rashi's word were THE last word. And it seems that Rashi welcomed his grandson's [Rashbam] commentary.
Reb Avraham

Growth in Torah is a process of continual discussion. We even continually debate the same issues annually at the Seder Table. Torah as an Eitz Chaim has to grow. And sometimes growth is induced by pruning.
EG see how much more Torah growth R Yochanan gained from being challenged by Reish Lakish than by being validated by R Elazar ben P'dat.
Talmud is an interactive dialectical process that does not cease when a Gaon is Deceased. Rather the process lives on.

Sources Below

מסכת אבות פרק ב

ב,ו [ה] הוא היה אומר,... ולא הביישן למד, ולא הקפדן מלמד. ...

מסכת תענית פרק א

דף ז,א גמרא
אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק למה נמשלו דברי תורה כעץ שנאמר (משלי ג) עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה לומר לך מה עץ קטן מדליק את הגדול אף תלמידי חכמים קטנים מחדדים את הגדולים והיינו דאמר ר' חנינא הרבה למדתי מרבותי ומחבירי יותר מרבותי ומתלמידי יותר מכולן

מסכת בבא מציעא פרק ז
דף פד,א גמרא

נח נפשיה דר' שמעון בן לקיש והוה קא מצטער ר' יוחנן בתריה טובא אמרו רבנן מאן ליזיל ליתביה לדעתיה ניזיל רבי אלעזר בן פדת דמחדדין שמעתתיה אזל יתיב קמיה כל מילתא דהוה אמר רבי יוחנן אמר ליה תניא דמסייעא לך אמר את כבר לקישא בר לקישא כי הוה אמינא מילתא הוה מקשי לי עשרין וארבע קושייתא ומפריקנא ליה עשרין וארבעה פרוקי וממילא רווחא שמעתא ואת אמרת תניא דמסייע לך אטו לא ידענא דשפיר קאמינא הוה קא אזיל וקרע מאניה וקא בכי ואמר היכא את בר לקישא היכא את בר לקישא והוה קא צוח עד דשף דעתיה [מיניה] בעו רבנן רחמי עליה ונח נפשיה


Saturday 8 October 2011

Mussar: Hayyei Adam 143 re: Yom Kippurim

I wasn't looking to learn Hayyei Adam as a Mussar Sefer, nevertheless, I stumbled upon a lot of Mussar anyway - right in Hayyei Part 2 Din Asseret Y'mei T'shuvah v'erev Y"K
Klal 143
The famous part here is the Hayyei Adam's peirush on the "ashamnu" vidduy at the end of this Klal. Preceding that for about 4 Pages, the author covers all kinds of introspective contemplations about Yetzer Hara, Sin, T'shuvah etc.
I highly recommend it.
I hereby request Mechilah for any offending remarks, intended or unintended, on the Blog or in private communication.
G'mar Tov


Friday 7 October 2011

"?" Tavo L'fanecho T'filateinu

There are two girsa'ot as to what precedes "Tavo"
Either "Ana"
"Elokeinu v'Eilokei Avoteinu".

In old machzorim Elokeinu etc.
Was often abreviated AV"A
Where A = Aleph and V = Vav
ANA is the same with the Nun in place of the Vav - and w/o the abbreviation.

As it turns out - AV"A resembles ANA in the fonts of Old Machzorim
While I'm not certain which was the original Nusach, I'm still quite convinced this is how the confusion started
I would guess that AV"A aka Elokeinu is more likely correct because it is so frequently used in Y"K to introduce various paragraphs.


Results of Poll on: Focus of T'shuvah

In our last poll, we inquired

New Poll: Focus of T'shuvah

Re: T'shuvah etc.What is your main focus - 

A) During the period of the Yamim Noraim?
1) Self-improvement?

2) Forgiveness from God?
3) Both equally?

B) During the rest of the year?
1) Self-improvement?
2) Forgiveness from God?
3) Both equally?

Your Responses (total 6)

A) During the period of the Yamim Noraim
Choice 1 - 50%  (3)
Choice 2 - 17%  (1)
Choice 3 - 33%  (2)

B) During the rest of the year?

Choice 1 - 50%  60%*  (3)
Choice 2 - 00%  (0)
Choice 3 - 33%   40%* (2)     * of the 5 responses to part B

Rabbi Hecht
The poll wished to collect opinions on two matters: (a) the distinction for individuals between the process of teshuva during the Yomim Noraim and that during the rest of the year, and (b) the primary focus, whether self improvement or requesting Divine forgiveness.

On the surface, in regard to the first matter, it would seem that there is people do not maintain any distinction between the Yomin Noraim and the rest of the year. The only numerical difference between the two would seem to be within choice 2 where it was chosen in A but not in B. That could be because one, perhaps, simply didn't see the second part of the poll, leaving us to conclude that people really do not see a distinction. The fact is, though, that if one monitor the voting as it occurred, one would have seen that people did make different choices for A and B. It just worked out that the final numbers were the same but there were individuals who chose differently between the time periods. Interestingly, this would actually mean that there are people who see a difference but the difference goes either way: some focus more on Divine forgiveness during the Yomim Noraim and some less. I think it would be an interesting study to find out how people determine what we may term a contradictory distinction.
It would seem obvious, though, that the overall prime focus in on self improvement with most stating that explicitly and the largest minority group only adding "forgiveness from God" as a co-focus. This, perhaps, should be expected for the action orientation of Torah does seem to declare that there is a goal for humanity in growth. We do not wish to only relate to God; we wish to relate to God through becoming better.

Thursday 6 October 2011

In Tribute to Steve Jobs – A Reflection for the New Year and Yom Kippur

Guest Blogger -
Rabbi Daniel Cohen

«In Tribute to Steve Jobs - A Reflection for the New Year and Yom Kippur

Building a Better Apple

I know you might not think of your iPhone or iPad as holy, but perhaps we can become better people by reflecting on their creation.

Steve Jobs, Apple's former CEO failed better than anyone else in. Silicon Valley and perhaps in corporate America. Like most great entrepreneurs, he learned from his failures.

We think of Jobs as the genius who created iTunes, iPhone and Mac books, but think about what else he did. First, though, he designed Apple I and Apple II, which originally only sold in the hundreds.»

In Tribute to Steve Jobs – A Reflection for the New Year and Yom Kippur | 40 Days to a Better You


Eureka - The Answer to My Wish, Pt. 1

Several Years ago I was reading the Sefer Sh'mirat Halashon by the Choffetz Chaim. Aside from the content, I was enamored with its structure, namely a systematic anthology of Aggaidic Material based upon a theme
I then wished - can we have more of the same, that is structured Aggadic compilations, but on other subjects?

Several suggested - How about The Choffetz Chaim's own Sefer Ahavat Chessed?
Recently I discovered that a comprehensive collection that has actually existed for 5+ Centuries, namely R Yitzchak Abohab's Sefer M'norat Hama'or

More Details to follow in part 2.


Wednesday 5 October 2011


The time around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is directed to be a period of teshuva, repentance, and, as such, it may be worthwhile to take a look at this process of introspection and how it can benefit our own self-development.
Maimonides presents four steps in the teshuva process: first, one has to identify his/her sins; second, one has to feel anguish and remorse over these errors; third, one has to make the honest commitment not to repeat these misdeeds; and, finally, one has to voice this, take this out of the realm solely of our thoughts and articulate this with our speech. On the surface, this seems rather straightforward. Under investigation, though, this may not be the simple case, and the process may actually reveal to us insights about ourselves that we would otherwise not contemplate.
Let us consider the question of which of these steps in the process, we believe, to be the most difficult. The answer of the vast majority of people would, most likely, be the third step: trying not to repeat this negative behaviour. Interestingly, though, if we look at the two classic, Biblical examples of repentance – the stories of David with Bat Sheva and Yehuda with Tamar – the focus is not on the third step but rather the first. There was no issue that David and Yehuda would correct their actions once they recognized that they were wrong. Their difficulty was in recognizing that they were acting incorrectly. In both of these models that the Bible presents to us in regard to repentance, the challenge that is documented is in the very evaluation of our behaviour. This would seem to indicate that it is actually this first step that may be the most difficult.
David just thought that what he was doing was fine; Yehuda actually thought he was doing a mitzvah, that his actions in this case were even praiseworthy. In both cases, it was actually someone else – Natan the Prophet in the case of David and Tamar, herself, in the case of Yehuda – who had to inform them of their mistake. This would seem to further indicate to us that the greatest difficulty in the process of teshuva, in an undertaking of introspection, may be in the very identification of our mistakes, our sins. It may even be that we have to repent for some action we actually believe to have been a mitzvah, to have been proper, for under the scrutiny of subsequent investigation and introspection, we now see that it was wrong. This recognition, figuratively, puts everything on the table. How can one be sure about anything? What I believe to be right today, I may discover to have been wrong tomorrow. Yet, we may also find it to be that we were right about it yesterday and that we are again right about it today.
The call of introspection is not for one to be unsure of oneself. As we take value positions, it is important for us to stand behind them and be adamant in our presentation of what we believe. There are two ways, though, to sustain this adamancy. One is by making a decision and then simply standing behind the decision that was made. The other is by constantly re-evaluating the decision and then supporting it, not because it was the decision that you made yesterday but because it is the very decision that you are making now.
The realities of life are such that it is impossible for us to re-evaluate every decision we make again and again in every moment. Some decisions demand time for investigation and evaluation leaving us to be bound by the decision we made yesterday when we had the time to fully consider the matter. The acceptance of a value of introspection, however, reminds us of this and of the need to consider this challenge. Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur is a time of teshuva, repentance, introspection. It is a time to look again at our decisions and accept them not because we have already made them but because we continue to consider and then to make them.

Gmar Tov
Rabbi Ben Hecht

Getting Rash with one's Tefillin On

«14-year-old boy who complained of a chronic rash on his left arm and hand has been diagnosed with allergy to chemical used to process tefillin straps.»



Would Rabbenu Tam tefillin cause less RASH then RASHI tefillin?


Tuesday 4 October 2011

Quick Lesson Drawn from Maftir Yonah

Many/Most commentators draw upon the theme of Teshuvah from Anshei Nin'veh
I'm positing instead to notice the "Pop Spirituality" theme of "what we resist - persists"

Yonah is assigned a task, he has a Divinely Ordained Destiny.
What is Yonah's reaction? Instead of saying "Hineini", Yonah RESISTS and takes off in the opposite direction!
Result? His life gets stormy. In the depths of the Belly of the Fish Yonah then PRAYS and does an about face [T'fillah uT'shuva]
Then, Yonah is released from his storm and proceeds to Nin'veh and succeeds! - How many rabbis are so lucky to have their mussar shmuessen so highly regarded by over 100,000 people! <Smile>
Yet in the end, Yonah resists again and is subjected to the Baking sun of Iraq.

Moral: When we resist our pre-ordained Destiny, life becomes stormy. When we stop resisting and proceed with our Divine Mission, things calm down and we succeed.


Following in the Footsteps of the "Creative Master" - Part 1

Once upon a time there was a great Gaon named Reb Hirshelle. R Hirshelle was a creative Genius who saw things in the text no one else saw. In Mozart fashion, he published stacks of Torah Chuddushim.
After R Hirshelle was niftar his followers created a movement based upon R Hirshelle's writings and speeches. It became known as "Toras Zvi." Soon Toras Zvi coalesced around a leader name R Sh'maryah. R Sh'maryah's task was to guard R Hirshelle's Torah, Hashkafah, and Minhaggim and to preserve it just as it always was. Soon, a great following emerged completely devoted to this Gaon's teaching.
From another Yeshivah, one of R Hirshelle's acquaintances, was a Reb Velvelle. Reb Velvelle was NOT a devoted follower of R Hershelle, rather he had been inspired from time to time by occasionally attending R Hirshelle's d'rashos.

Once Day, R Velvelle visited the Toras Zvi Centre and was both amazed and disturbed by what he saw.
Reb Shmaryah: Welcome R Velvelle!
RV: Shalom Aleichem. I admire the energy you people have expended in preserving R Hirshelle's legacy......[He went on to recount the intense effort in preserving R Hirshelle's legacy]
But there's an important piece missing here
RS: Really? What is it? We'd love to plug any missing holes
RV: Permit me to address the entire Toras Zvi enterprise after next Shabbos.
RS: It will be done!
RS proceeded to contact the entire movement and booked RV as the featured speaker
RV began his Address -
Rabbosai! I was privileged to know R Hirshelle just a bit! I see that you have collected, collated, and redacted reams of his material. [He proceeded to review the collective works of R Hirshelle for the next 45 minutes.] And what I know is but a tiny fraction of what you have preserved
I would like to add one bit to this legacy which seems to have been unintentionally omitted
You see, R"H Z"L was both a creative thinker, a hashkafic expounder, and a master analyst. What you are preserving is his bottom line, his output, his "Products".
But you have inadvertently neglected his Methods, his Creativity, his Genius for analysis, his "PROCESS" of how to develop another R Hershelle! You have missed his "G-dlike Gadlus" of how he cloned himself by teaching others how to also learn and think like a Gaon. You have preserved what he said, his piskei Halachah, his works on Mussar and Hashkafah, and his Minhaggim, but you've lost his fresh originality and have begun to ossify the Torah of R Hirshelle as if he wrote his creativity in stone. He didn't! He tried to pass THAT legacy on while he was living by inspiring others in his path! Please don't forget that!
RV had created a buzz! No one had even noticed what had taken place. The Fresh innovative Torah of R Hirshelle had become fixed, rote, maybe even stale.
R Ben asked:
"But if we get original and interpret R Hirshelle's Torah as WE SEE it, it becomes OUR Torah, not HIS! W/O being rigidly faithful to what RH actually said, we will dishonestly pass off OUR hiddushim as HIS Hiddushim!"
RV responded: You know you have some good points, give me time to consider this.


Monday 3 October 2011

A Full-Size Tallit Fits All

The Hayyei Adam Hil. Tzitzit 11:9 opines to not make a brachah nor to rely upon a small Tallit - except as an all day reminder - and to davka wear and make a barchah on a full size Tallit. "...Y'rei Shamayim Lo Yismoch al zeh [Tallit Katan] k'lal.."

Mashma, he does not favor the common Eastern Ashkenazic Minhag of Bachurim not wearing a Tallit Gadol. This seems to support the Western Ashkenaz and Eidot Mizrach Minhag of Tallit Gadol for all B'nei Mitzvah


Sunday 2 October 2011

Brief Review of Artscroll's Interlinear S'lichot

My Email to Artscroll in appreciation for this breakthrough edition

«This selichos book changes everything. It is a complete breakthrough for me in understanding what I'm saying particularly some obscure passages.»

Shanah Tovah,

Saturday 1 October 2011

Mussar: Trickle Down Spirituality

R Yosef Weiss once told us that as Rabbis we had to set a higher standard of Kashrut because the Baalei Batim will usually observe a "step down" from the Mara D'atra.
I call this a "Trickle Down Spirituality"

Many chaveirim have debated me with regard to this principle. But, B"H the Orchot Tzaddikim supports this, read in his Sha'ar Hatshuvah [ch. 26] re: Hamchaleil es Hashem [P. 264 in Feldheim Hebrew Only edition]
Based upon the Talmud Yoma 86a he posits that the strictures were required of the Rabbonim lest the "olam" do even worse.
EG Rav who would buy meat without paying immediately or R Yochanan who would go 4 Amot w/o Torah and w/o Tefillin, the O"Tz says the Olam will be m'zalzeil and do worse
Yoma 86a pasted Below
Rav and Rav Yochanan are preceded by a •

מסכת יומא פרק ח

דף פו,א גמרא חוץ (שמות כ) מלא תשא לא תשא וכל דדמי ליה ת"ש ר' יהודה אומר כל שהוא מלא תשא ולמטה תשובה מכפרת מלא תשא ולמעלה תשובה תולה ויוה"כ מכפר לא תשא וכל דדמי ליה ת"ש לפי שנאמר בחורב תשובה ונקה יכול אף לא תשא עמהן ת"ל (שמות לד) לא ינקה יכול אף שאר חייבי לאוין כן ת"ל את שמו שמו הוא דאינו מנקה אבל מנקה שאר חייבי לאוין תנאי היא דתניא על מה תשובה מכפרת על עשה ועל לא תעשה שניתק לעשה ועל מה תשובה תולה ויוה"כ מכפר על כריתות ועל מיתות בית דין ועל לא תעשה גמור אמר מר לפי שנאמר בחורב ונקה מנא לן דתניא רבי אלעזר אומר אי אפשר לומר נקה שכבר נאמר לא ינקה ואי אפשר לומר לא ינקה שכבר נאמר נקה הא כיצד מנקה הוא לשבין ואינו מנקה לשאינן שבין שאל ר' מתיא בן חרש את ר' אלעזר בן עזריה ברומי שמעת ד' חלוקי כפרה שהיה רבי ישמעאל דורש אמר שלשה הן ותשובה עם כל אחד ואחד עבר על עשה ושב אינו זז משם עד שמוחלין לו שנאמר (ירמיהו ג) שובו בנים שובבים עבר על לא תעשה ועשה תשובה תשובה תולה ויוה"כ מכפר שנאמר (ויקרא טז) כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם מכל חטאתיכם עבר על כריתות ומיתות בית דין ועשה תשובה תשובה ויוה"כ תולין ויסורין ממרקין שנאמר (תהילים פט) ופקדתי בשבט פשעם ובנגעים עונם

אבל מי שיש חילול השם בידו אין לו כח בתשובה לתלות ולא ביוה"כ לכפר ולא ביסורין למרק אלא כולן תולין ומיתה ממרקת שנאמר (ישעיהו כב) ונגלה באזני ה' צבאות אם יכופר העון הזה לכם עד תמותון

היכי דמי חילול השם
• אמר רב כגון אנא אי שקילנא בישרא מטבחא ולא יהיבנא דמי לאלתר
אמר אביי לא שנו אלא באתרא דלא תבעי אבל באתרא דתבעי לית לן בה אמר רבינא ומתא מחסיא אתרא דתבעי הוא אביי כדשקיל בישרא מתרי שותפי יהיב זוזא להאי וזוזא להאי והדר מקרב להו גבי הדדי ועביד חושבנא
• רבי יוחנן אמר כגון אנא דמסגינא ארבע אמות בלא תורה ובלא תפילין
יצחק דבי ר' ינאי אמר כל שחביריו מתביישין מחמת שמועתו <היינו חילול השם> [היכי דמי] אמר רב נחמן בר יצחק כגון דקא אמרי אינשי שרא ליה מריה לפלניא אביי אמר כדתניא (דברים ו) ואהבת את ה' אלהיך שיהא שם שמים מתאהב על ידך שיהא קורא ושונה ומשמש ת"ח ויהא משאו ומתנו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אשרי אביו שלמדו תורה אשרי רבו שלמדו תורה אוי להם לבריות שלא למדו תורה פלוני שלמדו תורה ראו כמה נאים דרכיו כמה מתוקנים מעשיו עליו הכתוב אומר (ישעיהו מט) ויאמר לי עבדי אתה ישראל אשר בך אתפאר אבל מי שקורא ושונה ומשמש ת"ח ואין משאו ומתנו באמונה ואין דבורו בנחת עם הבריות מה הבריות אומרות עליו אוי לו לפלוני שלמד תורה אוי לו לאביו שלמדו תורה אוי לו לרבו שלמדו תורה פלוני שלמד תורה ראו כמה מקולקלין מעשיו וכמה מכוערין דרכיו ועליו הכתוב אומר (יחזקאל לו) באמור להם עם ה' אלה ומארצו יצאו א"ר חמא <בר> [ברבי] חנינא גדולה תשובה שמביאה רפאות לעולם שנא' (הושע יד) ארפא משובתם אוהבם נדבה ר' חמא <בר> [ברבי] חנינא רמי כתיב שובו בנים שובבים דמעיקרא שובבים אתם וכתיב ארפא משובתיכם לא קשיא כאן מאהבה כאן מיראה רב יהודה רמי כתיב (ירמיהו ג) שובו בנים שובבים ארפא משובתיכם וכתיב (ירמיהו ג) <הנה> [כי] אנכי בעלתי בכם ולקחתי אתכם אחד מעיר ושנים ממשפחה ל"ק כאן מאהבה או מיראה כאן ע"י יסורין אמר רבי לוי גדולה תשובה שמגעת עד כסא הכבוד שנא' (הושע יד) שובה ישראל עד ה' אלהיך