Saturday 31 March 2012

Mussar: Don't Torch Your Houses!

Hamira Sakkanta Mei'usrah

Danger is more severe than a prohibition!

Recent posting from

Sefer Mitzvot Katan, Mitzvah 98 (page 93 in my edition):

...[we do not search for chametz] using the light of
a torch [abukah] because the searcher could become
distracted, and the house might burn down...

Searching for chametz using candles has repeatedly
Use flashlights only to search for chametz!!



Have a hag kosher v'samei'ach and a safe and healthy one, too!


Friday 30 March 2012

Shabbat Hagadol

Shabbat Hagadol is the day upon which, historically, the Jewish nation in Egypt took the sheep, in full view of the Egyptians, that were to going be used for the Korbon LinkPesach. Since that day was Shabbat, we mark this event also on the Shabbat preceding Pesach. The classic question is: why would this event not be marked in the normal way through the calendar date?

Nishma's Rabbi Hecht discusses this issue in

Thursday 29 March 2012

Where would Halacha stand on Health Care?

Being a Canadian, of course, the present Supreme Court debate over the Obama Health Care bill is really just of passing interest to me. I find myself, however, still fascinated by what its outcome will be. In a certain way, the decision will truly reveal the underlying foundation of American values. A key question, pursuant to my understanding, is: Can you direct someone to buy health insurance or is that an infringement on that person's liberty? To me, though, is the further and greater question is: What would the answer to this question tell us about the comparison of American values and the Halacha?

I guess, the first question in the study of such a comparison would be: What would the Halacha say about this bill? The system of Halacha is built on tzivui, command, which raises a very interesting issue in connection to the American system built upon freedom, in other words, no one telling you what to do. Halacha, of course, is built upon One telling you what to do. The first challenge in looking at this greater issue is the determination of how much the difference in the One giving the command may affect our understanding of general liberty.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Hasibbah for 4 Kossos and Sitting in the Sukkah on Sh"A

The G'mara has 2 l'shonot re: Hasibbah for the 4 Kossot

One lashon is hasibbah davka the first 2 kossos

The other lashon is davka for the last 2 kossot

Now since this is a safeik D'rabban, why bother with hasibbah at all - mimah nafshach? After all each Kos is a Safeik D'rabbanan?

One answer given [see Schottenstein] is that since this would de facto engineer NEVER having hasibbah at all for ANY kossot, therefore we still need to be machmir and do it for all 4 misafeik so as not to be m'vateil it completely.


Now let's go to a REALLY cold village in Russia. There at the end of Tishrei, every yeshivas sukkah could be construed as "mitzta'eir" by definition. Do we exempt everyone for all 7 days?

The lamdut from the above case of Kossot says NO!. Mitzta'eir is a p'tur only when you can still SOMETIMES be m'kayyeim sukkah [EG Rainy Days vs. Sunny Days] but if it would obviate everyone's Hiyyuv for every day, then we "punt" and require sitting daily - unless/until other factors intervene.

Notice, that this Hiyyuv would NOT be extended to Sh'mini Atzeret.. And in those climates once one was m'kayyeim the ikkar haddin during the first 7 days, mitztaier could easily kick in for the s'feika d'yoma.

[I Believe I originally got this s'vara from the Aruch Hashulchan.]

This leads to a Kulla and a Humra

Humra: Namely if the climate was the P'tur for those in Eastern Europe to not sit during Sh"A, then their descendants in EG Florida, California, etc. have no such p'tur.

Wolpoe's first Law of Mimetics

We often know WHAT to do without knowing the WHY we do it! :-)


Monday 26 March 2012

Le Tragedie en Toulouse!


Following the attack on the Jewish School in Toulouse this week and the murder of four members of the kehilla including threee children HYD, we have had a number of requests from rabbanim for addresses of the kehilla and school to send messages of tanchumim.

Please find below addresses of the kehilla and the Ozar HaTorah school.

There are these possibilities.

1. Through the Consistoire Central who will pass
on all messages to the families.

19, rue St. Georges 75009 PARIS or

2. This is an online condolence book of the Toulouse community.

3. This is the address of the general community of Toulouse

Consistoire Régional de Pays de la Garonne,
2, Place Riquet
31000 Toulouse

4. The school

Collège et Lycée Ozar Hatorah,
33, rue Jules Dalou
31500 Toulouse


Sunday 25 March 2012

Kinah for the Martyrs of the Attack in Toulouse

Rabbi Prof. Moshe Sokolow, has written a kinah for the martyrs of the attack in Toulouse

"אֵין הֵעוֵלֵם מֵתֵקֵיֵים אֵלֵא בֵהֵבֵל פֵיהֵם שֵל תֵינוֵקוֵת שֵל בֵית רֵבֵן"
קינה עֵל רֵצח מֵורה וֵתלמידים בֵבי"ס אוצר הֵתורה
כ"ה אֵדר, תֵשע"ב

וֵשוב עֵלֵה מֵוֵת בֵחֵלוֵנֵנו
בֵא בֵאַרֵמוֵן בֵית מֵדֵרֵשֵנו.
וֵהֵכֵרֵית עֵוֵלֵל מֵחוצוֵת
ובֵחורֵים מֵרֵחוֵבוֵת

עֵל רֵצֵח מֵרושֵע נֵפֵשֵי הֵוֵמֵה
עֵל קֵטֵל אֵכֵזֵרֵי עֵינֵי דֵמֵעֵה
בֵבֵית סֵפֵר יֵהודֵי בֵחוצוֵת צֵרֵפֵת
מֵסֵרו נֵפֵשֵם אֵַב, בֵנֵים, וֵבֵת

צֵר לֵי עֵלֵיךָ רֵבֵי יֵוֵנֵתֵן
בֵמֵלֵאכֵת הֵקֵדֵש שֵותֵף נֵאֵמֵן
אַרֵיֵה, גֵבֵרֵיאֵל, וֵמֵרֵיֵם הֵיֵקֵרֵים
הֵנֵאֵהֵבֵים בֵחֵיֵיהֵם וֵבֵמוֵתֵם קֵדוֵשֵים

מֵלֵאֵכֵי עֵלֵיוֵן צֵעֵקו מֵרֵה
?הֵאֵם זֵוֵ תֵוֵרֵה וֵזוֵ שֵכֵרֵה
אֵיך נֵהֵפֵך מֵקוֵר חֵיֵים לֵסֵם מֵיתֵה
עֵל אֵלֵה וֵעֵל אֵלֵה עֵינֵי בֵוֵכֵיֵה

גֵדוֵל שֵבֵרֵי מֵאֵין נֵשוֵא
נֵעֵלֵמֵה נֵחֵמֵתֵי מֵבֵלֵי מֵצוֵא.
?אַכֵזֵרֵיות כֵזֵאת מֵי רֵאָה
?פורֵעֵנות כֵזֵאת עֵל מֵה בֵאָה

כֵי עֵזֵה כֵמֵוֵת אֵַהֵבֵת הֵתוֵרֵה
וֵהֵמֵוֵתֵה לֵחֵסֵידֵיו בֵעֵינֵיו יֵקֵרֵה
בֵמוֵתֵם נֵקֵדֵש שֵמוֵ בֵרוֵב עֵם
?אַך אֵיֵה הֵדֵרֵת מֵלֵך בֵשֵלולֵיוֵת שֵל דֵם

אָמֵרו חֵכֵמֵינו עֵל תֵלֵמוד תֵוֵרֵה
שֵשֵקולֵה הֵיא כֵנֵגֵד כֵל מֵצֵוֵה וֵמֵצֵוֵה
וֵשֵבֵחו אֵת כֵל מֵי שֵיֵמות בֵאָהֵלֵה
אַך קֵשֵה לֵהֵאֵמֵין כֵי לֵזֵאת הֵכֵוֵונֵה

גֵוֵילֵים אֵָכֵן לֵעֵתֵים נֵשֵרֵפֵים
אַך הֵאוֵתֵיוֵת פֵוֵרֵחוֵת וֵלוֵמֵדֵיהֵן מֵמֵשֵיכֵים
לֵרֵאוֵת אֵת הֵבֵל פֵיהֵם שֵוב לֵֹא יֵזֵדֵמֵן
אַך בֵזֵכות תֵוֵרֵתֵם הֵעוֵלֵם מֵתֵקֵיֵים

Friday 23 March 2012

25 Adar - Yarhrzeit for my Mom A"H

B"H I was able to do a mini-Siyyum in memory of my Mom, who was a "pioneer" in the Day School movement, a protege of R Charlie Batt A"H and of Dr. Joe Kaminetsky A"H
Sunday evening I completed 3 volumes
1 Torah T'mimah on B'reisheet
2 Sefer Mishlei
3 And a sefer from our own choveir R J Simcha Cohen' - "Jewish Prayer - The Right Way"
For the Siyyum I picked out the article on the S'phardic custom of Pointing during Hagbah [at least one of the guests there is S'phardic!]

Note: I saved Mishnah Seder Mo'ed for Erev Pesach to help out @ Cong. Beth Aaron

Chag Kosher v'Somei'ach


Thursday 22 March 2012

What is REALLY Holding up the Two State Solution?

Guest Blogger

Doug Aronin, esq.


Following the publication of Peter Beinart's op-ed in Monday's Times [see], I sent a letter to the editor on the chance they might publish it.  (As the lottery ad says, you never know.)  They didn't, and I thought some of you might be interested, so here it is.- DA
To the Editor:
The unstated but fundamental assumption underlying Peter Beinart's wrong-headed call for an economic boycott of Israeli citizens living in the West Bank ("To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements", March 19) is that Israel's government is the primary obstacle to a viable two-state solution. That assumption is manifestly false.
If the day ever comes that the Palestinians are ready for genuine peace with Israel -- a peace that ensures Israel's security, preserves a united Jerusalem and abandons the insistence that all Palestinian Arabs are entitled to settle within Israel's borders -- then the two-state solution Beinart advocates will quickly be achieved. Beinart's proposal, however, by pressuring Israel for further concessions while giving the Palestinians no incentive to compromise, would make it even more unlikely that any of us will live to see such a day.
Douglas Aronin


The question I often ponder is, when did the Left in America, led by the NY Times and others, begin to treat Israel in this unfair light?


Wednesday 21 March 2012

Can't they make up their minds?

On the lighter side of Pre-Passover

I'm really puzzled
Shuls are sending me notices about both
Sale of Matzah
Sale of Hameitz
Can't they make up their minds?

Shalom and Regards, RRW

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Revising Nusach 1 -Seligmann Baer on Shelo Assani Nochri

Free Translation of the first part of R Seligmann Baer's entry re: Shelo Assani Nochri.
The original may be found in Seder Avodat Yisroel pp. 40-41


* M'nachot 43b (brought by Rif and Rosh in Brachos ch. 9) hanuscha "She'asani Yisroel".

However, in the Tosefta B'rachot ch. 7, R Y'huda says 3 blessings should be said daily "Shelo Assani Goy, etc." And so is Girsat Rav Amram, the Rambam, Abudarham, the Tur and all old siddurim and see MGA at the end of O"CH 46.

However the author of Vayetar Yitzchok distanced [rejected] the word "Goy" and replaced it with "Nochri" - and he fixed well! Because Hazal regularly called a Gentile "Goy" as Radak wrote in Sh'roshim "Goy", nevertheless throughout scripture the word "Goy" denotes Nation and [thus] is not fit to use this in speaking of an individual as Ibn Ezra testifies in his commentary to Sh'mos 21:8

But, "Nochri" is the correct word if the intention is for an alien person not from the Seed of Israel. And it is our obligation to order our prayers in a clear [unambiguous] articulation

Ad Kahn

* Recent research attributes this form, She'assani Yisroel, to censors.


Monday 19 March 2012

The "Amazing Race" Controversy

What's your take on the "Amazing Race" issue?

A frum couple participated in Israel's version of The Amazing Race* leading to a disagreement amongst rabbis about its propriety.
*(for general information on this program, see the following description about the American version of it at

For further information on the machloket, see

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 18 March 2012

Unchaining Agunos - Halachic Pre-Nups to the Rescue

«Ms. Siegel, a Chicago filmmaker, was screening her 2011 documentary, "Women Unchained," about Jewish women whose husbands refuse to give a religious divorce known as a get. Less religious Jews divorce with no thought to the get. But in traditional Judaism, the husband may withhold the divorce. The women are considered agunot, or "chained wives." A recent survey found that between 2005 and 2010, there were 462 cases of agunot in North America.»

It's encouraging to see a "taqqanah" actually make an improvement in the lives of real people


Friday 16 March 2012

Sir Isaac Newton and the Jews

He [Sir Isaac Newton] said the Jews would ultimately return to their land.
SOURCE: Theological Writings of Isaac Newton Digitized by National Library of Israel by Joseph Kadoch, an article in The Jewish Voice, 2012/2/24, page 5

MICROBIOGRAPHY: Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642 CE and. died in 1727 CE. He was one of the greatest mathematicians. and scientists of all time. He was one of the few Gentiles to study Tanach, Talmud and Rambam in Hebrew.

Courtesy of:


Wednesday 14 March 2012

KOS ELIYAHU - Insights on the Haggada and Pesach



KOS ELIYAHU - Insights on the Haggada and Pesach
Rabbi Eliyahu Safran

Order from  $12 per volume includes shipping

Hailed as a volume that "will definitely enhance the spiritual and intellectual celebration of Pesach," KOS ELIYAHU - Insights on the Haggadah and Pesach by Rabbi Eliyahu Safran, is a volume geared to add insight and depth to both the celebration of the Passover Seder as well as the observance of the Pesach holiday. The volume's 31 essays illuminate every aspect of the Pesach festival, giving each detail of its ritual a meaning both timeless and timely. And since Passover symbolizes the two great themes of exile and redemption, which resonate even more strongly in our time than in generations past, Kos Eliyahu provides the reader as well with a prism through which to view the events of our time.
The more than 30 essays focus on the main themes of the Seder including: A New Look at the Four Sons, A Reader's Digest of the Ten Plagues, Freedom of Body /Freedom of Soul, Dayeinu - Every Taker Must Become A Giver, Matzah - Single or Double Layer? God's Lights are Always Shining.
Among the essays analyzing the unique significance of the holiday itself, the reader will find: Pesach - A Study in Contrasts, Growing Pains - Positive Lessons of Galut, The More Refined Melody: Geula and Galut.
"The book motivates the reader to seek newness of approach and style in the essential element of 'telling' the Exodus story."
In the book's introduction, Rabbi Safran writes that "silence is a great virtue, except on the night of Pesach. The very name Pesach refers to a conversant mouth. The matzoh, also known as the Lechem Oni, the poor man's bread, is seen not simply as a food consumed when leaving Egypt, but as the vehicle for discussion and elaboration of the Pesach themes." Kos Eliyahu has indeed become a "vehicle for extensive Pesach discussion and analysis around many Pesach tables and homes."
Published by KTAV in 1993, it was republished in 2003. Two years ago Kos Eliyahu was translated into Hebrew and published by Mosad HaRav Kook in Jerusalem.
AVAILABLE from - @ $12 per copy - includes shipping

Tuesday 13 March 2012

JVO: Alcohol

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: One of Purim’s (reportedly) most beloved traditions is to drink “until you can’t tell the difference between evil Haman and righteous Mordechai.” Is drunkenness really a Jewish value? What about for those who have issues with drinking (nazirites, and recovering alcoholics, for example)?

     It should not be surprising that the essence of this question actually also bothered many Torah scholars over the centuries. The famous Chafetz Chaim in his Biur Halacha, Orach Chaim 695, note 1 phrases the problem most succinctly. How could the Sages have created an obligation to drink to this extent knowing full well the many references, in all the holy books, of the great ethical obstacle presented by drunkenness? If anything, the question is even voiced louder today. The media around us is filled with the faults of too much alcohol. The ethical call of abstinence, especially in response to the potential for drunkenness, is actually given merit almost across the political and moral spectrum; both liberals and conservatives seem to agree on the ‘evil’ of too much alcohol. Yet we find the Sages having instructed us not only to drink some alcohol on this day but to drink enough to become drunk. Indeed, how could they have so instructed us?   
     The first step in responding to this question may lie in the recognition that they did not so instruct all of us. Biur Halacha, note 2 clearly states that one is only commanded to drink if one can ensure that, through this consumption of alcohol, there will be no lessening of halachic, i.e. ethical, standards in one’s behaviour. He further adds that, for one who cannot make this assurance, it is clearly better not to become drunk. It would seem that with such a formulation of the law, the Sages are actually challenging this critique of the law by asserting that the concern behind the critique is inapplicable. This law is questioned because alcohol can have a negative effect on individuals. The answer is that anyone who would be so negatively affected by such drinking is not only exempt from this law but is, furthermore, not even allowed to drink. How can the Sages have instructed individuals to drink given the potential negative effects of such drinking? Because they did not instruct any individual who could experience such negative effects to drink; in fact it is forbidden for such a person to drink. The further answer is that Halacha actually maintains a view of alcohol and drinking that is different than the view that is generally believed.
     . Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, Purim in a New Light, speaking of Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, the famed Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin, states that, on Purim “the Rosh Yeshiva himself took his drinking quite seriously, but never revealed the slightest sign of being affected by it.”   The issue is the cause-and-effect of alcohol. The general assumption of our modern world is that the relationship between alcohol and behaviour is direct; that the consumption of alcohol will necessarily lead to certain behavioural results. The view of Halacha, it would seem, is somewhat different. Although you could not say this about many or even most, the Halacha believes that there are some, as a result of their righteousness, who, even when drunk, can maintain control, to a large extent, over their behaviour. It is only such individuals who the Halacha is instructing to drink ad d’lo yadah, until they do not know this distinction of cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai.   The Halacha would also seem to maintain a further understanding with which our general world may disagree: that some individuals can know whether they can exhibit such control over behaviour even while under the influence of alcohol. It is, as such, that the Halacha can instruct individuals regarding drinking. Those who know that they can control their behavior under the influence of alcohol should attempt to drink to this extent on Purim. Those who cannot, or are not sure if they can, should not so drink. Yet, if those who are commanded to drink are only those who will not be affected by the drinking, why is there this command to drink in the first place?
     The answer must be that there is still a recognition within the Halacha that a human being will be affected by alcohol; it is just the person’s behaviour that need not be affected. Our modern society may find such a theory problematic because it believes that the stimulus-behaviour connection in human beings is direct. Stimulate the human being is a certain way and there will be a certain result. Halacha recognizes, however, that there is another factor in this realm of cause-and-effect and that is the human will. It is true, in a human being with limited will power, there may only be a reality of the direct flow of cause-and-effect. The Halacha believes, though, in the ability of human beings to develop their wills so that they can exercise some control over the relationship of cause and effect. This is the challenge of life. It is thus a fundamental concept within Halacha that one can reach a level that, albeit being under the influence of alcohol, one’s will is strong enough to control the cause-and-effect to ensure that even in that state there is no negative behaviour. It is such an individual who is commanded to drink. But still, why?
     T.B. Eruvin 65a,b discusses the variant effects of wine on the human being. From the presentation of this gemara, a mixed message about alcohol seems to emerge. In certain ways, alcohol may be beneficial for the human being; in other ways it may not. It would seem that alcohol can affect the feelings of a person which, in turn, can affect behaviour. The effect on feelings can be most beneficial, helping one, for example, in the grieving process. The effect on action, though, can be most detrimental. This is the basic structure of a direct understanding of the cause-and-effect of wine: alcohol affects emotions which affects behaviour. What the Halacha is basically asserting is that human will, if righteously developed, can affect this cause-and-effect yielding that alcohol can affect emotions while still being prevented by the human will from further affecting behaviour negatively. This is the directive of ad d’lo yado. The joy of Purim should be such that it should be magnified through the stimulus of alcohol which can intensify these emotions of joy. The problem is that these emotions stimulated by alcohol can also further lead to uncontrolled negative behaviour which is what happens in the general populace. Indeed that is a problem and, as such, a member of the general populace must be very wary of using alcohol to increase joy. For the person of will, though, who can exercise that control, the call of Purim is to feel the extreme in joy and, as such, to properly use alcohol to further this feeling.

Sunday 11 March 2012

R Mordechai Breuer on Adar-time Repetitions


מקראותשיש להם הכרע

מנהג מקובל בקהילות האשכנזים לקרוא שתי פעמים את הפסוקים שבמגילת אסתר,
שנוסחם נחשב ' מוטל בספק'. קוראים "להשמיד להרג ולאבד", וחוזרים וקוראים
"להשמיד ולהרג ולאבד ")אסתר, ח,' יא(; קוראים " ואיש לא עמד בפניהם", וחוזרים
וקוראים " ואיש לא עמד לפניהם ")אסתר, ט,' ב.
( בכך מבקשים לצאת ידי הספק
שנתעוררביחס לשני הפסוקים האלה: כי הסופרים האשכנזים כותבים במגילה "להרג",
"בפניהם"; אולם כבר הורה בעל מנחת שי, שהנוסח הנכון הוא "ולהרג ","לפניהם." משום
כך קוראים את שני הנוסחים האלה בבחינת " הילכךנימרינהו לתרווייהו:" קוראים את
מהשכתוב במגילה וחוזרים וקוראים את מה שראוי היה להיות כתוב במגילה.
מקורו של הנוסח האשכנזי המוטעה - "להרג ","בפניהם "- הוא במקראות גדולות
דפוסויניציאה רפ"ד-רפ"ו. מהדורה זו הוגהה בידי יעקב בן חיים בן יצחק בן אדוניהו,




Saturday 10 March 2012

Tz'ni'ut re: a Woman's Niddah Status

It seems a davar pashut that nowadays we bend over backwards to avoid revealing a woman's Niddah status.

Yet in the days of the Mikdash, her status had to be public knowledge, in order to avoid contaminating Hallah, for example. Kohanim to know her status re: mishkav and moshav.

So when did this attitude change? How?


Friday 9 March 2012

Jews Play Texas Hold 'em in "Court" Battle

Playing For A Higher Authority: The Inside Story Of Beren Hoopsters' Kiddush Hashem | JewishPress


Jews sometimes play better IN court than ON court <LOL>


Thursday 8 March 2012

What Kind of Uncle was Mordechai after all?

Ask anyone, How were Mordecai and Esther related, and the answer you are sure to get is: they were uncle and niece. However, a look at the relevant verse in the Megillah (2:7) shows that they were cousins ("his uncle's daughter"). Whence did this misconception arise? How did it develop? Does it have any foundation in the sources? These are the questions we shall address below.

Indeed, this misconception is very widespread. ..

Dr. Ari Zivotofsky
Gonda Brain Research Center


The Text of Esther tells us that Mordechai and Esther were first cousins.

Josephus, etc. Suggest an uncle and niece relationship

The Talmud states they were husband and wife.


Wednesday 7 March 2012

Reflections upon an Overlooked Chapter

Guest Blogger Doug Aronin


The chapter we usually overlook: a pre-Purim reflection

The chapter we usually overlook: a pre-Purim reflection Because most of us enjoy the satiric genre commonly known as "Purim Torah," we too seldom have the opportunity to engage in serious study of the Book of Esther, usually called simply the Megillah (though in fact there are four others).  That's too bad, because the Megillah, studied carefully, has a great deal to teach us.   When we think of the story recounted in the Megillah, our attention naturally turns to the dramatic course of events leading up to the climactic confrontation between Queen Esther and the wicked Haman, which ends with Haman's execution (Esther 7:10).  But Haman's death does not end the Megillah's story.  We still have three chapters to go.   In Chapter 8, Mordecai and Esther appear before King Ahasuerus, reveal their relationship and enlist his aid in preventing the scheduled extermination of the Jewish people. The king cannot annul the decree permitting their enemies to attack them, but he allows them to attack their enemies in turn, and his officers aid them in the ensuing battles.  Chapter 9 tells the story of the Jewish victory in those battles and of the consequent establishment by Mordecai and Esther of the holiday of Purim as a perpetual celebration of that victory.   End of story, right?  Not quite.  We still have Chapter 10.  Its three verses make it one of the shortest chapters in all of Tanakh.  (Off hand I can think of only one chapter -- Psalms 117 -- that is shorter.) And the reason for including it in the Biblical text is not immediately apparent.  As translated by JPS [except for the words in brackets], that chapter reads as follows:     
1. King Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the mainland and the islands [of the sea]. 2. All his mighty and powerful acts, and a full account of the greatness to which the king advanced Mordecai, are recorded in the Annals of the Kings of Media and Persia. 3. For Mordecai the Jew ranked next to King Ahasuerus and was highly regarded by the Jews and popular with the multitude of his brethren [Heb. rov echav]; he sought the good of his people and interceded for the welfare of all his kindred. 
This chapter seems out of place.  It's not part of the Purim story, so what's it doing here?  The third verse, the last in the Megillah, could be read as a sort of "happily ever after" line, but what about the first two verses?  Why do we need to know that the king's mighty acts were recorded in the Annals (more familiarly translated, by Artscroll among others, as "chronicles") of his kingdom?  And what possible purpose is served by the chapter's first verse, which tells us of the tribute [Hebrew mas, which can also mean tax] the king imposed on both the land and the islands?   The third verse, though it seems less out of place than the first two, appears to be telling us more than we need to know in this context.  At least one of its phrases, moreover, if translated correctly, seems at first reading to detract from Mordecai's stature rather than enhance it.  The Hebrew phrase rov echav (somewhat ambiguously translated as "the multitude of his brethren" by both JPS and Artscroll) is translated more precisely though less commonly, as "most of  his brethren".  That translation is consistent with the view of the classical commentator Ibn Ezra, who explains that no one in a leadership position will be accepted by everybody, since some are likely to be jealous; and with the Midrash, brought down by Rashi, which asserts that some of his contemporaries criticized Mordecai for spending time with the affairs of the kingdom when he should have been devoting that time to the study of Torah.   It seems to me that these three verses may be a little easier to understand if we contrast them with the story of another Biblical figure who had earlier found himself in a similar position.  Mordecai was not, after all, the first Jew to become the most powerful courtier of a Gentile king; that distinction belongs to Joseph, who was appointed to a similar position by Pharaoh (Gen. 41:37-46). Even if we hesitate to accept at face value the Midrashic depiction of Mordecai as the preeminent Torah scholar of his generation, it is reasonable to assume that any Jew of his time would have known the story of Joseph.  When he found himself unexpectedly promoted to the second most powerful position in the Persian empire, Mordecai might well have looked to Joseph's experience for guidance as to the best way to conduct himself in such a position.   If Mordecai indeed sought guidance in the story of Joseph, he most likely would have focused on the cautionary tale at the end of Parshat Vayigash (Gen. 47:13-27).  Having stored up for Pharaoh during the years of plenty all the surplus grain in Egypt, Joseph had secured for Pharaoh what amounted to a monopoly on bread.  At first the Egyptian people could pay to receive an allotment of the stored grain, but eventually they ran out of money (47:15).  Joseph then demanded their livestock as payment until that too ran out (47:16-18).  At that point, the people offered to sell Joseph their land, which was the only possession they had left.  In return for working the land, they would receive four fifths of what they produced,but the remaining fifth of the produce would belong to Pharaoh as the owner of the land.    Joseph, apparently, was not shy about claiming credit for this arrangement: "So Joseph gained possession of all the farmland of Egypt for Pharaoh, every Egyptian having sold his field because the famine was too much for them; thus the land passed over to Pharaoh." (Gen. 47:20, JPS translation)  "And Joseph made it into a land law in Egypt, which is still valid, that a fifth should be Pharaoh's; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh's."  (47:26).   Joseph's ingenuity no doubt earned him Pharaoh's gratitude at the time, but rulers are notoriously fickle.  At some point after Joseph's death, the Torah tells us: "A new king arose  over Egypt who did not know Joseph." (Ex. 1:8, JPS translation)  Commentaries differ as to whether he was truly a new king or the same king going in a new direction, and whether he really did not know about Joseph or merely pretended not to know.  In either case, however, it's noteworthy that nowhere does the Torah suggest that the Egyptian people forgot about Joseph, or even pretended to forget.  It's likely, in fact, that they remembered all too well that he was responsible for their serfdom.  So when the Egyptian king decided that it was in his interest first to subjugate the Jews and later to seek to annihilate them, it was easy for him to recruit a nation of willing accomplices.   That is, unfortunately,  a story repeated many times throughout Jewish history.  Jews in exile have frequently served as middlemen of various types, standing between Gentile rulers and their peasant subjects.  Other peoples' kings have often used Jews to initiate or carry out unpopular policies, and then to serve as convenient scapegoats when popular anger at those policies passed the breaking point.  Some kings, to be sure, were grateful and did not forget their Jews' loyal service in the face of peasant rage.  But all of them were mortal, so sooner or later a new king would arise who did not share that gratitude.   In light of those experiences, some Jews contend even today that, as long as we are in exile, we should leave worldly affairs to others; Gentile politics is no place for a nice Jewish boy (or girl). It's not hard to imagine that some in Mordecai's time took a similar position. Perhaps that was the reason that it was only "most of his brethren" who approved of Mordecai's actions in his new position; there was a minority who felt that it was inappropriate, or perhaps dangerous,  for him to occupy such a position.  Maybe that minority, in an attempt to persuade Mordecai to change his mind, even pointed to Joseph's experience as a justification for their hesitancy.   If they did make such an argument, then Mordecai obviously did not accept their counsel.  By holding high office, he was able to help his people, the Megillah's last verse tells us, and most Jews approved of his decision.  The course of events leading up to his elevation, moreover, suggests another lesson as well: when decent people avoid the messy realm of public affairs, there is no obstacle to the elevation of Haman or his counterparts in other centuries.  Jews, unfortunately, have seen that scenario play itself out with depressing frequency.   I'm not suggesting that Mordecai learned nothing from the Torah's depiction of Joseph.  But what he learned was not to stay out of Gentile politics at all costs but rather to proceed with caution, and perhaps with humility (which was not Joseph's strong suit).  Joseph,  the Torah suggests, did not hesitate to take credit for initiating policies that reduced most Egyptians to serfdom.  Pharaoh was the beneficiary of those policies, but he does not appear to have had any active role in formulating them.  In the eyes of the Egyptian people, in all likelihood, their serfdom was Joseph's fault   Mordecai, according to the three verses of Chapter 10, was more careful.  When it came to imposing a tribute on the provinces and islands of the Persian empire, he stayed out of it, letting the king  take the initiative.  He pointed to the king's own chronicles, moreover, as the arbiter of achievements, perhaps relying on the typical kingly penchant for taking credit for everything that goes well.    Like Joseph, Mordecai did not hesitate to involve himself in affairs of state.  Unlike Joseph, he took some precautions to avoid becoming a lightening rod for his royal master.  With the aid of such precautions, he was able to use the influence of his office for the benefit of his fellow Jews while limiting the risks to which he and they were exposed.   On Purim we celebrate a particular victory over particular enemies at a particular point of Jewish history.  But if that were the sum total of what Purim represents, then it's not clear why we would still be celebrating it.  After all, Jewish history is full of enemies who sought to destroy the Jewish people and did not succeed.  Indeed, one such enemy rules today in the same country in which Haman came to power -- and that enemy, as this week's news reminds us, seeks to acquire nuclear weapons, the better to kill us with.   But Purim celebrates more than a single victory over a particular enemy.  It celebrates the Jewish people's survival, against all odds, through centuries of exile.  Jews survived not by indiscriminately seeking power nor by adamantly avoiding it, but by adapting, skillfully but cautiously, to the changing tides of history.  Perhaps Chapter 10 was included in the Megillah to remind us that neither a single victory, nor the holiday created to celebrate it, is the end of the story -- that the story, indeed is not yet over.    A joyous Purim to all.   

Douglas Aronin

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Signs of the Times

Kitzur SA 141:8 [tr: Goldin]

At night it is forbidden to read the Megillah before stars appear even if one is in great distress on account of the fast.

But one may have some light refreshments before the megillah is read, such as coffee and the like, in order to alleviate somewhat the weakening of the fast

Fn 15 source: ... Magein Avraham 11


Local Modern Orthodox bulletin:

Wednesday March 7th - Taanit Esther:
Fast begins at 4:59AM, Fast Ends at 6:29PM
(One should not eat until after Megillah reading)


'Nuff said? <Wink>


Monday 5 March 2012

Hiyyuv of P. Zachor for Women

1. Do women have any obligation in Miitzvat Z'chirat Amaleiq - mid'oraitto or midrabbanan?

2. Assuming that they do, are women able to fulfill their obligation sans going to shul to hear P. Zachor? IOW would a "Z'chira b'alma" suffice?

3. Any sources that would help to clarify this one way or the other?


Sunday 4 March 2012

A Positive Side to Loshon Harah?

 Recently, I saw the following article on gossip on CNN
describing the social value of gossip. I wondered what this says about loshon harah.

The fact is that this article actually just points to the inherent complexity of the laws of loshon harah and the problem in the modern day desire to simplify this complex halachic area. Gossip per se is not loshon harah. The latter is a very specific form of gossip that is forbidden. There are times where gossip, although I would not use this term, is not only permitted but mandated.

Maybe the problem is with this word gossip -- for that implies saying something just for the purpose of saying it. The reality is that information about a person that it would be necessary for another person to know -- as this lack of knowledge could be harmful -- should be shared. A hard rule never to talk about another is simply wrong. What this article may show is that that the motivations for gossip that may be inherently human, like many other human drives, has its place. Halacha just demands of us to know it.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday 3 March 2012

Atheists At It Again

Remember the Battle of the Tunnel from 2010...
and 2011

well the Atheists are at it again, this time with a twist, targeting Moslems and Jews.


I really don't know what to say. YKVK on the billboard clearly bothers me but how to respond?

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Friday 2 March 2012

P. Zachor: Zecher/Zeicher

Parashat Tetzaveh - Yosef Peretz

To sum up:

* R. David Kimhi mentions two methods of pointing which he observes in Sephardic manuscripts: zekher and zekher

* The disciples of the Vilna Gaon disagreed about how their Rabbi used to read this word in Parshat Zakhor, whether with a tzere or a segol.

* Because of uncertainty as to which was correct, the Mishnah Berurah ruled that z-kh-r Amalek should be read twice, once with tzere and once with segol

What does your shul do?
What makes more sense to you - to repeat or to NOT repeat?


Thursday 1 March 2012

Gesher Ha-Chaim Available On Line

Weekly Freebies: Gesher Ha-Chaim | Hirhurim – Torah Musings

« I asked him whether he preferred Gesher Ha-Chaim or Pnei Barukh, which was later translated and published by Artscroll. He liked Gesher Ha-Chaim better because it doesn't just give multiple opinions (some say this and some say that) but tells you which you should preferably follow. »