Friday 31 August 2012

Choleh Mishebeirach on Shabbat

Mar'eh M'komot
Rema O"Ch 288:10
MGA 14
Ba'er Hetev 13
Shaarei T'shuvah
M"B 28

Rema: Allows a b'rachah for a "Choleh ham'sukkan bo bayyom"

BH"T + S"T seem to require adding the phrase "Shabbat hee miliz'ok"* for the Rema's case

The M"B seems to say that a Choleh Mishebierach for a m'sukkan requires no Shabbat hee miliz'ok, rather that phrase is for a "Choleh she'ein bo sakkanah"

Shma minah
M"B holds
• A choleh Mishebierach may be said for ANY Choleh
That Shabbat hee miliz'ok is used only when there's no sakkanah

Which seems to disagree with Rema BH"T.

*The ArtScroll Siddur translates this as "though Shabbat prohibits us from crying out".

From what I know of Nusach Chabad, they essentially say ONLY the name and "Shabbat hee miliz'ok" and skip the rest of the nusach.

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Thursday 30 August 2012

How the State of Israel has fostered "Holistic Judaism"

Guest Blogger
Rabbi Dr. David Joseph Mescheloff

Let me share a story I heard about six weeks ago, from another grandfather at a talmud torah graduation ceremony of grandchildren: He spoke of how a five-minute meeting some 45 years ago (shortly before the six-day war) with HaRav David Cohen, HaRav Hanazir zt"l, talmid muvhak of HaRav Kook zt"l, changed his life.
He had just been released from the army, and was trying to decide what to do with the rest of his life.  On the one hand, he could begin his university studies, learn a profession and begin to work.
 On the other hand, he felt his Jewish education had been inadequate, and so he was thinking of taking a year to study in a yeshiva.  As he debated the issue internally, he sought advice from everyone he knew.
 Unfortunately, the advice turned out to be useless, for no one really took an interest in him, but rather everyone gave predictable advice based upon who the adviser was himself (generally speaking, along religious or academic/secular lines).  Somehow he got the idea of getting advice from Rav Cohen zt"l.  At that time, with Jerusalem still divided, HaRav Cohen zt"l was still fulfilling a neder he had taken never to leave his apartment as long as Jerusalem was divided.  So the speaker visited him in his book-lined room in his modest Jerusalem apartment.
"What is your name?", HaRav Cohen asked him, using the plural respectful form reserved for distinguished people.  Then, "You must have some question you thought I could help you with ...  how can I help you?"  He continued throughout using the plural form.
So the man explained his conflict.
"Well, what interests you?", asked HaRav Cohen.
The man explained he was interested in plant biology.
"What sort of questions interest you in that field?"
Finding for the first time that someone was expressing an interest in what concerned him, the man said, "I heard there are trees in California 100 meters tall!  I would like to understand how water gets up that high in a tree, when we know that water naturally flows to a low place."
"That is a very important question!", responded HaRav Cohen, "you should do research on that!"
Perplexed, the man asked, "Everyone else I asked who looks like you told me I should go study in a yeshiva; why are you telling me to go do research at the university?"
HaRav Cohen responded, "We now have our own state.  We are free and independent.  We can no longer count on others to do things for us!  We have to be able to do everything ourselves.  We need plant biologists, and truck drivers, and farmers and nurses ...  and every profession.  You should do that valuable work that interests you.  Just promise me one thing, that not a day will go by during which you will not study some Torah."

The story-teller concluded, "I proceeded to follow the Rav's advice.  And I believe I have kept my promise to him.  There were days when I fell exhausted into bed after a 14-hour work day in a foreign country, and then remembered I hadn't studied any Torah that day.  I got up, washed my hands, learned a few pesukim, and went back to bed."

The point I want to make with this story is that one of the things that Israel has brought about (for many, although not for all) is a certain wholeness, an end to the compartmentalization represented by such formulations as " x and the State of Israel", "x and y", or as it used to be called jokingly, "x and the Jewish problem".  I believe that one of the major changes the State of Israel has brought to Jewish life is in making it whole, in the home as in the street, in the polls, in the courts, etc etc etc.  I think that there is much value in bringing this insight to public attention outside Israel, where compartmentalized Jewish living seems to be an existential necessity.

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Wednesday 29 August 2012

With Jews Like This, Who Needs Anti-Semites?

«In summation, I predict that within a few years the fear and ignorance in Israel will be replaced by a social pact to protect babies' members, allowing the country to take a great cultural leap forward and join the rest of the sane world which leaves its children's penises whole. Why do I believe this will happen? Simply because a whole penis is better than one that has been cut.
Eran Sadeh is the founder of the Protect the Child website»

Follow Germany's lead on circumcision - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews,7340,L-4272455,00.html

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Obama and the Jews

Guest Blogger:
Rabbi Phil Lefkowitz

Note: While R Phil Lefkowitz is a dear friend, his views do not necessarily reflect those of Nishma. However, we do, in fact, promote serious discussions about issues upon which our Guest Bloggers do comment and, for that, we are grateful to them for their stimulating new perspectives.


Obama's Tempest in a Teapot Boils Over
by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz
(Rabbi Lefkowitz is the founding Chairman of the Legislative Commission of the Chicago Rabbinical Council)

Late last week, rumors began to spread that among the rabbis listed on the "Rabbis for Obama" list created by the President's reelection campaign, was a ringer – Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb.  A supporter of  a boycott of Israel for its cruelty to Palestinians, Gottlieb, associated with the Jewish Renewal movement, cites the cruelty of the Israelis in dealing with Palestinian farmers who wish merely to live from the bounty of the earth upon which they toil. She calls for equality for Palestinians residing in the territory "from the Mediterranean to the Jordan."

A colleague of mine closely associated with the Democrat Party, when made aware of this "faux pas", immediately sprung into action. Through e-mails he has kept me aware of his every move. His first step was to contact the local Democrat Party office. This led, after several calls, to being put through to "inner" staff at the White House. He was informed that, when the President became aware of the problem, he was furious. Removing the Rabbi's name from the list, however,  he was told, is not a simple matter. For the President to reject an individual's support in public is a severe step.  Indeed, when considering some of the individuals supporting the President and their rather radical views, one can understand the conundrum faced in distancing the President from  a Rabbi. All the more is this the case as the President knows recent statistics demonstrate his support among Jewish voters is becoming weaker by the hour.

And it gets worse. It has now been learned  that the net cast for rabbis by the Democrat machine has caught other "fishy" rabbis as well. Jonathan S. Tobin, in an article in "Commentary" entitled "Obama Rabbis Must Disavow anti-Zionist(s)" reports that Gottlieb is not the only anti-Zionist rabbi on the list. The list includes eight such rabbis associated with the notoriously anti-Israel organization called the "Jewish Voice for Peace" who are listed on their Rabbinic list.

One must ask - how it is possible that the names of anti-Zionist Rabbis were included on the "Rabbis for Obama" list all the more as the President is faced with a growing sense in the Jewish community that his credentials as a friend of Israel are questionable and this list was created specifically to show that hundreds of Jewish clergy believe the President has a strong and positive position on Israel?

The answer - as was told to me by my colleague is that a lowly staff person was assigned the job of getting 613 rabbis to sign on to the list. That's it, get rabbis to sign on.  No vetting, no checking out the affiliations of the rabbis, their denominations, their organizational associations, past statements that may not be in tune with the President's views - just get me some rabbis.  And dutifully, this individual did just that. He\she opened the telephone book and began calling rabbis.
What does this all mean for the Jewish voter? As any voter the Jewish voter should cast his\her ballot for candidates who best represent the voter's views. The issues on today's political agenda are clear. The economy is first and foremost on everyone's list. The classical view that American society is built upon the bedrock of the Judeo Christian value system is as well a challenge to our society. Immigration, traditionally an important value of our Republic - is being broadened by some to include, as its advocates state, "undocumented individuals", i.e. illegal immigrants. The international scene, particularly Afghanistan and Iran are important matters to consider when entering the voting booth. For the Jewish voter however, there is also the important matter of the lives of our brothers and sisters, now numbering almost 6,000,000, living in the State of Israel.

Traditionally, politicians understand how to cultivate support in the "patchwork quilt" that is American Society comprising many religions, cultures and nationalities. They learn to understand the passions of these very elements in American society and, if they are clever, develop a cadre of advocates in each of them. When necessary they can activate their surrogates to curry optimum support from these very groups. The Jewish community is no different

For me, the inclusion of anti-Israel rabbis on a support list for President Obama cannot be written off as merely a faux pas. It's rather indicative at best of a rather casual attitude by Democrats toward the Jewish vote and at worst reveals the approach the President has toward the Jewish community in the United States and its passions one of which is the survival, prosperity and, most important, the safety of our brothers and sisters in the State of Israel. Embedded upon my memory is Pres. Obama's statement before AIPAC that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of the State of Israel and, on the very next day, newspapers reporting that the President supports Jerusalem being divided to serve as the capitals of both the Israeli and Palestinian states.

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Monday 27 August 2012

Ch Ch Changes - 1 Kibbud Av vs. K'vod Harav

As Per Talmud and Rambam

K'vod Harav trumps Kiddud Av
EXCEPT if the Father is a Talmid Hacham

Given: in the good old days the M'lameid was not paid for teaching TSBP. Hence the Rav got all the "credit"

Question: does the fact that nowadays when a father PAYS tuition does that change the dynamic? Meaning when the Father foots the bill, the M'lameid is now his agent! And therefore doesn't the Father get a lot of credit for the Torah that is taught? And if so, let's combine Kibbud Av with his tuition support and thereby trump the M'lameid, just as it does in the case of a Father, who is himself a Talmid Hacham, trumps the M'lameid.

Text of Rambam M"T
הלכות תלמוד תורה פרק ה

ב  ראה אבידת אביו ואבידת רבו, של רבו קודמת לשל אביו.  אביו ורבו נשואים במשא, מניח את של רבו ואחר כך את של אביו.  אביו ורבו שבויים בשביה, פודה את רבו ואחר כך פודה את אביו; ואם היה אביו תלמיד חכמים, פודה את אביו תחילה.  וכן אם היה אביו חכם, אף על פי שאינו שקול כנגד רבו--משיב אבידתו ואחר כך משיב אבידת רבו.  ואין לך כבוד, גדול מכבוד הרב; ולא מורא, יתר ממורא הרב.  אמרו חכמים, מורא רבך כמורא שמיים.

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Sunday 26 August 2012

Curriculum Proposals for "Elul" Z'man

Different Yeshivot have different approaches as to curricula for Elul Z'man. EG at YY/RIETS, Rav Gorelick Z"L would cover sugyos in Seder Moed EG the last chapter of Yoma.

Here are some ideas that may prove helpful

1. Mishnah b'iyyun. If the Yeshiva has a chosen Masechta for the upcoming year, consider spending about a month preparing its Mishnayyot b'iyyun. This would accomplish 2 goals:

A. Preparation for the G'mara
B. A Change of pace - which is kind of what many Yeshivot do anyway during Elul.

2. Halachot of the Chaggim, viz R"H, Y"K, Sukkah, and 4 Minnim. Aside from the Mishnah B'rurah etc. The SA of the Alter Rebbe has these topics in a convenient paperback volume. I would suggest alternating text during alternate years.

If time permits, Hilchot Y"T and Chol Hamoed, too

3. Classic works on T'shuvah include:
A. Rambam Hilchot T'shuvah
B. Rabbenu Yonah's Shaarei T'shuvah
C. Orchot Tzadikkim has a section devoted to T'shuvah
D. The Tanya also has a section called Iggeret HaT'shuvah.

As above I would also suggest here alternating text during alternate years

4. Previewing the Liturgy.

A. A good overview of the S'lichot and the Machzorim for Yamim Nora'I'm make a lot of sense

B. Related to the Liturgy, the Hayyei Adam has a Nusach for T'filah Zakkah and a Peirush on the Vidduy.

C. Similar Peirushim may be found for the 13 Middot.

5. Mishnayos B'kiut:
A. R"H
B. Yoma
C. Sukkah
D. Beitza
E. Moed Katan

Can You think of more?

Over all this would make for a well-rounded program focusing upon:

1. An introduction to the upcoming year's Masechta

2. Broad knowledge of the Halachot of the season

3. Grounding in T'shuvah and the various Piyyutim.

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Friday 24 August 2012

Outreach in Idaho

«"I'm from Montreal," said Cohen. "Berel is from London. We have big Jewish communities where we come from and we're studying in Brooklyn, massive Jewish communities. Here in Idaho, there is not a lot of Jewish identity in these small cities."

He said it's the lack of Judaism in the region that sometimes doesn't allow people to be completely open with their faith. The Roving Rabbis carry resources and other religious tools to give to those interested in learning or re-learning about their religious faith.

"See who they are, come and visit them and try and re-awaken the Judaism in them, in their soul," said Cohen.

"Seeing the reactions of the people over here it's just beautiful," said Kesselman. "It's very rewarding seeing how happy people are to see us."

Cohen said unlike other places they've traveled, Idahoans have been exceptionally welcoming.»

Roving Rabbis visit area as part of their 3 week tour through Idaho | Local & Regional | KLEW CBS 3 - News, Weather and Sports - Lewiston, ID

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Thursday 23 August 2012

Lyndon B Johnson: Friend of the Jews

ON JUNE 4, 1945, Johnson visited Dachau. According to Smallwood, Lady Bird later recalled that when her husband returned home, "he was still shaken, stunned, terrorized, and bursting with an overpowering revulsion and incredulous horror at what he had seen."

«...A decade later while serving in the Senate, Johnson blocked the Eisenhower administration's attempts to apply sanctions against Israel following the 1956 Sinai Campaign. "The indefatigable Johnson had never ceased pressure on the administration," wrote I.L. "Si" Kenen, the head of AIPAC at the time.

As Senate majority leader, Johnson consistently blocked the anti-Israel initiatives of his fellow Democrat, William Fulbright, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Among Johnson's closest advisers during this period were several strong pro-Israel advocates, including Benjamin Cohen (who 30 years earlier was the liaison between Supreme Court justice Louis Brandeis and Chaim Weizmann) and Abe Fortas, the legendary Washington "insider." »

Israpundit » Blog Archive » Lyndon B Johnson was a great friend of Jews

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Can Thinking Outside of the Box Enable us to Flourish?

 Please note: Our sharing of information about Targum Shlishi should not be understood as an endorsement, by Nishma, of any or all positions that they advocate.

Targum Shlishi is a foundation dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi's initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish.

Targum Shlishi

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Tuesday 21 August 2012

On Modern Orthodoxy

On several - or even many - issues, Rabbi J. Simcha Cohen cogently argues that Modern Orthodoxy is MORE traditional and LESS revisionist than various Hareidi Alternatives. EG P'sak Halachah has moved away from a Legalistic System towards a Pietistic System

«At issue is whether Halacha may be ruled differently due to distinctly different orientations?The proper response is definitely yes. In fact, MO has an approach to Halacha that differs from the approach of the Yeshiva and Hassidic world.(In reality it has more traditional roots than the orientation of the Yeshiva and Hassidic world.) Several years ago, Rabbi Shalom Klass,(ZL) publisher of the Jewish Press, sent me a copy of a ruling of Rav Henkin,(ZL) former author of the Ezrat Torah Luach and a major posek for American synagogue Jewry. The issue was in the event that the Mishna Berura and the Aruch HaShulchan differed , whom should one follow; the Mishna Berura or the Aruch HaShulchan? Rav Henkin ruled that one should not follow the Mishna Berura but,rather, the ruling of the Aruch HaShulchan. Why? The Mishna Berura ,known as the Chofetz Chaim was the Tzaddik of the generation.The Tzaddik of the generation should not be the decider of Halacha for such a person will have a proclivity to be stringent. So true. In Europe in previous generations the Rav who decided Halacha for the community at large generally was lenient. In the Hassidic and Yeshiva spheres the custom was to be stringent. Anyone learning the Mishna Berura notes how he generally suggests a compromise solution that favors stringency. His argument generally is why be involved in a doubtful situation. Be stringent and observe all positions. The Aruch HaShulchan deals with questions on the basis of what is the realistic Halacha and generally does not suggest a compromise. Being lenient does not mean to violate Halachic standards.It's , rather, an orientation when ruling for the community at large.It's a recognition that a Halachic decision is not a Pavlovian extremist position.»

Modern Orthodoxy: Definitions and Insights | Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals

Shanah Tovah,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Monday 20 August 2012

Orthodox or Conservative?

 I invite you to look at this Jerusalem Post article in which the author, Rabbi Adam Frank, the rabbi at Congregation Moreshet Yisrael, the Masorti/Conservative synagogue in downtown Jerusalem, attempts to explain some of the differences between Conservative Judaism and Orthodoxy.

Part of his contention is that Conservative Judaism stresses action over belief system as he puts it " it does not matter how one finds meaning in the Torah, but that one finds the Torah meaningful." In other words, it does not matter what one believes to be the origin of the Torah as long as one is observant of the practice which is so instructed through the Torah process. But does not this understanding of the origin not impact on how one will undertake the process of Torah and halachic discovery? Belief necessarily impacts on action and the reality is that that it does matter how one finds meaning in the Torah. It is not just how one personally finds the Torah meaningful. It is, rather, how one responds to the directed meaning of the Torah -- and that can only emerge from a recognition of its origins.

What always hits me about such arguments is that thereby, an attempt to bridge the gap between right-wing Conservative Judaism and Orthodoxy is offered. We agree to a large extent in behaviour -- why can't we connect even further. The very challenge is that it is not solely about behaviour but very much so also about belief. It is with the person with whom I share a recognition of the Torah's origins that I can connect for we both agree on the fundamental principle of how we are to find meaning in the Torah.

Rabbi Ben Hecht 


Sunday 19 August 2012

Huffington Post: Why There's Value in Self-Doubt

The link has been corrected.
My latest blog on Huffington Post-Canada concerns the tragic murder of 6 Sikhs in their Temple in Wisconsin and how such hate is tied to ego and surety..

For my thoughts on this, please see

Please feel free to comment there or here.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Friday 17 August 2012

Strategy of Isolation

From Derech Emet...


[Mohamed] Heikal [editor of the influential Al Ahram
Egyptian newspaper, in year 1971] called for a change
of Arab rhetoric:

no more threats of throwing Israel into the sea;
and a new political strategy aimed at reducing Israel
to indefensible borders and pushing her into diplomatic
and economic isolation.

He predicted that
<< total withdrawal >>
<< pass sentence on the entire state of Israel. >>

SOURCE: From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish
Conflict over Palestine (chapter 2, page 14) by Joan Peters,
1984, JKAP Publications


Shalom and Regards,

Thursday 16 August 2012

Unpacking Chabad: Their Ten Core Elements for Success

«In the end, no one should discount Chabad's impact on the American and global Jewish scene. It represents a unique and significant presence. At best, organizations may seek to emulate certain elements associated with Chabad's methodology of outreach and engagement. However, it is unlikely that other groups within the Jewish community have the capacity or commitment to enter the marketplace to construct a competing model of service or religious activism.»

Unpacking Chabad: Their Ten Core Elements for Success | eJewish Philanthropy: Your Jewish Philanthropy Resource

Shalom and Regards,

Wednesday 15 August 2012

The Churban in Lita

See Rav Eliyahu Safran's poignant reflections upon the Litivsher Yeshiva Velt.

Post-Tisha B'Av: Tears for Shavel | Everyday Jewish Living | OU Life


My Chinese friend once asked me: "How come the Holocaust is so special? After all many Chinese were brutally murdered by Japanese Imperial forces, such as the notorious 'Rape of Nanking'?"

I never answered him. The answer I would have said is:
"While the grim and ghastly statistics of human life brutally snuffed out is indeed quite comparable, the facts are that China and Chinese civilization remained intact. While the Jewish Civilization that used to be in Eastern and Central Europe was utterly destroyed."

Shalom and Regards,

Tuesday 14 August 2012

What is our Traditional Katuba Coming To?

What is our Traditional Katuba Comging To?
Coming to an internet "!"

Interfaith Ketubahs : Ketubot : Katuba :

Shalom and Regards,

Monday 13 August 2012

Contenders for British Chief Rabbi Post

«Sacks is due to retire in September 2013. The announcement of a successor is scheduled 
to take place in the fourth quarter of 2012. 
The crux of the difference between rabbis Broyde and Soloveichik seems to be in their attitude 
to the London Beth Din. Although it is part of the United Synagogue (the centrist Orthodox 
organization which the chief rabbi officially heads), the majority of the Beth Din’s religious 
judges have for decades been ultra-Orthodox, and no chief rabbi has managed to assert 
his authority over them.»
Top US law professor emerges as frontrunner for British chief rabbi post | T
he Times of Israel
Shalom and Regards,

Sunday 12 August 2012

Can a young man fail at being a Jew?

R Eliyahu Safran -

Too often, our teachers teach as though their students are obligated to them rather than they being obligated to their students. At best, they treat their students as passive vessels to be badgered as they are filled with information. And should they fall short…? They treat them as being unworthy of their time and attention.

But I ask, can a young man fail at being a Jew?

Is a student any less a Jew if he performs poorly in his studies or if he behaves incorrigibly? Is his soul worth any less to God? ...

Veshinantam: Your Son, Your Student - Judaism - Israel National News

Shalom and Regards,

Saturday 11 August 2012

Mussar: What Could Be Worse than Sins?!

From Derech Emet

Chovot HaLevavot, Shaar Avodat HaElokim, chapter 4:

A pious man once said to his students:

If you had no sins, I would be worried about you
for something more severe than sins.

They said to him: What is worse than sins?!?!

He answered them: Arrogance and haughtiness, as is it written:

(Mishlei / Proverbs, chapter 16, verse 5).


Shalom and Regards,

Thursday 9 August 2012

Jewish Tribune: Purposeless Hatred

The issue may not be solely the development of negative emotions but also how one deals with such feelings once they are developed.

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

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Keiruv, Orthodox and Chabad Styles

Guest Blogger:
R Dr. Aton Holzer
[in response to an email -- RRW]

I discern two possibly distinct questions in your email
1. What accounts for the success of the Orthodox community in preserving Jewish identity, where others have failed?
2. What accounts for the remarkable success of Chabad in Kiruv?
I had the good fortune of sharing your experience of living in a tiny Jewish community in Alabama that allowed a vantage point for "Yeridas HaDoros" on the periphery of American Orthodoxy, ample contact and comparison with phenomena in other streams, and access to a local Chabad that worked extremely well.
1. For preserving Jewish identity, I posit that the key is self-definition. In previous generations, the cultural experience of otherness stemming from displacement, foreign accent and anti-semitism, the shared language of Yiddish, and memories of shtetl music and cuisine cemented the nonobservant Jew's perception of self as, fundamentally, a Jew. The children born in America had none of those and thus perceive themselves fundamentally as Americans, albeit of Jewish origin.
IMHO, Orthodoxy succeeds most when it inculcates Yir'as Shamayim, the perception of the essence of the self as Jew -- that our purpose and meaning in life is to serve God, that the world exists only to serve His will and we are the effectors of His will -- and that all else in life is subordinate to that goal. This is difficult to sell to other streams, which by definition re-evaluate Judaism based upon the assumptions of other systems.
In many cases we don't succeed in conveying this, or this awareness lapses, and so the cultural cocoon of Yeshiva day schools, Yeshiva high schools, Israel year, and the shared cultural experiences of Shabbos and Yom Tov meals and liturgy, Shul chevrashaft, Yeshivish jargon, and in some segments of the community, myths such as gentile inferiority or malevolence, profound differences in dress and technological restriction all act to simulate the experience of "otherness", but all these are external and don't necessarily succeed if Orthodox Jews are sufficiently removed from their native environment, such as vacations, the workplace, secular college, et al. The cultural experiences of non-Orthodox Jews are much less pervasive and frequent, and succeed far less often at providing this protective cocoon from the pressures of assimilation.
I think Shemiras HaMitzvos alone is neither sufficient nor necessary for this particular goal. We all have seen youth with scrupulous adherence to Mitzvos lose everything when extracted from the cultural cocoon via secular college, and in Birmingham I saw some Ba'alei Teshuvah ultimately succumb to recidivism by moving back with non-observant parents and their cultural milieu, despite initial (lonely) adherence to Shabbos, Kashrus, Tefillin, etc. On the other hand, the older generation of nonobservant "Orthodox" and for that matter, Conservative and Reform Jews in Birmingham for the most part were deeply committed to Jewish identity and saw intermarriage as an act of treason, despite a sometimes utter lack of attention to ritual.
2. I think Chabad succeeds because of the first element that Dennis Prager identified: the best Shluchim subordinate themselves completely to the organization, or, more broadly, Avodas Hashem, as they understand it. When "Bittul" is held as the central value in a community, even if many fall short, self-sacrifice and total commitment to the cause become possible. Rebbitzens can become willing though unpaid partners in the enterprise, and parents can bear the enormous effort of homeschooling or to part with their children at high school. I remember once wondering with the local Chabad Shliach about the difficulties of his chosen path, both for himself and his children. His response, "It's not about me," has inspired me in my own times of difficulty.
Also, the Shliach that consciously subdues his ego may be better at convincingly projecting a sense of respect, value and even admiration of non-religious, and folks seem to be attracted to that.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Hitkabb'du M'chubbadim

From a Davening-Discussion Dialogue

From Daily Mishna Brurah
Wed July 25, 2012 -
Siman 2 / Seif 6 & Siman 3 Seif 1

See SA O"Ch 3:1
B'er Haggolah citing B'Rachos 60b
Shaarei T'shuvah D"H "V'achshav"
MB 1
What is the process here of being m'vatteil this recitation that is cited by Sha"s?
IOW How did this become "bateil". The SA says WHAT, the nos'ei Keilim say WHY. But no one I know so far says HOW.

1. Miko'ach Minhag?
2. Based upon the P'sak of the Bet Yosef?
3. Other?

The text of TB B'rachos 60b and of the Rambam M"T is provided below.
IIRC the Tur also has this as the Normative practice

מסכת ברכות פרק ט
דף ס,ב גמרא  הנכנס לבית הכסא אומר התכבדו מכובדים קדושים משרתי עליון תנו כבוד לאלהי ישראל הרפו ממני עד שאכנס ואעשה רצוני ואבא אליכם אמר אביי לא לימא אינש הכי דלמא שבקי ליה ואזלי אלא לימא שמרוני שמרוני עזרוני עזרוני סמכוני סמכוני המתינו לי המתינו לי עד שאכנס ואצא שכן דרכן של בני אדם כי נפיק אומר ברוך אשר יצר את האדם בחכמה וברא בו נקבים נקבים חללים חללים גלוי וידוע לפני כסא כבודך שאם יפתח אחד מהם או אם יסתם אחד מהם אי אפשר לעמוד לפניך מאי חתים אמר רב רופא חולים אמר שמואל קא שוינהו אבא לכולי עלמא קצירי אלא רופא כל בשר רב ששת אמר מפליא לעשות א"ר פפא הלכך נמרינהו לתרוייהו רופא כל בשר ומפליא לעשות
הלכות תפילה פרק ז
ה  וכל זמן שייכנס אדם לבית הכיסא--אומר קודם שייכנס, התכבדו מכובדים קדושים, משרתי עליון, שמרוני עד שאיכנס ואצא, כי זה דרכן של בני אדם.  ואחר שייצא--מברך ברוך אתה ה' אלוהינו מלך העולם, אשר יצר את האדם בחכמה, וברא בו נקבים נקבים וחללים חללים, מהן סתומים ומהן פתוחים, שאם ייסתם אחד מהן או ייפתח, אינו יכול להתקיים אפילו שעה אחת; ברוך אתה ה', רופא כל בשר ומפליא לעשות.

Shalom and Regards, RRW

Tuesday 7 August 2012

JVO: Spousal Support

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: Is a husband obligated to provide for his wife? My husband and I have been married for one year. We are both in our sixties. I agreed to sign a prenup because my husband (who is financially quite comfortable) wanted to protect his estate for his son. I have worked all my life and have always taken care of myself. I earn about half of what my husband does and never inherited any family money. The bottom line is that the prenup became very contentious and I saw the final version at the signing - 48 hours before our wedding. Our guests had already begun arriving. I walked out of the signing and spoke with my attorney who advised that this document was the "best he could do given that my husband started on the process two weeks before our wedding." Against my better judgement, I signed it. Within the first three months of our marriage I wanted it changed. We went to a therapist and he agreed to make changes. There have been continuous fights and multiple promises from him (lies) to make changes.To date, nothing has been done. My fear is that if something happens to him I will not be able to afford to live in the apartment that we presently share. My husband owns the apartment, our prenup stipulated that I pay him rent. EVERYTHING he has goes to his son. I secretly discovered his will- which he refuses to discuss with me. In order to be in compliance with state law he is obligated to leave me something. He is leaving me 2% of his estate and a minimum monthly allowance (administered by his son whom I don't care for) toward the apartment upkeep. Prior to our marriage I was an independent self-supporting woman had an apartment which I could easily afford, lived quite comfortably, and was not dependent on anyone. I gave away most of my furniture, have lost my apartment, and if something happens to my husband will be dependent on the generosity of his son. Even more shocking is that in his will it states, " If I am unable to keep up with the monthly maintenance for the apartment, the estate has the right to evict me in 90 days." My husband and I dated for 5 years prior to our marriage.I lived with him for two of those years although I always kept my own apartment. I saw him as generous of both his time and money to charity, overly generous towards his son, and as a well liked and respected member of the community both professionally and socially. Until the prenup, I never experienced this side of him or had any indication that he would behave like this. Is this a moral and ethical way to treat one's wife ? What can I do?

On the surface, this would seem to be a pretty straightforward question to answer. Jewish Law clearly outlines that a husband is required to provide for his wife in regard to what is referred to as sh’eir, ksut v’onah, which can be simply translated as food (sustenance), clothing and intimacy. (See Shemot 21:10 with Rashi, noting, however, the comments also of Ramban.) A review of the Talmudic discussion of this obligation (for example, T.B. Ketubot 48a) clearly shows that the overall directive is that a husband has an obligation to maintain his wife in the manner that would be proper of a woman at the socio-economic level of the husband. As such, it would seem clear that, for example, a wife paying rent for staying in her husband’s apartment is problematic within the parameters of Jewish Law. The difficulty is that, also within Jewish Law, a husband and wife have some leeway to amend some of these obligations. For example, as a husband is obligated to support his wife, he also is prima facie given the right to the profits derived from his wife’s assets. The wife, however, may exempt the husband from supporting her in return for her keeping the profits of these assets. The reality is that Torah thought, while also acknowledging and fostering the desired romantic nature of a relationship, also recognizes the practical aspect of the marriage connection. In that regard, though, while setting certain base standards as a starting point in the formulation of these requirements within a union, it also does allow, to some extent, for some contractually negotiated leeway to amend these requirements. This, as such, would seem to take us to the case at hand. Did these subsequent contractual amendments violate the base, non-negotiable requirements of the parties?  
(It must be recognized that it is with a certain hesitancy that we voice any opinion on this specific case as we have only been presented with the view of one of the parties. Before absolutely com­menting on this actual case, it would be most important to also hear the other side. We are told, even more so, that a judge should only hear both sides of a case in the presence of the two sides. See Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 17:5. As such, before honestly commenting on the ethical behaviour of the husband, it would be important to hear the husband’s side. Our comments as such should be understood within this context – that we are only responding to the facts as presented by one of the parties.)
There is actually a prior, and perhaps greater, problem that we face in responding to these questions. The reality is that these two parties actually worked out a legal arrangement pursuant to another legal system. The question of how Jewish Law would respond to this case thus touches upon the greater issue of how Jewish Law would respond to contractual relations as determined through another legal system. In such cases, in certain circumstances Jewish Law may accept these contractual determinations while, in other cases, it may not. When the wife now asks what is she to do, the question now becomes not simply what would Halacha say about the matter but to what extent are they bound, by Halacha, to this prenup as worked out by this other legal system. It may even be that she may have some action, within this other legal system, against her attorney for letting her sign such a contract [unless it may have been done against his advice], but that is not the issue before me. (I also do not wish to deal with the question of duress and whether this prenuptual agreement could be challenged on these grounds – grounds that would also have standing in a halachic discussion of a contract of this nature.) The question before me is not what I, as an ethical individual, think she should do pursuant to this other legal systems. The question before me is what I think Torah thought says about this case. To answer that question I have to first define the status of this contractual relationship, in all its details, within Jewish Law. That is the difficulty.
The fact is that Halacha, as with all legal systems, has its own requirements in regard to the formulation of the marriage bond and what it demands from individuals who are part of that contractual relationship. Applicable to our case would be, for example, the Jewish Legal demand, as part of a marriage, of a ketuba, a marriage contract outlining certain responsibilities of the husband and wife to each other. One of the required stipulations in this ketuba is a payment of a certain amount to the wife upon the death of the husband; this payment to have precedence to any claims of inheritance (as well as many other claims on an estate). If this marriage took place pursuant to Jewish Law and there was a ketuba, then there would clearly be problems with the prenup. If, however, this marriage was not pursuant to Halacha and there was no ketuba, this would actually be the issue, according to Jewish thought, not the prenup per se.
Jewish Law creates a certain legal environment for the contractual relationship of marriage. It is within this environment that it balances the variant rights and obligations of the parties to this relationship. While certain detailed principles seem to emerge from a review of this environment – such as a priority lien of a wife’s ketuba on a husband’s estate – it is important to recognize that this detail exists as part of the greater whole. It is thus often most difficult to determine how such ethical details would find applicability within other systems. If this marriage was done pursuant to Jewish Law with a proper ketuba then it is clear that the husband, according to Halacha, is acting in violation of Jewish Law and that the prenup has to be read within the parameters set by the ketuba. (This, of course, may not have standing in the secular courts but we can still state what the Torah ethical requirement is.) If, however, the marriage was formulated outside the structure of the Halacha, we would have to recognize some limitations in our ability to comment for to do otherwise would simply be an attempt to apply the standards set within one contractual relationship upon another.

Joe Paterno and the Moral High Ground

«With the exception of some hard core Chasidic enclaves, most of the Orthodox world understands that the sexual abuse of a child is tantamount to mental and spiritual murder! »

Who Has The Moral High Ground? | JewishPress

Shalom and Regards,

Monday 6 August 2012

A One-Man Supreme Court

«From a historical perspective, it is worth noting several things about his life and legacy. Elyashiv sat on nearly every case in the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Israel in its early years of existence, and it was his jurisprudential approach that helped establish that court and its methodologies. Elyashiv in fact had two, full-length 40-year careers: His stint for the Chief Rabbinate wasn't a quick or youthful fling; he was a judge until the age of 65 before he shifted gears and became a global religious leader. The closest analogy one can find in U.S. history is President and Chief Justice Taft, who managed to pull the switch in reverse. To do both, and do both in peerless fashion, is the stuff of legend. »
Shalom and Regards,

Saturday 4 August 2012

Olympic Reflections: From Munich to London

Guest Blogger:
Douglas Aronin, Esq.

From Munich to London: an Olympic reflection

At the opening ceremony of the London Olympics last Friday, the parade of nations was led, as it always is, by the delegation from Greece. It was the ancient Greeks, after all, who invented the Olympic games, so it seems only fair to give their modern counterparts this tiny bit of glory, generally the only Olympic-related glory they receive.
This year the contrast between the glory of ancient Greece and the decidedly inglorious modern country of the same name was particularly stark. Many observers, I suspect, as they watched the Greek athletes lead the procession into the newly constructed Olympic stadium, could not resist wondering where the Greeks found the money to fly their athletes to London. But the Olympic organizers have a sense of history, so the Greek athletes, however they got there, marched in their place of honor as usual.
Unfortunately, the Olympic sense of history is rather selective. The Olympic organizers acknowledge the Greek role both in creating the original Olympic games in ancient times and in helping to revive them by hosting the first modern Olympics in 1896.  I have no problem with that historical acknowledgment, but how can  it be squared with the International Olympic Committee's persistent refusal to honor the memories of those Olympic athletes and other participants who, a mere forty years ago, were killed in the line of Olympic duty in the terrorist attack that disrupted the 1972 Olympics in Munich?
Of course, if the IOC had had a more coherent sense of history, the 1972 games wouldn't have been held in Munich in the first place. The idea behind that selection was to showcase West Germany's post-war transition into a thriving, peaceful democracy and to atone for the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which had helped confer an aura of legitimacy on Hitler's rule in its early days. But 1972 was less than three decades after the war's end, far too soon to put an Olympic stamp of approval on Germany's post-Nazi rehabilitation. Munich, moreover, had a particularly foul historical odor as the locale in which British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain chose appeasement over principle, dooming the world to a horrific war and European Jewry to near extinction.
Most serious, as events unfolded, both the Olympic organizers and the West German government understood the world's instinctive repugnance at anything that might give the appearance of resurgent German militarism. The sight of uniformed German soldiers providing security for Olympic athletes understandably would have caused distress in many quarters, and thus had to be avoided. In avoiding it, however, the organizers apparently gave little thought to what should have been a paramount concern: if the soldiers of the host country could not take responsibility for protecting the Olympic athletes and other personnel, who would?
The inattention to that detail brought devastating consequences. When a Palestinian group calling itself (with presumably unintended irony) Black September took nine members of Israel's Olympic delegation hostage, killing two others in the process, it quickly became clear that neither Olympic officials nor the West German government had planned for such a contingency. A quickly improvised rescue attempt by West German police failed miserably, resulting in the deaths of all nine of the remaining hostages, plus five of the eight terrorists and a West German policeman.
Over the years, frequent attempts have been made to persuade the IOC to create an appropriate vehicle for honoring the memory of the murdered Israeli Olympians. Each such overture has been met with, to put it mildly, a distinct lack of enthusiasm. Because this year's Olympics, being held in London for the third time in modern Olympic history, marks the fortieth anniversary of the Munich Olympic massacre, the attempts to persuade the IOC to memorialize the slain Olympians appropriately took on both a higher profile and a greater urgency than in the past.  Unfortunately, however, they did not meet with any greater success.
Although they would have settled for less, what those pushing for an appropriate memorialization of the murdered Olympians ideally wanted was an opening ceremony that included a moment of silence in their memory.  While the IOC did not, to my knowledge, give any explanation for its continued refusal, the implication was that such a gesture would be in some sense inconsistent with the  mood of the ceremony.  After watching a recorded version of the opening ceremony -- the American broadcast of the ceremony took place on Friday night, so I had it recorded -- I could almost understand the hesitation.  Finding an appropriate point for a commemoration of the slain Olympians might have been difficult. 
But then I learned to my shock that the IOC had agreed to permit as part of the opening ceremony, what USA Today characterized as " a video tribute to the 52 people who were killed in the suicide bombings in the London transit system the day after the city won the Games in 2005."  Reading about that video tribute shocked me for two reason.  The first reason was that I couldn't understand how the IOC could justify including that video tribute while still refusing to honor the memories of the Israeli Olympians murdered in Munich.  The second was that I could not figure out how I had managed to overlook that tribute when I watched the recording of the opening ceremony. 
The second puzzle was solved when I learned that NBC had not included that video tribute in the American broadcast, instead cutting to a background piece.  Whether the network's decision was prompted by a fear of offending part of its audience, a desire to protect the reputation of the Olympics (in which the network has invested a great deal of money) or some other consideration is still unclear.  As to the first puzzle -- how the IOC members can justify, even to themselves, including that tribute to the victims of terrorist violence in London while refusing to include any mention of the Olympian victims of terrorist violence in Munich -- I only wish the continued refusal had been more surprising than it was.
I doubt that most of us were shocked by the IOC's logically incompatible decisions, because, truth to tell, we're used to it.  There is no direct organizational or historical connection between the United Nations, which arose out of the ashes of World War II, and the IOC, which preceded it by half a century.  But the memberships of the two are largely the same, as are many of the customs and habits of mind.  And one of the most ingrained customs of today's multilateral diplomacy can best be summed up (with apologies to George Orwell) as follows:  All countries are equal, but one is less equal than the others.
That less equal country, of course, is Israel, the country whose Olympians were murdered in Munich.  The surviving family members of the Munich victims were no doubt being sincere in telling the current IOC president that in seeking to honor the memories of their loved ones, they were not intending to make a political statement, but they were also being naive.  In the upside down world of international organizations, there is no such thing as a non-political statement about Israel.  Nothing that involves Israel can be non-controversial because, to a significant core of member countries, Israel's very existence is controversial.  Can anyone really doubt that, if the murdered Olympians had been citizens of any other country, the problem of how best to honor their memories would have been resolved long ago?
Just before the London Olympics opened, David Brooks, the most consistently thoughtful of the New York Times opinion columnists, pondered ("The Olympic Contradiction", July 26, 2012) what he sees as the inherent contradiction that is at the heart of the Olympic movement.  " The Olympics", he wrote, "are a peaceful celebration of our warlike nature."  The opening ceremony, in Brooks's view, is  "a lavish celebration of the cooperative virtues," while in the competitions that follow,  "the Olympics turn into a celebration of the competitive virtues."
Brooks has a point, it seems to me.  Organized sports generally, and the Olympics in particular, are about channeling our natural competitive instinct away from war and toward less deadly pursuits.  According to the Olympic Charter, the goal of the Olympic movement "is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the
preservation of human dignity." Brooks puts it more succinctly:  "[T]he Olympic Games appeal both to our desire for fellowship and our desire for status, to the dreams of community and also supremacy."
But if the fundamental purpose of the Olympics is to promote peace through sport, then there can be no greater desecration of the Olympic ideal than to deliberately bring lethal violence into the Olympic Village, which is precisely what the Munich terrorists did.  The Munich massacre was an attack not just on Israel but on the Olympic movement itself.  That the IOC doesn't it see it that way demonstrates yet again how easy it is for fallible human beings to use pretensions of idealism to prettify naked self-interest. 
However hard we try, there's no way to insulate the Olympics completely from the diplomatic realities of the day.  (Contrary to myth, even the ancient Greeks were not always successful in keeping the two separate.)  But wherever you choose to draw that line, the 1972 murder of eleven Israeli Olympians is unambiguously on the wrong side of it.
"If the opening ceremony mimics peace," Brooks writes, "the competitions mimic warfare." Unfortunately, thanks to the IOC's  refusal to honor the memories of the Olympians who died in Munich, the mimicry of war is more convincing than the mimicry of peace.

Friday 3 August 2012

The 7.5 Year Plan -An Alternate

This is not a 150% variation of the Soviet Era 5-year plans, rather it is an alternative plan to the 7.5 year plan initiated by R Meir Shapiro

Shloymie: Well, what's wrong with RMS's plan?

RRW: Nothing really, but it's not for everybody. I'm generally not in favour of one-size fits all.

So let's see what can be accomplished in 7.5 years?

1. Sh'nayim Mikra. A Chance to learn Humash and Rashi [or another peirush] very well.

2. 1 Perek Mishnayot a day. ETA to Finish Sha"s Mishnah [consisting of 555 chapters] 1.5 years

3. 1 perek Mishneh Torah a Day. ETA to complete Rambam's Mishneh 1080 chapters - 3 Years.

4. Kitzur SA Yomi. ETA - 1 year

5. Shulchan Aruch Yomi - 1 Year


2a Rambam's Sefer Hammitzvot as an optional intro to his M"T, ETA 2 months.


A less ambitious Mishnayyot regimen can be done at a pace of 2 minsnayyot a day [ETA 6 years] or 3 mishnayot a day [ETA 4 years] allowing other concurrent programs.

Shalom and Regards,

Thursday 2 August 2012

Book Review: Sefer Chazarat Hashas

Sefer Chazarat Hashas
(C) 2001 by R Avraham Portal
First Edition Vol. I
Mazel Typesetting & Printing Inc.

Do you wish to get a "Sneak Preview" of the upcoming Daf?
Would you prefer a Halachic Synopsis of what you've already leanred?
Would you like to "skip" the actual Shaqla v'Tarya of the Daf and read its "Cliff Notes" instead of doing "ameilus"?

If you've answered YES to any of the above then this Sefer is for you.

It comes in 8 Volumes in the hardcover edition, which combined the individual Masechtot that appeared in the previous softcover format. Therefore each Masechta starts from its own Page 1 within each volume

The format is simple. Take the Ein Mishpat and print virtually all of the Corresponding Rambam's and Selected S'ifim from Shulhan Aruch. Embellish those with some overviews from the M'eeri and a few key insights from EG Rashi. Voila! Chazarat Hashas - a conscious play on the term "Hazorat Hashatz"
Due to the author's Sephardic background, that pun works even better - due to the similarity of Samech and Saddee.

About the Author:
Rabbi Portal has a Sephardic Background as well as a Yeshivishe training at Mir. He therefore possesses that unique bi-cultural perspective of someone who has been immersed deeply into both Societies.

For Purchase information, please contact me at

Shalom and Regards,

Daf Yomi - Uniquely Jewish.

The reality is that no [Gentile] society is going to fill a stadium to celebrate the national enterprise of having learned a book or an encyclopedic compendium. Nor will — or has — any European society. Or African or Asian society. Nor any other society or peoples in the Western hemisphere, other than the Jews.

Contrasting cultures by Rabbi Dov Fischer

Shalom and Regards,

Wednesday 1 August 2012

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

«In certain Orthodox Jewish communities, from Borough Park to Monsey, N.Y., rabbis say, there is a strong aversion to chopping down fruit trees, which results from some combination of biblical verses, Jewish law and mystical documents that prohibit destroying them wantonly. In New York City, where space is exceptionally tight and the option to build out in another direction generally does not exist, that means friendly neighborhood foliage can present an especially hard challenge.

"It's an extraordinary reminder of the kind of spiritual consciousness people need to be able to sustain, particularly in urban settings," said Rabbi Saul J. Berman, an associate professor of Jewish studies at Yeshiva University. "You see this tree and the way it's being guarded, and suddenly you realize there's something going on here besides just human needs."»
Shalom and Regards,