Avodah Mailing List
Volume 07 : Number 027
Wednesday, April 25 2001
Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 18:19:43 EDT
Subject: ideas for improvement in Tefillah
I think the Evelyn Wood derech of speed davening has become so popular
because people have been led to think that they must say everything in the
(present day) siddur to be 'yotzei', which cannot be done meaningfully
in the limited amount of time and concentration they have. The only way
it can be done is through speed davening - which they proceed to do.
I think the following is needed to make tefillah more meaningful. Some
people are just trying one or the other, but I think that optimally,
all of the below should be done - or at least as many as possible.
1) Pirush hamilos must be taught to all - simple, straightforward,
poshut pshat - not kvetch vertlach.
2) People must be clearly shown / told what parts of tefila are ikar
and what are later additions, so they will not feel overwhelmed by the
sheer amount of pages staring at them that they think they must say to
fulfill their obligation to daven. In the latter category would be things
like 'lisheim yichud' recitations, brich shmei, mizmor shir chanukas,
etc. They also must be taught which of the older more important parts
can be skipped too, if necessary, as covered in Shulchan Oruch in the
section of 'mi sheshaha lovo libeis haknesses ad Yishtabach'.
3) People should have a nice siddur to daven from - with pleasant, easy
to read type, etc., and preferably including information mentioned in
items 1 & 2.
4) The shliach tzibbur cannot be allowed to proceed at excessive
speed. The shliach tzibbur is like the driver of a bus. If he is speeding
he puts the whole minyan in danger because the people try to keep up
with him, often at the expense of proper kavannah. IMHO, if an aveil /
chiyuv does not daven properly (e.g. speeds) he should not be allowed to
be shliach tzibbur. Ideally the pace of the minyan is set by a talmid
chochom or the Rav / Rosh HaYeshiva. I think problems of speeding are
more prevalent where there is no Rav. However, even where there is
a Rav, there can be problems at times, when the shliach tzibbur only
waits for the Rav at the end of Shma and shmoneh esreh while speeding at
other times. That is wrong. The Rav should set the pace at all times,
or at least at most times. If the Rav is away or doesn't usually daven
at that minyan, someone should be appointed as the pacesetter in his
place / absence. I have been told of (a) minyan(im) where there is a
sign near the amud stating how much time (minimum?) the chazan should
allot for various parts of tefillah - a g. krias Shma - 2 minutes,
Shmoneh esreh - 5 minutes, etc. Another idea is to post a speed limit -
e.g. General siddur speed limit - 120 WPM (words per minute) and some
parts of davening would be in lower speed limit zones (e.g. you are now
entering the Krias Shma Shmoneh esreh low speed zone - from this point
on until after shmoneh esreh the speed limit is 75 WPM).
5) Perhaps music can be used as an aid to Kavannah. During the week,
one does not usually encounter singing, but perhaps it could play a
role. Maybe even a recording of some appropriate and relevant melodies can
be played low in the background (maybe some wordless music, e.g.) during
psukei dizimra, for example. On occasion when I davened in a certain
place where the Jewish radio program 'JM in the AM' could be heard in
the background, I found that it seemed to have a beneficial effect in
The above ideas have been gleaned from various books (including R. Seth
Kadish's book) and articles (e.g. in Jewish Action, Jewish Observer,
etc.), as well as personal study, observation and thought.
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Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 18:24:27 -0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Subject: RE: Davening in Biblical vs Mishnaic Hebrew
From: Micha Berger [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> In Y"D 328:1, the S"A's nusach for the berachah on hafrashas challah is
> "lehafrish terumah", while the Rama has "lehafrish challah". The Gra (sham)
> attributes the SA's shitah to loyalty to the lashon of the Torah, "reishis
> arisoseichem chalah tarimu terumah". While the Rama's berachah is in
> the lashon of Chazal.
The birchas ha'ilanos, as found (IIRC) in the Gemara Berachos and in S"A,
refers to "ilanos tovos." However, as ilan is lashon zachar, the Siddur
Rinat Yisrael (and IIRC, some others too) changed the nusach to "ilanos
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Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 18:38:10 -0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Subject: RE: ideas for improvement in Tefillah
From: Phyllostac@aol.com [mailto:Phyllostac@aol.com]
> 5) Perhaps music can be used as an aid to Kavannah. During the week,
> one does not usually encounter singing, but perhaps it could play a
> role. Maybe even a recording of some appropriate and relevant melodies can
> be played low in the background (maybe some wordless music, e.g.) during
> psukei dizimra, for example. On occasion when I davened in a certain
> place where the Jewish radio program 'JM in the AM' could be heard in
> the background, I found that it seemed to have a beneficial effect in
> this regard.
The AishDas Society Charter states:
> As means of kindling a da'as of Hashem a member of the igud should
> commit to: ... Enhancing tephillah through the use of music that both
> fits the text of the tephillah, as well as touches the hearts and souls
> of the mispallelim.
Is this referring to actual music (as opposed to niggun)? I've never
davened to music, though I have done yoga meditation to music and found it
Go to top.
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 23:40:01 -0000
From: "Seth Mandel" <email@example.com>
Subject: lack of Shatz until Yishtabbah - correction
> This is one of the minhogim of the Vilner Gaon that were adopted
> by virtually all yeshivas. In the Ma'ase Rav he says that the ShaTz
> doesn't start until yishtabbah. Not only did all the European yeshivos
> follow it, but the talmidim of the Gro also made this standard in most
> Ashk'naz minyonim in EY (explaining what R. Carl says), even though,
> like most Gro minhogim, in America it is seen only in some yeshivas.
I wrote this in haste without the sources in front of me, and now I have to
ask m'hila of the hevra and of the Vilner Gaon. In fact, in Ma'ase Rav,
#26, he says that the ShaTz starts from Borukh SheOmar (and notes that you
do NOT say Mizmor Shir Hanukkas). So this minhag could not have been
brought to EY by the talmidim of the Gaon.
However, this was the minhog in all the yeshivos that I know of in Europe (I
believe Telz as well, although would someone correct me if I am wrong
there), that the Shatz does not start until Yishtabbah. That still explains
why it is done in at least some Ashk'naz minyonim in EY, because they are
influenced by yeshivishe minhog. But it does not explain why the minhog was
adopted by the yeshivos in Europe (especially since, now I am home, I have
found references that R. Hayyim Volozhner also started at Borukh Sheomar).
It also does not explain why RYBS wanted to adopt it, but the reason for
that, I suspect, in like many things, was that his father and/or grandfather
were noheg that way.
At any event, I shall try to do some more research. It may be that the
yeshivas were trying to obviate the problem of people saying the qaddish
after qorbonos and Mizmor Shir, as R. Tuvia had indicated. But right now I
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Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 19:56:58 EDT
Subject: anecdote heard at levaya of Rav Avigdor Miller z"l
I was at part of the 'levaya' for R. Miller (I came late and missed the first
I think the following incident which was related by R. Simcha Bunem Cohen (of
Lakewood - michabeir of seforim on hilchos Shabbos and grandson in law of
niftar IIRC) is of interest, esp. after some recent discussion in this forum
re hassidification, flag waving for some gedolim, etc.
R. Cohen stated that at the bar mitzvah (of a great grandson?-his son?) they
were singing 'Yomim al yimei melech tosif.....' for Rav Miller (presumably
when he entered) and Rav Miller insisted that they stop, threatening to leave
if they continued.
Evidently the 'hassidification' in evidence among some non-hassidim is
neither universal nor unimpeded.
Yihi zichro boruch.
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Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 20:31:29 -0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Subject: Yoga and avodah zara
Someone questioned my taking secular Hatha Yoga classes, and suggested that
that might be considered Avodah Zara.
Here is a discussion I found on the issue at
Response to a Question Regarding Yoga and Kabbalah
To Whom It May Concern; I am wondering about one of the items on your course
description. You list something called Meditative Movement, which you
describe as "Yoga and Kabbalah." I am informed that various positions and
movements in yoga are signs of obesiance to various Eastern deities. This
being the case, how can it be permitted to perform yoga? Please advise me on
Dear (Name withheld) At B'erot Bat Ayin we believe that in order to learn
Torah properly we must work on becoming a fit vessel to absorb Torah within
our entire being. When we perform the physical exercises of Yoga we do not
adhere to the religious intentions which the masters from India originally
imbued within their various positions, Chas V'Shalom. For us Yoga is not a
goal in itself, but only a means to maintain balance and health. Attached
are the answers I received from various Rabbinical authorities on the issue:
Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein Shelita: Dear Chana Bracha, Hi, I'm a secretary at
Diaspora Yeshiva and I was the one who sent the reply to your e-mail about
Yoga. I asked Rebbetzin Goldstein and she gave me a Hebrew quote which I
sent as an attachment. Since you haven't gotten it the second time around,
I'll try transliterating that part in English. The Rebbetzin said, "Chachmah
BaGoyim Tamin, Aval Torah Al Tamin." the goyim know the human body. The main
thing is your kavanah (intention). Our intention is purely physical; health,
breathing and exercising every limb. Yoga is widely used for this purpose
and has been for many years.". I want you to know that she consulted with
her husband, Rav Mordechai Goldstein, the Rosh Yeshiva after she received
your message, just to confirm that this was correct. Sincerely, Feigy
Rabbi Mordechai Becher Shelita (Ohr Sameach's Ask the Rabbi:) We must
distinguish between the exercises and the philosophy. The philosophy is
Avodah Zara without doubt. However the exercises have clear physical benefit
and are based on rational ideas. As the Code of Jewish Law states: Code of
Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 178:1 It is forbidden to follow the ways of the
pagans... Ramah: But this is only forbidden in regards to customs of the
pagans that are based on sexual immorality... or a statute of their religion
that has no logical reason, in which case we suspect that it is blemished
with pagan [symbolism]... but other customs of pagans that have [tangible
physical] benefit are permitted. Hence Rav Yoel Schwartz maintains that to
perform Yogic exercises is permitted, but to study the philosophy or use
their mantras in meditation etc. is prohibited. Sincerely, Rabbi Mordechai
Rabbi Yitchak Ginsburgh Shelita: Dear Chana Bracha, Bracha v'shalom. Rabbi
Ginsburgh has received your email, and requested that we send you the
following reply, which is an answer to the oft-asked questions about the
Torah view on various healing methods. We hope that you find it helpful. All
wisdom must derive from the Torah. Yoga has negative energy which is
connected to Avodah Zarah, and is thus pasul, even if the person practicing
does not have these negative thoughts. The "claim" to be one of the ancient
teachings that Avraham Avinu sent east with his sons does not sound serious.
Were it serious, it would be even worse, for the 'gifts" that Avraham Avinu
sent east with his non-Jewish, idolatrous sons (of his maid-servant Ketura)
were in fact "impure names [mantras]," i.e., names and practices for the
spiritually impure. They are certainly not for Jews (the descendants of
Yitzchak [and Yaacov], that in order that he not mix with them and learn
from them, Avraham sent his other, foreign sons away). Surely, everything on
"the other side" has its parallel in the "side of holiness." In addition to
the spiritual (and physical) practices and disciplines which we have
received directly from our forefathers and from Sinai, one of the essential
powers inherent in our Torah is its ability to "clarify" and "redeem"
fallen, Divine sparks, scattered throughout reality, especially in the
foreign garb of non-Jewish wisdoms and spiritual practices. The beginning of
any "clarification" process based upon Torah (and how much the more so with
regard to any wisdom or practice which we have directly inherited from our
tradition) is renouncing the non-Jewish "name" (in which inheres the
spiritual source) attached to and identified with the wisdom or practice to
be clarified. A "name" implies a total "way" and philosophy. "Clarification"
always relates to (good) "points," never to complete "ways" (in which the
good "points" are in exile). Therefore, the very usage of the name "yoga,"
whether prefaced with the word "Jewish" or not, does not allow for true
clarification (in fact the juxtaposition of the two terms "Jewish yoga" is
shatneiz). Feel free to write to the Rav with further questions. Kol Tuv,
Dovid Shirel, Rabbi's Personal Assistant Gal Einai Institute POB 1439 Kiryat
Arba 90100, Israel Tel: 02-996-1123 Fax: 02-996-2888
Sincerely, Chana Bracha
This e-mail, including any attachments, may contain information that is
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Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 00:31:36 -0500 (CDT)
From: "Shoshanah M. & Yosef G. Bechhofer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: VIDC Delay
With our upcoming NY junket, I am a tad distracted this week, and will be
out of town (Chicago - and in town - NY) Thurs. through Tues.
So let's extend this past week's VIDC into next week.
Especially since I have not yet seen response to my call for diyyuk iin
the Rambam's lashon. ;-)
Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
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Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 21:09:09 -0400
From: Micha Berger <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: Yoga and avodah zara
On Tue, Apr 24, 2001 at 08:31:29PM -0400, Feldman, Mark wrote:
: Someone questioned my taking secular Hatha Yoga classes, and suggested that
: that might be considered Avodah Zara.
Actually I suggested that it might be darchei ha'Emori, even if divorced
from the Hiduism.
Of the people you quoted R' Mordechai Becher raises Y"D 178:1, which is on
chukas hagoyim as much as DhE. R' Yitzchak Ginsburgh might be describing
DhE when he says, "Yoga has negative energy which is connected to Avodah
Zarah, and is thus pasul..."
R' Mordechai Kornfeld writes the following on Shabbos daf 67
> (2) "DARCHEI HA'EMORI" IN AN ACT DONE FOR "REFU'AH"
> OPINIONS: Abaye and Rava rule that any act which is done for Refu'ah does
> not constitute Darchei Emori, while anything which is not for Refu'ah
> constitutes Darchei Emori. What is considered something done for Refu'ah?
> (a) RASHI (Chulin 77b, DH Yesh) says that the category of Refu'ah
> includes a liquid, potion, or incantation which one says over a
> wound. Rashi (ibid.) explains that something done not for Refu'ah refers
> to an act which is not done "on a sick area," such as burying a Shilya
> at a junction. The PANIM MEIROS (1:36) understands Rashi to mean that we
> are allowed to do an act over the body of the sick person, but not from
> a distance. For this reason he prohibits making a amulet to be hung in
> a tree to help a baby sleep better.
> (b) RASHI here (DH sh'Yesh) defines Refu'ah as an act which works to
> heal from a medical standpoint. This would seem to exclude an incantation
> whispered over a wound.
> The RAMBAM (Moreh Nevuchim) also says that the act must have some medical
> quality to its healing ability. The RASHBA (Teshuvos 1:413) questions
> the Rambam's opinion from the case of the fox tooth, which the Rambam
> himself rules (Hilchos Shabbos 19:13) is permitted.
> (c) The RAN (Chulin 77b) quotes Rashi in Shabbos and asks, as did the
> Rashba, that the Gemara permits one to wear a fox-tooth as a sleeping
> potion even though its properties cannot be understood from a medical
> perspective. The Ran therefore defines an act for the sake of Refu'ah as
> any act which we know works to heal -- even if it works metaphysically. An
> "act done not for the sake of Refu'ah" is an act which has no known
This would imply that if Yoga works and is intended for purely medical
reasons, it would be mutar.
Micha Berger Come to the AishDas Yom Iyun on Avodas Hashem
firstname.lastname@example.org Sunday, April 29th 2001, 12:00 - 2:00pm in
<http://www.aishdas.org> Kew Gardens Hills, Queens NY! For more info,
(973) 916-0287 see <http://www.aishdas.org/yomiyun.html>.
Go to top.
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 14:27:46 +1000
From: "SBA" <email@example.com>
Subject: lack of shliach tzibbur until right before borchu
From: "Seth Mandel" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> ....This is one of the minhogim of the Vilner Gaon that were adopted by
> virtually all yeshivas. In the Ma'ase Rav he says that the ShaTz doesn't
> start until yishtabbah. Not only did all the European yeshivos follow
> it, but the talmidim of the Gro also made this standard in most Ashk'naz
> minyonim in EY
ALL European yeshivos!? Methinks not...
Maybe in Lita - but I haven't heard of this in Poland, Hungary, Galicia etc.
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Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 13:40:58 +0200
From: "Seth & Sheri Kadish" <email@example.com>
Subject: Sha"tz before yishtabach
People have been posting observations about various places (yeshivot,
shuls) where the sha"tz doesn't begin until yishtabach, and the possible
connection between this and eliminating "too many" kaddeshim. I myself
have always been vaguely aware that the sha"tz starting at yishtabach
existed in certain yeshivot, but I had no idea of the sources or reasons
for the minhag, or how widespread it might be. I personally am in favor
of it for reasons related to kavvana (as well as to minimize kaddeshim).
I was unaware that the Rav zt"l favored this practice, and I am
grateful for the anecdote about it.
However, in my experience, the minhag is not nearly as widespread as some
people have described. (Though I am all in favor of it, and I do *wish*
it was more widely followed!) Carl Sherer wrote that he assumes the
minhag is common in DL (=3Ddati-leumi) shuls in Israel. However, I have
never been to *any* DL shul or yeshiva where this was the practice (and
I've been in quite a lot of them). Even in my more limited experiences
in agudah circles, I have not seen this practice very often.
Perhaps the reason derives from another factor: If, as was pointed out,
this practice derives from the Gr"a, then that would explain why it is
more common in Yerushalayim, but nearly extinct outside of Yerushalayim.
In Israel outside of Yerushalayim, chasidic customs (i.e. what we
commonly call "nusach sfard") have overwhelmingly triumphed among
religious Ashkenazic Jews, even in agudah circles, but nearly 100% in
the religious-Zionist community. Minhag ha-Gr"a is very hard to find,
and in the Galil where I live it is close to non-existent.
I suspect the spread (or lack thereof) of this minhag would make for an
interesting study. I'd be grateful if people who davven in places where
this is the practice would take the trouble to consult rabbanim or gabbaim
and try to track down the sources/reasons for it. One thing I can add is
that, to the best of my knowledge, this is *only* an Ashkenazic custom.
Where I live (as is true throughout most of Israel) the religious
environment is largely Edot ha-Mizrah (North Africa, Iraq, Persia...),
and I've never seen any beit knesset with eastern customs that fails to
have all of korbanot and pesukei de-zimra read out loud, word for word,
by someone in the tzibbur, along with all the kaddeshim this involves.
(Though the sha"tz doesn't actually go up until yishtabach.) And as to
whether the practice, besides deriving from the Gr"a, was actually the
"old" Minhag Ashkenaz - I can't wait to check the wonderful volumes put
out by the Makhon Moreshet Ashkenaz organization in Bnei Brak, whose books
were discussed recently, and which so far I find to be excellent (though
I've only had a chance to read parts of one of the volumes so far).
Seth (Avi) Kadish
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Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 09:43:53 EDT
Subject: Re: Zachar vs Pakad
In Vol. 7 # 23 RMB writes:
> Eric Simon asked me the following in private email. As the answer ismy own
> conjecture, I invice others' opinions and corrections.
>: Can you tell me the difference, in a nutshell, between "zachar" and
> The basic definitions are both memory. The difference in connotation i
> sa matter of opinion.
There are Psukim and Tfilos that use both terms together (i.e.
Zochreini... Birtzom Amecha Pokdeini Byishuasecha, Ato Zocher... Ufokeid).
See MaHaRShA Rosh Hashana 32b on the difference, (the Gemara there brings
Machlokes between Rabi Yosi and Rabi Yehuda if Psukim of Pkida can be
substituted for Psukim of Zichronos).
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Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 08:44:59 +0300
From: "S. Goldstein" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> A koton doesn't have real baalus. Therefore, the petur can't carry
> over to his shor-it's not really his shor.
This is true if the katan find a shor which is hefker. However, a katan
could inherit a shor which is his d'oraisa.
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Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 08:54:03 -0400
From: "Wolpoe, Richard" <Richard_Wolpoe@ibi.com>
From: David Riceman <email@example.com>
> See the Rambam's tshuva to Chachmei Lunel. He changed his mind about this
> question based on the old tefillin he saw in EY.
I concur that archaeology can help determine Halachah.
The issue here (nidan didan) is can archaeology overturn universally
In the time of the Rambam, afaik, the issue of Tefillin was still in flux.
After all Rashi, RT and Rambam were not that far apart chronologically.
However, now, about 800 years later, the entire olam - afaik both Ashkenaz
and Sephard - pasken like Rashi and Rambam. Can we now revise Halachah based
upon newly discovered archaeological evidence?
It seems that according to the cited Shach the answer is Yes. I question
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Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2001 08:36:42 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Shabbos Elevators
Ah! His'alus! A truly appropriate topic for Avodah - I have been given
permission by RDB to share this with I\Oilem and proceed to further
discussion: Although RDB claims he is stuck in an elevator (figuratively
speaking) for the next few weeks, maybe he will be tempted to respond to
My first: Does RSZA acquiesce to RLYH's chiddush that your weight's impact
upon the elevator system is equivalent to an actual ma'aseh?
[I removed an attachment and moved it to
THE SABBATH ELEVATOR QUESTION
A Technical Analysis of
A Halakhic Problem
The analytical methods employed by the Institute for Science and Halakha
and the need for such methods are exemplifed well by an examination of the
permissibility of using an automatic elevator on the Sabbath. This subject
illustrates very clearly the importance of the Institute's guiding
principle, that it is impossible to establish a halakhic ruling without a
complete and detailed knowledge and understanding of the device under
The question of the Sabbath elevator is especially interesting because of
the conflicting decisions promulgated in the past, some permitting its use
and others forbidding it. The work of the Institue indicates that both
views are somewhat simplistic and that the halakhic conclusions were,
unfortunately, based on incomplete technical knowledge or misconception.
Comparison of even a very simplified explanation of elevator operation with
the technical data on which the halakhic reasoning was based will suffice
to prove this.
Most of the responsa on the subject, and this article as well, limit
their discussion to an automatic elevator, one that runs according to a
preset program that is not influenced by the passenger in. any way. Such an
elevator stops for a fixed predetermined time at each station and then
proceeds to the next station. A warning buzzer sounds before the doors
begin to close, thus warning the passenger not to interfere with door
closing something which would affect the program.
Automation vs the Shabbos Goy
Without considering the question of the permissiblility of a non-Jew
operating the elevator, it should be fairly evident that an automatic
program is preferable to the use of a non-Jew. As he himself does not
benefit from the elevator travel, the non-Jew might be considered to be
working only for the Jewish passenger. He may change the program to
accommodate the passenger, advance or delay the start of the travel, or
press the dispatch button for the floor he knows is desired. The automatic
program is not influenced in this manner and has no intent to work for the
INote that the comparison made here is between an automatic
program and manually-operated pushbuttons. The case of the old-fashioned
car where an operator starts and stops the motor and varies speed and
direction by moving a hand control and also opens and closes the doors by
means of a lever mechanism is somewhat different and is not considered in
Those who permitted the use of an automatic elevator based their view on
the premise that automatic operation means that the passenger does not
cause any forbidden act on the Sabbath. The car stands at the station for
exactly the same period of time whether a passenger enters it or not. It
then travels to the next stop whether there are passengers or not. If the
same events would have occurred in his absence, the presence of the
passenger, they said, has no significance. They argue, therefore, that it
is permitced to enter such an elevator, travel in it and leave it.
This is certainly a logical argument. Those who forbade the use of an
automatic elevator , however, had an equally convincing argument. It is
obvious that the energy required to lift a full car is greater than that
required to lift an empty car. The presence of a passenger and the lifting
of his weight requires electrical energy from the power lines. The supply
of this energy to lift the passenger is considered forbidden. The principle
of the conservation of energy may be enlisted to argue further that the
fulfillment of the demand by the passenger for additional electrical
current causes the burning of additional fuel at the power station. The
burning of such additional fuel might also be considered the halakhic
responsibility of the elevator passenger.
Basics of Elevator Construction
Before examining these two views more closely, it is important that we be
acquainted with the basics of elevator construction and operation. Most
electrical elevators are of the traction type. As shown in the sketch, such
elevators consist basically of a car and a counterweight hanging at
opposite ends of a cable that passes over a pulley at the top of the shaft.
An electric motor rotates the pulley to raise or lower the car. A
mechanical brake prevents rotation of the pulley when the car is parked at
a station. The use of a counterweight is an excellent means of saving
energy as the motor need not lift the entire weight of the car but must
supply energy only to move the difference between the weights at the two
ends of the cable and to overcome friction.
For the sake of simplicity, let us consider a system in which there is no
motor and in which the car and the counterweight are equal in weight. This
is a balanced system and, if stationary, has no desire to move. If the two
weights are equal and if there is no friction, it requires minimal energy
to raise or lower the car. Any imbalance, such as that caused by adding
weight to one side, will cause that side to descend and the other side to
rise with a velocity increasing linearly with time. The force that causes
the descent is obviously the weight added to the descending side.
If, as in real life, there is friction in the system, there will be
movement only when the added weight is sufficiently large to overcome the
opposing friction forces. Even if the weight added to the car is
insufficient to cause movement, it is still true that it asserts a downward
force which attempts, unsuccessfully, to cause descent. If the
counterweight were initially heavier than the car, it might happen that the
addition of quite heavy objects would be insufficient to cause car descent
or even to prevent ascent. In all cases, however, it is evident that the
added weight is trying to lower the car and is opposing the attempt of the
counterweight to raise it. If a number of individual weights are added,
each one may be considered as asserting a separate downward force, thus
taking part in the job of lowering the car.
The Passenger as a Downward Force
A real-life elevator differs from our simplified example, above, in that a
motor and often a gear train are added to aid in moving the car and that
the car and counterweight are not equal in weight but instead balanced when
the car is approximately half loaded. When the car is empty, the motor
moves the car downward against the pull of the counterweight. When the car
is half full, the two sides are balanced. With a larger number of
passengers, their weight alone, without the aid of the motor, is often
sufficient to cause descent.
In most elevators, a single passenger does not supply enough weight to
overcome the counterweight and friction. While the heavy counterweight
might still be able to raise the car and passenger without the aid of the
motor, the motor is needed to cause descent. The heavier the passenger, or
the more passengers in the car, the less energy is required from the motor.
Interestingly enough, the motor is quite "intelligent" in that it always
receives from the electric supply lines just enough energy to make up the
difference between the total energy required and the amount provided by the
To summarize for a descending car, when there are no passengers, the motor
takes sufficient current from the electric power lines to supply all the
energy required. With a small number of passengers, their weight supplies
only part of the downward force while the motor supplies the remainder.
With an almost full car, passenger weight alone is in some cases the only
downward force that moves the car. When the motor is aiding the passenger
weight in descent, it draws a current from the mains lower than that
required to lower the empty car. This value of current is incapable of
lowering the car without the participation of the passengers. In all cases,
the weight of each passenger constitutes a downward force by which he
contributes his part to the descent.
Responsibility for Descent
If the passenger constitutes a downward force and this force is a
significant cause of the descent of the elevator car, it would appear
logical to assume that the passenger is responsible for the descent and its
consequences. When the passenger load is the entire downward force, each
passenger is eino yakhol,.incapable, but the group of passengers as a unit
is capable of performing the act. When the motor participates along with
the passengers another eino yakhol has joined in the group action because
the motor, with the low current it is receiving in its present operating
condition, is also incapable of performing the act alone.
In his book Ma'aliot B'Shabbat. Rabbi Halperin proves that, according to
halakha, an act done by a person's weight on the Sabbath as a consequence
of his physical presence is considered his responsibility and is no
different from an act performed by his hands in a positive action. He also
shows that the motor's capability is to be judged by existing conditions
and not by its capabilities under other conditions.
As the passenger is responsible for the descent, we must examine just what
actions he has caused and determine if these actions are forbidden or
permitted on the Sabbath. The downward mechanical movement of the car does
not involve any infraction of Sabbath law. The modern elevator stops by
itself at the desired floor. Except for some modern, computer controlled
elevators, an electrical switch is usually located in the shaft a short
distance before each floor and another is located at the floor level. As
the car descends in the shaft, it operates these switches. The switches
then perform electrical operations to slow down the car and stop it at the
floor level. They also connect an electric motor to open the car doors. In
many cases, they turn on an electric lamp to announce the car's arrival to
people awaiting it. They may also light lamps in the car and on the landing
to denote the floor number and sometimes will sound a bell to alert
potential passengers. All these actions and many more are performed by the
car in its descent. If the passenger is responsible for the descent, he is
responsible also for illuminating the various lamps, connecting the door
motor, the brakes, and numerous other electrical circuits.
"It Would Have Happened Anyway"
Utilizing the reasoning of those who approved the use of the automatic
elevator on the Sabbath, we can argue that all of these actions would have
taken place at approximately the same time even if there had been no
passenger in the car. If we are willing to ignore for the moment the slight
increase in velocity caused by the passenger weight and the resulting
advance in time of all subsequent events, this is quite true. If the car
had been empty, the motor would have lowered the car and performed all the
actions noted above. Jewish law does not control the actions and
responsibilities of motors and does not forbid them to lower an elevator
car on the Sabbath. If the car contains passengers, however, the motor
supplies only the additional power, if required, to supplement their
weight. The power supplied by the motor under such conditions is not
sufficient to lower the car without the aid of the passengers, and
according to halakha does not release the passengers from their share of
the responsibility for the results of the descent.
From the above discussion, it can be seen that the question is not whether
or not the same action would have taken place in the absence of the
passenger but establishing responsibility for the action taking place in
the presence of the passenger. This may be illustrated by taking the
example of a non-Jew, a robot, or an automatic device, that pushes a button
every ten seconds on the Sabbath to turn a lamp repetitively on and off. A
Jew now pushes the non-]ew aside momentarily and presses the button in his
place at the same rate. The button is still being operated every ten
seconds exactly as before. When the Jew stops, the non-Jew again takes over
and continues to operate the button. The lamp goes on and off at exactly
the same rate during the entire time of our example.
Would the Jew be justified in arguing that he is not responsible for
turning the light on and off because it would have gone on and off in the
same way and at exactly the same rate even if he had been absent. Common
sense tells us that, when the non-Jew pressed the button he was responsible
for the result and when the Jew took over the operation he took over the
responsibility as well. Of course the non-Jew could have and would have
done the action by himself, but the simple fact is that he didn't.
If the argument that it would have happened anyway were valid, it would be
quite simple to devise automatic devices that would enable us to take over
from them and perform legally almost every act normally forbidden on the
Sabbath. We can see, then, that there is no significance to the question of
whether it would have happened anyway under different conditions. The
question is one of responsibility for the act being performed now under the
conditions presently existing.
The Ascending Car
We have considered thus far only the descending car. The stopping of an
ascending car at the next floor is also usually carried out by its
operating electrical switches while ascending. The passenger, however,
cannot be considered responsible for the results of this switch operation.
His weight does not aid the ascent. Just the opposite is true. The
passenger weight is pushing downward and is opposed to the lifting action
of the motor. His opposition to it certainly releases him from any
responsibility for the results of the ascent. The question we must examine
during car ascent is that raised by those who, in the past, forbade the use
of the automatic elevator on the Sabbath, namely, the question of the
responsibility of the passenger for the extra work done by the motor in
lifting the passenger weight. It is interesting to note tha, in the past,
all rabbis who considered the problem of Sabbath elevator operation
discussed only car ascent. Rabbi Halperin was the first person to realize
that there could be a problem with descent.
As we have noted above, it is necessary to know not only to define an event
but also to know how and why it happens. Only thus may we be able to
determine who bears the legal responsibility for it. It is perfectly true
that additional energy is taken from the electric lines to lift the
passenger load or, as it is expressed above, to overcome the downward force
of the passenger weight. We must now determine halakhic responsibility for
the consumption of this energy.
To determine responsibility for the increase in motor current, we must
first examine the "intelligent" behavior of the motor. The motor demands
and receives an amount of current that varies with its needs. It receives
additional current from the power lines to lift additional passengers and
receives lower currents if and as required to supplement the passenger
weight on descent.
The connection of power to an electric motor causes it to rotate. Rotation
of a motor causes the generation of an internal force within it that
opposes the flow of curren. These two phenomena take place at once. The
faster the rotation of the motor, the greater the strength of the opposing
force generated in it and the less current that will succeed in flowing
into it. At low speed, therefore, the current entering the motor is larger
and as speed increases the current consumption becomes lower.
In some types of motors this force takes the form of a counter-voltage that
opposes the flow of current. In others, the opposing force is a result of
the difference between the motor speed and the rate of reversal of the
alternating current in the power line. In all.motors, however, the result
is the same. More speed means greater opposition and less current.
This characteristic of the motor gives it "intelligence", the ability to
vary its current requirements according to load. The presence of passengers
in the ascending car makes it more difficult for the motor to accomplish
its task. Because of this increased difficulty, the motor is unable to
reach the speed it would have been able to develop when lifting an empty
car. Even a very slight decrease in speed means a lower counter-force and
therefore a higher current flow. The additional current is sufficient to
maintain a speed on ascent that is only very slightly lower than that of an
Preventing a Preventive Action
With a basic, if somewhat simplified, knowledge of what happens, we may now
analyze the action. Rotation results in a current-opposing force. The
function of this force is to prevent the entrance of current into the
motor. The presence of passenger weight prevents the development of this
preventive force to the value it would have reached with an empty car. The
reason that the motor current is greater when lifting passengers is that
their weight has prevented the counter-force from preventing the flow of
Before discussing the halakhic status of a person who prevents a preventive
action, it is worthwhile to examine the situation more closely. At the
moment the passenger enters the car, the preventive force does not yet
exist. It comes into being only after the independent program releases the
brakes and puts the car into motion. When the passenger enters the car,
therefore, he does not reduce an existing force. Only in the future, when
an independent action causes the creation of the force, will the passenger
presence then prevent that force from reaching its "normal" magnitude.
A Halakhic Parallel
Since classical Jewish law does not discuss elevators and electric motors,
we must examine a parallel or similar example of prevention of a preventive
action. Such a case exists in the Shulhan Arukh, Orach Haim 277, based on
the Talmud in Shabbat 120b. The Shulhan Arukh states that when, on the
Sabbath, a wind is liable to extinguish the candles it is permissible to
close the door or window to prevent the wind from entering. At first
glance, it would appear that there is no logical reason to require the
Shulhan Arukh to make this ruling. What possible forbidden action could
there be in preventing the blowing out of a candle? If a person is about to
perform a forbidden act and a second person prevents him from doing it, has
the second person done anything wrong? To prevent a candle from being blown
out is not an action at all and is certainly permitted.
A closer examination of the action of the wind on the candle will enable us
to understand the need for a ruling. The wind causes the candle flame to
flicker and be blown aside. When considering the oil lamp of talmudic
times, the poor contact with the wick, causes the flame to become smaller.
When the wind is blocked, the flame straightens up, grasps the wick with
better contact, obtains more fuel and becomes larger. For a person to
enlarge the flame is certainly proscribed. It is one of the basic Sabbath
prohibitions. Despite this, the Shulhan Arukh states specifically that it
Here again, a second and closer examination of the events will explain the
ruling. The action of the wind on the candle is to prevent the flame from
keeping close contact with the wick and attaining its normal large size.
The person who closes the window is preventing the wind from performing its
preventive action. This allows the flame to return to its normal larger
size.. In other words, the prevention of a preventive action is permitted
even though the result may be one that would not be permitted by direct action.
Types of Grama
In his Shulhan Arukh Harav, the Baal Hatanya adds a few explanatory words
to the ruling stating that "it does not constitute even gram hav'ara
(indirect causation of burning)". In addition to direct action, the halakha
recognizes several types of indirect causation called grama. When an action
is forbidden on the Sabbath, some types of grama are also forbidden. Other
types may be permitted under certain extenuating circumstances, and still
other types of grama are considered to be permitted. What the Baal Hatanya
is saying is that prevention of a preventive action does not even fall
within the legal category of grama. This explains why it is completely
It.was explained above that, when lifting passengers, motor current
increases as a result of its lower speed. Similarly, when the car is
descending, passenger weight causes an increase in speed which results in
lower motor current. These physical facts provide additional refutation to
the argument that "it would have happened anyway". One rabbi utilizing this
argument states that the descending passengers "cause nothing new, nor do
they change the rate of descent, neither to advance nor to delay. Even in
the absence of passengers", he states, "the events occur exactly as in
their presence". His statement that there is no change in rate of descent
is obviously the result of his being supplied with incorrect technical
In the example set forth above of the Jew who performs an act by replacing
a non-Jew, we have shown that the argument "it would have happened anyway"
is not relevant. We now see that, in addition to lack of relevancy, it is
also factually inaccurate. Passenger presence causes a change in speed both
in ascent and descent. The lowered speed in ascent causes a delay in all
subsequent events and, therefore, is not considered hillul Shabbat. In
descent, however, the passenger causes an increase in speed that advances
all the subsequent electrical operations. and thus poses a halakhic question.
Advancement of Subsequent Events
There is no doubt that passenger presence in descent causes the subsequent
electrical actions to take place sooner than they would have occurred if
the car were empty, but no halakhic conclusion can be drawn without first
examining carefully the scope and significance of kiruv melakha, advancing
an action, Such a detailed halakhic analysis and the conclusions to be
drawn from it are included in Rabbi Halperin's book, Ma'aliot b'Shabbat.
The analysis considers the definition of the issur and, among other things,
if "advancement" of an action does not, in effect, involve a cancellation
of the previously scheduled event and thus should be considered a
completely new act. In the case of the elevator motor, the changes in
velocity and total travel time between stops are quite small. It must be
established, therefore, .whether kiruv is prohibited even if infinitesimal
or only when it is perceived by the average person's senses without the aid
of instrumentation, Lastly, one must determine if there is a difference in
liability when the act involves a Torah prohibition as opposed to a
It is quite apparent that those who permitted the use of the automatic
elevator on the Sabbath were not aware that the passenger constitutes a
downward force which makes him responsible for its results, It seems
evident too, that they did not receive correct technical data concerning
the effect of the passenger on elevator speed. In some instances, it may be
discerned quite clearly that incorrect information was given by
unscrupulous persons interested in receiving a Sabbath permit for their
The knowledge that increased motor speed causes a stronger counter-force
which weakens the motor and lessens its participation in the descent
provides the proof that additional passenger weight must cause a speed
increase. The assumption that the passenger does not cause any advance in
the electrical actions leads to a contradiction, If there is no speed
increase, there is no lessening of motor current and, therefore, no
weakening of the motor. If the motor is still operating with the same
force, the addition of a passenger constitutes an increase in the sum of
the downward forces. Such an increase in total force must bring about an
increased speed which, of course. contradicts the original assumption and
establishes its falsity.
Since passenger presence does cause higher motor velocity in descent, it is
clear that the increased counter-force results in a weakening of motor
rotational force or torque. The additional downward force of passenger
weight is thus accompanied by a weakening of the downward force of the
motor. Is it possible that the two changes are equal, cancel each other,
and thus allow the total downward force and the elevator speed to remain
unchanged? While, at first glance, this might appear feasible, a second
look discloses the contradiction which proves that complete cancellation is
not possible. If the speed did not increase, the motor did not weaken. The
added passenger is then an additional downward force that must result in a
speed increase. We see, then, that added passenger weight must cause some
weakening of the motor which partially compensates for the weight increase
and thus prevents an even greater speed increase that might endanger the
A glaring example of false data being used to mislead may be seen in the
case of a noted rabbi who considered an elevator in a Jerusalem public
buillding and questioned the effect of passenger weight on motor current,
The "technical expert" explained that the elevator car weighed some five or
six thousand pounds. Certainly, a motor that lifted such a weight would not
be much influenced by the addition of a 150-pound passenger. If the rabbi
wanted to be extremely strict, however, he could request the use of a more
powerful motor. If the motor were to be twice the usual power, he said, the
effect of the average passenger would be comptetely undetectable. The rabbi
accepted these "facts" and evidently decided to be "strict" as he requested
a motor of double power. The "expert" conveniently forgot to mention that
the weight of the car is approximately balanced by that of the
counterweight and that the motor need lift only the imbalance. The
passenger is a dominant factor in changing the balance condition and the
motor reacts accordingly. This remains equalIy true when the motor is
The decision that the passenger is responsible for elevator descent leads
to another most interesting problem of great halakhic significance. When
the car is descending with a heavy passenger load it may speed up to a
point where the counter-force developed in the the motor is greater than
the force of the electric power station. When this condition occurs, the
motor, rather than aiding the descent, automatically prevents dangerous
overspeed. A motor and a generator are the same item. When power is fed
into a motor, it rotates. When it is rotated, it generates power and is
called a generator. When the speed of a motor increases to a value above
that for which it was designed, it automatically becomes a generator.
Instead of consuming electrical energy it generates power that is fed into
the electric company lines to be used by consumers in the immediate
vicinity. At normal motor speeds, the force pushing current into the motor
is stronger than the counter-force. The result is that current enters the
motor which. of course, causes it to rotate. At above normal speed. the
counter-force is sufficiently large to overcome the inward force thus
causing a reversal of current direction with power being fed by the motor
into the power lines.
The use of this phenomenon to prevent further increase in motor speed is
easily understood when one realizes that the more power that is consumed,
the more difficult it becomes to rotate a generator. When there is an
increase in the use of electrical power, power stations find it difficult
to turn the generators and, therefore, burn additional fuel to supply the
energy required to maintain generator speed. When they cannot supply the
demand, the difficulty in rotating the generators causes a brownout or even
a complete power failure. In the elevator motor too, when it operates as a
generator, the use by neighboring consumers of the power it generates makes
its rotation more difficult, thus preventing speed increase. In terms of
conservation of energy, we may say that instead of using the energy
generated by passenger weight pulling on the car to increase speed and
kinetic energy, it is converted into electrical energy to light lamps and
operate electrical equipment in the vicinity.
In many elevators, the car is slowed down and stopped by generation of
energy which, when used by electric company subscribers, causes the braking
action. In other words. the elevator is stopped by gradually changing its
kinetic energy of movement to electrical energy. As the electrical energy
is taken out of the system and used up, the car slows down and stops. Many
kilowatts of power are generated during slowdown. If the power generated is
not used, the car will not slow down but continue to increase its speed.
A Miniature Power Station
If a person is responsible for acts performed by his weight, we see that
the passenger in the descending nearly full elevator is responsible for
operating a miniature electric power station in competition with the public
utility company and is supplying electric lights and power to the
neighbors. It should also be evident that the passenger requires that
the power generated by his weight be utilized, for otherwise the car speed
increases without control and it is impossible to slow down and stop except
by emergency measures.
The case where the passenger is also the owner of the building is of
special interest. When the elevator generates power, the watt-hour electric
meter rotates backwards and lowers the reading of the energy for which
payment must be made. The passenger-owner is not only operating his private
power station on the Sabbath, but is also being paid for it.
Parking Violations. A Weighty Problem
The problems in the Sabbath elevator are not limited to moving violations
caused by descent. There are often parking violations that take place when
a passenger enters the elevator car while it is standing at a station.
Most elevatotrs are equipped with electrical weighing mechanisms whose
function is to indicate to the control system conditions such as "passenger
in car". "full load", or "overload", or to supply exact data on load often
needed to enable proper control of acceleration and deceleration. The
weighing device is usually located under the car floor or in the suspension
system on its roof. On entering the car, the passenger operates electrical
circuits that weigh him and thus ensure proper operation under the existing
load condition. An automatic travel program for the Sabbath is certainly
not evidence that the weighing circuits are not functioning as on weekdays.
To make certain that. automatic car doors will not close on a passenger
standing in their path, many elevators are equipped with a photoelectric or
proximity detector activated by the passenger as he passes or stands in the
doorway. Additionally, all elevators have a safety device that stops the
door from closing if there is resistance to its closing movement. Release
of the door is then the final act that permits the car to travel.It is
quite obvious that every operation of such electrical mechanisms also
causes a change in the timing of the supposedly automatic travel program
and equally evident that there might be an issur in the operation of the
mechanism itself even without reference to resultant effects.
Hand Operated Doors
In some elevators, usually in older models, the outer door is hinged and
hand operated by the passenger. Since the elevator cannot be allowed to
move unless this door is closed and locked, it is necessary that electrical
circuits by connected to it. In a significant number of automatic and
so-called Sabbath elevators examined by the Institue's technicians, it was
found that releasing or closing the outer door was the final action that
connected the motor and caused the immediate commencement of travel to the
next stop. In the first paragraphs of this article it was mentioned that
all those who considered Sabbath elevators limited themselves to the case
where the passengerr does not influence the "automatic" program or
interfere with door operation. Unfortunately, in most "automatic"
elevators, this condition does not really exist.
This short article cannot hope to survey all of the problems involved in
Sabbath operation of the automatic elevator. We can only hope to make the
reader aware that such problems exist and to indicate the technical
knowledge and thought processes brought into play in their analysis. Rabbi
Halperin's book goes into all the problems and their solutions in great
detail together with the basis for his halakhic decisions and the reasoning
Even when analysis by halakhic reasoning shows that an act should be
permissible, this does not necessarily mean that the rabbis will permit the
act. They must examine also other aspects of the act and the possible
results and ramifications of its performance. Among other considerations,
they must take into account what will pass through the mind of the person
witnessing the act and whether the results of the act might cause
revolutionary changes in the traditional characteristiocs of the Sabbath.
In the case of the automatic elevator, the scholars of the Institute for
Science and Halakha under the guidance of the eminent Rabbi Levi Yitzhak
Halperin, have not felt it necessary to ban the use of the halakhically
permissible elevator because of such secondary considerations. Rabbi
Halperin has ruled that all actions resulting from car descent are the
responsibility of the passengers whose weight is a factor causing the
descent. On the other hand, the increase in motor current caused by
passenger presence in ascent is not their halakhic responsibilty in most
elevators. Needless to say, it is not permitted to enter any elevator
equipped with the usual weighing mechanisms or where entry may cause
releveling of the car or activate door controlling devices. In the case of
hinged outer doors, one must not open or close such doors unless it is
certain that in doing so one does not operate any electical circuits.
Solutions have Been Developed
From the insight gained in examination of a few of the halakhic problems,
one can see that the answer to the question of operating automatic
elevators on the Sabbath is neither simple nor obvious. The rabbis and
engineers of the Institute have labored a number of years in examining
every action that takes place in many different types of elevators and have
designed elevator systems that meet all halakhic requirements for automatic
Sabbath operation. Many such elevators are in operation in Israel and
countries around the world..
Beware the Garden Variety of Automatic Elevator
While it is possible, in principle, to modify almost any automatic elevator
to make it a Sabbath elevator, it is not often done and many still assume
that the "common" automatic elevator is permissible. To correct this
misconception we have attempted here to illustrate by a few examples the
methods of establishing halakhic responsibility through understanding of
technical devices. Such technical knowledge, properly analyzed, is a
prerequisite to halakhic decisions that conform with the laws and
traditions handed down to us through the generations.
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