Avodah Mailing List

Volume 09 : Number 086

Tuesday, September 3 2002

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 1 Sep 2002 12:20:06 -0400 (EDT)
From: Shalom Carmy <carmy@ymail.yu.edu>
Re: My 9/11 Miracle, More Or Less

On Fri, 30 Aug 2002, Feldman, Mark wrote:
> RMB:
>> If we're to thank Hashem for saving us from some danger
>> think how much we need to thank Him when HQBH keeps the sakanah away
>> altogether!

> This approach certainly works well according to Rav Dessler.  However,
> according to the way Rabbi Carmy (in his "Suffering" book) explained RYBS
> shitah based on/modifying the Rambam, people are subject to nature except
> that to the extent they deserve it, they are subject to varying amounts of
> hashgacha pratis...

In strictly halakhic terms, there is no obligation to say ha-gomel unless
the danger is tangible & this raises problem of berakha l'battala. In
strictly halakhic terms one does not say hallel every day, though one does
say psukei d'zimra every day.

Within a halakhic philosophy, these issues are not just a question of
berakha l'battala. There are different kinds of gratitude and praise
and the Halakha helps us to define the quality of each experience.


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Date: Sat, 31 Aug 2002 23:43:48 -0400
From: kennethgmiller@juno.com
Re: Teiku


R' Joel Rich asked <<< How do others understand teku - that it will be
through superior intellect or intuition or broad enough shoulders to
make a call in unclear areas? >>>

Here's my guess: Eliyahu/Moshiach/whoever will be such a Talmid Chacham
that he'll be able to pull sources together which we've had all along,
but we didn't put it together the way he will. He'll bring sources and
arguments which were available even to the amoraim who couldn't come
to a definitive conclusion. But we'll see his raayos, and realize that
he's right.

Perhaps it will start with small things, like resolving a machlokes
rishonim which centuries of acharonim were unable to resolve. But he'll
explain it in such a way that all groups will end up following one rishon
or the other. And they'll do it out of a conviction that this rishon is
the *correct* one, not from a logic which says "be machmir and safe", or
"it's d'rabanan so go mekil". Gradually his reputation will gather steam
thoughout the Torah world. He'll resolve greater and greater problems,
and his solutions will be accepted by more and more groups.

That's my daydream, anyway. (And that's just the "tayku" part. He'll
also be a charismatic leader, and his influence will spread beyond the
various minhag-groups, reaching the not-yet-frum and bringing them all
back to Torah. But that's a whole 'nother post.)

This might be what RJR meant by "superior intellect", but it's NOT what
he meant by "broad shoulders". "Broad shoulders" means that he has his
reputation first, and such a reputation that everyone is willing to
rely on his resolution of the teikus. I'm suggesting the exact opposite:
figuring out the teikus is how he'll *get* the reputation.)

Akiva Miller

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Date: Sun, 1 Sep 2002 10:10:22 -0400
From: kennethgmiller@juno.com
Eating fish in treif restaurant

In an unrelated thread on Areivim, I wrote <<< I don't care whether
eating fish in a treif restaurant is ... or not. I do care whether it's
muttar or not. Let's stay on topic. >>>

R' Simcha G wrote <<< its assur...kosher fish cooked in 'treif keilim'
is treif...unless you want to be 'mefalpul'... was it cooked in a 'keli
ben yomo'?...is the 'bliah' in a treif keli considered 'Noisan taam
lfgam'?..was the cook a yid so there won't be a problem with 'bishul
akum'?...but that discussion would have to be in the 'avodah list' >>>

Those questions are precisely why I left my post sort of vague. It was
off-topic in the Areivim thread, but now that we've switched gears,
I am bringing the discussion here to Avodah.

R' Moshe Feldman asked <<< Query: sociologically, how did otherwise
kosher people even begin think that it's OK to eat fish out? Was it the
kind of reasoning that it's probably just an issur d'rabanan, so it's
not that bad.... >>>

There are a lot of people on-list who know more Yoreh Deah than I do, but
to this am haaretz, I do indeed suspect exactly as RMF suggests, that it
is difficult for me to construct a case where fish in a treif restarant
is a *vadai d'Oraisa*, at least from an unlearned person's perspective.

If a person orders a kosher species in a treif restaurant, the first
question is relying on the cook that this is in fact a kosher species.
One answer is that there a some dishes where the fish's identity is clear
to the customer, such as when some or most skin is still on. And even
if not, does that make it *vadai* assur d'Oraisa? Or only safek d'Oraisa?

Next, we have the points raised by RSG about bliah and ben yomo. So
much is written about this in the poskim, that I can't help but believe
that these situations came up on a regular (or at least occasional)
basis in centuries past. I'd love to hear more from the historians about
the various circumstances. I suppose one might say that most or all of
those writings involved milchik and fleishik keilim that got mixed up,
but I'm pretty sure that some of it involved treif ones as well. When
they wrote that "stam keilim ainam bnei yoman", what sort of situations
was it for, if not eating from the kitchen of a non-Jew or a non-frum
Jew? My point in this paragraph is that from a *keilim* perspective,
fish in a treif restaurant might actually be mutar even d'rabanan,
not only d'Oraisa, especially if this particular restaurant was closed
yesterday for whatever reason.

Which brings us to the point that RSG raised of bishul akum. This is
pretty tough to avoid, unless the fish is of a sort that's not oleh al
shulchan melachim. But even if it is, bishul akum is only d'rabanan,
as R' Moshe Feldman posited in his query.

As long as we're on the topic of bishul akum, I'd like to raise a
question which I've asked in the past, but I haven't been satisfied with
any answers I got, and it is very relevant to the question at hand. I
don't know at what point in history bishul akum became a halacha to be
careful about, but I think that I would be correct in saying that at
some point in history, there was indeed a day (or year, or decade) such
that there were certain situations and foods which were mutar beforehand
but were forbidden afterward. I am looking for an example of such a food
or situation.

It would have to be a cooked solid food, and one which is oleh al
shulchan melachim. It would also have to be one where -- prior to the
halacha of bishul akum -- a non-Jew could cook it with zero Jewish
involvement and I could eat it without worrying about the kashrus of
the kelim involved. On top of all that, it would be a situation which
might lead to intermarriages, but the involvement of even a single
Jew throwing a single splinter into the fire would remedy that fear
of leading to intermarriage. This leads me to think that we're *not*
talking about a non-Jewish maid who does the cooking in a Jewish home,
as I don't see where there is an intermarriage fear in such a case,
since it is a Jewish home.

If the intention was to put some social distance between the non-Jewish
maid and the Jewish family, what is added by the requirement for a
Jew to throw the splinter in the fire? What does that accomplish that
isn't already accomplished by watching to make sure she doesn't mix
up the milchiks and fleishiks? Rather, it seems to me that it must be
about eating in a *non*-Jewish home or inn. And in such a case, how do
they know anything about the kashrus of the kelim? If they *did* have
some sort of way to know about the kashrus of the keilim, surely that
involvement surpasses the involvement of throwing a splinter in the fire.

I think we can see my point even more clearly if we compare Pas Palter
(which they tried to asser, but is still mutar even today) and Pas Akum
(which they did asser, but was mutar once upon a time). I can see where a
Palter, a professional baker, could be in a position where it is common
knowledge that the all breads he bakes are ones which use only kosher
ingredients, and so there are no problems with the kashrus of his ovens
either. But a private Akum? An individual non-Jewish balabos? He must
be awfully rich to have a separate oven which he uses only for plain
(i.e., kosher ingredients) bread. Nah, doesn't sound too likely too me;
chazal don't bother forbidding things which are very rare. And they also
would not have bothered to forbid Pas Akum if there were solid arguments
to say that the bread was already treif on account of the ingredients
or oven being untrustworthy. So there must have been a metzius at some
point in our history in which it was not uncommon to eat bread baked at
home by an ordinary neighborhood non-Jew, despite any fears about what
else he used his oven for.

Okay, this post is longer than I had planned, so let's wrap it up. Can
someone offer an explanation why 2500 years ago I could have gone to my
neighbor and eat his home-baked bread in his house, and lots of other
things as well, but today I am not able to eat a slice of salmon there
(presuming that I recognize it as salmon and it's not oleh al shulchan

(And a DISCLAIMER for those listmembers who read things which were never
written: I never said that it's mutar to eat fish in a treif restaurant.
I just want to know why it is asser.)

Akiva Miller

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Date: Sun, 1 Sep 2002 10:31:26 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
Slits in Skirts... Tznius in Women's Clothing

Mrs. Toby Katz Wrote: 
> <<When my students in Bais Yakov asked me about slits, I told them,
> "You girls think they're harmless because you are pure and innocent.
> To really explain this to you I would have to spoil your innocence.

This issue has been discussed before. I have always been at a loss as
to why issues of Tznius in dress have been so ridgedly interpreted by
some of our Batei Yaacov. In fact I believe that it is not taught but
rather indoctrinated. I mean by that that Tznius in dress is often
taught as a euphemismm for Ervah. 

Ervah is distinct from Tznius in Dress. Ervah is the uncovering of
portions of a woman's body that violate biblical injunctions as defined
by Chazal. And even that definition is not so clear beacause of Chazalic
statements like Tefach B'Isha Ervah. But it can never-the-less be clearly
stated that Ervah violations are mandated by Torah injunction and are
Assur L'Chol Hadeios at a D'oraiso level.
For practical purposes this means that any portion above the kneecaps
or below the neckline that is exposed is Ervah.

Tznius in Dress goes beyond Ervah and is subject to community
standards. IOW it is a SUBJECTIVE , and not objective standard. As long
as the Ervah requirements are covered, Tznius becomes a relative issue.

This brings us to the "Slits in Skirts" issue. Slits are not inherently
Assur if the are below the kneecap. In a society like America or even
Israel where Tznius in dress does not really exceed Ervah itself it
should be entirely Mutar for a woman to don such clothing without fearing
violation of either Ervah or Tznius.

Issues of Tznius are related to whether they cause Hirhurim. But Hirhur is
a relative trait. It is a function of societal norms. In Muslim societies
for example, where women are covered up head to toe, exposure of just an
eye or toe can cause Hirhur. In such societies Jewish women would then
be required by Halacha to dress in the same manner as the rest of that
society covering up their entire bodies including the head.

What about Slits in Skirts that are below the kneecap? I once remember
someone reffering to the "peek-a-boo" effect that even slits below the
knee have. That is... the idea of seeing something one is not supposed to
eventhough in reality the exposure of leg that is visible with such slits
is well below the kneecap. I don't accept that as a source of Hirhur
in American or Israeli culture. Can such dress cause Hirhur in some
people? Sure. But to some people just looking at a telephone pole will
cause Hirhur. The question is what is the norm in any given society. We
cannot fall victim to the attitude that one must legislate Takanos even
for the Miyut. There are many people with abnormal sex drives in the
world. We can't possibly legilate preventive modes of dress for all
of them.

This does not mean that there can't legitmately exist sub strata of Am
Israel that wish to incorporate standrdards they deem higher forms of
Tznius for for their constituants. Satmar Chasidim for example beleive
that seemless stockings do not fall within the parameters of Tznius and
someone who wears such "Durzeyifdikeh Zaken" violate Tznius issues. But it
is a subjective decision on their part and not a universally accepted one.

For a Beis Yaakov to categorically Assur slits below the kneecap as a
violation of Tznius seems to me, at the very least, to be a refusal to
recognize that there is room for disagreement as to whether it actually
IS Tznius or not, and worst an attempt assert one's own personal views
as Halacah P'Suka on unsophisticated young minds who will then teach it
as Halacha P'Suka to the next generation without ever questioning it.


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Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002 09:35:11 EDT
From: T613K@aol.com
Re: Avodah #83 Teaching goyim Torah

In a message dated 8/28/02 3:49:09 PM Eastern Daylight Time, T613K writes:
> The Maharatz Chajes and Netziv held that it is mutar to teach Torah
> SheBiChsav to a Gentile. Most others disagree.

As mentioned in a previous post, my husband, R. Michael Katz, taught
Noahide classes in Tennessee in the '80's. He found something in Igros
Moshe--I'll have to leave it to you talmidei chachamim to find it,
because he is too busy to help me right now.

It has to do with a mitzva in P. Ki Savo, Dev.27:1-8. Moshe Rabbenu is
told to erect and plaster large stones, to write the Torah on them, and
to place them by the Jordan River. In pasuk ches he is told to write
on the stones "Be'er hetev" on which Rashi says, "beshivim lashon."
R. Moshe says, "Who was supposed to read them?" Obviously, the goyim.

Toby Katz

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Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002 14:41:33 -0400
From: "Feldman, Mark" <MFeldman@CM-P.COM>
Re: Teaching goyim Torah

>         .... It seems to me that
>: this would apply to the Chumash going all the way back to the Septuagint
>: (Targum haShivim), and that necessarily, if you could teach them Chumash...

> We morn the writing of Targum Shiv'im. It's the reason for a fast day
> in Mefillas Ta'anis on 8 beteives and associated with 10 beTeves. So I
> would this this is a ra'ayah against.

My father has a different explanation as to why we mourn the writing of the
Septuagint: we mourn it because it allowed Alexandrian *Jews* to study Torah
in Greek rather than Hebrew and that caused Hebrew to fall into disuse,
eventually leading to the assimilation of that community.  

Kol tuv,
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld (www.BlackBerry.net)

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Date: Mon, 2 Sep 2002 23:06:04 -0400
From: "Joseph Mosseri" <JMosseri@msn.com>
Ancient form of Kaparot still in vogue.

I recently published a slightly longer version of the attached article in
Eshkolot: Essays in Memory of Rabbi Ronald Lubofsky (Hybrid Publishers,
Melbourne, 2002), of which I was the managing editor. The article deals
with the ancient origins of the Egyptian Jewish custom of growing wheat
sprouts before Rosh Hashanah. It may be of interest at this time of
the year.

Tizkou leshanim rabot.

Andrew Strum,
Melbourne, Australia



Until its virtual dispersal in the two decades following the establishment
of the State of Israel in 1948, the Egyptian Jewish community could
rightfully claim its place as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, of
the Jewish communities in the Diaspora. There was a continuous Jewish
presence in Egypt from at least the fifth century before the Common Era,
and possibly earlier. The Bassatine cemetery on the outskirts of Cairo,
in which the Jews of Cairo have been buried since before the second
millennium of the Common Era, is the oldest continuous Jewish burial
ground in the Diaspora. And yet, despite its antiquity, Egyptian Jewry
was one of the least homogenous Jewish communities, being a community
to which there was a constant flow of migration. Thus, for example,
at various stages during the second millennium of the Common Era, the
community was generally divided between the Shamiyin (the so-called
Palestinian Jews) and the Iraqiyin (the Babylonian Jews); then between
the Musta'arabeen (the Middle-Eastern Jews) and the Ma'arabeen (the
North African Jews); then between the Musta'arabeen (the native Jews)
and the Sephardim (the descendants of the Jews exiled from the Iberian
Peninsula in the late fifteenth century); or between the Musta'arabeen
and the Lo'azim (the foreign Jews generally). By the nineteenth century,
the ranks of Egyptian Jewry were considerably swelled by migrants from
Syria and Iraq, from Turkey and Greece, from the Maghbreb, from Italy
and from the Ashkenazi world. Nevertheless, there emerged over the
centuries, a distinct Minhag Mitsrayim - an Egyptian Jewish rite, which
was the subject of three books in the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries: Minhagei Mitsrayim, by my ancestor Rabbi Yomtob Israel-Cherezli
(Jerusalem, 1820-1891) (Chief Rabbi of Cairo, 1866-1891), on the customs
of the Jews of Cairo (first published in Jerusalem in 1873); Neveh
Shalom, by Rabbi Eliahou Behor Hazan (Izmir, 1848 - Alexandria, 1908)
(Chief Rabbi of Alexandria, 1888-1908), on the customs of the Jews of
Alexandria (first published in Alexandria in 1893); and Nahar Mitsrayim,
by Rabbi Raphael Aharon Benshimon (Rabat, 1848 - Tel Aviv, 1928) (Chief
Rabbi of Cairo, 1891-1921), on the customs of the Jews of Cairo (first
published in Alexandria in 1908). Further, the customs of the Jews of
Egypt were extensively referred to by Rabbi Shemtob Gaguine, a dayan of
the Cairo Bet Din between 1913 and 1919, in his magnum opus Keter Shem
Tob. None of these rabbis, however, refer to the following custom.

In many Egyptian Jewish families, about a week to ten days before Rosh
Hashana, grains of wheat (or, if not readily available, barley or lentils)
are scattered on a piece of damp cotton wool in a small plate or shallow
bowl which sprout in time for the New Year. Early in the New Year, usually
after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, ten days later, the sprouts
are discarded. I have not encountered reference to the practice of this
custom in any other Jewish community other than that of or originating
from Egypt. Whilst this custom is widespread amongst Egyptian Jews,
surprisingly it is not referred to by Rabbis Israel-Cherezli, Hazan,
Benshimon or Gaguine or in any other rabbinical works. Indeed, I have only
found it referred to in writing, albeit briefly, by the late Egyptian
Jewish historian Jacques Hassoun, in his article Chroniques de la Vie
Quotidienne published by him, together with other articles, in Juifs du
Nil (Editions Le Sycomore, Paris, 1981). Hassoun writes (at page 147):

One week before the New Year, children place cotton wool in shallow
bowls and plant wheat that will sprout just in time for the New Year.

One week after the New Year, the eve of Kippur arrives. Two or three days
before that date, the Jews, even those who live in the better suburbs,
place chickens in their bathrooms or on their terraces. A rooster for
each male member of the family, a hen for each woman or female child of
the family, will be sacrificed on the eve of the Day of Atonement. ...

In the first passage, Hassoun refers to the custom mentioned above, which
is particular to Egyptian Jewry. In the second passage, Hassoun refers
to the custom of kapparot largely practised throughout the Sephardi and
Ashkenazi worlds.

What are the origin and the meaning of the custom of growing sprouts of
wheat in the days prior to Rosh Hashana? Is it a simana milta, an omen in
the nature of the others prescribed by the Talmud for Rosh Hashana? The
Talmud prescribes that -

at the beginning of each year a person should make it his habit to eat
[alternatively, to look at] gourds, fenugreek, leeks, beets and dates.

See Tractate Horayot, 12a and Tractate Keritut, 6a.

Whilst the prevalent custom is to eat certain foods at Rosh Hashana,
the names of which are, or which are similar to, good omens (Tractate
Keritut, 6a), there was a divergence of views in ancient times whether
one was required to eat these foods or merely to look at them (Tractate
Horayot, 12a).

Thus, is freshly sprouted wheat merely a good omen for the New Year, which
is to be looked at, in accordance with the view expressed in Tractate
Horayot, 12a? Indeed, the custom of the old Sephardi families of France
was to scatter grains of wheat on the table at which the festive meals
were eaten on both evenings of Rosh Hashana as a portend of abundance for
the New Year. See Erekh Ha-Tefilot: Prieres des Grandes Fetes a l'Usage
des Israelites du Rite Sefarad, Rosch Haschana, French translation by A.
Crehange, Librairie Durlacher, Paris, 1927, pp 154-155.

Further, is the custom of Jewish origins or was it borrowed by the
Jews of Egypt from their neighbours? Other religious communities in
Egypt, including the Christian Copts (allegedly descended from the
ancient Egyptians), practised a similar custom at certain of their
festivals. In the Christian communities of the Middle East generally,
and indeed in some Christian communities along the Mediterranean shores
including as far west as Provence, in the south of France, wheat was
germinated on Saint Barbara's Day on 4 December. Saint Barbara was a
third century Christian martyr who was allegedly killed by her father,
Dioscorus, for espousing Christianity. According to some traditions,
she was martyred at Nicomedia (Izmit) in Turkey whilst, interestingly
for present purposes, other traditions place her martyrdom at Heliopolis,
in Egypt! It is also interesting to note that the ancient Coptic church
of Saint Barbara in Fustat (Old Cairo), which dates back to the late
seventh century, adjoins the famous Ben Ezra synagogue, known in earlier
times as Keniset el-Shamiyin or Keniset Yerushalmiyin as it had been
originally the synagogue of the Palestinian Jews.

The ancient Egyptians engaged in a similar practice in connection with
Osiris, who was, inter alia, their god of fertility and of rebirth and
renewal of life. Osiris was believed by the ancient Egyptians to grant
all life from the underworld, from sprouting vegetation to the annual
flood of the Nile. The New Encycopedia Britannica states:

Osiris festivals symbolically reenacting the god's fate were celebrated
annually in various towns throughout Egypt. A central feature of
the festivals was the construction of the "Osiris garden", a mold in
the shape of Osiris, filled with soil and various drugs. The mold was
moistened with the water of the Nile and sown with grain. Later, the
sprouting grain symbolized the vital strength of Osiris.

The Dictionnaire de la Civilisation Egyptienne (Fernand Hazan (ed.),
Paris) states, in relation to the Osiris festivals, that many aspects
thereof celebrated Osiris' role as god of the land and its produce.

They took place at the beginning of the fourth month of the Egyptian year,
when the annual flooding of the Nile began to recede and the submerged
fields began to re-emerge, ready to be sown. Small figurines in the form
of Osiris were fashioned of moist clay and filled with grains, which were
placed on a base. After a few days, the grains sprouted and a small growth
appeared, the outline of which was in the shape of the clay figurine in
which they had germinated (literally "which had given birth to them"). .
Thus, like its god, the soil of Egypt, after its annual death in the
burning heat of summer, was reborn after the retreat of the floodwaters
of the Nile, ready for a new growth of life. Do contemporary Egyptians,
who still sow lentils on moist cotton wool to sprout for certain religious
festivals, realise the ancient origins of this practice?

It is interesting to note that in Ancient Egypt this custom was practised
at the time of the annual flooding of the Nile. Until their dispersal in
the twentieth century, the Jews of Cairo (situate on the banks of the
Nile) when the Nile first flooded each year, refrained from performing
nefilat apayim (tahanun) or regular supplications (which are not performed
on festive or celebratory occasions) and recited the shehehiyanu blessing,
praising God for having kept them in life and preserved them and enabled
them to reach that season. See Minhagei Mitsrayim (1873), p. 3a, para. 27
and Nahar Mitsrayim (1908), p. 6b, para. 4 and p. 14a, para. 4.

Did the Jews of Egypt merely adopt the custom of growing sprouts from
their Egyptian neighbours? The answer might be found in the commentary
of Rashi (France, 1040-1105) to Tractate Shabbat, 81b, where he states:

In the Responsa of the Geonim I have found that [in the days of the Sages
of the Talmud] they made baskets from palm fronds and filled them with
soil and dung and twenty-two or fifteen days before Rosh Hashana each
and every one made one for each and every male and female child of the
household and sowed in it Egyptian beans [ie cow peas] or pulses and
it was called purpesa [parpisa] and it sprouted. And on the eve of Rosh
Hashana everyone took his own and circled it around his head seven times
saying: "This in lieu of this; this is my exchange; this is my substitute"
and then threw it into the river.

There seems to be an internal inconsistency in Rashi's account. Was this
custom practised only for the children of the household, as is first
suggested, or for all members of the household, as is later suggested?
Whatever be the answer, this practice in Talmudic times, as recounted
by the Geonim and later Rashi, is remarkably similar to the Egyptian
Jewish custom the subject of this article and as described above by
Jacques Hassoun. It is, however, also similar to the ancient Egyptian
practice. Was the Jewish practice in Talmudic times (if not before)
somehow derived from or related to the ancient Egyptian practice?

This practice in Talmudic times is the origin of the custom of kapparot,
the expiation of sin by its symbolic transferral. It has, since then,
undergone several changes. Firstly, since Geonic times this custom has
been practised with chickens (see Rabbi Solomon Ben Adret, responsum
no. 395, who writes that it was so practised in the days of Hai Gaon
(Pumbedita, Babylonia, 939-1038)). In more recent times, it has been
alternatively been practised with coins which are then donated to
charity. Secondly, whilst in Talmudic times it was practised on the eve
of Rosh Hashana, since Geonic times it has been practised usually on the
eve of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Thirdly, whereas the custom
in Talmudic times was to throw the sprouts into the river, the custom
since Geonic times has been to slaughter the chickens and generally
donate them to the poor. Fourthly, whereas the custom in Talmudic times
was to circle the sprouts around the head seven times, the custom since
Geonic times has been to do so only three times.

That the custom of kapparot was originally practised more for children
rather than for adults (as is suggested by Rashi and by Hassoun) is also
suggested by Rabbi Solomon Ben-Adret in his Responsa (no. 395).

Rabbi Jacob Hayim Sofer (Baghdad, 1870 - Jerusalem, 1939) in his
commentary to the Shulhan Arukh entitled Kaf Ha-Hayim discusses the
Talmudic and Geonic/post-Geonic forms of kapparot (Orah Hayim, 605 -
vol. 8, pp. 40b-41a, para. 22) and writes that:

one who is unable to take a rooster and who does not have money to circle
over his head in place of a rooster should do this,

i.e. circle sprouts over his head as in Talmudic days!

Rabbi Shemtob Gaguine in his Keter Shem Tob (vol. 6, pp. 221-223) remarks
that the original custom of performing kapparot with sprouts was symbolic
of the korban minhah, the Temple offerings that consisted, inter alia of
wheat or barley flour. The custom since Geonic times of using chickens
further differs from the custom in Talmudic times in that it is expressly
dissimilar to any of the Temple offerings, in which chickens were never
used. It has been suggested that chickens came to replace sprouts as
they were considered to be a substitute for the "scape-goat" azazel
which was used to expiate the sins of the people of Israel on the Day of
Atonement (see Keter Shem Tob, vol. 6, p. 222). Another explanation may
derive from the phrase "ki ha-adam 'ets ha-sadeh" (Deuteronomy, 20:19),
which the Rabbis translate as "For the tree of the field is the man",
i.e. man's life depends on the products of the soil (Sifre 127). In this
case, man's sins are expiated, and his life preserved, by the products
of the soil, namely, sprouts of wheat.

If the surviving Egyptian custom derives from the original Talmudic form
of kapparot, what then of the Geonic and post-Geonic form of kapparot
with chickens? Would the Talmudic form have continued in the Geonic and
post-Geonic era? In fact, in Egypt, the Geonic and post-Geonic form
of kapparot with chickens was practised on the eve of Yom Kippur, as
was and remains customary in other Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities,
and/or on Hosha'anah Rabbah (see Neveh Shalom, p. 25a, para. 5; Nahar
Mitsrayim, p. 43a, para. 2; Keter Shem Tob, vol. 6, pp. 223-224 &
vol. 7, pp. 150-151). If the Geonic and post-Geonic form of kapparot was
popularly practised in Egypt, why might traces of the earlier, Talmudic
form have survived?

The custom of kapparot in its Geonic and post-Geonic form with chickens
was never universally accepted and was the subject of stringent criticism
throughout the ages.

There is no evidence that the custom of kapparot in its Geonic and
post-Geonic form was practised in Egypt prior to the 17th century. There
is no reference to it in Sa'adiah Gaon's 10th century prayer book nor in
Maimonides' 12th century legal code, Mishneh Torah. Both Sa'adiah Gaon
(Fayyum, Egypt, 882 - Sura, Babylonia, 942) and Maimonides (Cordoba,
1135 - Cairo, 1204) were, of course, pre-eminent medieval Egyptian rabbis.

Nahmanides (Gerona, 1195 - Jerusalem, 1270) outlawed the custom of
kapparot on the grounds that it was an idolatrous practice - "darkhei
ha-Emori", the "ways of the Emorites".

The custom was criticised and forbidden by Rabbi Solomon Ben-Adret
(Barcelona, 1235-1310) in his responsum no. 395.

Rabbi Jacob ben Asher (Germany, 1270- Toledo, 1340) in his Turim (Orah
Hayim, 605) refers to the custom of kapparot without criticism. Whilst
written in Spain in the first half of the 14th century, the Turim reveals
great deference to the Franco-German rabbinical school, from which the
author hailed, in which the custom of kapparot was practised.

Rabbi David Abudarham, in his commentary (Seville, 1340), writes that
the custom was practised "in a few" communities in Spain but is silent
as to whether this met with his approval or not.

Rabbi Joseph Caro (Toledo, 1488 - Safed, 1575), in his Shulhan Arukh
(first published in Venice in 1565) (Orah Hayim, 605:1) refers to the
custom of performing kapparot with roosters for male children and states
that it should be prevented. Chapter 605 is commonly headed "Custom of
Kapparot on the Eve of Yom Kippur". However, in an early edition of the
Shulhan Arukh, printed in Venice in 1574 during the author's lifetime,
chapter 605 is headed "Custom of Kapparot on the Eve of Yom Kippur -
A Foolish Custom". This acerbic criticism was deleted in later editions
and remains absent from contemporary editions of the Shulhan Arukh. Given
Caro's comment that the custom of kapparot should be prevented, it is
not surprising that he referred to it as foolish custom. Indeed, Gaguine
in his Keter Shem Tob (vol. 6, p. 224) suggests that the reference to
kapparot being a foolish custom was deleted later in deference to the
Ashkenazi Rabbi Moses Isserles' approval of this custom in his commentary
to the Shulhan Arukh, first published in Cracow in 1570.

Thus, until the 16th century, we encounter silence or criticism from
the Sephardi world's leading rabbis, culminating with Rabbi Joseph
Caro's comments in his Shulhan Arukh. It is not unlikely that, in these
circumstances, the Geonic/post-Geonic form of kapparot, not referred
to by the Egyptian rabbis Sa'adiah Gaon or Maimonides, and the subject
of criticism by later Spanish rabbis, was not practised in Egypt. In the
circumstances, the survival of a remnant of the Talmudic form of kapparot,
as recalled by Rashi in his commentary, is not implausible.

It was only in the 17th century that the Geonic/post-Geonic form of
kapparot received enthusiastic rabbinic approval in the Sephardi world,
with the appearance of Sha'ar Ha-Kavannot by Rabbi Hayim Vital (Safed,
1542 - Damascus, 1620) in which he wrote that his teacher, Rabbi Isaac
Luria (Jerusalem, 1534 - Safed, 1572) (of Ashkenazi origins) had endorsed
and practised this custom. Luria had, incidentally, spent his formative
years in Egypt. With the exception of the post-Expulsion Spanish and
Portuguese Jewish communities, the remainder of the Sephardi world was
and remains heavily influenced by Lurianic Kabbalah and practice. Gaguine
(vol. 6, p. 223) writes that "the Sephardim of the Land of Israel, Syria,
Turkey and Egypt and all the cities of North Africa" seized upon the
custom of kapparot as expounded by Vital in Sha'ar Ha-Kavannot. It was,
however, not practised and generally frowned upon by the post-Expulsion
Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities which remained largely immune
from Lurianic kabbalistic influence.

That a remnant of the Talmudic form of kapparot might have survived after
the likely relatively late introduction of the Geonic/post-Geonic form of
kapparot in the 17th century, in the post-Lurianic era, is not surprising
in a Jewish community as ancient as that of Egypt, which long pre-dated
the Talmudic era. Indeed, remnants of another otherwise long-forgotten
ancient Jewish custom survived in Egypt in the Seder el-Tawhid, which
was recited at midnight on Rosh Hodesh Nissan, the commencement of the
Jewish month of Nissan (see Nahar Mitsrayim, pp. 27a-b). This custom
can be traced to the Palestinian Jewish community in Cairo in the 13th
century, and, prior thereto, to the surviving Jewish community in the
Land of Israel, where the commencement of the new month of Nissan was
celebrated as a quasi-holy day. See Ezra Fleischer, "Seder al-Tawhid"
(1999) 78 Pe'amim 75-99.

We may never know whether the Egyptian Jewish custom of sowing wheat
before Rosh Hashana, to sprout in time for the New Year, originates from
the similar custom in Talmudic times or was merely adopted by the Jews of
Egypt from their non-Jewish Egyptian neighbours and originates in ancient
Egyptian times. To paraphrase Nahmanides (above): is this custom really
"darkhei ha-Mitsriim", the ways of the Egyptians? Even if the latter be
the case, the Jews of Egypt may have justified the adoption and practice
of this custom at Rosh Hashana on the basis of its striking similarity
with the custom practiced by their ancestors in Talmudic times. Further,
it may be that the Jewish custom practised in Talmudic times (if not
earlier) was adopted or somehow originated from the ancient Egyptian
practice. Might there be some conceptual connection between the ancient
Egyptian "Osiris garden" and the Talmudic custom of kapparot with sprouts,
making kapparot truly the "idolatrous" practice referred to by Nahmanides
but in a way not envisaged by him?


Go to top.

Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 00:18:35 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: liDovid Hashem Ori....not universally recited in Ellul-Tishrei holiday se...

In a message dated 8/21/2002 4:34:10pm EDT, Phyllostac@aol.com writes:
> I also have heard that some places only say it in the morning (I believe
> such is the minhag of Yeshivas Telshe based upon the minhag of the town
> Telshe in 'der alter heim').

My shul says it only in the morning.  I'm not sure "why".

There is a pattern however of adding a kapitel after the yom
1) Shir Mizmor l'assaf {83 iirc} on days we DO say Tachanun
2) Barchi nafshi (105) on Rosh Chodesh
3) Mizmor Shir Hannukas (30) on Hanukkah

In each case above, they are recited ONLY in the morning.

OTOH, our Minhag at a beis aveil is to add Michtam leDavid {16} - Both
in the morning and the evening.
Shanah Tovah
Richard Wolpoe

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Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 00:20:59 EDT
From: RabbiRichWolpoe@aol.com
Re: liDovid Hashem Ori....not universally recited in Ellul-Tishrei holiday se...

In a message dated 8/21/2002 1:52:57pm EDT, Phyllostac writes:
> Also interesting is that others omit it as well. Someone recently told me 
> that Bobov'er hassidim omit it (entirely I believe) - R. AF or R. MS - can 
> you confirm ? A friend also just told me that KAJ in Washington Heights (at 
> least - presumably this would be at KAJ branches, e.g. Monsey, Paramus too) 
> does not say it - although it is in the Rodeleheim siddur he says (anyone 
> know about this ? - RRW? RMP?)

The Standard Roedelheim Sfas Emes Does have L'david
if you look at Roedelheim Humashim you will NOT find it mentioned at
all next to the shir shel yom etc.

Shanah Tovah
Richard Wolpoe

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Date: Tue, 3 Sep 2002 14:45:53 -0400
From: "Stein, Aryeh" <AStein@wtplaw.com>
L' dovid Hashem Ori...

> Isn't there an inyan not to say an extra kapitl Tehillim at the end of
> davening when that causes an extra kaddish to be said? [Could someone
> please provide the source for this?] (My shul doesn't have l'dovid
> Hashem ori cause an extra kaddish, but in most shuls it does.)

According to the Mateh Ephraim ("ME"), there _should_ be a kadish said
between the shir shel yom and "L' dovid Hashem" so as to make it clear
that "L' dovid Hashem" is not part of the shir shel yom.

In my shul, we don't say kadish between the two, but we blow the shofar
instead. (I suppose that the shofar works as a hefsek during Elul,
but it does not help from RH through Shemini Atzeres.)

As for not being marbeh in kaddishim, the ME brings this down when he
says that on Rosh Chodesh Elul, the tzibur should recite "L' dovid Hashem"
and Barchi Nafshi together, without a kaddish in between them.

KT and Kesiva v'Chasima Tova

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