Avodah Mailing List

Volume 16 : Number 080

Monday, January 2 2006

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 20:13:59 -0000
From: "Joshua Kay" <joshua@joshuakay.wanadoo.co.uk>
Tallis over the head

This past Shabbos, I was honoured with the kibud of davening mincha
from the omud at a charedi nusach Ashkenaz shul which purports to follow
minhag Gateshead. I was politely asked by the Gabai to remove my hat and
cover my head with the tallis. I naturally complied. However, this seems
to me to be a chassidic custom. Can anyone confirm this with sources?

I am aware that many Yekkes and Oberlanders (as R'SBA will be aware
from his shul in Melbourne) keep their hats on during davenen and do
not cover their heads with the tallis. I seem to recall seeing one of
the Rishonim justify this on the basis that pulling down the hat brim
constitutes atifa. I only mention this because it seems to justify my
suspicion that this a chassidic custom that has become more mainstream. It
also seems to be indicative of a general trend toward homogenization
of custom, particularly away from minhag Ashkenaz to minhag Sefard,
which is especially prevalent in the charedi world. Don't get me started
on opshernishen...

I mentioned that the shul is charedi only to dispel the suggestion
that they have "tallis over the head" rule was instituted to cover the
potential shluchei tzibbur who do not wear hats - in this shul, they
all wear hats.

The Mishna Berura advises that one cover one's head with a tallis
throughout the whole of davenen. R' H Schacter writes in Nefesh HaRav
(I think) that Reb Chaim davka removed the tallis from his head for
birchos krias shema and shema itself. I would grateful to hear about
any other customs others might have seen (both mimetically and in text)
with regard to the tallis over the head.

Kol tuv
Dov Kay

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Date: Sun, 01 Jan 2006 11:03:32 -0500
From: hankman <salman@videotron.ca>
Conservation and Broken Symmetry (was Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha (science of origins is speculative and suspect))

RMB wrote (Avodah  Volume 16 : Number 078):
> The energy implied is that of expansion. IOW, if any energy is not
> conserved it's "spent" by the expansion itself, and any assymetry is
> in the universe's size. Similarly, any "change" in the speed of light
> would be due to us being being farther apart than ct from where the
> light originated due to the expansion of the space between them.

> The energy you're finding is found because we know how it's expended --
> and we know how it breaks symmetry....

I have often wondered if the fundamental notion of "Pashtus of HKBH"
i.e. "Hashem Echod" which implies (in some sense) complete uniformity, is
enshrined in our physical world as our notions of a uniformly homogeneous
and isotropic space with their consequent "laws of conservation" while
the concept of "Tzimtzum" (through which the world was created by HKBH)
which in some sense breaks this perfect uniformity (and is therefore the
ultimate "broken symmetry") shows up in our modern scientific theories of
our physical world as "broken symmetry" and the consequent realization of
the four (I realize that gravity has not yet been successfully put into
this mold, yet) (five if you count the latest theories of the "force"
supposedly accelerating the expansion of the universe) fundamental forces
of our universe.

[The number four (or five) as the fundamental forces relates well to
our various Kabalistic numerologies that we have on the 4 Osyos of
the Shem of HKBH (and 5 as Osyos of the Shem Elokim etc.) is hard not
to notice.] [Other parallels can be made to the numbers of dimensions
required in string theory as well.]

Has anyone had similar thoughts, or am I off base here?

Kol Tuv
Chaim Manaster

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Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 15:31:59 -0500
From: "S & R Coffer" <rivkyc@sympatico.ca>
RE: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha (science oforigins is speculative and suspect)

On December 31, 2005, Alexander Seinfeld wrote:
> It seems to me that one should distinguish between two kinds of scientific
> statements by Chazal:
> A) Statements about the nature of nature as they observed it
> B) Statements about the history of nature as they understood it (ie,
> the age of the universe).
> The "B" statements need no reconciliation for they are not incompatible
> with scientific reason. Why not? R. Dovid Gottlieb demonstrates with
> typical clarity how the idea of God creating the universe 5766 years ago
> with an appearance of being much older should not bother us rationally:

I do not agree with Rabbi Gottlieb. And although his position cannot
be refuted, I find it intellectually dissatisfying. There are several
reasons for this (R' Aryeh Kaplan lists a few in his article on Big
Bang). Here are my two primary ones.

Firstly, I do not see the necessity of introducing phenomena which are
not necessary for kiyum haOlam merely to mislead mankind. Some examples
of these phenomena would be fossil evidence, uranium to lead (and other
radioactive elements) mixtures possessing decay rates older than 5766
years, ice cores, tree rings etc. The world itself possesses a sufficient
level of concealment (olam = he'elem) without introducing these elements
which seem entirely incompatible with a young universe. True, Adam and
the rest of the beriah were created fully mature, but do we need fossil
evidence representing 575 million years of evolution for creatures that
never existed during these time periods? Do we need tress or ice cores
that represent 10's of thousands of years of seasonal activity which
never really occurred? This is why I personally feel that these branches
of science must be dealt with head on and cannot merely be swept under
the rug of 'hester'. And although I feel most of them have been dealt
with satisfactorily, radiometric dating is far from being satisfactorily
resolved at this point. Therefore, it is important for us to continue
searching until we find the truth.

Second of all, I have been brought up on a diet of Rav Avigdor Miller.
Anyone familiar with this giant of machshava knows that the one theme
which interminably wove its way through all of his talks was the idea of
an awareness of the boreh from the beriah. He saw Hashem in all of the
phenomena around him and felt that the beriah was a perfect representation
of all of the verities of the Torah. If one studies the beriah with an
eye for truth, one will eventually come to all the proper conclusions
in MB. Ultimately, nothing in the beriah can contradict the truth of
the Torah and the mesorah of our sages. Thus, the beriah, by definition,
must demonstrate recency. This is not the time to go into the various
proofs for YEC but suffice to say that phenomena which, even after
investigation, yield conclusions that are opposed to our mesorah are
incongruous with the idea that the beriah is a testimony to the Torah and
to Hashem. Therefore, I feel that if there are things in nature which
upon initial investigation seem to contradict our mesorah, we *must*
work these issues out so that this crucial approach to Avodas Hashem
i.e. seeing the truth from the beriah, is not compromised in any way.

Note: The preceding was obviously based upon the notion that the beriah
is young. Those who feel that an ancient universe is compatible with
the Torah would have no use for my views however bear in mind that the
above observations were made in response to R' D. Gottlieb's analysis
which was forwarded by him as a defence for a YEC. I am merely pointing
out that I am unhappy with his line of reasoning but obviously I concur
with his conclusions regarding the age of the beriah.

Simcha Coffer   

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Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 20:48:07 -0500
From: Gil Student <gil.student@gmail.com>
Abortion Due to Mental Anguish

> It is my understanding that many/most poskim will permit an abortion
> based on a psychiatric determination that failure to do so will endanger
> the mother's life, even if there's nothing physically wrong with her.

>If they believed the determination they might consider the fetus a
>rodef. But I find it hard to believe this claim. Do you have any mareh
>makomos that I could look up?

No, there are many very lenient poskim on this issue. See R. David M.
Feldman's classic book Birth Control in Jewish Law p. 284ff. Some of
the mareh mekomos he quotes:
Mishpetei Uziel vol. 3 CM no. 47; R. Moshe Zweig in No'am vol. 7 (1964)
pp. 36-56; Seridei Eish 3:127.

Gil Student,          Yashar Books
Subscribe to "Sefer Ha-Hayim - Books for Life" Newsletter:
news, ideas, insights and special offers from Yashar Books

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Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 21:20:23 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: a person who is in the "wrong body"

On Wed, Dec 28, 2005 at 11:32:30PM -0500, Moshe & Ilana Sober wrote:
: To what extent is the "scientific" psychiatric understanding of these
: issues entwined with the politics of sexual identity? ...

Quite a bit. The DSM defines disease in terms of what prevents full
function in society. So not only can the APA be influenced by political
pressure, as in the example RnIS gave, but political realities are also
part of the metzi'us they're judging.

But that latter factor might be valid lehalakhah too. Distress caused
because they don't fit in society as it exists is real distress, and
can lead to really being a shoteh.

WRT abortion...
On Thu, Dec 29, 2005 at 10:13:46PM -0500, Samuel Svarc wrote:
: If they believed the determination they might consider the fetus a
: rodef. But I find it hard to believe this claim. Do you have any mareh
: makomos that I could look up?

Someone asked me to forward the following for them, anonymously:
> I do not. However, I was once zoiche to help a woman who was a therapist
> for a Satmere girl who was raped. She needed a consultation with the
> rebbe before speaking with the girl. The rebbe was clear. If the girl
> would be traumatized by having to raise or give up a product of a rape,
> abortion would be permissable. As long as it was within forty days.

But I guess his testimony isn't worth much once one has RGS's
mar'eh meqomos.


Micha Berger             Man is a drop of intellect drowning in a sea
micha@aishdas.org        of instincts.
http://www.aishdas.org                         - Rav Yisrael Salanter
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 21:35:41 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: Xmax and Assimilation

On Fri, Dec 30, 2005 at 11:35:59AM -0500, S & R Coffer wrote:
:> But as I said, would you condemn roite bindeleach for the same reason?
: Actually, some people consider it "Darkei Emoree", a lav.

My point exactly. For someone who doesn't shlug kaparos, or won't allow
someone with a roite bindela to even enter his home, it would make sense
to second-guess gift giving on Chanukah.

However, if someone is willing to fish a tzad heter, it would be
consistent to fish up one for later practices that also became ubiquitous.

You also didn't address my implied question about why Sepharadim give
gifts, gifts in Israel, etc...

Actually, give me enough time, and I'll have myself convinced that
Chanukah gelt came from minimalist gift caused by ghetto poverty, and
actually the gift came first.

Gifts are more global...


Micha Berger             Despair is the worst of ailments. No worries
micha@aishdas.org        are justified except: "Why am I so worried?"
http://www.aishdas.org                         - Rav Yisrael Salanter
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Sun, 1 Jan 2006 21:15:55 -0500
From: Micha Berger <micha@aishdas.org>
Re: talmud torah keneged kulam?

On Thu, Dec 29, 2005 at 02:10:27AM -0500, Shaya Potter wrote:
: the gemara lists many things that we get benefit from in this world
: (ochel peiroteichem ba'olam ha'zeh), but that the principle is for the
: world to come (v'keren kayemt l'olam haba).

Back a step. What does 
: 2) gimilut hasadim - acts of kindness
mean, when being used in a context that doesn't include
: 1) kibud av va'em - honoring one's parents.
: 4) Hachnasat Orchim - providing for guests
: 5) Bikur Cholim - visiting the sick
: 6) Hachnasat Kalah - "providing" for the kallah
: 7) Livayat Ha'met - escorting someone has died
: 9) Ha'vaat shalom bein adam li'chaveiro - bringing peace between men.

All of them are providing a critical service to others. Does gemilus
chassadim in the limited sense refer to providing goods (or the ability
to earn them), rather than services?

Jumping back:
: 3) Haskamat beit ha'midrash sacharit v'arvit - (attending the beit
: ha'midrash in the mornings and evenings, this can either relate to
: tefilla or learning)

This is usually taken to mean tefillah, so that the minyan can start on
time. Again, providing a service.

I might suggest that all of these items involve seeing things from
another's perspective. Or perhaps that's just me working on thoughts
about ma'avir al midosav for the Shabbaton.

Capitalize the "A" in "Another's perspective", and you got:
: 8) Iyun Tefliah - "Deep" Prayer

In which case:
: 10) talmud torah k'neged kulam.
would flow right from it. The whole point of talmud Torah is to learn
to think like He does, or at least, in the way He wants us to emulate
His Thought.


Micha Berger             Despair is the worst of ailments. No worries
micha@aishdas.org        are justified except: "Why am I so worried?"
http://www.aishdas.org                         - Rav Yisrael Salanter
Fax: (270) 514-1507      

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Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2006 00:02:52 -0500
From: "Samuel Svarc" <ssvarc@yeshivanet.com>
RE: person in "wrong body"

From: Mike Wiesenberg <torahmike@gmail.com>
>Someone asked:
>>> Do you have any mareh makomos that I could look up?

>  in response to:
>> It is my understanding that many/most poskim will permit an abortion
>> based on a psychiatric determination that failure to do so will endanger
>> the mother's life, even if there's nothing physically wrong with her.

>See Shut Bnei Banim, by (listmember?)R' Yehuda Henkin who is very meikel in
>the first 40 days.

For an assertion of "many/most poskim" one mareh makom is underwhelming,
to say the least. It would seem to show the opposite, that many/most
poskim would hold it to be assur. This is strengthened by the fact that R'
YH is only meikel in the first forty days.

I don't have that sefer to look up the mareh makom. Was my guess, that
the heter is predicated upon viewing the fetus as a rodef, correct?


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Date: Mon, 02 Jan 2006 13:33:06 +0100
From: Minden <phminden@arcor.de>
Re: Tallis over the head

R' Dov Kay wrote:
> any other customs others might have seen (both mimetically and in text)  
> with regard to the tallis over the head

Two remarks:

I suspect the 150 years (again) for the change, when it didn't seem  
appropriate and orderly. The reformers went a step further and reduced the  
talles to a shawl, at least in their style of wearing it. (BTW, until  
today, Orthodox Yekkes tend to wear the talles over the arms as well, not  
over their shoulders only. I'm not sure how this latter custom was  
influenced by the chiddesh of having a tzitzes each front-right,  
front-left, back-right, back-left. On the other hand, I'm not sure how the  
older custom is influenced by the minneg to cover the tefille shelleyad,  
as we use to have a shirt and, as a rule, a jacket covering it anyway.)  
56th century illustrations show the talles over the *hat*, which today  
seems to be associated with Sefardic customs. And, of course, still older  
illustrations from the "Middle Ages" show the talles over the head,  
probably without any headcovering beneath it, and swung over the shoulder  
ka-atifes yishme-eilem.

Not mimetically or in text, but anecdotically: It is told that when the  
Chofetz Chayem visited Francfort-upon-Main and in the IRG, as was his  
custom, covered his head, he was promptly approached by the shammes who  
told him this was the community rahf's privilege. Somebody else told the  
shammes who the person was he just reprimanded, and when he hurried to  
apologise, the Chofetz Chayem said there was no need for an apology, and  
as this is the minneg hamokem, he'd certainly comply. I also heard that,  
at least some decades ago, this was still so, or similar, in KAJ ("R'  
Breuer's"), where except for the rav only his talmid muvhok R' Leo Levi  
ylch"t enjoyed this privilege. As I said, I'm not sure as to the antiquity  
of this custom, and also if it was more widespread or confined to the  
"Hirschgemeinde" and its successor.

Lipman Phillip Minden

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Date: Mon, 02 Jan 2006 01:17:52 -0500
From: "R. Alexander Seinfeld" <seinfeld@daasbooks.com>
Re: Length of Maaseh Breshis has no impact on halacha (science of origins is speculative and suspect)

> If however you assume that there is a physical reality and that God
> did not intend to fool us with a lot a false cues about the age of the
> universe, then it is mnore reasonable to say that data supporting an
> older universe should be judged as exactly that and not just as "made
> to look that way".

It appears that R. Gottlieb's speaks specifically to your point:
    "We are suggesting that [this logic] be used to resolve
    a contradiction between two generally reliable sources of
    information. Under these conditions it is wholly appropriate....Of
    course, this solution assumes that the Jewish tradition does have
    enough evidence to be regarded as generally reliable."

Is this disagreement not from the heart of Channukah? For the Hellenists
say: Human reason and science are the measure of all things. The Jew
responds: God and Torah are the measure of all things.

Therefore, it should perhaps not bother us that in one fundamental area
of knowledge God indeed gave us a challenge for our Emuna, that it should
trump even reason, as per the Akeida.

Channukah Sameach (for a few more hours),

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Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2006 01:35:23 -0400
From: <myb@yeshivanet.com>
Re: Three steps forward

In Avodah Vol. 16 #79 I wrote:
> The Aruch Hashulchan (98:7) writes however, that the three steps
> should be taken before tzur yisroel. Could be that the AhS held that
> this halicha isn't considered tzorech.

I after writing this, I noticed that the MB in 111:2 writes that
lekatchila one should be cautious not to be mafsik bein ge'ula letfilah
even with silence, more than toch k'dei dibbur (which I'd assume is at
most 2.5 seconds).

If so (the Ah"S in 111 doesn't write this din), then we could explain the
Ah"S's psak that the three steps should be taken before tsur yisroel,
not because the three steps are considered a hefseq per se, rather the
time it takes to take the three steps, that's actually the hefseq.

[Email #2 -mi]

R' Russel Levy wrote:
> What do you do for Maariv? Before "Ga'al Yisrael" also? Hashkivenu,
> et. al. are a ge'ulah arichta, so by this logic, you shouldn't have an
> interruption there either.

Not necessarily the same logic, for heseq bein ge'ula letfilah by ma'ariv
is intrinsically easier than by shachris, see MB 111:11.

A key halachik difference between shachhris and ma'ariv is if one
arrives late, by shachris he should rather daven in order and miss
tefilah b'tzibur in order to be masmich ge'ulah letfila, as opposed to
by ma'ariv, one should rather skip directly to sh"e, daven sh"e b'tzibur,
and then say birchos krias shema.

I recall seeing in a sefer (I think it was Orchos Rabeinu) that the Chazon
Ish was very ma'arich by krias shma. Not wanting to burden the tzibur,
he would arrive in beis medrash for borchu, wait till sh"e and daven sh"e
with the tzibur, and after kadish he would start birchos k"sh. Chasidim
OTOH are very makpid not to daven sh"e before birchos k"sh, as for al pi
kaboloh one shouldn't exchange the order of tefilah [mehapech tzinoros].

[Email #3 -mi]

R' Lipman Minden wrote:
> Concluding Go'al yisro'eil silently is rather recent, but when did people
> start not to answer Omein?

Those who follow the psak of the Mechaber don't answer omein after go'al
yiso'eil, but according to the Rem"a answering omein isn't considered
a hefseq (see OC 111:1).

There are some, IIRC it was the Minchas Elazar, who offered a solution
to be yotze the Mechaber and the Rem"a, that the sha"tz should conclude
ga'al yisroel silently, as not to enter any shailos about answering omein,
similar to the solution offered by some to the brocho on t'filin shel rosh
(see Shu"t Divrei Yatziv OC 1:83).

[Email #4 -mi]

R' Lipman Minden wrote:
> The older minneg is, unless I'm mistaken, to get in place for shumenesre
> when the sha"tz is at Tehillous le-eil elyoun, i. e. to get in position,
> but not (necessarily) by going three steps (v. Mahre"l).

Al pi Ar"i one should sit while saying birchas k"sh, and not stand up
till Tehillous le-eil elyoun, then he should stand up and prepare for sh"e
(Siddur Keser Nehora AKA "Barditchever Siddur" or Tefila Yeshoro Siddur).

Kol Tuv,
 - Avigdor Feldstein

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Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2006 16:57:46 +0200
From: Eli Turkel <eliturkel@gmail.com>
chazal and science

> It seems to me that one should distinguish between two kinds of
> scientific statements by Chazal

One also needs to distinguish between chazal and rishonim/achronim.
Maharshal already mentions that when it comes to anatomy that Rambam is
more reliable than Rashi. Some rishonim deny Pythagoras' theorem.

Later some achronim call those who follow Copernicus as heretics. Many
gemarot seem to imply a flat earth. Some achronim based on these gemarot
deny scientific evidence that the earth is round. Today that everyone
knows that the earth is a sphere (approximately) we reinterpret these

kol tuv,
Eli Turkel

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Date: Mon, 2 Jan 2006 14:41:34 -0500
From: "Rich, Joel" <JRich@Segalco.com>
Tzadik vtov lo

For those who believe that schar mitzvah bhai almah leka, how do they
understand what happens to us in this world? Is it just random, do true
tzaddikim only get punishment so that the rewarded in the next world
will be greater etc...??????

Joel Rich

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