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Volume 38: Number 21

Tue, 24 Mar 2020

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Message: 1
From: Micha Berger
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2020 08:20:08 -0400
[Avodah] The Correct Behavior When Dealing with Danger by R

This is an abornamlly long piece for Facebook, but it's making the rounds there.


The Correct Behavior When Dealing with Danger
Rav Hershel Schachter 

Many have the mistaken impression that the Jewish religion places
much emphasis on death and respect for the dead; after all, we recite
kaddish, yizkor, observe shiva, and yahrzeit, etc. This is a gross
misunderstanding. The respect that we show for the dead is a carryover
from the respect that we show for the living. The Gemorah (Kesubos 17a,
see Shitah Mekubetzes) tells us that whenever there is a conflict between
kovod ha'chayim and kovod ha'meisim, kovod ha'chaim takes precedence. When
the chevra kadisha brings in the aron at a funeral, everyone stands
up. People mistakenly think that we stand up out of respect for the
niftar, but in many cases we never stood up for him when he was alive,
so why should we stand up for him now that he passed away? The Bartenurah
(Mishnayos Bikurim 3:3) explains that we are not standing up out of
respect for the niftar but rather out of respect for the members of
the chevra kaddisha who are presently involved in the fulfillment of
a mitzvah. The respect for the living is based on the premise that all
human beings were created b'tzelem Elokim. When the Torah requires us to
demonstrate kovod ha'meis, it means that even after the person passed
away and no longer has tzelem Elokim, i.e. a neshama, we still have to
act respectfully towards the body because it used to have a tzelem Elokim.

Of the six hundred and thirteen mitzvos, one of the most important is
the mitzvah of v'chai bohem v'lo sh'yomus bohem (Yoma 85b). Not only
does the halacha require that if there is a sofek sakanah we must
violate almost all of the mitzvos in the Torah to save a life, but
we are also required to do so even if there is only a s'fek s'feika,
a remote possibility(Yoma 85a). The Gemorah (ibid) adds that even if the
likelihood is that by violating Shabbos or whatever other aveira we most
probably will not be saving anyone's life, we still do not abstain from
the action due to that likelihood (rove - majority).

When Bnei Yisroel were traveling in the midbar for 40 years, the weather
conditions were such that there was a slight sakanah in performing bris
milah. Most of the sh'votim did not fulfill the mitzvah except for sheivet
Levi[1]. They had an Orthodox rabbi among them, i.e. Moshe Rabbeinu. Why
didn't all the shevatim ask him what to about this sofek sakanah? If
it is a real sofek sakanah he should not have permitted sheivet Levi to
perform the mitzvah despite their pietistic protests, and if the sofek
sakanah was so insignificant that it simply should have been dismissed,
why didn't he insist that all the shevatim perform the mitzvah of milah?

The Gemorah (Yevamos 12b) tells us that the answer is to be found in
Tehillim (116:6), "Shomer p'soyim Hashem." Whenever there is a slight
sofek sakanah that is nowhere near fifty-fifty[2], the halacha declares
that it depends on the attitude of the patient. If the patient whose
life is at risk (or the parent of the patient who is responsible for
his well-being) is personally not nervous about the danger, then the
halacha does not consider it a sofek sakanah; we apply "Shomer p'soyim
Hashem." But if the patient whose life is at risk is nervous and concerned
about the sofek sakanah, then the halacha requires us to act based on,
"V'chai bohem v'lo sh'yomus bohem", and the sofek sakanah takes precedence
over almost all of the mitzvos of the Torah. Shevet Levi had bitachon,
and therefore were not concerned, and therefore for their children it was
not considered a sofek sakanah, but with respect to the other shevatim
who were concerned it was in fact a sofek sakanah, so every shevet was
acting k'din.

However, if one individual is not concerned, but the nature of the
sakanah is such that everyone is interdependent and the individual who
personally is not nervous may possibly spread a disease to others who are
concerned about its spread, then the concept of Shomer p'soyim Hashem
does not apply. The individual who is not concerned does not have the
right to determine for the others who are concerned that there is no
sakanah for them.

The Rakanti[3] relates that one of Ba'alei Ha'tosfos was deathly sick
before Yom Kippur and the doctors warned him that if he fasts he will
certainly die but if he eats on Yom Kippur there is a slim chance that
he may survive. He decided to fast, and of course he died. All of the
Ba'alei Ha'tosfos were upset over his decision and felt that he went
against the halacha.

If a terrorist threatens to kill me unless I violate one of the mitzvos
of the Torah, the halacha usually is that pikuach nefesh takes precedence
over most of the mitzvos in the Torah. What if an individual wants to
put up a fight knowing that he may well lose his life but thinks that by
being moser nefesh he will fulfill the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem? This
matter was a famous dispute amongst the Rishonim. The Rambam's opinion is
that one may not volunteer to give up his life al kiddush Hashem when not
required by halacha because this is tantamount to suicide[4]. Many other
Rishonim disagreed with the Rambam. However, if there is no terrorist
pressuring me to violate my religion, but there is merely a dangerous
situation of sickness then all of the Ba'alei Ha'tosfos agreed with
the Rambam that it would not constitute a midas chassidus to ignore
the sakanah[5].

In determining what is a sakanah and what is not, the practice of the
Tanoim always was to follow the doctors of their generation. Every so
often the Rambam would take a stand on a medical issue against what it
says in the Gemorah and the Chasam Sofer (Teshuvos, Yoreh Deah #101)
explains that the Rambam was a doctor and he did exactly as the Tanoim
did, namely, to follow the doctors of his generation. The Shulchan Aruch
(Orach Chaim 331:9) also says explicitly that we follow the doctors of
our generation even in contradiction to the medicine recommended in the
Gemorah. We should certainly do the same as the Rambam and the Shulchan
Aruch and follow the doctors of our generation in determining what is
considered a sakanah and what is not considered a sakanah.

Some well-meaning individuals have blown out of halachic proportion
the significance of tefillah b'tzibur and talmud Torah b'rabim and have
opted to ignore the sofek sakanah presented by the corona virus when in
conflict with these two most important mitzvos. We live in a generation
where many b'nei Torah tend to exaggerate the significance of Torah
and tefillah. Although their intention is certainly l'shaim Shomayim,
we must all keep in mind that when paskening shailos, one may not rely
on an exaggeration.

All exaggerations by definition are sheker - a misrepresentation of the
truth of the Torah. Rav Chaim Volozhiner signs off quite a few of his
teshuvos saying, "Keil Emes, Nosan lanu Toras Emes, u'bilti el ho'emes
eineinu - the true God gave us the true Torah, and we only look for the
truth." Any exaggeration in the area of Torah and halacha is clearly a
misrepresentation of our religion. The commentaries on Shulchan Aruch
(Yoreh Deah 157) refer to the comments of the Maharshal in his sefer Yam
Shel Shlomo (Bava Kamma 38a) that to misrepresent a law of the Torah
constitutes an aveira related to avodah zorah[6] and as such would be
subject to the principle of yeihoreig v'al ya'avor.

With respect to a sofek sakanah the halacha clearly requires that we go
extremely l'chumrah. Especially religious Jews, who know that they are
charged with a mission in life, should certainly be extremely machmir
on matters of sofek sakanah.

Although every word of a poem appears in the dictionary, the poet conveys
an idea by putting the words in a certain order. So too, different
people can have the same ideas and the same principles, but if you put
them in a different arrangement you have changed the whole understanding
if each one of the principles[7]. Once you exaggerate the significance
of any particular mitzvah, you have misrepresented the whole picture of
kol haTorah kula.

[1] See Rashi, Devarim 33:9.

[2] See Achiezer, volume 1, #23,2.

[3] Siman 166; see Teshuvos Dvar Yehoshua, vol. 2 #94

[4] Hilchos Yesodei haTorah, 5:1.

[5] See Mishna Berura 328:6.

[6] Because we believe that the Torah is a description of the essence
of G-d, misrepresenting the Torah is tantamount to misrepresenting
G-d Himself

[7] Thoughts 1:22, by Blaise Pascal`

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Message: 2
From: Micha Berger
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2020 10:07:03 -0400
[Avodah] [Nishma] Shabbat Without Shul: A Guide

R R Wolpoe or R Ben Hecht (the blog post gives me mixed signals) posted
the following guidelines from R Yaakov Hoffman of the Washington Heights
Congregation designed for his congregation. (Not to be confused with R
Yair Hoffman of the 5TJT.)


On factor I noticed RYH didn't mention that I saw others did was
maintaining your usual davening times. (Assuming we're not talking about
kevasiqin as the other option.)


Shabbat Without Shul: A Guide
Friday, 20 March 2020

From RRW
Guest Blogger: Rabbi Yaakov Hoffman

Below is a halachic guide I prepared for my shul on how to daven on
Shabbos without a minyan, and general halachos one should know that
are affected by not being in a shul framework on Shabbos. Feel free
to use/adapt for your own shuls. Also, I would be happy to receive any
he'aros you may have. Thanks.

                         Shabbat Without Shul: A Guide

- One should make an effort to daven Mincha on Friday before
  plag ha-mincha (this week ~5:50pm).

- It is not necessary to recite the full Kabbalat Shabbat as recited in
  shul; reciting Lecha Dodi, Mizmor Shir leYom haShabbat, Hashem Malach
  Ge'ut Lavesh, and Bameh Madlikin is sufficient. One should recite Lecha
  Dodi and Mizmor Shir leYom haShabbat before sunset (this week ~7:07pm).

- Although ordinarily one should daven Maariv after nightfall when
  praying without a minyan, on Friday evening one may daven after plag
  (preferably one should wait ~20 minutes after plag). The Shema must
  be repeated after nightfall (tzeit ha-kochavim, this Friday ~7:42pm).

- One may make Kiddush and begin the meal immediately after davening
  Maariv. If one has not yet begun the meal by tzeit ha-kochavim, one
  must repeat the Shema before eating.

- Those who arise early are strongly encouraged to daven ke-vatikin --
  timing one's Shacharit to begin the Amidah at sunrise (this week

- If one is pressed for time (e.g., in order to daven at sunrise, or
  because one needs to help out at home), one can skip the extra psalms
  added during Psukei de-Zimra on Shabbat, with the exception of Mizmor
  Shir leYom haShabbat and Hashem Malach Ge'ut Lavesh.

- Men should take care to daven Shacharit before the latest time for
  the Shema (this week ~10am).

- After the Amidah of Shacharit, one recites Ashrei and then the Amidah
  of Musaf, followed by Ein k'Elokeinu, Aleinu, and Shir shel Yom.

- It is extremely advisable to read or study the weekly parashah at some
  point over Shabbat (and to be extra careful about shnayim mikra during
  the preceding week).

- On Shabbat Mevarchim, it is a good idea to remind oneself and one's
  household about the upcoming Rosh Chodesh (Rosh Chodesh Nisan is
  Thursday March 26). One does not recite the formal prayer for the
  upcoming month that is recited in shul.

- One should wash for the Shabbat morning meal before midday (this
  week ~1pm).

- One should daven Mincha before eating se`udah shlishit.

- Se`udah shlishit should begin before sunset, and may extend as long
  as one likes. After benching, or after 10 minutes post-sunset (whichever
  is later), one may not eat or drink anything except water until after

- One should not daven Maariv on Saturday night until after Shabbat is
  over (this week ~7:50pm); preferably, one should not do any melacha
  before davening Maariv (with atah chonantanu) or making Havdalah.

- Baruch Hashem L'Olam is omitted in Maariv when not davening with a
  minyan. The rest of Maariv, including additions for motza'ei Shabbat,
  is recited as usual. Veyiten lecha may be recited after Havdalah. Vihi
  no`am and ve'attah kadosh are omitted on the Saturday night preceding
  Pesach (and Shavuot, but hopefully we will be back in shul well before
  then!), but veyiten lecha is still recited.

Yaakov Hoffman
Rabbi, Washington Heights Congregation[5]

Posted by Rabbi Ben Hecht at 9:08 am

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Message: 3
From: D Rubin
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2020 12:02:57 +0000
Re: [Avodah] meals

Date: Wed, 18 Mar 2020 11:05:11 -0400
From: Zev Sero <z...@sero.name>

> I have a much bigger question.  The whole way we eat nowadays is so
> completely different from the model Chazal had in mind when they made
> hilchos birchos hanehenin that really major change is needed, but who
> can do it?  Their whole premise was that a meal consists of bread, and
> condiments to make the bread taste better...


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Message: 4
From: Zev Sero
Date: Fri, 20 Mar 2020 11:38:46 -0400
Re: [Avodah] [Nishma] Shabbat Without Shul: A Guide

Also omit bracha me'ein sheva, as one does whenever one is not davening 
with a regularly scheduled minyan.

Zev Sero            Wishing everyone a *healthy* and happy Pesach
z...@sero.name       Seek Jerusalem's peace; may all who love you prosper

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Message: 5
From: Rich, Joel
Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2020 18:26:06 +0000
Re: [Avodah] [Nishma] Shabbat Without Shul: A Guide

Interesting-no mention of remembering to dress for shabbat
Joel Rich
distribution or copying of this message by anyone other than the addressee is 
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Thank you.

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Message: 6
From: Dr. Isaac Balbin
Date: Sat, 21 Mar 2020 22:29:28 +1100
[Avodah] Corona related questions

1. You see or know of a minyan, kibbutz anashim, etc that are breaching
government Corona guidelines. Do you have a chiyuv to report them vis
a vis Lo Sa'amod?

2. Has there been any advice to Mohelim who normally do Metzitza bPeh
to cease the practice at this time?

3. Does a Rav have a Chiyuv as Mesader Kiddushin to cease proceedings
until there is (in Australia) 4 meters square between people

4. Does a Caterer have a Chiyuv to cease serving food at a Simcha or
the like if it too is breaching guidelines?

"The student of Torah is like the amnesia victim who tries to reconstruct
from fragments the beautiful world he once experienced. By learning Torah,
man returns to his own self." Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik ???

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Message: 7
From: Akiva Miller
Date: Mon, 23 Mar 2020 21:35:43 -0400
[Avodah] Kshering Metal Sinks

The Chicago CRC has a video on hag'alat keilim at

I am curious about two things he said at 6:52-6:59, about kashering a metal
1) "make sure that it's a continuous flow and not to stop in the middle
from that pot"
2) "start from the bottom and then you work your way up"

Why should it be a continuous flow? What's wrong with pausing the flow, as
long as every square millimeter gets hit?

And what is the advantage of doing the floor of the sink prior to the
walls? Alternatively, what's the downside of kashering the walls first? My
totally uneducated guess is that the runoff from the walls would do a
"chozer v'niur" on the floor, cancelling the 24-hour wait, whereas if the
floor is done first, the runoff from the walls is not sufficiently
chometzdik to invalidate the kashering. Am I close?

Akiva Miller
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