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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Doing The Shuckle - To Sway Or Not To Sway

We’ve already discussed the bowing and bouncing parts of Prayer. Now let us take a look at the Shuckle.

The Gemara in Berachos 31a asserts that many Halachos of Prayer, and specifically Shemonah Esrei, are learnt from the prayer of Chana in the Mishkan, as depicted in the beginning of Shmuel 1.
Among these are to daven in an undertone, to enunciate the words, that a drunk can’t pray and more.

The Rema Mipano (Eim Kol Chai, 1:33) posits that additional Halachos can be deduced which the Gemara doesn’t include. He therefore deduces from the words רק שפתיה נעות, only her lips were moving,
that the rest of one’s body should be at rest during the Shemonah Esrei prayer.

He reiterates this in his responsa (113) as well. He goes on to say that although there is a concept, found in Tehillim, of כל עצמותי תאמרנה ה’ מי כמוך ‘all of my limbs will declare – Hashem whom is like
You’ that is limited to praise of Hashem, however during the Amidah prayer no movement is to occur, other than the required bowing.

However, the Mateh Moshe (1:118) quotes sources in the Rishonim that one should sway during prayer, and this is the opinion of the Avudraham as well (Siman 44). They understand that the above quoted verse, that one should use all their limbs in prayer, refers specifically to the Shemonah Esrei prayer.

The Rema (OC 48) quotes the Avudraham noted above, that due to the verse of ‘all my limbs will declare’ one should sway during prayer. The Magen Avraham notes that this is not clearly applicable to Shemonah Esrei, and he personally feels that the halachah is that one should not sway. However he concludes that either way is acceptable and it depends on the person. This is quoted by the Mishna Berura, and the Aruch Hashulchan similarly notes that one should do whatever allows him to better concentrate.

It’s interesting to note that the Mishna Berura elsewhere (95:7) quotes only the authorities that one should sway during the Shemonah Esrei. One can argue that this would indicate his opinion was that one should sway.

Although it would seem that almost everybody sways in practice, Rav Avraham Gurwicz writes that his personal observation of his Rebbeim, the Brisker Rav, Rav Shach and the Stiepler Gaon did not sway during Shemonah Esrei. I recall hearing the same of Rav Dessler, Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

There are certain things the poskim caution to be aware of and not do:

One should not stand straight and move his head side to side as that appears to be haughty. The Rambam says the same of putting ones hands on their hips.

Although in Biblical times they prayed with their hands outstretched to the heavens, this has been adopted by other religions, and therefore the Beer Sheva writes that it should not be done. This is quoted by Rav Akiva Eiger.

One should avoid anything that disturbs those around him, and should avoid making grotesque motions. Rav Gurwicz writes that he is appalled at the faces and gestures people make whilst standing in front of the King of Kings!

There is a Zohar (vol. 3 pg. 218b) that is referenced by the Biur Hagra, that tells us a fascinating fact.

שאילנא ליה מאי האי דכל עמין דעלמא לא עבדין נענועא אלא ישראל בלחודייהו דכד לעאן באורייתא מתנענען הכא והכא בלא למודא דבר נש בעלמא ולא יכלין למיקם בקיומייהו אמר לי אדכרתן מלתא עלאה ובני עלמא לא ידעין ולא משגיחין. יתיב שעתא ובכה. אמר ווי לבני נשא דאזלין כבעירי חקלא בלא סוכלתנו. במלה דא בלחודוי אשתמודען נשמתהון קדישין דישראל בין נשמתהון דעמין עעכו"ם. נשמתהון דישראל אתגזרו מגו בוצינא קדישא דדליק דכתיב נר יי’ נשמת אדם והאי נר בשעתא דאתאחד (נ"א דאתדליק) מגו אורייתא דלעילא לא שכיך נהורא עליה אפילו רגעא. ורזא דא אלקים אל דמי לך כגוונא דא כתיב המזכירים את יי’ אל דמי לכם. לא שכיכו לכון. נהורא דשרגא כיון דאתאחדא גו פתילה ההוא נהורא לא שכיך לעלמין אלא מתנענעא נהורא לכאן ולכאן ולא משתכיך לעלמין. כגוונא דא ישראל דנשמתייהו מגו ההוא נהורא דשרגא כיון דאמר מלה חדא דאורייתא הא נהורא דליק ולא יכלון אינון לאשתככא ומתנענען לכאן ולכאן ולכל סטרין כנהורא דשרגא דהא נר יי’ נשמת אדם כתיב. וכתיב אדם אתם אתם קרויין אדם ולא אומין עכו"ם. נשמתין דעמין עכו"ם מדעיכו דקש בלא נהורא דשרי עלייהו וע"ד משתככין ולא מתנענען דהא לית לון אורייתא ולא דלקין בה ולאו נהורא שרייא בהון אינון קיימין כעצים בגו נורא דדליק בלא נהורא דשריא עלייהו וע"ד משתככין בלא נהורא כלל.

My loose translation:

The question was posed: why is it that Jews sway when they are learning Torah, and non-Jews do not?

The answer was given: there is a fundamental difference between the soul of a non-Jew and the soul of a Jew. The sould of the Jew is carved from the holy fire of God, and therefore once it is alight, the flame, as small as it may get throughout one’s life, is always there. The nature of a flame is to sway, to always move and jump, and so is the soul of a Jew. However the soul of a non-Jew is static, there is no flame, and it doesn’t sway.

Rav Gurwicz points out that this refers specifically to Torah study and not prayer, however the idea is fascinating. Our fires are lit – we just have to act on it!

Posted on 05/30 at 11:48 AM • Permalink
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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Learning Torah On Purim

The Ramchal writes (Derech Hashem Chap. 7), in explaining the Moadim, that the Jewish calendar is cyclical, not linear. Therefore, the events that took place during each of the Yomim Tovim made an indelible impression on the calendar cycle, and when the cycle comes back to that point of the year the Divine Light of that time resurges as well.
The holidays are not merely historical commemorations of ancient events, rather they are resurgences of the Godly inspiration that was created during the original event.
Therefore Pesach is an opportunity to tap into the bounty of personal emancipation and freedom of the Exodus, Shavous is a time to have Divine assistance in Torah learning and so on.
The Ramchal continues: the cyclical inspiration of Purim is in the salvation of the Jews during the Babylonian exile, and in that they reaccepted the Torah in a permanent way.
What does he mean when he writes that we reaccepted the Torah?
The Gemara in Shabbos (88a) explains that when we stood at Har Sinai Hashem held the mountain over our heads like a barrel and delivered an ultimatum. Either accept the Torah or this will be your burial place! The Gemara notes that from here we have a really good excuse when challenged on our lack of fulfillment of the Torah’s laws – we were forced into it!
However, the Gemara goes on, that in the days of Achashverosh we reaccepted the Torah willingly (and are therefore bound, with no out).
So presumably, the Ramchal is referencing this Gemara, and telling us that each year on Purim we once again have a unique ability to reaccept the Torah in a willing manner as we did on that first Purim.
There are many other manifestations of this concept in the customs and laws of the day of Purim.
The Rema writes that the custom is to wear Shabbos clothes on Purim (and as an aside, the Poskim stress that this is especially important during the Megilla). The Chida explains that the reason for wearing extra nice clothing is for the Simchas HaTorah that we have on Purim.
The Behag also refers to Purim as being comparable to the day the Torah was given, and his source is the above Gemara.
The Shelah refers to Purim as the ‘conclusion’ of the acceptance of the Torah, and the joy of Purim is the joy of Simchas Hatorah.
The Rema codifies: (695:2) One should engage in Torah study before beginning the Seudah as it says “The Jews had Orah Vesimcha” and Orah (light) refers to Torah. The Levush notes it should be specifically before the Seudah, first Orah, then Simcha.
Wishing you all a wonderful, inspiring and Torah filled Purim!

Posted on 02/17 at 03:13 PM • Permalink
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Message of Tu Bshvat

What follows is based on Rabbi SR Hirsch. I wrote it in my own words, and have not done him full justice.

Why do we celebrate the Rosh Hashanah of the trees in the middle of the bleak, cold, lifeless winter? The Gemara explains – Since most of the rains have already fallen. (Rosh Hashanah 14). What does that mean?

Rabbi SR Hirsch in Collected Writings explains the significance of Tu B’Shvat in the following manner:

A rational person will say the tree bears fruit when the fruit actually appears on the tree. One who thinks a bit more deeply will postulate that the fruit really begins at the original budding. There must be a physical manifestation to show the budding of the fruit.

This is true in the world of men in general. Only deeds, actions, actual physical efforts are considered noteworthy.

The Torah operates differently; the origins of the actions are paramount. Rabbi Hirsch refers to the “invisible germination of righteousness and inquity”.

He explains that the Torah focuses on protecting and building this inner, invisible foundation from where all the actions come. All the laws of Purity, Issur and Heter and so on protect this core, particularly where the spiritual intersects with the physical and and the integrity of one’s purity is at stake.

This is also exemplified in the purity that was required in the camp of the Jewish Army, the cleanliness of speech that is Halachically necessary, the preparations needed to pray and to eat, and the entire approach to Jewish Law.

What follows then, is that all the rituals and laws are done not only as a way of serving Hashem, but more importantly to strengthen and solidify man, to ensure that the origins of all his deeds are pure and whole.

This is the message of Tu B’Shvat. We do not address the outer manifestations of Spring, rather the inner beginnings. The rains have begun passing, the sap is starting to rise in the trees, the inner core is strong and healthy – unaffected by what’s going on outside. This is the message to each and every one of us.

Posted on 01/24 at 08:28 PM • Permalink
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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Chanukah Candles on Friday

Even though we usually light Chanukah candles once it’s dark, obviously that is impossible on Friday, we therefore have to light before dark. We will discuss some of the associated Halachos.

The Shulchan Aruch rules (679) that one should first light Chanukah candles and then Shabbos candles. The Mishna Berura explains that this is because of another issue – there is a question if there is an automatic acceptance of Shabbos when one lights Shabbos candles. We generally accept that for men there is no automatic acceptance and for women there is. However there is an opinion that for men lighting Shabbos candles there would also be an automatic acceptance and therefore the Shulchan Aruch rules that one should first light Chanukah candles to suffice all opinions.

This would seem to only present as an issue when the same person is lighting the Shabbos candles and the Chanukah candles. However it could be that even if the woman is lighting Shabbos candles then the man can’t help her fulfill her Chanukah obligation as an agent.

If one forgot and the woman of the house lit Shabbos candles then the man may still light the Menorah. If the woman was intending to light Chanukah candles she may not, because she has accepted Shabbos, and she should ask someone else to light for her. The lighter should make the first Beracha and she makes the second (and when applicable the third).

However if a man lit the Shabbos candles he would be thrust into the above dispute. The Mishna Berura concludes that ex post facto he may light the Menorah even if he already lit Shabbos candles.
One has to make sure to have enough oil in at least one (and preferably all) of the candles to burn until a half hour after nightfall.

One may not light the menorah before Plag Hamincha, which is one and a quarter halachic hours before sunset.

One should ideally daven Mincha before lighting the Menorah. Obviously it is preferred to daven with a minyan earlier in the day; however the question often arises; is it better to light Menorah and then go to Shul to daven with a minyan, or is it better to daven without a minyan at home and then light the Menorah?

This would seemingly depend on a much greater question. Why is it that we light the Menorah when we do, after Plag Hamincha?

According to many we are commemorating the lighting of the Menorah every evening in the Bais Hamikdash, which took place after the daily afternoon offering was brought, in which case our lighting of the Menorah would have to be after Mincha, which corresponds to that offering. This reasoning is offered by the Shaarei Teshuva in the name of the Birkei Yosef.

However others understand that when we allow one to light in a time of need from Plag Hamincha on, it is because we are ruling according to the opinion that Plag Hamincha is already night time, and therefore if I go and daven Mincha after lighting the Menorah I would be engaged in seemingly contradictory behavior. Some contemporary poskim (see Mishna Berura Hamevuar) argue that according to this line of reasoning the Halacha would prefer a ‘contradictory’ davening with a minyan than a properly ordered one without. However, in Shaar Hatzion the Mishna Berura quotes this line of reasoning as the primary one when explaining why to daven Mincha first.

[This discussion is relevant to bringing in Shabbos early, which will hopefully be the focus of a future article].

In a nutshell, it would seem to be appropriate to daven Mincha, if need be without a minyan, before lighting the Menorah. This is indeed the opinion of my Rebbe and other contemporary Poskim.

However it is noteworthy that the Shelah in his commentary on the Siddur and Rav Ovadia Yosef explicitly write that the preference to daven Mincha first is only when one is able to do so with a Minyan.

There is one major exception to this rule – if by davening Mincha one will delay lighting the Menorah until very close to or after sunset then one should most definitely light the Menorah first.

Posted on 12/12 at 12:34 PM • Permalink
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Celebrating Thanksgiving

As Diaspora Jews, having been through exile after harsh exile, and particularly in the post Holocaust generations, we are ever so thankful for the United States of America. Although each exile comes with its particular set of challenges and obstacles, the physical and financial security that we enjoy is not taken for granted.

One of the classic American ways of exhibiting that appreciation is by celebrating Thanksgiving. Once a year, Americans sit around the table and commemorate the first landing of the pilgrims on these shores. Although we too share in the appreciation, there are Halachic intricacies that are to be dealt with in celebrating Thanksgiving in the classical fashion.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in a posthumously published volume of Igros Moshe, has a fascinating series of letters. Written over a two month span in 1981 he at first (OC 5:20:6) makes the case that it is forbidden to have a Thanksgiving celebration, because of the prohibition of ובחוקותיהם לא תלכו, you shall not walk in their statues, which includes any non-Jewish custom for which a logical reason cannot be attributed.

He firmly rejects the notion that there is any sort of prohibition of Idolatry, and he also rejects the opinion that it is forbidden to eat turkey because that’s what you happen to have available. However it is prohibited to have a joyous meal in honor of Thanksgiving because of the afore-mentioned prohibition.

Then, six weeks later, in a letter to a questioner who asked if he is permitted to join in a festive meal, Rav Moshe (YD 4:11:4) writes that it is permitted to join and to partake of the turkey so long as one doesn’t intend to have such a meal on this particular day every year, for then there may be a prohibition of בל תוסיף, adding a mitzvah to the Torah.

Here he mentions nothing of the prohibition to engage in an illogical no-Jewish custom, and concludes that celebrating Thanksgiving is permitted!

Two weeks later, in a third letter written to his grandson, who had questioned his apparent change of heart, he explained: The Rema, in explaining the prohibition, writes (YD 178:1) that anything which has no reason is considered to be Emorite ways and is forbidden. Rav Moshe explains that this statement of the Rema can be interpreted in two ways.

The first way to understand this is that it would be considered Emorite practice (who were very superstitious) to do something for no reason. Therefore the Torah prohibits anything that is done without good cause. Eating turkey on Thanksgiving, and making a whole shebang out of it because the Pilgrims had some turkey hundreds of years ago would be prohibited under this umbrella. This is what Rav Moshe intended in the first response.

Alternatively, we can explain the Rema differently. The reason we ascribe Emorite practice to illogical customs is because we are concerned that they originate in paganism and idol worship. Although now they are just senseless, we don’t want to partake in something which h has its roots in the worship of idols. However, in an instance that we know the root cause of a custom, even though we may deem the reasoning insufficient cause for celebration, the prohibition of ‘walking in their statues’ would not apply. And this, explains Rabbi Feinstein, is why in the second letter he was not concerned with this prohibition.

In conclusion Rav Moshe writes that it is appropriate to be stringent as he had written in the first letter.

Posted on 11/19 at 02:04 PM • Permalink
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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Simchas Torah - Origins and Laws

Although Simchas Torah is one of the highlights of the Jewish calendar, its origins are shrouded in mystery. Not mentioned at all in the Talmud or in any of the works of the Rishonim. The first mention in a Halachic work is in the glosses of the Rema (OC 669).

What indeed is the source? It would seem that this holiday has its roots in Bavel (Babylonia). The Gemara (Megilla 29b) tells us that there were different cycles for reading the Torah in different places.

In Bavel it was completed once a year, and in ‘the west’ referring to Israel, it was once every three years.

There are sources from the seventh and eighth centuries that tell us that the variation in customs had continued through Gaonic times, those sources indicate that although in Babylonia everyone stuck to the same schedule, in Israel it was a little more open ended, and each community had its own breakdown of weekly portions, all ending different times. In fact as late as 1170, when Benjamin of Toledo, a famous Jewish traveler, visited Cairo, he reported that there were two communities. One consisted of Iraqi expatriates who had a one year cycle, and one of Israeli expat’s who had a 3 year cycle. Incidentally, he reports that the Israeli’s would join together with the Israeli’s on Shavous and Simchas Torah, to celebrate with them.

The Rambam himself records both customs, and adds that the popular custom is to have a one year cycle. Indeed, that is the custom that spread throughout the Diaspora.

The system that was set up in Bavel split the Torah into 54 portions as we have it today. Ezra had established that the curses in parshas Bechukosai should be read before Shavous, and the cursed in parshas Ki Savo should be read before Rosh Hashanah. Thus it turns out that the end of the Torah is read shortly after Rosh Hashanah.

The custom was then established to read the last parsha of the Torah, Vezos Habracha, on the last day of Sukkos. This was not universal at its inception, there were communities who completed the Torah before Yom Kippur, and then began from Bereishis at Mincha on Yom Kippur, so as not to give the Satan an opportunity to claim that ‘the Jews finished to Torah and are now done with it’. (This is the reason that we immediately begin Bereishis after completing the end of the Torah, to indicate that we are never done, and always ready to start again from the beginning).

So far we have established: Simchas Torah was created in Bavel, and was the celebration of the completion of the Torah with the reading of Vezos Habracha.

In the times of the Rishonim the custom became widespread in Ashkenazi communities to remove all the Sifrei Torah from the Ark on Simchas Torah, and to proclaim Ana Hashem Hoshia Na (as well as the rest of the piut through Tomeich Temimim Hoshia Na) and then return them to the Ark. In some communities this was done before the Torah reading, in others it was done after, and in yet others it was done at night. Later in the fifteenth century, did communities begin removing all the Torah Scrolls during the evening and morning service.

When did hakafos (circling the Bimah with the Torah scrolls) come about? The custom of doing hakafos on Simchas Torah seems to be clearly borrowed from the hakafos that are done on Hoshanah Rabbah. The origin of hakafos on Simchas Torah dates back to the times of the Bais Hamikdash, and the people would circle the Mizbeach seven times (Mishnah Sukkah 4:5). The Yalkut Shimoni (Tehillim 247) records that this custom continues even today, and instead of circling the Mizbeach we circle the Chazzan holding a Torah Scroll. This is recorded by the Rambam as well.

The Yerushalmi tells us that the reason for the seven circuits is a remembrance to Jericho, where the walls fell down after they were circled seven times, and when we circle the Bimah seven times in prayer we too are considered to have ‘won’ the battle against those who want to do evil to us. (See Yalkut Ibid.)

There is also deep esoteric and Kabbalistic reasoning attached to the practice of hakafos.

The popularity of hakafos on Simchas Torah seems to have come about at the end of the sixteenth century, and is first recorded by the Arizal, as well as by the Rema, who lived at about the same time.

There were various fundraisers and messengers who went from the communities in Israel to the communities in Europe, and spread the custom of hakafos as they traveled. In the Sefer Toldos Chag Simchas Torah the author documents the community ledgers of various communities that were visited by these messengers and adopted the custom of doing hakafos on Simchas Torah, until it became a universal custom.

Other customs then came about, all celebrating the central theme of universal joy at the completion of the Torah, and an obvious intention to include all, even the children. Some examples:

•The only time during the year that collective aliyos are allowed
•The only time that we give aliyos to children
•The only time that we read the Torah at night
•The only time we do an ‘inverted’ hagbah
•The only time we dance with the Torah
•We move Birchas Kohanim from Mussaf to Shachris, because it is expected that during the hakafos the Kohanim will imbibe wine, thus disqualifying them from delivering the blessing.

In addition, there are other customs that had existed throughout the centuries that have been eliminated today:
•In Worms hakafos were done around bonfires. In some places they would burn the sukkah panels. (The poskim discuss the halachic permissibility of this).
•Many early halachic authorities decry the use of firecrackers, which indicates it to be common practice.
•In some communities they would hire non Jewish musicians, also frowned upon by halachic authorities.

When seen through the eyes of the uninitiated, the festivities seem strange. As recorded by Samuel Pepys, a famous English diarist who visited a synagogue in London, October 14th 1663:

Thence home and after dinner my wife and I, by Mr. Rawlinson’s conduct, to the Jewish Synagogue: where the men and boys in their vayles [tallitot], and the women behind a lattice out of sight; and some things stand up, which I believe is their Law, in a press [aron] to which all coming in do bow; and at the putting on their vayles do say something, to which others that hear him do cry Amen, and the party do kiss his vayle. Their service all in a singing way, and in Hebrew. And anon their Laws that they take out of the press are carried by several men, four or five several burthens in all, and they do relieve one another; and whether it is that every one desires to have the carrying of it, I cannot tell, thus they carried it round about the room while such a service is singing. And in the end they had a prayer for the King, which they pronounced his name in Portugall; but the prayer, like the rest, in Hebrew. But, Lord! to see the disorder, laughing, sporting, and no attention, but confusion in all their service, more like brutes than people knowing the true God, would make a man forswear ever seeing them more and indeed I never did see so much, or could have imagined there had been any religion in the whole world so absurdly performed as this. Away thence with my mind strongly disturbed with them, by coach and set down my wife in Westminster Hall, and I to White Hall

We, however, understand that the Torah is not to be objectified; rather it is Life itself, the essence of who we are as Jews. And therefore, we surely understand the tremendous joy we experience upon its completion, internalization, and once again beginning anew.

There are some other Halachic issues that arise which we will briefly discuss.

Ordinarily, one is supposed to stand when the Torah is in transport. This can be difficult on Simchas Torah, when the Torah is in constant transport. [Indeed for this and other reasons, in at least one place that I know of they replace the Sifrei Torah in the Ark after circling the Bimah once, while the dancing continues. They are then removed for the next hakafah].

The Aruch Hashulchan suggests that one may sit when the Torah Scrolls are being held but not in motion, such as between hakafos. Others suggest sitting behind a barrier of 40 inches or so to be considered in a different domain. An alternative solution would be to give the person sitting a Sefer Torah to hold, thus his sitting is not a lack of respect for the Torah.

There is an old custom to put candles in the empty Aron while all the Torah Scrolls are out. There are those who dislike this custom, and although it is still practiced in some communities it is not as widespread as it was.

Posted on 11/11 at 04:41 PM • Permalink
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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Kinah 25 - The First Crusade

All evil that happen s to the Jews is because of Tisha B’Av, and therefore we mourn on Tisha B’Av even if that’s not the day it actually happened – Brisker Rav. This is explicit in this kinnah that writes “their murders were as tragic as the burning of the Bais Hamikdash, but we do not add an additional day of mourning”.

This Kinah discusses the destruction of Speyer, Mainz and Worms, which were from the larger cities that were destroyed at the very beginning of the Crusade. In addition there were numerous small towns and villages that were wiped out as well.

There are three distinct items that are lamented. The thousands of people killed, including great Torah scholars. Secondly, the destruction of Shuls and Torah centers, referred to as מעט מקדשי. And thirdly, we lament the burning of Sifrei Torah and volumes of the Talmud (see Kinah 41).

Let us look at some of the history, in order to better appreciate the magnitude of the loss.

A so called ‘crusader’ named Count Emicho was one of the early crusaders. Setting off in the early summer of 1096, an army of around 10,000 men, women and children proceeded through the Rhine valley, towards the Main River and then to the Danube.

Emperor Henry IV ordered the Jews to be protected when he learned of Emicho’s intent. After some Jews were killed at Metz in May, John, Bishop of Speyer gave shelter to the Jewish inhabitants. Still 10 men and one women who were found outside the fortress were slain by crusaders on May 3. Later on they came back and killed the rest of the community as well.

On May 18th, a Sunday, they reached Worms. They immediately went about spreading rumors that the Jews had killed a Christian child, and that they had poisoned the towns wells. The local population joined in and every Jew that they captured was killed. The Bishop of Worms attempted to shelter Jews, but 8 days later the crusaders broke in to his episcopal palace and killed the Jews inside. This was on Sunday May 25th, Rosh Chodesh Sivan, and the mekonen writes בקריאת הלל לשוררה – while they were saying Hallel they were killed. At least 800 (and some versions say 1100) Jews were massacred in Worms when they refused Christian baptism.

The Seder Hadoros quotes the Sm”a who explains, in a lesson to us all, why Worms suffered more than other communities throughout history. He writes that the community of Worms was established by exiles of the first Bais Hamikdash. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after 70 years, the Jews of Worms did not return. A message was sent to them by the leaders in Jerusalem, inviting them to come join. Their response was tragic – ‘you stay where you are in your big Jerusalem, and we will stay where we are in our little Jerusalem’. The lack of recognition by the Jew that he is in Galus is ultimately the most dangerous attitude he can have.

News of Emicho’s crusade spread quickly, and he was prevented from entering Mainz on May 25 by Bishop Ruthard, who had been paid 400 pieces of silver to protect the Jews. Emicho also took an offering of gold raised by the Jews of Mainz in hope to gain his favor and their safety. Bishop Ruthard tried to protect the Jews by hiding them in his lightly fortified palace. Nevertheless Emicho did not prevent his followers from entering the city on May 27 and a massacre followed, with the help of the locals. Eventually the Bishop himself fled and left the Jews to their fate.

There is an account written by a Shlomo Bar Shimshon who describes how the Jews of Mainz and their Rov, Rav Kloynomus ben Meshulam, killed themselves to avoid forced baptism. He describes men killing their families and then themselves, and women killing their own children to avoid the evil hands of the Crusaders.

He describes a woman, Rachel and in graphic details how she killed her four children with her own hands so that they would not be cruelly killed or converted by the crusaders. When they found her crying over the four bodies of her children they immediately struck her and killed her, and her husband, seeing all this, fell on the sword as well. This is but one of the many incidents that happened.

All this happened on Shavous – as the Mekonen writes ביום נתינתה כמו כן אז חזרה. On the day of the giving of the Torah it was ‘returned ‘ to Hashem, in the form of the death of great Torah Scholars and the burning of the Seforim and Sifrei Torah.

In all over 1000 Jews were killed in Mainz, and over 5000 during the First Crusade. This was the first organized mass roundup and murder of Jews in history.

And we are left with desolation and destruction. In the words of the mekonen – אי תורה ותלמוד והלומדה Rav Soloveitchik explains that we mourn not only the loss of the Scholar, but also the loss of the lomda – the common Jew who was attached to Torah, and would spend time every day studying Torah.

He compares it to Jews who returned after the war to their hometowns, which had been bustling centers of Torah activity prewar, and they were desolate and abandoned. They couldn’t get a minyan together; there were no Sifrei Torah and seforim. The feeling one has is a cry of desperation – ‘where is everybody?’

Posted on 07/28 at 07:36 AM • Permalink
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

When Tisha B’Av is Shabbos

This year, we have the occurrence of Tisha B’Av on Shabbos. This makes for some interesting Halachic changes which we will explore.

The only time a fast day supersedes Shabbos is when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbos, However when any other fast day is Shabbos it is pushed to Sunday. When this happens there are various different practices that are put into effect.


Since Tisha B’Av is not being observed on the correct day, we are more lenient than we would usually be with regard to the obligation for ill people, nursing and pregnant women and others to fast. For individual guidance please consult with your Rabbi.

The Seudah Hamafsekes

The final mournful meal before Tisha B’Av usually take place in late afternoon before Tisha B’Av, and is eaten solitarily while seated on the floor. The custom is to eat an egg dipped in ashes with some bread. This year that meal would be scheduled for Shabbos, and on Shabbos we don’t have any public displays of mourning, therefore the meal is skipped.

The Shulchan Aruch states that one may have meat and wine at this meal when it’s Shabbos, and a feast ‘as King Solomon had in his time’. The Mishna Berura quotes the opinion of the Rokeach that one should be in a saddened state and not have a large gathering, as is the opinion of the Magen Avraham, however the Bechor Shor writes that one should not do anything less than is usual because that would be considered public mourning.

One should be careful not to state that they are eating extra in anticipation of the fast, because that would be preparing on Shabbos for after Shabbos which is forbidden to verbalize.

Marital Relations

The Shulchan Aruch writes (554:19) that when the ninth of Av is on Shabbos all prohibitions are permitted, including marital intimacy. The Rema argues and writes that things which are done in private do still apply. As the Mishna Berura explains, he compares it is the Halacha regarding one who buries a relative on Yom Tov, and the Shiva doesn’t begin until after the holiday. Although it is forbidden to display signs of mourning publicly, that which is done in private does apply.

The Rema (in Darchei Moshe) expands on this and says that there should be an announcement in Shul that mourning in private is applicable even though it is Shabbos. The Shaar Hatzion writes that in a locale where this is not the minhag it is not necessary, especially if it may lead to people acting in a flippant manner. 

If it is the Mikvah night, as well as in certain specific circumstances, intimacy may be permissible, consult with your local Orthodox rabbi.

All other harchakos (the general restrictions in effect during the Nidda period) are not in effect. (See Shu”t Maharil Diskin, Kunteres Acharon 5:67).

Studying Torah

The Rema writes (553:2) that if Erev Tisha B’Av is Shabbos we don’t say Pirkei Avos as the restrictions of Tisha B’Av apply with regard to learning on the afternoon of Erev Tisha B’Av as well, even if it’s Shabbos.

Although the opinion of the Magen Avraham is that when Tisha B’Av is Shabbos studying Torah is forbidden all day, the vast majority of the Poskim apply the Halacha above that Torah Study is only forbidden after midday since generally when Tisha B’Av is Shabbos it is given the status of Erev Tisha B’Av, not Tisha B’Av itself, (with the exception of marital relations).

The Taz writes that one is permitted to study Torah all day, and the Mishna Berura seems to side this way as well, particularly if one will learn less than usual otherwise.

Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky writes that one should not stop a regular shiur even if it is given in the afternoon, because that would be considered public mourning, and there will be an additional issue of bitul Torah derabim (reduction in Torah study of the masses).

As an aside – why is Torah study in particular prohibited from midday of Erev Tisha B’Av? The Chasam Sofer, in a fascinating response (OC 156) explains that when one studies during the day, they are still thinking about it at night, and will therefore end up learning Torah on Tisha B’Av inadvertently! The Silmah Chadasha supports this with the Gemara (Eruvin 21b) that compares Torah study to eating meat. Just as the taste of meat lingers for six hours so too the taste of Torah lingers for hours after one has completed his studies.

Walking for Pleasure

Walking or touring for pleasure is prohibited on the afternoon of erev Tisha B’Av and this applies when it is Shabbos (according to the Chida) as well.

Changing Shoes

Ordinarily one would remove their leather shoes before sunset. However since it is Shabbos doing so would be considered mourning on Shabbos. Therefore one should wait until after Borchu and the start of Maariv to remove their shoes. The Shliach Tzibur should recite ‘Boruch Hamavdil bein Kodesh Lechol’ and remove his shoes before Borchu. In many communities Maariv is slightly delayed to allow those who ate Shalosh Seudos at home time to go to shul. In that case one should say “Boruch Hamavdil Bein Kodeh Lchol” and change their shoes immediately. They should then make the blessing over fire (preferably a male should make it for everyone) and go to shul.


One should be careful not to do any preparation on Shabbos, and should bring their non leather shoes and other Tisha B’Av paraphernalia to Shul before Shabbos, if they will not be home at the conclusion of Shabbos.


Havdala is not recited on Saturday night that is Tisha B’Av. On Sunday night before breaking one’s fast one recites a modified version of Havdala, beginning with Borei Pri Hagefen and continuing with the last blessing. This Havdala should be recited over wine.

The blessing over the Besamim (spices) is totally omitted. The blessing over the candle is recited on Saturday night in Shul before the reading of Eicha. If one is not in Shul they should make the blessing over the candle at home. The consensus of most Halachic authorities is that that this applies to women as well, however when possible a male should make the blessing on the women’s behalf. (see Biur Halacha 296:12, Igros Moshe CM 2:47:2, this is also the opinion of the Tzitz Eliezer and Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky).

One should say the regular Havdala insertion in Shemonah Esrei of Saturday night. If forgotten do not repeat Shemonah Esrei, and it should not be inserted Sunday night. However if forgotten, or a woman or child who do not daven Maariv, should make sure to say ‘Boruch Hamavdil Bein kodesh Lechol’ before doing any Melacha.

According to some Poskim, an ill person who needs to eat on Tisha B’Av needs to make Havdala first. This Havdala should be made over ‘chamar medina’ such as coffee. A child who is old enough to be obligated in chinuch for Havdala (about 9 years old as per Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky) can use apple juice. In all instances that Havdala is made on Saturday night they should say the first paragraph of Havdala as well.

The opinion I heard from my Rebbe is that one should always delay Havdala until Sunday night, and if one is in a position where they need to eat on Tisha B’Av they should eat without Havdala. This is comparable to the Halacha of someone who is an Onen (mourner before burial) on Saturday night and may not make any blessings; he may eat, but delays his Havdala until Sunday night. (See the Maharam Miruttenberg as quoted by the Rosh in Berachos Chapter 3:2, Shulchan Aruch YD 341:2, see also the Rosh in Taanis 4:40)

Motzai Tisha B’Av

Generally the restrictions of the Nine Days extend into the night following Tisha B’Av as well. However when Tisha B’Av is Shabbos and observed on Sunday (which is really the 10th of Av) there are no restrictions in effect other than the prohibition of meat and wine, with the exception of the wine used for Havdala on Sunday night. (see Kenesses Hagedola who prohibits marital relations, however the poskim indicate by omission that they disagree, and this is explicated by Rav Shmuel Kamentsky).

In the merit of the proper observation of the laws of mourning may we merit the fulfillment of
עוד ישמע בערי יהודה ובחוצות ירושלים קול ששון וקול שמחה קול חתן וקול כלה

Posted on 07/25 at 09:14 AM • Permalink
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Friday, July 20, 2012

Tisha B’Av

Tisha B’Av is best known as the culmination of the National Mourning Period over the destruction of the First and Second Bais Hamikdash.

In truth the events of Tisha B’Av began much earlier when the Jews had left Egypt and were in the desert. They sent scouts ahead to the Land of Israel, who came back with a negative and discouraging report. The reaction was one of despair and lack of faith, and Hashem decreed that that generation would not be allowed to enter the Land of Israel. This happened on the night of Tisha B’Av, and at that point it was established to be a day of calamity for the Jewish People.

As mentioned, on that day both the First and Second Temples were destroyed. Additionally on the 9th of Av Beitar was destroyed, which effectively ended the Bar Kochba rebellion, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of men, women and children.

After the Bar Kochba revolt the Romans returned to Jerusalem and on Tisha B’Av they plowed the Temple Mount.

Throughout Jewish History Tisha B’Av has been designated as a day that is ripe for calamities. Events linked to various expulsions and crusades occurred on Tisha B’av, as is documented by Rabbi Becher here.


Although Yom Kippur is a joyous time and Tisha B’Av a mournful one, the five items that are prohibited on Yom Kippur are prohibited on the 9th of Av as well. (See here for a wonderful treatment of this).

These are:


The Shulchan Aruch states that one may not wash on Tisha B’Av, even to immerse one’s finger in water is forbidden (OC 554:7).
However this is limited to washing which would be considered ‘enjoyable’ as opposed to utilitarian. Therefore in cases of necessity the Halacha is lenient. Therefore, If one has to pass through water to visit their Rebbe or to rescue their assets they may, but they may not return through the water. Someone who is preparing food may rinse the food if necessary even though their hands will be washed as well.

Likewise, one should wash their hands upon arising and after using the restroom, but should be careful to only wash up to the major knuckles.
If one has actual dirt on their skin they may wash that area as well.


One may not put on creams or lotions on Tisha B’Av, as this is considered anointing. This prohibition extends to makeup and cosmetics as well, according to many poskim.

Deodorant is considered to be removal of dirt and is therefore permitted, however some halachic authorities write that one should not apply deodorant either, because it would be included in the prohibition of washing. 

Wearing Shoes

According to Halacha only a leather shoe is considered a shoe. Therefore, one may wear footgear made out of other materials, because they are not considered shoes.

There are those who are stringent, and say that nothing comfortable should be worn. There was some controversy several years ago when it was announced the leading Halachic authorities said one should not wear Crocs on Tisha B’Av. The truth is, they were not on a vendetta against weird looking rubber footwear, rather they were concerned about the opinions quoted by the Mishna Berura that discourage wearing anything comfortable on one’s feet. This would obviously include tennis shoes, canvas shoes, or fuzzy bedroom slippers as well. Although this is not Halacha or common practice, it’s good to be aware of the valid halachic opinion that one should refrain from wearing anything comfortable on their feet.

A shoe which has some leather in it is permitted if the leather is not supportive and is merely decorative. (Rav Moshe Feinstein quoted in Moadei Yeshurun).

Marital Intimacy

According to some all practices of Harchakos should be observed, just as when a woman is a Nidda. Others are of the opinion that only the Torah mandated Harchakos are in effect. Some differentiate between the day and the night.

Eating and Drinking

Even those who wouldn’t fast on the minor fasts, such as a pregnant or nursing woman, should fast on Tisha B’Av. It goes without saying that if there is a medical need then one should consult with their doctor and Rabbi.

Additionally, since Tisha B’Av is a mournful time there are additional items which were enacted from a mournful perspective (See Chidushei Maran Riz Halevi on Hilchos Taanios for a full treatment of the dual aspect of Tisha B’Av).

These include:

Abstaining from Studying Torah

Torah Study brings joy and is therefore forbidden. There are specific sections one may study, particularly those that speak of the destruction of the Temple, Eichah and the sections of the Talmud that discuss mourning. When studying those sections he should not delve deeply in a way that will bring him joy.

One may say all the parts of prayer that he says on a daily basis, even if they are technically Torah study.

There are differing opinions on reciting Tehillim after midday. Before midday according to all opinion one should not say Psalms.

One may learn Mussar works only to the extent that they are used as an inspirational tool to introspect. (Rav Elyashiv Zt”l).

Greeting Others

We refrain from greeting others be it verbally or by nodding ones head or bowing. If one is greeted they should reply to the extent that the other person won’t be slighted.

Sit On the Floor

One should sit on the floor until midday, or on a low stool that is lower than 3 tefachim (9-12 inches).

Additionally make an effort not to distract oneself from the mourning, thus not to engage in idle chatter.

Therefore one is to abstain from work and business related matters until at least midday and preferably the entire day.

Other Laws and Customs

1)Some don’t sleep on a bed, others replace their pillow with a stone, and one should make an effort to make their bed at least a little less comfortable.
2)One shouldn’t dress particularly nicely
3)One should refrain from smelling pleasant smelling spices, and smoking is not allowed in most circumstances.
4)Men do not wear Tallis and Tefillin at Shachris. This is because Tefillin is called פאר , our glory, and on Tisha B’Av our glory was taken from us

Other Tisha B’Av customs:

Cleaning the House

Many have the custom to clean the house and wash the floor after midday, so as to prepare for the coming of Moshiach, and to signify that even in the depths of our despair we do not give up hope. According to tradition Moshiach is born on Tisha B’Av.

One Should not clean the house, or even make the beds, until midday.

Visiting Graves

There is a widespread custom to visit the cemetery on Tisha B’Av. There is an old Jerusalem custom to gaze at the walls of Jerusalem to remind themselves of their unfinished state.

All who mourn Jerusalem will merit seeing in its rebuilding. (Taanis 30b)

Posted on 07/20 at 12:00 PM • Permalink
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Friday, March 02, 2012

Matanos Levyonim - Laws and Parameters

When the commandment is set forth to create the holiday of Purim, at the end of Megillas Esther, it is set forth as a “day of feasting and joy, of sending food to each other, and gifts to the destitute” (Esther 9:22). This verse is the source for many of the mitzvos of the day, including Matanos Levyonim, gifts to the poor.

Indeed, the Rambam (2:17 Megilla) writes that it is a greater mitzvah to increase gifts to the poor then to increase the festive meal or gifts of food to one’s friends. For, explains the Rambam, there is no greater or more glorious joy then to gladden the hearts of the destitute, the widow and the orphan.  One who can create this joy is compared to the Shechinah itself!

Who Gives?

All the mitzvos of Purim, including this one, are incumbent upon both men and women. This is explicit in the Shulchan Aruch (694:1) who writes that ‘everyone’ is obligated, and in the Rema (695:4) where he writes that both men and women are obligated in Mishloach Manos and Matanos Levyonim.

The Magen Avraham questions this as not being the custom, and writes that perhaps a widow or single woman would have to give, but with regards to a married woman her husband could give on her behalf. He concludes that it is good to be stringent, and she should give herself.

The Aruch Hashulchan writes that the husband and wife are considered a single unit, and can give jointly (two gifts to two people). Whether they give a total of two gifts or a total of four gifts a husband can give on behalf of his wife, much as he can bring a sacrifice that his wife is obligated in (Rav Nissim Karelitz).

Children above the age of Bar and Bas Mitzvah are obligated, even though they are supported by their parents.

The Bach is of the opinion that even a poor person who is supported by charity is obligated in Matanos Levyonim, like the Four Cups on Pesach, it is a mitzvah of the day. The Pri Chodosh disputes this, however the Magen Avraham, Taz, Mishna Berura and the Aruch Hashulchan all rule like the Bach.

What Should be Given?

One can give money or food. The idea is it should be used to gladden the Purim of the underprivileged, and therefore should be something that can be used to improve their Purim.

One may not give Matanos Levyonim from Maaser money, just as one may not use Maaser money for any obligatory mitzvah. However, one may use Maaser money for any donations beyond the obligatory two gifts.


The Magen Avraham (695:13) writes that the gifts to the poor should be given on Purim during the day, like Mishloach Manos. In 694:1 he quotes the Baal Hamaor that one should not give the gifts before Purim because they will be eaten before Purim. The Pri Megadim explains that for this reason they should not be given the night prior, even though it is Purim, because then the recipient might end up using it for something other than the Seudah. The Aruch Hashulchan states simply that it is a mitzvah of the day like Mishloach Manos, and therefore should be given during the day, like Mishloach Manos.

[However the Pri Megadim concedes that one can argue that it should be given to them specifically earlier so that they can properly prepare.]

Practilcally speaking, the Biur Halacha as well as the Aruch Hashulchan write that one should make sure he gives at least two poor people on the day of Purim in order to fulfill you obligation.

The Mahariach concedes that it would be sensible to give Matanos Levyonim before Purim, but Halachically it must be given on Purim, and therefore one should make every effort to give the funds as early in the day as possible. However the Makor Chaim dissents, since Mishloach Manos is mentioned first in the verse one should fulfill that mitzvah first.

One may designate a messenger before Purim to deliver the money on Purim, and this is the common setup with most ‘Matanos Levyonim Funds’.

If one is sending money to a poor person who keeps Purim on a different day, for example in Jerusalem or a vastly different time zone, the Purim is defined by the recipient, because you’re making his day, and gladdening his Purim. (Eishel Avraham).

To Whom?

The obligation is to give to two poor people. The Aruch Hashulchan writes that they have to be from two different households, otherwise they are considered as one. However the Chasam Sofer, Maharsha and Kaf Hachayim write that they can be considered two distinct needs.

How poor is considered poor? The term אביון (Evyon) generally denotes a greater level of poverty than עני (Ani) (See Bava Metzia 111b). however with regards to charity, in most cases they are equal, and this is true regarding Matanos Levyonim as well. (Aruch Hashulchan).

[The Mekor Chaim does recommend seeking out the greatest needs and the most poverty stricken to send Matanos Levyonim too, in order to fulfill the dictum of אביון as well.]

So the regular parameters of ‘poor’ as is explicated with regard to the regular mitzvah of Tzedaka apply. The contemporary Poskim write that anyone who doesn’t have the assets (a years’ worth of expenses) or the expectation of a stable salary to sustain the basic needs of their family on a day to day basis is entitled to receive charity funds.

Furthermore, one who has the expectation of unusual expenditures that year is entitled as well (Igros Moshe YD 1:148). One who has spent their money frivolously and now has no way of covering their expenses is considered eligible for Tzedaka funds, however it is said in the name of Rav Elyashiv that they are a low priority.

The primary difference between Purim and the rest of the year is that on Purim we don’t investigate the veracity of the claims of the recipient, and take him at his word.

If one is in the fortunate position of living in a city with no poor, he may keep the money for himself, and distribute it wherever he’d like. (Shulchan Aruch 694:4)

How Much?

The Mishna Berura quotes the Ritva that one fulfills their obligation with just one Perutah (about a nickel) to each poor person. There are a large number of Poskim who rule that way (Mishna Berura, Eishel Avrohom and others), however there are numerous authorities who feel that one must give at least as much as one must give for Msihloach Manos, or enough to purchase a small meal (a roll and a drink). The Ben Ish Chai and others require a little more than that, enough to buy a significant amount of bread. It is said in the name of Rav Elyashiv that one should give a donation that is large enough to enable a person to purchase a respectable meal and be glad (this would be subject to locale, but probably between ten and twenty dollars in the United States).

May we all merit to fulfill the words of the Rambam, and be God-like in our ability to gladden the heart of the widow, the orphan, the poor and the broken of spirit.

Posted on 03/02 at 01:22 PM • Permalink
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha

Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha

The oft sung phrase “Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha”, When the month of Adar arrives we should increase our joy, is often taken at its simple meaning that we should act and be more joyous during the month of Adar. Let us look deeper.

We don’t really do anything differently during the month of Adar. We say Tachanun, all the prayers for the dead and everything else that would be omitted on other “happy” days. We don’t add anything to our daily liturgy or daily practices that would show our added joy. Indeed this Halacha is not brought in Shulchan Oruch or most of the Poskim (it is mentioned by the Magen Avrohom 686 and in Kitzur Shulchon Aruch). So how is it manifested in practice?

[The Munkatcher Rebbe in Nimukei OC 685 writes that the reason it is omitted from the Shulchan Oruch is because there is no specific actions that one should or should not do, rather one should engage in behavior that makes him joyous. See also Shu”t Chasam Sofer OC 160 who discusses this issue at length.]

The source of Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha is in the Gemara (Taanis 29) commenting on the words of the Mishnah that “Mishenichnas Av Mima’atin B’Simcha” When the Month of Av arrives we should reduce our joy. The Gemara comments that just as when Av arrives we reduce our joy, so too when Adar arrives we should increase our joy.

The reason given for increasing joy in Adar is because they were days of miracles for Klal Yisroel, specifically Purim and Pesach. (Rashi)

The Gemara goes on to say that therefore if one has a court case with an Akum he should not schedule it for Av, when his mazal is bad rather he should schedule it to take place in Adar when his mazal is good.

There are several questions that arise when reading this Gemara:

1) What is the correlation between decreasing joy in Av and increasing joy in Adar?
2) Why does Rashi add Pesach to the reason of increased joyousness in Adar when it took place in Nissan?
3) What is the connection between decreasing and increasing joy and good and bad mazel?

The Magen Avrohom (551) quotes Tosfos (Megilla 5) that in Av we have to cease all joy totally. It would seem that the flip side of this in Adar would be to be totally joyous and cease all sadness. Indeed when quoting this Gemara the Ayin Yaakov adds “When Adar arrives we decrease mourning and increase joy.” Perhaps this is his intention.

Rav Yaakov Emden (Shailos Yaavetz 2:88) explains that Rashi throws Pesach into the mix in order to show us that Purim isn’t a one-time miracle that was performed like Chanukah, rather it ushers in an era of Geulah and redemption, beginning with Adar and running through Pesach.

So perhaps the reason why we are told to be joyous is because we are beginning an era of redemption – the exact opposite of Av when we are beginning a period of Golus and exile. The mazel and season of the time is one of hope and deliverance and is therefore a good time to schedule a court case with the dominant nation in whichever Diaspora we happen to find ourselves in.

Although there are no Halachically mandated behavioral changes for Adar, the deeper message in Mishenichnas Adar Marbim B’Simcha is that we are entering a time of redemption and salvation beginning with Adar and Purim and carrying straight through Pesach. This is an ideal time for each of us to seek out our own personal Geulah - freedom from the yetzer hara and the distractions of Galus. Perhaps it is an auspicious time to start something new - add some learning, or distance ourselves from some of the negative influences around us, in order to merit the final Geulah.

The Sfas Emes (Taanis Ibid) suggests an alternative to Rashi’s explanation. The joy in Adar is not due to the miracles that took place. Rather it is because of the continuation of the sacrifices in the Bais Hamikdash. The kick off for the campaign to keep up the fund which provided animals for the daily sacrifices was when Parshas Shekalim was read at the beginning of Adar, and the due date was Rosh Chodesh Nissan. It is explicit in the verses that there was great joy in the world when the Jews brought the SHekalim, and this ensured the continuation of the Bais Hamikdash and the Tamid offering.

This lies in direct contrast with Av, which commemorates the cessation of the sacrifices and destruction of the Temple, thus explaining the Gemara’s juxtaposition.

Thanks to Yechezkel for his help with this post

UPDATE 2/25/11 -
I just rediscovered the origins of the popular Mishenichnas Adar tune: (Thanks Dixie Yid)


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Friday, December 30, 2011

Torah On The Road

We know there is a special commandment, as part of the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, to learn on the road. This is referred to as the mitzvah of U’velechta B’derech, learning ‘on the way’. However, upon closer examination, it is necessary to discuss exactly what type of learning is appropriate when one is journeying.

In Parshas Vayigash Yosef instructs his brother’s אל תרגזו בדרך “do not become agitated on the way”. What did he mean by this command? Rashi explains that the simple meaning is that Yosef understood that there could very possibly be an argument amongst the brothers as to who had been responsible for his sale, which in retrospect had been the wrong thing to do. He therefore cautioned them not to become agitated along the way.
However the Gemara (Taanis 10b), also quoted by Rashi, understands a deeper pshat. Do not get involved in a dvar Halacha and thereby become agitated by the road. Simply understood this means that they will get lost because of their involvement in the Torah discussion, (and this is how Rashi on the Gemara understands as well). So then it would seem that one should not learn on the road?

The Gemara immediately questions this from the incident of Eliyahu Hanavi, who was taking his last walk with Elisha, when a fiery chariot bore down on them and separated them, and then ultimately carried Eliyahu to the Heavens. The verse states that they were walking and speaking (words of Torah). The Gemara deduces that if they would not have been speaking words of Torah they would have been scorched by the fire.

The Gemara resolves the contradiction -one is obligated to learn on the road, but one may not, as Yosef told his brothers, become ‘agitated’ that is delve deeply into a topic.

Tosfos quotes a Midrash which sees a seemingly contradictory message in the verse – make sure not to interrupt your Torah learning while you are on the road. Being that the voyage can be distracting Yosef was cautioning his brothers to make sure to keep up their learning.

The Kli Yakar explains that there is no contradiction. The Midrash is referring to the permissible, non in depth type of learning, which the Gemara also advocates, and this is referred to as Divrei Torah. Indeed the precise wording of the Midrash do not stop your Divrei Torah. What Yosef was cautioning against, in the words of the Gemara, was ‘Dvar Halacha’ which refers to in depth, multi layered intense learning, which was not recommended for travelers.
This approach beautifully resolves the apparent contradiction between the Gemara and the Midrash, and is explicit in the nuances of the Gemara. The Gemara hadn’t known this differentiation in its question and therefore asked on Yosef from that which was said that two scholars must talk in Divrei Torah. To that the Gemara responds with the differentiation – Yosef cautioned against Dvar Halacha, but two scholars who are on the road must engage in Divrei Torah or worthy of being burnt!

This approach would be somewhat difficult to say in Tosfos, because the language of Tosfos is ‘do not interrupt you Dvar Halacha.’

The Meforshim question: why was this advised by Yosef, but not by Yaakov on their initial trips? The Emek Halacha (R Menachem Mendel of Levov) quoted by the Midrash Halacha, suggests that Yaakov had no need to caution them, for they would hurry regardless out of their obligation to fulfill their fathers command, and the mitzvah of Kibud Av would restrict them from tarrying. However, now that they had discovered that learning Torah trumps Kibud Av, because Yaakov was punished for the twenty two years he was away from Yitzchak in the house of Lava by being estranged from Yosef for twenty two years, but he was not punished for the fourteen years he spent in the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever. This was only realized when they saw that Yosef’s separation from Yaakov coincided with Yaakov’s separation from Yitzchak. Therefore now they were susceptible to learn at the expense of hurrying home in fulfillment of Kibud Av, and Yosef had to caution them ‘Al Tirgazu Bderech’.

The Kli Yakar has a slightly different understanding of Yosef’s words of caution in the Gemara. In his understanding, Yosef wasn’t concerned for the time or travel plans of his brothers, rather his concern was for the Torah which would suffer as a result of being written on the go.  This can perhaps be illustrated by the Rambam who writes as a disclaimer at the end of his commentary on Mishnah “I was working on this Commentary under the most arduous conditions… as we were driven from place to place… while traveling by land or crossing the stormy sea,”.

Posted on 12/30 at 01:20 PM • Permalink
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Hagbah and Gelila


The Gemara (Megilla 32a) tells us that the “golel,” he who rolls the Torah, has a reward equal to the sum of all the other participants in the Torah reading. Although often not recognized as such, this is the most important honor one can be given.

This is conventionally understood to be referring to what we commonly call Hagbah, the lifting of the Torah. The reason this is called golel is because in the times of the Gemara the one who would lift the Torah would be the same one who would roll it, and it was one honor.

Now the custom is to split it into two, however in some communities the custom is that instead of the lifter sitting down, he replaces the Torah on the bimah and rolls the Torah himself and ties and wraps it, thus fulfilling the way the Gemara seems to describe the procedure. This practice is endorsed by the Aruch Hashulchan as well.

Before or After?

The ShulchanAruch (OC 134:2) writes that before reading from the Torah the writing in the Torah is shown to the people. This is indeed the custom of most Sefardim, as well as the Boston Chassidim.

The Rema notes that our custom is to do it after the Torah reading, and this is the custom in most Ashkenazi communities.
Who does Hagbah?

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 147:1) writes that Hagbah (more precisely what he calls Galilah) should be given as the greatest honor as per the Gemara, the Mishna Berura writes that nowadays we aren’t so careful about this and give it even to the regular folk.

If two people have yahrtzeit on a particular day and only one of them can get an aliyah (e.g. they are both a kohen/levi/yisrael) then the second should be given hagbah. (MB Ibid)

It should be given to someone who has the strength to lift and turn the Torah without needing to sit immediately (Ibid). If one knows they do not have the strength to do it properly they should decline the honor. Although generally one should not turn down an invitation for an Aliyah, we don’t find this with Hagbah, albeit the greater honor.


The following is a mixture of practical and halachic advice to ensure a smooth and Halachically appropriate Hagbah.

The Torah should be opened so that three columns are visible. It should be opened at least three columns so that people can easily see the writing of the Torah, however it is unclear whether one should open the Torah specifically three columns or at least three columns (Magen Avraham). The Mishna Berura writes (OC 134:8) that it depends on the strength of the lifter. Rabbi Tropper suggests that, based on the laws of one who is appointed a shomer watching over a scroll, where the halacha is that the guardian should never open the Sefer more than three columns (CM 267:20) lest he cause it damage, here too one should refrain from opening the Sefer Torah more than three columns so as not to cause any damage to the scroll.

The seam between the two pages of the Torah should be visible in the middle of the open section (OC 147:3)

So you have the scroll open three columns with the seam in the middle. Turn the atzei chaim (handles)to tighten the scroll on either side.

Now, this next part doesn’t require great strength, rather knowledge of technique. Holding the Torah by the atzei chaim, moves it down atop the reading desk (lifting the Torah over the lip of the bimah) so that the mid-point rests upon the edge of the bimah. Using the bimah as a fulcrum, he then rotates the Torah to a vertical position and with knees bent (to save the back muscles, not for religious reasons), lifts the Torah with his hands at approximately the height of his shoulders. Make sure to keep your arms rigidly spread out, this will greatly enhance your balancing and turning. [For the physics student this may be easier to understand, for everyone else probably not].

After lifting the Sefer Torah one should turn around so as to show the words of the Torah to the entire congregation. There are various customs as to how to accomplish this. The more common minhag is to turn 90 degrees to the right and then do a full circle to the left in order that everyone should see the letters of the Torah. The Chabad minhag, as well as the minhag of the German Jews is to turn only to the right, similar to the Kohanim turning during the Priestly Blessing – to the right. This seems to be the opinion of the Mishna Berura as well. These customs are based on various readings of the Meseches Sofrim quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (134:2).  The main objective is to allow all the congregants to see the writing in the Torah and he should turn slowly and patiently and make sure to cover all directions.

The Congregation

The members of the congregation, both men and women, should endeavor to see the writing of the Torah. The Kabbalists write that one should ideally be able to read the letters in the Torah and this causes a great spiritual light to shine on the viewer.

Upon seeing the writing one should bow slightly toward the Torah and exclaim “vzos haTorah …” as printed in the siddur.

Many have a custom to point at the Torah as it is being shown. This is not based in Halacha, but does have sources in Midrashic and Kabbilistic sources. According to those sources one should point with the right index finger of their right hand. (see Sefer Hachaim from Rav Chaim Palagi 3:6).

There is a common custom to point with the pinky. Many struggle to find a source for this, the earlies source seems to be the Meam Loez (Ki Savo). Interestingly הזרת has the numerical value of 613.

The Rolling, Wrapping and Tying

After the scroll is shown to the congregation the lifter sits down and the golel or roller steps in. he rolls the two sides together, preferably finishing with the seam in the middle. The lifter should ideally assist him in this, to fulfill the Talmudic dictum of the lifter and roller being one and the same. He then ties the ‘gartel’ or belt of the Torah. Often this is easy with Velcro or buckle clasps which should be clasped in the front of the Torah. In Germanic and some other communities a long and ornate cloth is used, the gabbai will most probably assist you in tying this (it often requires two people to get started). It should be completed by tucking in the remainder of the cloth in the front of the Torah.

Although one may tie a standard shoelace tie on Shabbos, the Mishna Berura (317:29) explains that this is only permitted if it will be untied within 24 hours. Therefore at Mincha on Shabbos, where the Torah will not be used until Monday, one must be careful not to tie the belt at all, rather he should just tuck it in. if this isn’t possible there are lenient opinions if the Torah will be used within a week, (see Biur Halacha 317)

One is also not allowed to untie a permanent knot on Shabbos, so one should be careful on Thursday not to tie it either. If this was done, the common custom is to rely on the lenient opinion (see Ketzos Hashulchan 123:9)

He then completes the process by slipping on the cover and any other decorations, such as a breastplate, pointer and crown.

On Shabbos the blessings for Maftir should not begin until after the entire process has finished, or at the very least until the tying has been completed.

One should be careful while receiving maftir not to stand with their back directly to the Sefer Torah. This can easily be achieved by moving the fellow holding the Torah or by moving the Maftir/Chazzan slightly off to one side.

On a Shabbos that the Rosh Chodesh Blessing is said, the fellow who does hagbah will hand the Torah scroll to the Chazzan for the duration of the blessing, and then take it back from him and sit down with it for Ashrei, thus allowing the congregation to sit.
Based in part on an article by Rav Dov Tropper in Torah veHorah

Posted on 01/14 at 01:41 AM • Permalink
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Lo Sichaneim – Do Not Grant Them Favor

When the Torah instructs the Jewish people regarding entering Eretz Yisroel and conquering the seven nations (Devarim 7:1-2), it says “lo sichaneim” literally translated as you shall not grant them favor or grace. What does this mean practically?

The Gemara (Avodah Zara 20) explains that there are three halachos derived from here:

1)Do not give them a dwelling place in the land
2)Do not praise them
3)Do not give them gifts

But first – who does the prohibition apply to?

The verse quoted above is referring to the seven nations that inhabit Eretz Yisroel. One can argue that this Halacha only applies only to them (and the Torah Temimah in Devarim 7:2 does, c.f. Tzitz Eliezer 15:47), however the Rishonim assume that it has a wider reach as well.

Most Rishonim understand that this prohibition applies to all non Jews, except for a Ger Toshav – A ‘Resident Alien’ who has accepted upon himself (generally understood in Beis Din) the seven Noahide laws. (See Avodah Zara 64b-65a.)

The Meiri understand this to mean specifically idolaters. For all other non Jews there would be no prohibition.

The Shulchan Aruch (See Beis Yosef CM 259) and the vast majority of the Poskim (see Shach YD 151:18) rule like the first opinion and extend the prohibition to all non Jews ‘even Yishmaelim’. There are some contemporary poskim who rule like the Meiri but this is firmly in the minority opinion. [It seems that even those who rule like the Meiri, do not apply this to the selling of land in Eretz Yisrael, which would still be prohibited].

Even according to the Meiri that only actual idolaters are included in lo sichaneim it isn’t clear cut as to the parameters and definitions of an idolater. The Rema famously writes (OC 156) that there is no prohibition of Shituf (partnership of gods, not quite polytheism but not the Jewish definition of monotheism either) for a non Jew. It is unclear if the Rema refers just to swearing in their name or actual worship. (see Pischei Teshuva 147:2) Furthermore, many achronim disagree with the Rema and write that those who believe in more than one God in any which way have the halachic classification of idolaters. (Pischei Teshuva Ibid, a well regarded contemporary posek told me that the ‘rov achronim don’t agree with the Rema and it is not the halacha).

In conclusion, it’s a bit of a stretch to not apply lo sichaneim to all non Jews; Definitely according to the Shulchan Aruch, and even according to the minority opinion of the Meiri.

Do not give them a dwelling place in the land

One is not allowed to sell a house or a field in Eretz Yisroel to a non Jew. One may not rent a field to a non Jew because you are causing that there will be no more tithing from this field. One may however rent a house to a non Jew. (YD 151:8)

That being said, the Shulchan Aruch (10) rules that one may only rent a house to a non Jew for storage but not for dwelling out of concern that they will bring in idols. However the Rema writes that nowadays one may rent to a non Jew since they don’t generally bring idols into their homes.This rema seems to be going in accordance to his opinion that those who practice shituf are not considered idolaters.

The Shach (17 c.f Biur Hagra 18), who seems to concur with the opinion quoted above that shituf is halachic idolatry, has trouble with the Rema, and suggests that the reason why we permit renting is because the non Jew has an actual acquisition on the home while he is renting and it is not considered as if he is bringing an idol into a Jewish home. He offers an additional rationale to permit renting to a non Jew – since taxes are payed to the non Jewish state it is not considered solely the Jews house.

It would seem from the Shach that the main concern is bringing idols into a house that is considered the house of the Jew. In contemporary landlord – tenant situations this doesn’t seem applicable, the rented home or unit is considered the home of the tenant, not the landlord.

The prohibition against renting, if applicable, applies even outside of Israel.

Do Not Praise Them

The Shulchan Aruch (YD 151:14) writes: “One may not speak in their praise, even to say how beautiful or handsome or well formed they are, and definitely not to praise their actions or be enthralled with their words”.

So it is forbidden to praise a non Jew, say how beautiful an actor/actress is or what a great ball player they are, as well as how muscular that guy is and so on. One also may not say look at that brilliantly designed building, well constructed bridge, beautiful artwork or beautifully decorated home (or tree).

The Shulchan Aruch continues: “if one intends with their praise to praise Hashem for creating such a beautiful thing then it is permitted”.

So it seems one may say “wow, Hashem blessed Kobe Bryant with tremendous athletic capabilities!”

Rav Shternbuch (teshuvos vehanhagos 4:197) debates whether debating the wisdom of non Jews, and even more so, the wisdom of non Jews he is not associated with such as a world leader, is included.

He concludes (and this can be found in the Sefer hachinuch 426) that one may also say praise as compared to Jews. The Rambam writes that Aristotle was one level under Ruach HaKodesh. Rav Shternbuch writes that this should be understood as “Aristotle is so smart he’s one level under ruach hoakodesh”. Likewise the Gemara says that Goliath was only praised to show the praise of David.

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yechaveh Daas 6:60) discusses praying and saying kaddish for a non Jewish parent and concludes that it is permissible as well.

Do Not Give Them Gifts

The Shulchan Aruch writes (YD 151:11): One may not give gifts to a non Jew he does not know. The Taz explains: if he knows him then it would not be a purposeless gift, because he expects or has received goodwill from him in return.

Based on this the Poskim discuss gifts to office staff, or customary tips to your mailman or hairdresser. Whereas it is expected, and he has either received or there is an expectation of good service, it would be permissible.

Likewise the Ran (Gittin 38b) in discussing the incident in which Rav shimon Ben Gamliel freed his slave in order to complete a minyan explains that when a gift is given for the givers benefit or then there is no prohibition.

Furthermore, the Debreciner Rav (Beer Moshe 3:117) says that one may tip a taxi driver, even though you’ll never see him again, because if you don’t he (and his friends) will no longer stop for Jews.

The Shulchan Aruch continues (Ibid 12,13) that one may support their needy, visit their sick, bury their dead and even eulogize and comfort their mourners ‘mipnei darkei shalom’ – to keep the peace. Additionally one need not stop them from taking the leket shikchah and peah (gleanings) gifts.

This would seemingly allow tips and such as well as anything expected out of common decency even without the Debreciner’s rationale.

Much thanks to Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz for his invaluable research and Maareh Mekomos

Posted on 01/04 at 08:57 AM • Permalink
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Office Parties - the expanded version (also covering entering Non Kosher Venues)

Part 1:


There is a prohibition (Avodah Zara 8a, YD 152:1) to attend the wedding of the child of a non Jewish acquaintance. The prohibition is to attend the ‘mishteh’ the eating and drinking part, even if you bring your own food and attendants.

There is a dispute as to the reason and source of this prohibition. The Taz writes that it is a Torah prohibition, and the reason is so as not to become overly close and intimate with non-Jews, much like Bishul Akum and Pas Akum, which are forbidden because ‘one may end up marrying their daughter’s. It’ll lead to intermarriage – and this reality is not so farfetched.

The Shach (in Nekudas Hakesef) writes that it is only Rabbinic in nature, and the reason is because the host may thank his god for the Jews attendance, hence causing him to serve Avodah Zara.

There is a tremendous practical difference which they argue over. We sometimes permit interactions with non Jews on the premises of eivah – that our actions will cause enmity from the non Jews. However this is only applicable to rabbinic prohibitions that are enacted for an unrelated reason. However prohibitions enacted to minimize fraternity cannot be permitted so as not to cause enmity, that’s exactly the reason for the prohibition!

Another difference would be where you know the non Jew is agnostic and wouldn’t thank any gods, according to the Shach you could go, and according to the Taz you cannot.

Now let’s take a look at contemporary office parties. If there is cause for offense, and there are no religious overtones, then according to the Shach one can definitely go.

If one is expected to be there and will suffer business repercussions (and it’s therefore not a social event) one can be lenient as well perhaps even according to the Taz. (See the Daily Halacha p. 86)

It does behoove us to remember that the mode of dress, language and atmosphere of these events is usually not one that reflects Jewish values, and one should try to spend as little time as possible st the event. There are poskim (R’ Hershel Shachter and others) who say that one may not be in the same room that mixed dancing is taking place in. Utmost care must be taken to limit our social interaction to what is necessary for professional purposes.

Part 2

All this does not take into account the venue and food of the party. Lets take a look at that.


There are two distinct issues in Halacha; Maaris Ayin and Cheshad.

Someone had criticized Rav Moshe Feinstein (IM OC 1:96)for getting into a car to go to shul after candle lighting because people would think that one may enter a car on Shabbos.

Rav Moshe thanked him for the chastisement, and actually said he would no longer enter cars after candle lighting, but he explained that Maaris Ayin is when I do something that appears to be forbidden, that will lead people to think that the forbidden thing is permitted. It does not include doing something permitted that some people think is forbidden, such as (a male) getting into a car after candle lighting before sunset.

There is a second category known as Cheshad(See IM OC 2:40)- where one causes others to suspect him of doing something improper even though he didn’t actually do anything wrong, such as entering a house of idol worship, no one will think its permitted to serve Avodah Zara, but will think that you are doing something wrong, which is forbidden from the posuk of והייתם נקיים מה’ ומישראל . (Bamidbar 32:22). Therefore in a situation where it is known or obvious to all that you are doing something permissible there is no cheshad.


Therefore one may walk into a supermarket that sells both kosher and non kosher items; the observer will not assume it is permissible to buy non kosher, so there’s no maaris ayin, nor will he suspect you of buying non kosher since it is common to walk into a supermarket exclusively for kosher items.

Rav Moshe therefore says that one may not walk into a non kosher restaurant; even to buy something permissible is forbidden because of both of these reasons. People may think its kosher (“frum people eat there”) and people will think he’s eating treif.


If the event is held at a non kosher restaurant or an exclusively non kosher venue such as a country club then it would seem to be forbidden to attend.

If the venue is one that is serviced by both kosher and non kosher caterers, such as some hotels, then one is permitted to attend the affair, they may however not eat even if some of their food happens to be kosher. (Unless of course the event is catered by the kosher caterer). This would apply to an event held at the office itself as well; one may attend, but not eat at all, even his own kosher food because of cheshad - it may appear as if he’s eating treif.

When it comes to not entering non kosher restaurants there are those who rule exclusively like Rav Moshe, and there are those who say that in a locale where it’s obvious that the religious Jew is in the restaurant for business reasons (such as Manhattan’s business district) it’s permitted. The same would apply at a highway rest stop, where it’s obvious one is going to use the bathroom or buy coffee because that’s the only store there.

I would like to suggest that perhaps Rav Moshe would agree in some situations. In the restaurant scenario he writes that if the person is very hungry, and is in pain from the hunger he may enter the restaurant and eat from the permitted items, as long as

a)It’s done privately (b’tzina)

b)No one outside the restaurant can recognize him, if they do he must explain to them that he was in significant pain and was only eating permitted items.

c)Its clear to those inside the restaurant he is only eating permitted items

This heter is based on the dictum that Chazal do not enact their edicts in a situation of pain or loss. (Kesubos 60).

It would seem to me that we could extrapolate to a business situation where one’s livelihood is threatened, that would be a place of loss. If however it’s a matter of missing out on profits it would not be permitted, similar to Chol Hamoed. (I have recently found this extrapolation made by Rabbi Frankel of the Star K).

There is one more issue that should be included in this discussion, and that is that Chazal prohibited buying or partaking in beer and other alchoholic beverages (there is a dispute among the poskim exactly which beverages) in the ‘place’ of a non Jew. Rav Moshe Feinstein (IM YD 2:117) explains that the purpose of this takana was to ensure that we don’t partake in non Jewish parties, and therefore the prohibition applies even if there are no problematic beverages served, but the party is taking place in the home of a non- Jew. Here however there is a leniency in a situation of eivah; if one cannot get out of going to the party without causing enmity and animosity then they would be permitted to attend.
Many thanks to R’ Gil Student and Hirhurim for his excellent article on the subject. which I probably plagiarized somewhat

Posted on 12/13 at 01:57 PM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at