Saturday, January 31, 2015


The difference in the understanding between the Ramban and Tosfos of the nature of the muchzakus of shnayim ochazim and how it plays out in their understanding of the gemara.

So important. Like, what else are you going to do on a sunday if not learn this??:-)

Cool Links

Rav Zalman Nechemiah Goldberg [the "Garzen"] on ...

Deciding cases of monetary doubt.

Why we just wear tfillin for shachris.

Making conditions to skirt Torah law.

This man has open Ruach Ha-kodesh as evidenced by these passages. [The subtitles are mine not his].

Just Call And There They Are

I love being Jewish.

If I wanted to talk to a big-politician-athlete-actor etc. it is very often impossible to speak to them personally [not that I would want to but many people do..].

If I want to speak to a big Rov, a gadol, a tzadik - his name and number are in the charedi phone book - I call and if it is the right time, there he is.

On Friday I had a big shyla so I called up one of the most prominent rabbonim in the world. His wife [or daughter] said he isn't home and gave me his cell phone number [!]. I called a few times and no answer.

After Shabbos I picked up the phone, dialed and his very familiar voice was on the line. Cool. I told him that I am loooong time talmid of both his audio and written shiurim. He thanked me. I then asked my shyla. He answered. I thanked him. He gave me a bracha [twice] and that was it.


I spent many years studying the Tzitz Eliezer. I decided that I wanted to meet him so I went to his shul right off King George Street and there he was. Cool. I asked him a shyla and was so completely in awe of this gadol who was already engaged in correspondence on complex halachic issues with gedolei ha-dor WHEN HE WAS 15!! He would argue and they would argue back and he would argue back. He wrote his first "bomb" [in the positive sense] sefer when he was about 18 and followed with about 2 dozen more. And I could just randomly approach him one weekday afternoon between mincha and maariv.

Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach. Gadol Ha-dor. All you had to do was go to his house any day from about 2pm until I don't remember when and he would receive you and answer any question and give brachos. And with such humility simplicity and warmth.

Rav Chaim Kniyevsky. 25 years ago I was in Bnei Brak for Shabbos so I went to his house to ask a question. HE INVITED ME TO STAY FOR SHALESHUDES!!:-)

The true gedolim and tzadikim are so humble and unassuming.

When I was a fundraiser, I tried to get in touch with rich people. They often have secretaries to protect them. "I am sorry Rabbi Shnorberger, Mr. Richwasser isn't in now. He will be back in 2 years from May." My emails were usually ignored. Why SHOULD they answer? It is THEIR money and why should they bother with every "idiot" in need. [Because it is not their money and because every person was created in the image of G-d. And because one who studies Torah deserves extra respect. The gemara in Psachim says that in Shomayim those very "important" people are nobodies, while the quiet, unassuming tzadikim who get no publicity are at the top. I am in neither category so I wonder where I will end up:-)].  Frankly - I find it much more interesting and inspiring to talk to a gadol bi-torah than a man who spends his days and nights turning lots of money into even more money. So thank G-d that this is my lot. May the earners connect to the learners and each share of their wealth with the other....

And may we all connect ot tzadikei emes!


Friday, January 30, 2015

סוף סוף הבנות שרות! - איפה מקומנו בר"ה

כשהרבי מבעלזא הקודם הגיע לא"י, היה זה לפני פסח, ושאלו החסידים: איך אפשר לשיר בליל הסדר אחרי שנרצחו ששה מליון יהודים?! ענה הרבי שזהו הפירוש ברש"י – ביציאת מצרים יצאו רק "חמושים", חמישית מהעם, וכיצד יכלו לאמר שירה? אומר רש"י: "רמז לתחיית המתים" – מי שמאמין בתחיית המתים יכול לשיר

 ומסופר שאחרי השואה הקימו בבני ברק מוסד לניצולות שואה, ולאחר כמה שבתות באו השכנים של אותו מוסד לחזו"א, ואמרו לו שהבנות שרות בקול, ומחטיאות אותם ב"קול באשה ערווה". דפק החזו"א על השולחן ואמר: סוף סוף הן מצליחות לשיר, ואתם רוצים שיפסיקו

[בשום מקום בתורה לא מוזכר ר"ה, אלא רק "יום הזיכרון ו"זכרון תרועה", חוץ מפסוק זה, ביחס לא"י, ומכאן שבר"ה המקום שלנו הוא בא"י, ולא באומן....]


Thursday, January 29, 2015

Beshalach - Relax:-)

An email that has been circulating. I can't vouch for the author:-).

It has been a while and sooooo many mazel tovs since last time. Here are just a few.

First my blood brothers and then my soul brothers and sisters.

R' and Mrs. Jonathan and Myra Ehrman on the Bas Mitzvah of Tehilla! A special mazel tov to Grandpa and Bubby!!!!:-) Much nachas!

HaRav HaGaon and Mrs. Dovid and Julie Ehrman on the Bas Mitzva of Breindy! Bubby and Grandpa - more and more nachas.

HaRav HaGaon and Mrs. Avraham Ehrman on the upcoming wedding of Devorah.

My grandparents are rejoicing from gan eden.  

HaRav HaTzadik and Rebbetzin Yoel Rakovsky on the marriage of their daughter Revaya to R' Benny Schwartz. They should keep having nachas from their many children and grandchildren.

Rav Yitzchak and Tova Rosenfeld on the birth of their twins Avraham and Naomi. MAZEL TOV-MAZEL TOV!!!!!! OOODLES OF NACHAS!!!!:-)

R' Zevi and Batsheva Reinetz on the birth of their daughter Emunah Tamar. They should have tremendous simcha from all of their children!

Rav and Mrs. Daniel Edelstein on the birth of their son! He should be a tzadik like his father!:-)

R' Chanan Yosef [Scott] Hoberman and Sara van Bemmelen on their wedding. The kallah, in addition to getting a GREAT chosson, also wins the "name of the year" award. May they enjoy a lifetime of bliss!

R' and Mrs. Eliezer Pollack on the birth of their 3rd boy. A hat trick!! My parents also started with three boys. I was the third. May this baby be much much better than I and give his holy parents lots of nachas:-)!

R' and Mrs. Shlomo and Malka Hubscher on the Bat Mitzva of Shalva [our dvar torah this week is about the notion of "Shalva":-)]. Much-much nachas.

R' Yair Hillman and Shira Fox on their marriage. May they enjoy unlimited spiritual joy for many years to come.

R' Akiva Maresky and Shira Berger on their marriage. May the simcha continue for many years to come!!!
 R' Zalman and Talia [I am still inebriated slightly from their engagement party. Whoa!] on the birth of Emunah Breindel!:-). The dvar torah you are about to read is all about her [first] name. Endless nachas and bracha!

Rav and Mrs. Yaakov Lyons on the birth of their son. The future possible Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood [helps if his kallahs last name is Kotler:-)].

Rav and Mrs. Shaanan Gelman on the birth of Adir Moshe. He is "a dear" baby and will be a light [like Moshe who was born with the Light] in Klal Yisrael [and possibly the future chief rabbi of Skokie, or better... the State Of Israel].  

Rav and Mrs. Ami Merzel on the Bar Mitzva of Ezriel. His is sweet and is already a bracha to klal yisrael and will continue to be one.

Simchas by ALL OF US !!!!:-)

This dvar Torah should be a zchus for my most beloved brothers:
R' Ephraim Gervis Shlita
R' Chaim Yehoshua Austein Shlita 
R' Daniel Zweigbaum Shlita
R' Anonymous from Teaneck
and their families.

They recently donated over TEN THOUSAND NEW SFARIM [in "virtual" form] to the "Ira Leon And Inga Rennert Center for Advanced Talmudic Research and Jewish Values". In this center we have already produced and reproduced thousands of articles on Torah topics; halacha, gemara, philosophy etc. etc. in both Hebrew and English. In addition there are close to two thousand audio shiurim listened to by tens of thousands. Every day we reach hundreds of people world wide spreading our message of love, light and ruchniyus with a lot of laughter thrown in. In addition, we answer halachic queries and counsel many beloved friends who are struggling with personal challenges. There is also a "skype chavrusa program". In addition we are often asked to provide source material which we happily do. All Baruch Hashem with tremendous siyata di-shmaya.

This center is manned by one person [he looks exactly like me] from his small study on a remote settlement on the West Bank:-). The center is named in honor of the Rennerts not because they have given me money but because I hope that they read this and decide to start - today.
If someone wants to be my "Zvulun" I would be more than happy to rename the center in his honor:-). The countless thousands of people who benefit from the various programs will all be indebted to Rebbi Ephraim, Rebbi Chaim and Rebbi Daniel and Rebbi Anon. from the Neck for their largesse in donating the sfarim and I hope to continue this for many many years to come in good health - but that is completely up to Hashem and partly up to Uncle Ira or whoever decides to beat him to it:-).        

 Now to the Torah part......

Did you know that 40 million Americans suffer from extreme anxiety?! That is 18 percent of the population. [I seem to know quite a few of them:-).] So almost everytime you go to shul, chances are that 2 out of every ten people in your minyan is suffering from some sort of anxiety disorder [which is very often exacerbated when the chazan goes too slow or the guy next to him blows his nose REALLY LOUD...]. There are a LOT of very tense people out there. It crosses all socio-economic, religious, ethnic and racial borders. Whether he wears a black hat or is actually black, there is a chance that he is struggling with this issue .

My job today is to try to find the Jewish response to this. One Jewish response is to go to a psychiatrist beccause he is probably Jewish and has tuition and camp fees to pay which probably make him quite anxious and visiting him for treatment [and paying of course...] would help diminish some of that anxiety.

In this weeks parsha we have another answer. The Jews are fleeing from the Arabs  I mean the Egyptians and they are ANXIOUS. On one side - the sea, on the other - blood thirsty enemies.

This is a perfect time for tfilla. Not. Hashem says to Moshe - "What are you screaming for? Tell the Jewish people to travel." [14/15] According to Rav Chaim of "Volozhin" [a small village near Monsey], Hashem was saying "If you just CHILL OUT, and travel with COMPLETE FAITH that everything will work out - then everything will in fact work out."

This was not a time for tfilla. When a girl dreams of her chosson and gets a date with her DREAM boy but doesn't show up because she is busy davening that Hashem should find her a chosson, then she is making a very big mistake.... This was a time for action. The action was to move forward and display their trust in Hashem. Not to lose their bearings. The Egyptians were the ones who were thrust into a maelstrom [GOOD WORD!] of anxiety and tension [see 14/24-25 with Rashi]. The Jews were to remain calm because their Chief Of Staff is the Ribbono Shel Olam Himself.

And you know what - it worked. We're here, aren't we?
I received the following article in an email from the shabbos sheet "Shabbat Bi-shabato" about this topic:
In spite of the silence in the kitchen, he felt that they were calling out to him. There they were, colored candies in the big glass jar, and they were smiling and winking, inviting and tempting him. "Come on, you cute thing, take a chair and climb up to us," they whispered. "Nobody will notice, your mother will not know. Why not put something sweet in your mouth, it's just what you need right now!" Even though he had celebrated his fourth birthday only a week ago, he managed to drag the heavy chair all by himself, climb up on the marble counter, and take the jar off the top of the refrigerator. It was very easy to take the top off, and the path to the prize was simple and very inviting. But then, surprisingly, he had another serious problem. He couldn't pull his hand out of the jar...
He pulled stubbornly, he turned back and forth and used all his strength, but even after a very long time of painful and frustrating effort, his hand remained stuck deep inside the jar. His painful cries filled the room and quickly brought his mother, who had thought that she would grab a few minutes of well-deserved rest. One quick glance was enough for her to understand the problem. From her experience she knew that she could use soap or olive oil to decrease the friction and to allow the hand to free itself from its cramped quarters. For example, that is what she had done when by mistake she had put a small ring on the wrong finger. But this time she had a much smarter idea. "My darling, it's very simple. Let go of the candy. Open up your hand." The weeping boy looked at his mother and did as she had said. Like magic, in a second, he took his hand out without any problem...
The Contracted Muscle
A new baby bursts out into the air with his or her hands tightly clenched. As it were, the whole world is folded into the baby's hands and is held there. It is not easy to convince the baby to give up the treasure held in his little hand. Decades pass, and the moment comes when the person closes his or her eyes and departs from his loved ones. By now, his hands are spread out and open. It takes an entire lifetime for a man to understand his proper place, to realize that even what he had imagined belonged only to him was not really his at all.
During a lifetime, a Jew encounters a wide variety of elements that cause him to exercise the muscle of relaxation. This is a special muscle in the soul which requires constant exercise in order to become free and flexible.
The process begins with what happens every day. A man is required to interrupt his hectic life three times a day, to step back from the race for money and accomplishments, and to pray to the Master of the Universe. He loses precious work time, and all of his meetings and labors must wait for him, but these quality times will help him get back onto the fast track of a life that is upright, true, and more precise.
It seems that this is not enough, and every week there is a need for a longer pause, a full day of relaxation. The person takes a step back, puts aside all the matters of physical material and time, and doesn't even talk about them. This is the opportunity for the soul to get its due, for the internal batteries to be charged with spiritual energy, and to return to the days of activity after the internal world has reached a higher level of harmony and a better order.
Once a year, just at the time of the harvest, when the crops are at their peak and the hearts of the masters of the land are full of satisfaction for the great success during the year, the man must once again back off. For a whole week he leaves his grandiose and comfortable house and goes outside into nature. He sleeps in a temporary dwelling and looks at the stars which twinkle at him through the "sechach."
Once every seven years, an even more drastic step is necessary. The work on the land is stopped completely, and a place of honor is reserved for broader spaces of life and of the soul.
Letting G-d Enter
Is it easy for a person to relax? He will always feel an internal opposition to such a move. It sometimes even brings about a feeling of trepidation and fear. "What will happen when I let go? How can I set aside everything that I have achieved?"
King David uses a sentence with only five words to express the great secret of "surviving during Shemitta" – "Relax and know that I am G-d" [Tehillim 46:11].
Relaxation is an expression of faith, of modesty, of giving in, of patience. It shows that I know my proper place.
Relaxation frees a man from his stubborn hold on reality and leaves an opening for external influences to operate in his world.
Relaxation creates a distance which can help a man clarify the quality of the link between him and what he held on to beforehand. Some things simply cannot be seen when we are still in their midst, and they will be revealed only when we step back to take a look.
Relaxation helps to balance relationships, to look at things in the proper proportion, to look at the entire picture. (This is the meaning in depth of the entire wonderful concept of "family purity." In the monthly cycle of a couple, it is vital to step back for a few days from the physical plane in order to maintain a relationship that is healthy, balanced, pure, and precise.)
Relaxation implies humility. A man understands that he is not necessarily the one who controls all existence. There is a greater power, and mankind is nothing compared to it.
Relaxation, paradoxically, can enhance a person's confidence in the face of losing his grip. Making room within ourselves leaves room for the Holy One, Blessed be He, to enter...
The Correct Position
Anybody who has the merit of exercising his relaxation muscle and making it more flexible will find that he has in his hand a tremendous tool for a life that is healthy and calm. He will make use of this as a parent when he discovers that "his" children do not really belong to him. They grow up to be independent human beings, with their own will, which does not always exactly match the path of the parents. He will make use of this in his contact with his mate, and he will therefore be able to free himself from the haughty desire to change the mate to correspond to "his own truth." This approach will help him in all of his work relationships, in his studies, and in society. Above all, it will lead him to a better position with respect to the world and in relation to the One who created it.
love and blessings sweeetest friends and a shabbos of "shalva", "menucha" and "simcha".


Shidduch Crisis


Question #1

“My husband’s name is Chayim Shelomoh, and an excellent shidduch possibility was just suggested for my daughter. However, the bachur’s name was originally Shelomoh, but as a child, he was ill and they added the name Chayim before Shelomoh. May we proceed with this shidduch?”

Question #2: Must we turn down this shidduch?

“My wife’s name is Rivkah, and we were just suggested an excellent shidduch for my son, but the girl’s name is Esther Rivkah. Must we turn down the shidduch?”


Both of these questions relate to rules that are not based on Talmudic sources, but on the writings of Rav Yehudah Hachassid, who prohibited or advised against many potential marriages that are, otherwise, perfectly acceptable according to halachah. But before we even discuss the writings of Rav Yehudah Hachassid, let us discover who he was and why his opinion carries so much weight.

Who was Rav Yehudah Hachassid?

Well, to complicate matters a bit, there were two people in Jewish history who were called Rav Yehudah Hachassid. These two individuals lived hundreds of years apart, and, to the best of my knowledge, had no known connection to one another, other than that they were both esteemed Ashkenazic leaders in their respective generations. The Rav Yehudah Hachassid of the seventeenth century, famed as the builder of a shul in the Old City of Jerusalem, now called the churva shul, spearheaded the first “modern” effort to establish an Ashkenazi community in the holy city. Although this failed attempt had political and practical ramifications that lasted until the middle of the twentieth century, I have never heard him blamed for the blocking of a potential shidduch.

On the other hand, the much earlier Rav Yehudah Hachassid, whose writings and rulings will be discussed in this article, was a great posek and mekubal, whose halachic decisions and advice have been extensively followed by both Ashkenazim and Sefardim.

Rav Yehudah Hachassid, who was born in approximately 4910 (1150), is quoted several times in the Tosafos printed in our Gemara (for example, Tosafos, Bava Metzia 5b, s.v. Dechashid and Kesuvos 18b, s.v. Uvekulei). Rav Yehudah’s students included a number of famous rishonim who are themselves Baalei Tosafos, such as the Or Zarua, the Rokeach, the Semag, and the Sefer Haterumah.
Rav Yehudah Hachassid was the head of a select group of mekubalim called the Chassidei Ashkenaz. He authored numerous works on kabbalah and was the author of the poem Anim Zemiros, sung in many shullen at the end of Shabbos davening. Two works of his are intended for use by the common laymen, the Sefer Chassidim and the Tzavaas [the ethical will of] Rav Yehudah Hachassid, and these mention the subject of today’s article.

The tzava’ah of Rav Yehudah Hachassid

I am not going to list everything in Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s tzava’ah, but, instead, will simply cite some of the practices that he prohibits.

A man should not marry a woman who has the same name as his mother, nor should he marry a woman whose father has the same name that he has. Rav Yehudah Hachassid closes by saying: if people violated these instructions, one of the parties with the name in common should change his/her name — perhaps this will provide some hope. He does not specify what the harm is or what the hope is for.

Two mechutanim should not have the same name.

Two mechutanim should not make two shidduchim, a son with a daughter and a daughter with a son.

One should not marry one’s niece, either his brother’s daughter or his sister’s daughter.

A father and son should not marry two sisters.

Two brothers should not marry two sisters, nor should they marry a mother and her daughter.

A stepbrother and a stepsister should not marry.

Two married brothers should not live in the same city.

Before we get everyone disturbed, I will share with you that many of these relationships prohibited (or advised against) by Rav Yehudah Hachassid are not recognized as binding by later authorities. For example, the Chofetz Chayim’s first rebbitzen was his step-sister: he married the daughter of his step-father, who had already married the Chofetz Chayim’s widowed mother. Similarly, I know of numerous instances in which two brothers married two sisters, without anyone being concerned about it. And the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch mentions that one need not be concerned about pursuing a shidduch in which the fathers of the chosson and the kallah have the same given name (Shu’t Tzemach Tzedek, Even Ha’ezer #143).

Selective service

In most places, the only shidduchin-related rule of Rav Yehudah Hachassid that has been accepted is that a man not marry a woman who has the same given name as his mother, nor should a woman marry a man who has the same name as her father. Why is this rule more accepted than any of the others?

Early poskim note that the custom of being concerned about this was far more widespread than concern about the other prohibitions of Rav Yehudah Hachassid. They propose several reasons to explain why this is true.

One answer is because the Arizal was also concerned about a man marrying a woman whose name is the same as his mother. Yet, there is no evidence of the Ari or other authorities being concerned regarding the other rules of Rav Yehudah Hachassid (see Shu’t Mizmor Ledavid of Rav David Pardo, #116, quoted by Sdei Chemed, Volume 7, page 17; Shu’t Divrei Chayim, Even Ha’ezer #8).

Another possible reason is that the Chida writes that he, himself, saw problems result in the marriages of people who violated this specific prohibition of Rav Yehudah Hachassid.
Rav Chayim Sanzer adds that one should be concerned about this particular practice only because klal Yisroel has accepted as custom to pass up these marriages. To quote him: If the children of Israel are not prophets, they are descended from prophets, and there is an innate understanding that these shidduchin should not be made.

The responsum of the Noda Biyehudah

No discussion of the instructions of Rav Yehudah Hachassid is complete without mentioning a responsum of the Noda Biyehudah, the rav of Prague and posek hador of the eighteenth century. The Noda Biyehudah (Shu’t Even Ha’ezer II #79) discusses the following case: A shidduch was suggested for the sister-in-law of a certain Reb Dovid, a close talmid of the Noda Biyehudah, in which the proposed chosson had once had his name changed, because of illness, to the name of the girl’s father. The Noda Biyehudah replied to Reb Dovid that generally he does not discuss questions that are not based on sources in Talmud and authorities. Nevertheless, he writes that he will break his usual rules and answer the inquiry.

First, the Noda Biyehudah points out a very important halachic principle: No talmid chacham may dispute any halachic conclusion of the Gemara, whether he chooses to be lenient or stringent, and anyone who does is not to be considered a talmid chacham. Upon this basis, the Noda Biyehudah notes that we should question the entire tzava’ah of Rav Yehudah Hachassid, since the work forbids numerous practices that run counter to rulings of the Gemara. To quote the Noda Biyehudah, “We find things in Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s tzava’ah that are almost forbidden for us to hear.” The examples the Noda Biyehudah chooses include:

One should not marry one’s sister’s daughter. However, the Gemara (Yevamos 62b) rules that it is a mitzvah to do so.

Rav Yehudah Hachassid prohibited a father and son from marrying two sisters, yet we see that the great amora Rav Papa arranged the marriage of his son to his wife’s younger sister (Kesubos 52b).

Another example is that Rav Yehudah Hachassid writes that two brothers should not marry two sisters, yet the Gemara (Berachos 44a) writes approvingly of these marriages. Furthermore, the amora, Rav Chisda, arranged for his two daughters to marry two brothers, Rami bar Chamma and Ukva bar Chamma (ibid.).

Explaining Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s concern

The Noda Biyehudah continues: “However, out of esteem for Rav Yehudah Hachassid, we must explain that in his great holiness, he realized that the shidduchin he was discouraging would all be bad for his own descendants. Therefore, Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s comments do not conflict with the Gemara, since he was writing a special ruling for individuals that should not be applied to anyone else. Therefore, Reb Dovid does not need to be concerned about his sister-in-law proceeding with this shidduch.

The Noda Biyehudah presents an additional reason why Reb Dovid does not need to be concerned: Rav Yehudah Hachassid’s concerns apply only to birth names or names given to sons at their bris, but do not apply to any name changes that take place afterwards. The Noda Biyehudah rallies proofs that adding or changing a name because of illness can only help a person and cannot hurt. In addition, the Noda Biyehudah reasons that if someone was an appropriate shidduch because of his birth name, changing or adding to his name cannot now make this shidduch prohibited.

Marry a talmid chacham

Aside from the other reasons why the Noda Biyehudah feels that this shidduch can proceed, he adds another rule: It is more important for someone to marry off his daughter to a talmid chacham, which the Gemara says is the most important thing to look for in a shidduch, than to worry oneself about names, a concern that has no source in the Gemara.

At this point, let us examine one of our opening questions:

My husband’s name is Chayim Shelomoh, and a shidduch was just suggested for my daughter of a bachur whose name was originally Shelomoh, but as a child, he was ill, and they added the name Chayim before Shelomoh. May we proceed with this shidduch?

According to the Noda Biyehudah, one may proceed with the shidduch, even if the younger Chayim Shelomoh does not qualify as a talmid chacham and even if they are descended from Rav Yehudah Hachassid, since the name Chayim was not part of his birth name.

Stricter approaches

On the other hand, there are other authorities who are more concerned about violating the instructions of Rav Yehudah Hachassid and do not mention any of the above heterim (quoted in Sdei Chemed Volume 7, pages 17- 20; Kaf Hachayim, Yoreh Deah 116:125). These authorities supply a variety of reasons why the arguments of the Noda Biyehudah do not apply. As far as the Noda Biyehudah’s statement that Rav Yehudah Hachassid could not have banned that which is expressly permitted, or even recommended, in the Gemara as a mitzvah, some respond that, although at the time of the Gemara there was no need to be concerned about the kabbalistic problems that these concerns may involve, our physical world has changed (nishtaneh hateva), and there is therefore, currently, a concern of ayin hora (quoted by Sdei Chemed page 19).

In conclusion

I leave it to the individual to discuss with his or her posek whether or not to pursue a particular shidduch because of an identical name or one of the other concerns raised by Rav Yehudah Hachassid. Of course, we all realize that the most important factor in finding a shidduch is to daven that Hashem provide the appropriate shidduch in the right time.

I Am A Donkey

Based on R' Aviner

Dear friend, you have three options:

1. To get divorced. If you do, maybe you’ll build a new Jewish home and be happy, and maybe you won’t remarry. And if you do remarry, maybe you won’t be happy; and maybe you’ll lose your connection to your children, and they’ll lose theirs to you. All of these things are all possible.

2. You can continue living in your present state of endless mutual recriminations and arguments, which is not good for you, your wife or your children. It’s unclear which is better, option 1 or 2.

3. To try to rectify matters. This seems feasible. Yet you cannot do it alone, because you have already tried and not succeeded over the course of many years. You should therefore go for marriage counseling. I’m happy to provide you with the name of a counselor appropriate to your circumstances who can teach you to talk to each other in a normal manner.

Yet you say that she has already despaired and pins no hopes on counseling. If so, then you must repent fully, on your own, and hope that this will influence her a bit.

She is actually only making one claim against you – that you insult her all the time, especially in front of the children, and she is no longer ready to forgive you for this. That, in fact, is a very serious charge, that can be classified as psychological violence. I suggest that you read the book, Stalking the Soul, by Marie-France Hirigoyen, one of France’s greatest psychologists [translated into English and many other languages from the original French].

That book will help you understand what you are doing to her.

You must understand. She is full of emotional scars, and they cannot be healed, because you are constantly touching them, and even the slightest touch makes her explode with pain. So realize from the start that even if you undergo a miraculous improvement, her relationship to you, so lacking in warmth and intimacy, will not be rectified in one day. Our Sages offered a parable in Tractate Niddah: “If you remove a boiling pot from the fire, it won’t cool off immediately. It takes a lot of patience.”

True, you have claims against her as well, but there’s no benefit to investigating whether they’re true or not, and whether or not she was justified in becoming cold and remote. Rather, you must read what’s written on the back of the bus: “Don’t be right. Be smart.”

Or, as our Sages said in Baba Kama: “If they tell you you’re a donkey, take the saddle and put it on your back.”

So, dear friend, you have no recourse but to behave with immense, genuine humility, without putting on a show, and to say to her, “Dear wife, I am sorry. I am a donkey. For many years I have been a donkey. I hurt you. I tormented you. Starting now I will strive to the utmost not to be a donkey.

I demand nothing of you in return. I just demand of myself to behave properly and to rectify what I have ruined over the years, to compensate you and to make you happy. You can meet my overtures however you wish, and whenever you wish.

“I am sorry, dear wife. I am a donkey. ‘Donkey’ is my name and my whole being says


Dear friend. It is possible to make peace. If the French and the English, sworn enemies, succeeded in making peace between them, you can do it with your wife. If the European Union forced peace on France and Germany after three blood-soaked wars, certainly you can make peace with your wife.

It just requires patience. It just requires humility.

Carry out a revolution, a 180 degree turnaround, within yourself.

Be aware that your wife, as well, deep inside, longs for love and brotherhood and peace and friendship. Just as she seems to you remote and hard, so do you seem to her remote and hard.

There’s the story of the Russian nobleman who when loosened up by wine proclaimed in the tavern, “Next week there will be a bear fight with gambling, between me and the neighboring nobleman.” That nobleman, drunk as well, agreed.

When he arrived home he sobered up and realized that he had no bear in the palace, so he called the Jew who tended his estate and he said to him, “Moshka, you’re going to the marketplace and you’re to purchase a bear skin. Dress yourself in it, and you’ll be the bear. If you refuse, I shall banish you and your wife and children.”

Having no choice, but with enormous fear, the Jew agreed. A week later he found himself standing in the tavern, trembling with fear, frozen in place before a terrifying bear.

Yet the riled up crowd of gamblers pushed him forward against the bear, so he stood before it, realizing that his last moment had come, and he recited, “שמע ישראל ה' א-להנו ה' אחד…”

And the bear facing him concluded, “ברוך שם כבוד לעולם ועד.”

Then the two bears fell on each other’s necks and hugged.

Do you understand, my friend?

May G-d help you.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Links [Hebrew]

Internet in halacha [kinyanim, shabbos etc.].

More on having an open Internet on Shabbos

Shema And Davening In A Foreign Language

The Seventy Tongues
The pasuk in Parashas Noach states (Bereishis 11:6-9): “And Hashem said: ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do… Come, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ Hashem scattered them from there upon the face of all the earth.”
As the verse states, the Generation of the Dispersion is the origin of the diversity of peoples in the world—of different nations and different tongues. The Midrash (Yalkut, Noach 62) explains further that at the time of the dispersion, Hashem summoned the seventy ministering angels that surround His throne, and told them that the generation will be divided into seventy nations, seventy tongues. Hashem and His angels drew lots to allocate responsibility for the respective nations, and the lot of Hashem fell on Israel.
Thus came into being the different nations of the world, each with its specific nature and language. As the Ramban explains (Bamidbar 11:16), each of the nations carries with it a different psyche, unique dispositions and unique aptitudes. The number of judges on the highest Torah beis din is therefore seventy, because they must encompass the fullest possible range of comprehension and understanding. Even in receiving the Torah, Moshe gathered seventy elders of Israel (Shemos 24:1), “for it is worthy of this complete number that the Shechinah will be enshrined upon them, as is the case for the Divine camp [of ministering angels].”
We thus find that the Torah itself divides into seventy tongues, as Chazal teach: “Each word that came forth from the mouth of Hashem divided into seventy tongues.” The Torah includes seventy faces (Bamidbar Rabba 13:15), each of them opening up a specific grasp and perspective of the Torah, and corresponding to the seventy tongues that were revealed at the time of the Dispersion.

In this article we will discuss the halachic implications of the ‘seventy tongues,’ and of foreign languages in general. When is it permitted to pray in a foreign language? Is it preferable to pray in Hebrew, without understanding the words, or to pray in one’s native language? Is a foreign language acceptable even where it is not a spoken tongue? We will seek to clarify these (and other) issues by studying the Talmudicsugya of using foreign languages

Reciting Keriyas Shema in Other Languages
The Gemara (Berachos 13a) cites the teaching of a baraisa: “Keriyas Shema must be recited as it is written. This is the opinion of Rebbi. The Chachamim say: [It can be recited] in any language.”
The Gemara explains that this dispute depends on how the verses of Keriyas Shema are interpreted. According to Rebbi, the word vehayu is interpreted to mean that the words of Shema must be recited verbatim. Chachamim, however, base their opinion on the word shema, deriving that Shema can be recited in any language that one ‘hears’ (meaning ‘understands’).
The Rambam (Keriyas Shema 2:10) rules in accordance with Chachamim, adding an important detail: “A person recites the Shema in any language he understands. Somebody reading in any language must ensure that his words are free of mistakes in that tongue, and must use the language with the same precision as in lashon ha-kodesh.” According to the Rambam, one must be careful to use foreign languages with precision, just as one is precise in reading the words of the Holy Tongue.
The Raabad, however, differs in this point: “This is not acceptable, for all languages are interpretation, and who can be precise in interpretation?”
The Ruling of the Mishnah Berurah
The Mishnah Berurah (62:3) rules that one should avoid the use of other languages for Keriyas Shema, and mentions (citing from acharonim) that in our day even the strict halachah opposes the use of languages other than Hebrew.
The reason for this is that there are several words whose precise meaning is unknown, such as the word veshinantam, which refers to teaching, but which Chazal explain to mean acquiring a ‘sharp’ knowledge of the Torah. In addition, he mentions that there are words that do not translate well into other languages, such as the wordes (as in es beneichem).
It is interesting to evaluate these points based on the dispute between the Rambam and the Raavad. According to the Rambam, foreign languages mean to translate, and not to interpret. The fact that the English word ‘teach’ (for veshinantam) misses the additional interpretation of ‘sharpen,’ might therefore be unimportant: Provided the word has been correctly translated, the interpretative meaning is not required.
According to the Raavad, the thrust of reading the translation is interpretation. According to this, the fact that there is no English equivalent for the Hebrew word eswill not be relevant: the important factor is that the meaning of the words is faithfully rendered into English. This point might be true according to the Rambam, too: As long as the words are correctly articulated in a foreign tongue, it is possible that the presence or otherwise of the word es is not important.
As we will mention in the summary, some authorities do sanction the use of foreign languages even today.
Foreign Tongues in Different Locations
The Biur Halachah (62:2) cites the ruling of the Ritva (NedarimRif 1a), whereby aneder (vow) made in a foreign tongue only has halachic validity in locations where the tongue is spoken. The Biur Halachah extends the argument to the recitation of Keriyas Shema: It is only permitted to use foreign languages in locales where the respective language is actually spoken.
The rationale behind this halachah is elucidated in the Ran (Nedarim 2a), who explains that a fundamental difference distinguished between Hebrew (lashon ha-kodesh) and foreign languages: Whereas Hebrew is an ‘essential language,’ a language whose words derive from the Divine Torah, other languages are only tongues insofar as nations agree to use them. In places where the languages are not used, the words therefore lack all meaning.
Based on this rationale, there might be room to distinguish between (relatively) new languages, as spoken today in virtually all parts of the world (certainly in the Western world), and ancient languages. The original seventy languages of the world define seventy ‘essential’ ways of thought, all of which have a place in Torah. Indeed, Tosafos (Berachos 13a) mentions that the Torah was given in seventy languages. Ancient tongues, therefore, might be considered as ‘essential languages,’ just as Hebrew.
English, which is derived mainly from Latin, is certainly a new language. As theChasam Sofer (Chiddushim to Gittin 80a) writes, Latin was only invented several hundred years into the fourth thousand of the world’s existence (academia dates it somewhat earlier)—a long time after the Generation of the Dispersion. English, of course, came into being much later.
English can therefore be used for Keriyas Shema only in places where English is spoken. Yet, it is possible that the general knowledge of English in most Western countries is sufficient to meet this criterion.
Hebrew Speakers
An additional halachah in connection with using foreign languages for Keriyas Shema is the question of Hebrew speakers. Rishonim (see Ramban and Rashba,Megillah 17a) cite a ruling from the Yerushalmi (Megillah 2:1) according to which only somebody who does not know ashuris (Hebrew script) can fulfill his obligation in other languages. Somebody who can recite Keriyas Shema in Hebrew does not have the option of using other languages.
However, the opinion of the Rambam (Megillah 2:4), as cited by the rishonim, is that any person, even a Hebrew speaker, can choose which language to use. Both opinions are mentioned by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 690:10; the Vilna Gaon explains that this question is the subject of a dispute between the Bavli and theYerushalmi).
An interesting question arises concerning the reading of Kerias Shema with alternative Hebrew words, which expand the original text: Is a Hebrew interpretation worse than a non-Hebrew translation?
According to the above Yerushalmi, there is little doubt that a recitation of a Hebrew expansion of Keriyas Shema does not qualify to fulfill the mitzvah. Just as one who speaks Hebrew cannot use a foreign tongue, so it stands to reason that somebody who can read the original text cannot use an alternative.
However, even according to the Rambam, it is possible that one will not fulfill themitzvah with such a reading. As noted above, the Rambam writes that one must articulate the words (of a foreign language) with precision. A deviation from the actual text might render the reading ‘imprecise,’ and therefore disqualify it from fulfilling themitzvah. Yet, this argument can be deferred, for although deviating from the Torah text, the rendition might still be ‘good Hebrew,’ and this is perhaps sufficient to fulfill the mitzvah.
Reading without Understanding
Commenting on a Mishnah that lists a number of recitations that can be read in any language (and some that must be read specifically in Hebrew), Tosafos (Sotah 32a) question why HallelKiddush of Shabbos, and Berachos, are not listed. Tosafosreply that the Mishnah only lists those recitations that must be understood by the reader. For HallelKiddush, and Berachos, there is no precondition of understanding, and they are therefore not listed by the Mishnah.
It thus emerges from Tosafos that with regard to Keriyas Shema and to prayer (both are listed in the Mishnah) one does not fulfill one’s obligation without understanding the words. This halachah is cited by the Magen Avraham (62:3), and by the Peri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 62:1). With regard to HallelKiddush and Berachos, theBiur Halachah writes that authorities dispute the ruling of Tosafos, and require understanding (for foreign languages) even for these mitzvos.
The Peri Megadim questions whether the principle requiring understanding applies even to somebody reciting the Shema in Hebrew, and does not give a conclusive decision on the matter. However, the Biur Halachah cites from the Levush (193), who writes explicitly that no understanding is required for recitation in Hebrew.
Although the Peri Chadash (end of 101) argues that understanding is always essential, the general consensus of poskim is that for lashon ha-kodesh one fulfills the mitzvah even without understanding. Indeed, according to the Mishnah Berurah(62:3) recitation in Hebrew without understanding is preferable to recitation is other, understood languages (see summary).
Prayer in Other Languages
As noted, prayer, together with Keriyas Shema, is mentioned by the Mishnah inSotah (32a) as a recitation for which any language is valid. In his opening to the laws of prayer, the Rambam notes that initially, a person would pray to Hashem in words of his own choice. Only in the time of Ezra, when Israel was exiled from its land, and as a result the people were no longer able to express themselves with eloquence, did the Men of the Great Assembly enact the fixed prayer we know.
According to the ruling of the Mishnah, although the wording is now fixed, one can still say the words in any language. The principles detailed above concerning Keriyas Shema, such as the question of a local language, the matter of understanding, and the need to be precise, will also apply to prayer.
The Gemara (Sotah 33a) questions how it is possible that prayer is valid in all languages: Surely Rav Yehudah taught that a person must not beseech in Aramaic, because the ministering angels do not know this language (Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky (Emes Le-Yaakov p. 477) explained that this is because Aramaic is a distortion oflashon ha-kodesh, and the angels do not understand distortions), and will not address his prayer?
The Gemara replies that there is a distinction between an individual and a congregation: A congregation (whose prayers are received directly by Hashem) can pray in any language, even Aramaic; an individual must pray in a language known to the angels. The Rif (Berachos 7a) understands that this principle is not limited to Aramaic, but applies even to every language (other than the original Hebrew).
Rishonim note that this principle raises a difficulty concerning women, who generally pray in the local vernacular, and not in Hebrew, even though they pray alone.Talmidei Rabbeinu Yonah answer, citing from the rabbis of France, that the restriction on foreign languages applies only to somebody praying with his own words; somebody praying the fixed Shemoneh Esrei prayer can do so in any language, even in private. The Rosh (Berachos 2:2), however, suggests that the original Talmudic restriction is limited to Aramaic alone. There is no problem for an individual to pray in languages other than Aramaic.
The Shulchan Aruch (101:4) rules that it is permitted to pray in any language, adding that individuals should pray in Hebrew alone. He continues to mention both the opinion of Rabbeinu Yonah, and the opinion of the Rosh (both as yesh omrim).
The Magen Avraham (5), citing from Sefer Chasidim, rules that it is preferable to pray in a language one understands than to pray in Hebrew (for somebody who does not understand Hebrew). Although the Mishnah Berurah (Biur Halachah) writes that this is true for a sincere yerei shamayim for whom it is important to understand the words, he writes (13) that in general it is best to daven in Hebrew, because the prayer includes many secrets that Chazal hid in the words.
Summary: Kerias Shema and Prayer in Foreign Tongues
We have mentioned a number of halachos pertaining to Keriyas Shema and Prayer in non-Hebrew languages:
  • A person can only use a foreign language if he understands it.
  • A foreign language can only be used in a place where it is spoken locally.
  • According to the Mishnah Berurah, one should generally prefer Hebrew even when one does not understand it, though a foreign language can be used if understanding is important for the individual (for a yerei shamayim). In addition, the Mishnah Berurah writes that nowadays, the entire practice of using foreign languages is questionable.
  • It is noteworthy that Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggros MosheOrach Chaim 4:70, sec. 4) instructed somebody to daven the Shemoneh Esrei prayer in English, stipulating that the translation should be done by benei torah. His main objection in the teshuvah is to the idea of somebody davening in his own words; Rav Moshe explains that this is wrong, and one should always fulfill the obligation of prayer with the words of Chazal, even in foreign languages.
  • The general custom is that wherever possible a person should pray in Hebrew. A translation can be used to check the meaning of the words.
It is noteworthy that in previous generations, and in particular when the haskalahmovement gained momentum, many of the leading halachic authorities expressed strong objections to prayer in foreign languages. The Chasam Sofer (Vol. 6, no. 94) thus rules that it is forbidden to pray in other languages on a regular basis, and Sefer Eleh Divrei Ha-Bris cites the harsh words of several luminaries in objecting to those who change the prayer service from Hebrew to other languages.
This is also the background for the strong words of the Mishnah Berurah (101:13), and the Aruch Hashulchan (62:5; see also siman 101 and 185) likewise rules unequivocally that one should not pray or recite Keriyas Shema in any language butlashon ha-kodesh, being particularly stringent concerning somebody who knows Hebrew.
By contrast with the negative winds of change that blew during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, today there is a broad teshuvah movement, bringing about a condition whereby many people who wish to be Torah observant, do not know Hebrew.
For such people, who wish to daven but find it hard or even impossible to do so in Hebrew, it is important to know the principles of reciting Keriyas Shema or prayer in other languages.



More on Internet commerce on Shabbos. The opinion of the Baal HaTanya.

Internet Business On Shabbos

You are sitting at home eating a delicious seudas shabbos with your family. In the meantime, you have a site on the internet and people all over the world are purchasing items from you. Muttar or Assur?
A much less comprehensive discussion in English.

An older piece germane to the topic. Sweet torah.

Don't Be Overly Trusting

Chazal were very wise.

There is a halacha that is ignored by the masses that would solve a lot of problems. The gemara says [Bava Metzia 75b] that it is forbidden to loan money without witnesses. If one does so he brings a curse upon himself and trangresses the prohibition of "don't put a stumbling block before the blind" [for the borrower might falsely deny that the loan ever took place and thereby sin]. This law is codified in the Shulchan Aruch.

Chazal understood that when it comes to money matters - trust nobody. The poskim work very hard to try to find a justification for the common practice to loan money without witnesses [with little success - an 'open' gemara and shulchan aruch...] but everybody agrees that ideally the law should be followed as written [see for example the Tzitz Eliezer 7/47 and the Yabia Omer somewhere in Choshen Mishpat in the seventh volume if my memory serves me correctly. If it doesn't - sue me and I'll see you in court. Then we can go out for something to eat and shmooze:-). Whoever is reading this - I haven't seen you for a while].

My own experience in life has been that it has yet to happen that I loaned someone money and he came back to me and paid up on time. Either he never returned the money, or waited until I very uncomfortably brought up the subject after the loan was already due and then returned it. Recently, I asked someone to return money that was due about TWO YEARS AGO. I felt very uncomfortable but I really need it so I overcame my inhibition and said something. I know that he is struggling but his word is his word.

He said "I haven't forgotten you". I wasn't interested in whether he is thinking about me. We are not a couple in shidduchim concerned if the other person is thinking of them. It is the cash that is needed. אם אין קמח ... Then, to show me how appreciated I am, instead of returning the loan .... he gave me a sefer he wrote:-). Even though I love sfarim it is hard to learn a sefer from a person who is less than honest in his financial dealings. The truth is that I already smelled him out from the beginning and I knew long ago that the money won't be coming back so soon. I have seen other unseemly aspects of his character and his external frumkeit didn't impress me. Baruch Hashem, I have developed a skill over the years to see through people so at least I am not surprised.  

What about the halacha I mentioned from the gemara? Why I don't I keep it? The truth is that I do:-). I don't lend money without either writing a shtar or in the presence of witnesses. I have a signed shtar for the loan but I am not the type to sue someone in court. Also, it is not such a large sum that it would be worth my while anyway.

So I will wait for yeshuas Hashem from a different channel. He is nebuch in difficult circumstances anyway. May Hashem help him.

For us, the lesson is - beware. Beard, no beard, tichel or sheitel, it doesn't matter. When it comes to money, EVERYBODY is suspect and few are the completely 100 percent honest. The gemara already said 1500 years ago רובן בגזל [Bava Basra 165]. MOST PEOPLE [FRUM PEOPLE!!] are guilty of stealing on some level. My life experience has confirmed this time and again. People's words aren't words and there is always that element of discomfort that people have parting with their most beloved ....

And I proclaim the words of Dovid Hamelech - מי יעלה בהר השם ומי יקום במקום קדשו? - Who will climb the mountain of Hashem and rise in his holy place?

נקי כפים - A man with clean honest hands.

May we all be the exception rather than the rule:-).


Me :-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Writer

A visitor to Israel attended a concert at the Moscovitz Auditorium and he was quite impressed with the architecture and acoustics.

He inquired of the tour guide, "Is this magnificent auditorium named after Chaim Moscovitz, the famous artist?"

"No," replied the guide. "It is named after Sam Moscovitz, the writer."

"Never heard of him. What did he write?"

"A check," replied the guide.

Every Jew

Who was R' Velvel Soloveitchik mechalel yom tov for? Listen from 25:50 until 29:00. Worth your while...

Trying To Elevate The Soul Before Returning It For The Night

My bedtime reading for tonight. Nora noraos. If you can't understand it I am sorry. Maybe one day we will be zoche to learn it together.


Kol Isha And The Rabbi Who Thinks Opera Is A.O.K.

From the Kol Torah Journal [with my addendums]:

The Gemara (Berachot 24a) records the prohibition of Kol Isha. In this essay, we shall outline the parameters of this issue, as delineated by twentieth century Halachic authorities. We shall discuss the source of the prohibition and its applicability in our times. Then we shall discuss the questions of whether this prohibition applies to Zemirot, tape recordings, and radio broadcasts. We shall conclude with a brief discussion regarding husband-wife restrictions, and men hearing young girls sing.

The Source of the Prohibition

The Gemara (Berachot 24a) states, “The voice of a woman is Ervah, as the Pasuk [in Shir Hashirim 2:14] states ‘let me hear your voice because your voice is pleasant and appearance attractive.’” Rashi explains that the Pasuk in Shir Hashirim indicates that a woman’s voice is attractive to a man, and is thus prohibited to him. Rav Hai Gaon (cited in the Mordechai, Berachot 80) writes that this restriction applies to a man who is reading Kriat Shema, because a woman’s singing will distract him. The Rosh (Berachot 3:37) disagrees and writes that the Gemara refers to all situations and is not limited to Kriat Shema. The Shulchan Aruch rules that the Kol Isha restriction applies to both Kriat Shema (Orach Chaim 75:3) and other contexts (Even Haezer 21:2). The Rama (O.C. 75:3) and Bait Shmuel (21:4) clarify that this prohibition applies only to a woman’s singing voice and not to her speaking voice. The Shulchan Aruch (E.H. 20:1) rules in accordance with the view of the Rambam (Hilchot Issurei Biah 21:1) that a couple is biblically forbidden to have physical contact if they are forbidden to live with each other. The Acharonim (summarized in Teshuvot Yabia Omer 1:6) debate whether the Kol Isha prohibition is also a biblical level prohibition. Rav Ovadia Yosef (ibid.) rules in accordance with the opinions that it is only a rabbinical prohibition.
Both Rav Ovadia Yosef (ibid) and Rav Yehuda Henkin (Teshuvot Bnei Banim 3:127) reject the claim that this prohibition does not apply today since men nowadays are accustomed to hear a woman’s voice. These authorities explain that since the Gemara and Shulchan Aruch codify this prohibition, we do not enjoy the right to abolish it. The Gemara and its commentaries do not even hint at a possibility that this prohibition might not apply if men become habituated to hearing a woman’s voice. Thus, all recognized Poskim agree that the prohibition of Kol Isha applies today.


There is, however, considerable disagreement regarding the scope of the Kol Isha prohibition. For example, the question of its applicability to Zemirot has been discussed at some length in the twentieth century responsa literature. Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (Teshuvot Seridei Eish 2:8) notes that traditionally women refrained from singing Zemirot when there were males who were not family members sitting at the Shabbat table. However, he records that the practice in Germany was for woman to sing Zemirot in the company of unrelated men. Rav Weinberg records that Rav Azriel Hildesheimer and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (two great German Rabbis of the nineteenth century) sanctioned this practice. Rav Weinberg reports that they based their ruling on the Talmudic rule (Megila 21b) that “Trei Kali Lo Mishtamai,” two voices cannot be heard simultaneously.
Rav Weinberg writes that he does not find this explanation satisfying (perhaps because the Gemara (Sotah 48a) writes that men and women singing together is a major impropriety). Rav Weinberg instead defends the German Jewish practice by citing the Sdei Chemed (Klalim, Maarechet Hakuf, 42) who quotes the Divrei Cheifetz who asserts that the Kol Isha prohibition does not apply to women singing Zemirot, singing songs to children, and lamentations for the dead. This authority explains that in these contexts men do not derive pleasure from the woman’s voice. In fact, the Pasuk (Shoftim 5:1) records that Devora the prophetess sang a song of praise to Hashem together with Barak the son of Avinoam. According to the simple reading of the text, Devora was married to Lapidot and not Barak. The Sdei Chemed writes that he believes that it is proper to be strict and not follow the approach of the Divrei Cheifetz, but he regards the lenient opinion as a viable approach.
Rav Weinberg writes that we should not pressure women who wish to follow the traditional practice to join Zemirot in a mixed group. Indeed, many Poskim oppose this practice of German Jewry (see Otzar Haposkim E.H. 21:1:20:3). However, some cite the Gemara (Megila 23a) that states that women are forbidden to receive an Aliyah to the Torah because of Kavod Hatzibbur as proof to the German practice. They argue that the fact that the Gemara does not mention Kol Isha as the reason to forbid women’s Aliyot proves that the Kol Isha restriction does not apply when a woman sings sacred texts. Others reply that the Gemara might be speaking of a woman reading the Torah to her immediate family members or may be speaking of a female child reading the Torah (see comments of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Eliezer Waldenberg, and Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv cited in Nishmat Avraham 5:76-77). These suggestions might also explain the Gemara (Berachot 57b and Rashi s.v. Kol) that states that hearing a woman’s voice is a soothing experience.
Accordingly, the question of whether the Kol Isha prohibition applies to Zemirot remains unresolved. Chareidi communities in Israel and North America generally follow the stringent view on this matter and Modern Orthodox communities in Israel and North America generally follow the tradition of German Jewry in this regard. [Strange. His leniency was to prevent assimilation which is not applicable in many cases. E.E.] It seems appropriate, though, not to expand this leniency and permit situations beyond that which the German Poskim specifically authorized – a group of men and women singing Zemirot together. [Note - Rav Weinberg's ruling was very novel and most poskim disagreed. E.E.]. Interestingly, I asked Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik in July 1985 whether he agrees with this ruling of Rav Weinberg. The Rav replied, “I agree with everything that he wrote, except for his permission to stun animals before Shechita” (see volume one of Teshuvot Seridei Eish). Rav Soloveitchik related his great appreciation of Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg. Rav Shalom Carmy later told me that Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Weinberg had been close friends during the years that Rav Soloveitchik studied in Berlin. [Very "stunning" that Rav Soloveitchik would say that he agrees with everything Rav Weinberg said as Rav Weinberg often used the academic method of talmud study which is a stark contrast to the Brisker method and reaches very-very different conclusions. Go figure:-) E.E.]

Recordings and Radio Broadcasts

Twentieth Century Halachic authorities have also debated whether the Kol Isha prohibition applies to recordings and radio broadcasts. Rav Eliezer Waldenberg (Teshuvot Tzitz Eliezer 5:2) rules leniently based on two considerations. The first is that the Gemara (Sanhedrin 45a) states, “The Yetzer Hara is not interested in what the eyes do not see.” The second is that technically he does not hear the woman’s voice because radio broadcasts and recordings are mere electronic reproductions of the woman’s voice. Rav Waldenberg writes that if we cannot fulfill Mitzvot such as Tekiat Shofar and Kriat Megila when hearing them on the radio, then the prohibition of Kol Isha does not apply over the radio. Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (cited by his grandson Rav Yehudah Henkin, Teshuvot Bnei Banim 2:211 and 3:127) agrees with this position. Rav Y.E. Henkin was unsure whether the prohibition applies to hearing a woman’s voice broadcasted on television (ibid.). This might be because only one of the two lenient considerations that apply to the radio question is relevant to the television issue. Rav Waldenberg cautions, though, that listening to a woman’s voice on the radio is prohibited “if his intention is to enjoy her singing.”
Rav Yaakov Breisch (Teshuvot Chelkat Yaakov 1:163), on the other hand, forbids a man to listen to a female voice on the radio. He reasons that the aforementioned Gemara in Sanhedrin 45a does not apply when there is some form of connection with the woman. He argues that a man’s Yetzer Hara is interested even if he only hears a woman’s voice. He rules strictly even in case where the listener is not acquainted with the singer. Rav Shmuel Wosner (Teshuvot Shevet Halevi 3:E.H.181 and Rav Binyamin Silber (Az Nidberu 9:9) also rule strictly on this question.

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 1:6) and Rav Chaim David Halevi (Teshuvot Aseh Lecha Rav 3:6) adopt a compromise approach to this issue. They permit listening to a female voice on the radio only if the listener is not acquainted with the singer. They both rule strictly, though, even if the listener once glimpsed a picture of the singer. Rav Ovadia rules that the prohibition applies even if the singer is not alive.

Rav Chaim David Halevi asserts that there is absolutely no basis to permit Kol Isha merely because the woman is singing into a microphone. He writes that the prohibition applies even if the man is not, technically speaking, hearing the woman’s voice. Rav Waldenberg’s aforementioned lenient ruling applies only when the man does not see the woman. Rav J. David Bleich (Contemporary Halachic Problems 2:152) notes that no recognized Halachic authority rules that the use of a microphone alone mitigates the prohibition of Kol Isha.

Husband and Wife

The Pitchei Teshuva (Yoreh Deah 195:10) is uncertain whether a husband is forbidden to hear his wife singing during the time when the couple must separate. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 195:23) and Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Y.D. 2:75) rule strictly and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Taharat Habayit 2:167-170) rules leniently, but writes that one who is strict on this matter will be blessed.  Rav Mordechai Willig (in a Shiur delivered at Yeshiva University) ruled that a couple is permitted to rely on the lenient ruling of Rav Ovadia Yosef. [R' Willig's great honor should remain firmly in place but Rav Ovadia doesn't need haskamos:-). Besides - he said that ideally one should be strict. It would SEEM depend on what type of personality and religious inclinations ones wife has making sure that no shalom bayis problems are created. וד"ל E.E.]

A Young Girl

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe O.C.1:26) and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Taharat Habayit 2:270) rule (based on the Mishna Berura 75:17) that in case of need, one may rely on the ruling that the prohibition of Kol Isha does not apply to girls who are not Niddot. Rav Moshe writes (in 1947) that one may assume that there is no question with girls below the age of eleven. Rav Moshe writes that men must be strict regarding girls older than the age of eleven, since there are girls who “nowadays” become Niddot at the age of eleven.


Observance of the Kol Isha prohibition is quite challenging for us as this prohibition runs counter to the prevailing Western culture. In today’s promiscuous society where outrageous behavior is deemed acceptable, a woman’s singing voice appears innocuous. Moreover, the general culture views this prohibition offensive and demeaning to women. We are challenged to hold firm to our beliefs against the flow of the general cultural tide. This is one of the issues that we must part company with the rest of society, just as Avraham Avinu and Yitzchak Avinu parted with their two servants on the road to Akeidat Yitzchak. Rav Yehuda Amital told me that we should strictly observe the Kol Isha prohibition today precisely because of the deterioration of the moral standards of western society.

E.E. - I recently saw an interview with a well known talmid chochom and famous progressive Orthodox rabbi. These are some highlights:-):

Q: First we would like to know your position on kol isha.

A: I would say as follows. There are many rishonim (early Talmudic commentators) who hold that it is only during kriyat shema. Other rishonim hold that the injunction of kol isha applies only to vulgar songs [name one!:-)]. There are still other rishonim who hold that it is not only vulgar songs, but also things that entice you [name one:-)]. This would explain why for some, zmirot (religious songs) present no problem. The other thing that you have to say is that many of these isurim (prohibitions) are contextual. For example, and the Pri Chadash brings this down, many women don’t cover their hair even though the Gemara (Talmud) clearly states that the hair of a woman is considered erva (nakedness or sexual licentiousness) [women not following halacha doesn't make it permitted:-)]. One of the heterim (allowance for halakhic leniency) for not covering their hair is that when something is not considered ervah anymore it loses its halakhic status as a prohibition [WHOSE HETER??]. Likewise with songs, which are largely not considered ervah anymore, and are not deemed to be erotic, a similar heter can be applied. Mimeila (consequently/clearly), I don’t worry about this kind of thing. [In other words - I don't follow the Shulchan Aruch which explicitly forbids it:-). He also made up that rishonim said things they didn't say:-).
Q: So would you say that we could…..
A: If sometimes you want to go to the opera I think it is alright.

Nu sweet friends... You see - even rabbis can twist the halacha at times. Try to stick with the honest ones...