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This post was delayed by my desire not to be so critical of what clearly exhibits the consequences of a ḥareidi orientation.  However, after further consideration the Torah-only philosophy reflected is so pernicious to topics in zemanim, I felt I have no choice but to address / confront.

To add more motivation, I noticed that bastion of fairness, Ha(aino)modia, failed to even mention Rav Adin Steinsalt Even-Israel ztl’s passing.  Long after his detractors are at best a footnote to history, his seforim will still be valued.

I received a sefer entitled Z’manim on the Friday following Tisha B’av.  I told my Rav that the yetzer ha’rah would have encouraged me to read it on Tisha B’av had it arrived a day earlier.  After Shabbat, having read / skimmed the book I wrote back to my Rav that reading the sefer on Tisha B’av would have perhaps been permissible since it would only have added to the spirit of the day.

The author is a grandson-in-law of a prominent Rav who wrote an important sefer on zemanim, Munaḥ Yomah. This sefer, however, included something I never saw previously except in an advertisement – a haskamah with (only) a partial quote, omitting words.  It read as follows: “This is a fascinating and scholarly review… and…”  I wonder what was omitted before “and.” Beyond that, the word scholarly coupled with another haskamah from Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen seemed somewhat oxymoronic given normal use of the word scholarly.  I would be more inclined to call Rabbi Cohen Open Orthodox before calling this sefer scholarly; yeshivish, (sadly) perhaps, scholarly never.

What causes my negative reaction?  First, and fundamentally, the lack of reference to the science that provided an underpinning to ḥazal’s calculations of a fixed calendar.  To say otherwise is in my mind (close to) kefirah.  One example (of many) suffices. Ḥazal, like astronomers of their time knew that the exact period between “new moons” varied (considerably).  In establishing the calendar, they used the average time between lunations, something they (and scientists of their time) approximated with 6 decimal place accuracy. It is critical to realize that knowledge of the average lunation came from science and not the halakhah / mesorah.  We now know the average lunation not only to 6 but to 8 decimal places. To attribute slight imprecision to ancient science is hardly surprising, but to assign ḥazal’s imprecision to HlMmS, halakhah or mesorah borders on kefirah.  (BTW the organization responsible for the bible codes episode, put out another similar and objectionable video on the time between lunations as well.)  How ḥazal arrived at the molad / average time between lunations scientifically is necessary to better appreciate the source of the very minor error.

Second, to compare (partially and inadequately) Rabbi Adda’s tekufot to those implicit in the Gregorian calendar is either just bad judgement or inability to calculate accurately, (page 71).  Those tekufot implicit in the calendar of Pope Gregory came over a thousand years after Rabi Adda and are much more accurate. Nowhere did I see any statement on the impact of Rabi Adda’s inaccuracy (at this point an approximate 5 – 6-day drift to a later date in the year caused by the calendar) and reasons it should not be of concern until a few thousand years from now.  Without acknowledging the implication of a slightly longer year, its halakhic (non-) import cannot be addressed, a significant omission. Instead, the issue is simply omitted.

Third, the discussion of the Gaon’s critique of Rabbeinu Tam, is at best incomplete. Its implications go well beyond what was discussed.  The Gaon’s ḥush and scientific knowledge in addition to his compelling logic are all not optional but essential to understanding his attacks on the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam.

Fourth, the author’s assertion of the absolute need for a dateline is simply false. RIZM ztl and RTPF ztl disagree; modern logic (and their insightful he’orot based on the positions of rishonim and aḥaronim) supports their halakhic position.

It is of importance to note that well before Rambam, in geonic times, an Arab astronomer details a roughly accurate version of the fixed calendar created by the rabbis, expressing his amazement at its brilliance. Ḥokhmah ba’Goyim timtzah.

Many of the papers included on this site address all the issues raised.

”Only values that arise from within the halakhic system play a role in producing pesak.”  I agree completely.  Traditional poskim are careful to frame a pesak that way and that is what legitimately constrains the range of possible pesakim. However, as is self-evident, more than one halakhic path forward may exist. The question is what points a posek one way versus another? That is a meta-halakhic question and probably a psychological or sociological one as well. Asserting that only Torah influences are legitimate in forming a posek’s orientation is the what is argued. I have not seen any arguments that would support the position restricting legitimate influences only to those that are Torah based.  In any case, many/most poskim may not necessarily be sufficiently self-aware.  Something as simple as one’s empathy for a situation is IMHO the result of various influences; for example, awareness or evaluation of a situation’s consequences, clearly not in the main derivable from Torah sources is clearly a legitimate basis for differing poskim‘s differing orientations.

However, what we are now witnessing is far worse. Those with a disdain for anything but learning Torah as practiced by say Rav Shach ztl, end up incapable of being a leader and posek. They may be living an ideal existence, but not one that prepares them to opine on the issues of the day. The Sanhedrin did not learn 70 languages from learning Torah. The Metonic relation which hazal adopted is nowhere in the Torah, (thank God, it is faulty) nor is the average lunation (almost but not quite exact and more critical) nor the relationship between stars and darkness. Shmuel did not become a baki be’shivielai de’rakiah by studying Torah. Rabbis without such knowledge did not attempt to create calendars.

There were many great poskim, RMF ztl and especially RSZA ztl for example, who worked diligently to acquire secular knowledge to pasken; today there are defenders for those who do not. That I find problematic.

Stolen from a source I no longer remember.

In the year 2020, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in America and said:

“Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me.”

“Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans.”

He gave Noah the blueprints, saying:

“You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.”

Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard – but no Ark.

 “Noah!” He roared, “I’m about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?”

“Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah, “but things have changed.”

  1. “I needed a Building Permit.”
  2. “I’ve been arguing with the Boat Inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.”
  3. “My homeowners association claim that I’ve violated the construction code.
  4. Neighborhood by-laws by building the Ark in my back yard and exceeding the height limitations. We had to go to the local Planning Committee for a decision.”
  5. “Then the City Council and the Electricity Company demanded a sh.. load of money for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark’s move to the sea. I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear none of it.”
  6. “Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the Greater Spotted Barn Owl.”
  7. “I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls – but no go!”
  8. “When I started gathering the animals, PETA took me to court. They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will. They argued the accommodations were too restrictive and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.”
  9. “Then the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on Your proposed flood.”
  10. “I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I’m supposed to hire for my building crew.”
  11. “The Immigration Dept. Is checking the visa status of most of the people who want to work.”
  12. “The labor unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only union workers with ark-building experience.”
  13. “To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.”
  14. “So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this ark.”

“Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky.”

Noah looked up in wonder and asked, “You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?”

“No,” said the Lord. ” The Government beat me to it.

  1. Do not compare the NY area and Israel. NYC has a similar population to Israel with 70 times the number of deaths. There is much afoot.

2) The NY area MO community suffered greatly. Just in my own immediate circles, my FIL, 2 MO doctors, one who I grew up with, a major RIETS donor, a young man from shul, etc. all succumbed. Others recovered.

3) Haredim do not listen as often to secular news and because of some of their news sources’ abominable behavior, they were insufficiently warned of the danger.

4) Sadly, however, there will be minimal retrospection in many parts of the Haredi world; what went wrong cuts to the heart of hareidi worldviews. Spin-doctors will help to guarantee a minimum level of learning.

5) A benefit that accrues to the MO community is that normal traditional Jews will no longer feel inauthentic given the extremism most hareidi innovators claim as our authentic halakhic heritage; it is not. One grandson’s heard shiurim from RHS on a continuous basis. He was able to learn be’havrutah almost normally. Another heard shiurim from Eretz Yisroel. For all eight grandchildren, their educations may have suffered, but not dramatically.

I have risk factors galore; the worse being the medications I take that suppress my immune system that BH controls my neurological disease. I have ventured out with extreme care (fully only three times in the last 12 weeks, with layers of protection.) OTOH, I have never had so productive a period of reading/learning in decades.

Lesson learned, yes, and no. I have jokingly said that I may be able to return to shul only after the coming of Moshiach, but only if he tests negative.

  1. We need a new expression: the road to hell is paved with quotes from the Rav ztl.

2) The OU is dragged right and left; the Agudah seems to have only half of that issue but in spades!! 🙂

One thing is noticeably clear: even the meaning of what is viewed as one of the ikkarim changes over time.  Differing opinions about God’s corporeality, the character of the Messiah, the nature of authoritative texts, etc. are apparent in reading authoritative texts in our mesorah. Even when we seem to pasken on hashkafic issues, the psak is often refined and changes, often dramatically, over time.  This is significantly different from how psak in halakhic matters operates traditionally.

Both our conception of God or understanding of the notion of mesorah are two relatively clear areas, at least to me. This is an area of significant difference between various traditional Jewish streams.

Though I have a few philosophical disagreements wrt hashgacha, I am overwhelmed by the Sanzer Rebbe’s sensitivity and sagacious advice. Both his priorities wrt Pesach and focus on where to look for improvements given Covid – 19 reflect what has been traditionally recognized as Torah infused wisdom.

I have a warm place in my heart for Sanz. As a teenager right after WWI, my late father davened in a shul led by the Divrei Chaim’s grandson, a son of one of his older children. In the ghetto, some 20+ years later, he received a haunting bracha from the youngest son of the Divrei Chaim, the Tzhiliener Rebbe, born when the Rebbe was in his late 70’s. He was killed by the Nazis YMS, a few days later. He said to my father: ba mir iz shoen tunkel; uber dir vellen de reshayim nisht hoben kain shelittah. (Translated: For me, it is already dark; over you, the Nazis will not rule.) Miraculously, my parents and my incredibly young sister survived the war.

The Rebbe displays the sensitivity that goes back to Rav Chaim of Sanz. The late Jacob Katz (primarily in The Shabbos Goy) writes about the disagreements between the Divrei Chaim and the positions of the Chatam Sofer, who lived almost 2 generations earlier. In my judgment, the Divrei Chaim exhibited a remarkable and profound awareness of the (new) world in which he lived and its halakhic implications.

  1. Dealing with a possible counterexample to the claimed Rabbinic nature of trop

לֹֽא־תִהְיֶ֥ה אַחֲרֵֽי־רַבִּ֖ים לְרָעֹ֑ת וְלֹא־תַעֲנֶ֣ה עַל־רִ֗ב לִנְטֹ֛ת אַחֲרֵ֥י רַבִּ֖ים לְהַטֹּֽת

The obvious meaning of the first half of the passuk is to caution against joining along with a large group to do evil. The second part of the passuk, after the etnaḥtah on the לְרָעֹ֑ת, seemingly repeats a similar theme.  The second part has only one major pause, the tipḥa on the word רַבִּ֖ים.  Placed there, the meaning is clear.  Ḥazal, on the other hand, treats the phrase אַחֲרֵ֥י רַבִּ֖ים לְהַטֹּֽת in Ḥullin 11a as an independent command, to follow the principle of majority rule.

Given my claim concerning the trop’s adherence to rabbinic interpretation, this clear deviation requires some explanation. One possibility is that ḥazal gave an alternative explanation at the very beginning of Sanhedrin, which cautions against the reliability of a single witness; the trop conforms with that interpretation.  However, the very popularity of the end of the passuk as requiring majority rule, would seem to make it primary.  This leads to a second possibility.  When ḥazal draw biblical support, they may not be suggesting a new interpretation, but simply finding a biblical phrase that will act as a reminder. How can you tell? To provide new meaning to a phrase leaving the rest of the passuk unclear implies that only an association with that phrase is intended as opposed to a new meaning.  In such an instance, the trop continues to follow the literal interpretation.

2) Not just halakhic but also midrashic influence of ḥazal on trop

וְאַנְשֵׁ֣י סְדֹ֔ם רָעִ֖ים וְחַטָּאִ֑ים לַיהוָ֖ה מְאֹֽד׃

There are numerous ways to potentially interpret this passuk including:

  1. they were evil and sinned to God mightily.
  2. They were very evil and sinful to God.
  3. They were very wicked sinners against God.

None, however, match the trop which presents two difficulties:

  1. Why are the words לַיהוָ֖ה מְאֹֽד separated from the first half of the passuk?
  2. Why is each of the last 4 words followed by a major separator?

The initial phrase, וְאַנְשֵׁ֣י סְדֹ֔ם, seemingly applies to both pairs of words that follow:

  1. וְאַנְשֵׁ֣י סְדֹ֔ם רָעִ֖ים וְחַטָּאִ֑ים, as well as
  2. לַיהוָ֖ה מְאֹֽד וְאַנְשֵׁ֣י סְדֹ֔ם.

In this passuk the midrashic interpretation seems to be reflected in the trop read by applying ְאַנְשֵׁ֣י סְדֹ֔ם as above.  The people of Sodom were evil to each other, רָעִ֖ים, engaged in licentious behavior, ְחַטָּאִ֑ים, worshiped idolatry, לַיהוָ֖ה, and murdered, מְאֹֽד, occurring in an early Midrash Tannaim, quoted as well in the Toseftah Shabbat, chapter 7, Lieberman edition.

3) My favorite example of an extraordinary trop.

Consider the encounter of Yaakov with Pharaoh (Berashit 47:7-10), where Pharaoh’s ostensible question about Yaakov’s age evokes a startling response from Yaakov including reference to the numerous travails that he has endured during his life. Why the recitation of his life’s history in response to a simple question about his age? Is this the basis for the Jewish tendency to kvetch? The trop, may suggest a basis for Yaakov’s surprising response.

וַיֹּ֥אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֖ה אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֑ב כַּמָּ֕ה יְמֵ֖י שְׁנֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ

The word כַּמָּ֕ה is separated by a zakeif gadol from the rest of the phrase and is perhaps suggesting that Pharaoh was asking not one, but two [1]

  1. כַּמָּ֕ה – “whoa” – what I am I observing?
  2. יְמֵ֖י שְׁנֵ֥י חַיֶּֽיךָ  – how old are you?

to which Yaakov responds, I am not as old as I look, having had an extremely hard life.

[1] See the interpretation of Ramban, which is almost identical to that described and is consistent with the trop.

4) The runner-up, a close second for favorite trop example:

וַיְהִי֙ מִֽמָּחֳרָ֔ת וַיֵּ֥שֶׁב מֹשֶׁ֖ה לִשְׁפֹּ֣ט אֶת־הָעָ֑ם וַיַּעֲמֹ֤ד הָעָם֙ עַל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה מִן־הַבֹּ֖קֶר עַד־הָעָֽרֶב׃

Next day, Moses sat as magistrate among the people, while the people stood about Moses from morning until evening.

וַיַּרְא֙ חֹתֵ֣ן מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־ה֥וּא עֹשֶׂ֖ה לָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֗אמֶר מָֽה־הַדָּבָ֤ר הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתָּ֤ה עֹשֶׂה֙ לָעָ֔ם מַדּ֗וּעַ אַתָּ֤ה יוֹשֵׁב֙ לְבַדֶּ֔ךָ וְכָל־הָעָ֛ם נִצָּ֥ב עָלֶ֖יךָ מִן־בֹּ֥קֶר עַד־עָֽרֶב׃

But when Moses’ father-in-law saw how much he had to do for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening?”

Two adjacent pesukim with an identical English translation.  Note both sentence endings are translated “from morning until evening.” A look at Onkelos will indicate a similar translation.  Not so the trop. In the first passuk, the trop places a tipḥa on boker, separating it from ha-erev.  Indeed, when first told of Moshe’s day we know when it begins, but we do not know when it ends.  Thus, the need to pause after the start awaiting the finish.  However, having observed the entire daily process, it is known that the duration is from morning to night, and boker and erev are linked by a merḥa, a connecting trop symbol.

5. The following pesukim were addressed in the 2 papers published in the Lehrhaus.

a) Yehudah’s response to Tamar in Genesis 38:26.

b) Yaacov blessing to Dan praying for deliverance in Genesis 49:18.

c) Two pesukim from Oz Yashir with two different possible interpretations. Exodus 15:4 and 15:10.

d) As noted in the first paper, trop providing only syntax, can not often help decide between even very different semantic alternatives. Exodus 8:9 and Exodus 17:16 are clear examples.

e) Two examples of trop that illustrate its halakhic nature are Exodus 20:20 and Exodus 22:12; the former more conclusively than the first.

f) Related but decidedly different is Exodus 34:5. Halakhically, we follow the trop; I have had occasion to tell a hazan on Yom Kippur that his tefillah followed Onkelos, as opposed to accepted practice, first mention by Avudreham.

6) Does the land flow with milk and honey; I think not. The honey in question is date honey, which flows at best at a snail’s pace. Corresponding the trop separates milk from honey. Onkelos who disagrees translates zavat not as flowing but as producing; thus milk and honey are connected as both are produced.

7) The parshah of Sotah

Bamidbar: 5:18

וְהֶעֱמִ֨יד הַכֹּהֵ֥ן אֶֽת־הָאִשָּׁה֮ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָה֒ וּפָרַע֙ אֶת־רֹ֣אשׁ הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה וְנָתַ֣ן עַל־כַּפֶּ֗יהָ אֵ֚ת מִנְחַ֣ת הַזִּכָּר֔וֹן מִנְחַ֥ת קְנָאֹ֖ת הִ֑וא וּבְיַ֤ד הַכֹּהֵן֙ יִהְי֔וּ מֵ֥י הַמָּרִ֖ים הַמְאָֽרֲרִֽים׃

Bamidbar 5:19

וְהִשְׁבִּ֨יעַ אֹתָ֜הּ הַכֹּהֵ֗ן וְאָמַ֤ר אֶל־הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אִם־לֹ֨א שָׁכַ֥ב אִישׁ֙ אֹתָ֔ךְ וְאִם־לֹ֥א

שָׂטִ֛ית טֻמְאָ֖ה תַּ֣חַת אִישֵׁ֑ךְ הִנָּקִ֕י מִמֵּ֛י הַמָּרִ֥ים הַֽמְאָרֲרִ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה

Bamidbar 5:22

וּ֠בָאוּ הַמַּ֨יִם הַמְאָרְרִ֤ים הָאֵ֙לֶּה֙ בְּֽמֵעַ֔יִךְ לַצְבּ֥וֹת בֶּ֖טֶן וְלַנְפִּ֣ל יָרֵ֑ךְ וְאָמְרָ֥ה הָאִשָּׁ֖ה

אָמֵ֥ן ׀ אָמֵֽן

Bamidbar 5:23

וְ֠כָתַב אֶת־הָאָלֹ֥ת הָאֵ֛לֶּה הַכֹּהֵ֖ן בַּסֵּ֑פֶר וּמָחָ֖ה אֶל־מֵ֥י הַמָּרִֽים׃

Bamidbar 5:24

וְהִשְׁקָה֙ אֶת־הָ֣אִשָּׁ֔ה אֶת־מֵ֥י הַמָּרִ֖ים הַמְאָֽרֲרִ֑ים וּבָ֥אוּ בָ֛הּ הַמַּ֥יִם הַֽמְאָרֲרִ֖ים לְמָרִֽים׃

The 3 words מֵ֥י הַמָּרִ֖ים הַמְאָֽרֲרִֽים occurs with merkha tipa sof passuk as in (5:18) or as מִמֵּ֛י הַמָּרִ֥ים הַֽמְאָרֲרִ֖ים a tevir followed by a merkha tipḥa in (5:19); a significantly different grouping of words dictated by the two sequences of trop. In addition (5:22) omits the word מָּרִֽים completely and (5:24) inverts the word order itself.

In his sefer Ve’yavinu Ba’mikrah, R. Gettinger proposes that the differences result from the circumstances before and after the woman is forced to drink.

Though I agree with R. Gettinger, I believe there is more to unpack. While the trop does not imply a specific semantic interpretation, it is useful to survey those semantic possibilities.

The term marim ostensibly means bitter because of

  1. the ingredients mentioned, dirt, ink, and parchment (Sifrei),
  2. the bitter items added (Sotah 20a)
  3. their bitter effect on a guilty woman, (Rashi, Sifrei),
  4. their impact on a guilty woman is bitter (Ramban,) though they are not themselves bitter.

The term me’ah’rah’rim may refer to

  1. their ability to cause a curse to a guilty woman (Onkelos),
  2. be discerning or shed light.  (Psedo Jonathan)

It is the marim in the water in any of its interpretations that are me’ah’rah’rim.  Once in process the term mei or mayim implicitly imply waters that have been modified, as in (5:22.)

In general, the term marim can link to either where it was placed, the mayim, or to its impact as being me’ah’rah’rimeach with a corresponding trop.

The final 5 words of (5:24) where the normal order with marim preceding me’ah’rah’rim is reversed should be read as the discerning waters enter with their ability to produce a bitter result.

Natan as opposed to Nosson as R. Adler was known to favor Sephardic pronunciation. In a fantastic episode first reported by Prof. Shneur Leiman in the late 90’s and then addressed by Prof. Marc Shapiro about a decade later, a story of incredible hutzpah is told. The story goes back to the early 50’s and a reprinting of the Chatam Sofer’s hiddushim on shas by a publisher in the Satmar community.

Following the end of Rav Sofer’s commentary on Pesahim, a variety of material, including the practice of his rebbe, Rav Adler is included. As read (incorrectly) by Satmar, R. Adler was suggesting that Shabbat ends between 24 and 35 minutes after sunset. As devotees of the Rabbeinu Tam and even according to the Geonim, given R. Adler’s latitude, this sounds impossible. Well, what is a good hasid to do? According to Prof. Shapiro, with the Rebbe’s approval, out came the whiteout pen and the lines were obscured, never to be seen. When discovered, the rebbe insisted that all copies be destroyed; Prof. Leiman as you might suspect had a copy to display.

The paper from TheLehrhaus linked below demonstrates something embarrassing. The Satmar misunderstood what R. Adler meant, resulting in a quite unnecessary act of hutzpah.

Click here:

Rav Schechter reports that the Rav ztl, who followed Rabbeinu Tam with modern depression angle based humrot, was not concerned about any stringency that counting the hour of the day from alot ha-shahar would imply.

What is now abundantly apparent that this approach was the position of Ramban and the hakhemai sforad who followed.

Beyond the inability to apply the position of Magen Avraham in the afternoon to plag ha-minha for example at locations moderately far from the equator, we show that even in Jerusalem the approach encounters slight problems.

All of this is buttressed by an analysis of both R. Israel Isserlein, the Trumat Ha-Deshen, R. Avraham Pimential, author of Minhat Kohen and recognized by R. Gombiner, a contemporary, as an expert, and later authorities.

The approach suggested appears as well in the article on lighting candles in Jerusalem 40 minutes before sunset.

The manuscript’s first part is largely a tutorial introduction to this area of zemanim.

Critical to the above document is the following excel spreadsheet

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