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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? If ḥazal provide new meaning only to a phrase leaving the rest of the passuk (or half a passuk) untouched, that likely implies that only an association with that phrase is intended as opposed to a new meaning (and trop.)  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.

8) The obligation for birḥat ha’mazon:

Another instance where the trop might appear to split a passuk in opposition to rabbinic interpretation is Devarim (8:10):

וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ אֶת־יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ עַל־הָאָ֥רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר נָֽתַן־לָֽךְ׃

Ḥazal famously link וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ to the next word  וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙

something the trop obviously does not, placing an esnaḥtah on the word וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ. However, this does not contradict our fundamental assertion that trop comports with rabbinic interpretation.

One would have to assert that the linkage of וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙  is not meant as an alternate reading of the text, but simply a mnemonic to remember the obligation for birḥat ha’mazon.  Without the word וּבֵֽרַכְתָּ֙ it would be impossible for the second half of the passuk to stand alone.

Additionally, the reason given in our first entry also applies. Furthermore, the second half of the pasuk, corresponds precisely to the first 2 beraot of birḥat ha’mazon, 1) praising God for our sustenance and 2) for the land (of Israel), beraot azal ascribe to Moshe and Yehoshua.

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

Though a number of views arguing for a precise (longitudinal or shoreline conforming) location for a halakhic dateline, those of the Hazon Ish and Rav Tukatzinsky being most often quoted, have been proposed, this paper argues strongly in favor of a view of major poskim including Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank and Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer that argue that such a line is not defined in halakha. In support of that position, I further argue that the existence of a dateline often thought of as logically necessary, in fact, is not. Rather the halakha is established by local (Jewish) practice as it has evolved. A person leaving such a location while over uninhabited ocean/land maintains previous practice (subject to observations of a new day.)

A related matter not covered, but one to which I hope to return, are the assumptions behind the position of the Hazon Ish, whose position was previously argued by Rav Moshe Lapidus at the end of the 19th century. It drew opposition at that time from Rav Shaul Nathanson, author of the Shoel u’Mashiv.

Though all my articles published on benefit from her meticulous editorial judgment, Davida Kolmar’s work on this article, moving paragraphs, simplifying sentences, etc. made the article clearer and more easily read and understood.

This article from the Torah u’Maddah journal from 2011 has been a springboard to a number of articles that have appeared (and are included on this site: the dateline and Satmar censorship) and a manuscript on shaot ha’yom according to the Magen Avraham. It also introduces my strongly held belief that depression angles are to darkness what a clock is to time, providing a useful mechanism for specifying darkness based zemanim.

Any mention of the Torah u’Maddah journal must include a special mention of its general editor, Rabbi Dr. David Shatz, and editor Meira Mintz from whose meticulous work the article (and I) benefitted.

to read click here.

This ancient topic, clearly decided by all codifiers of law, has had those who nonetheless sat outside the sukkah (for at least part of Shemini Atzeret) throughout history. For those of us in the USA, it is abundantly clear that, despite family custom, we are obligated to sit in the Sukkah, despite this position not being practiced in Talmudic times.

the fascinating look back at history.

This article was regrettably very necessary. Errors on the topic of zemanim proliferated in the halakhic literature. Yet worse, trying to integrate errored views led to yet more significant errors. The article below attempts to classify errors into 6 categories with examples per category. I would appreciate comments on the individual errors and the method chosen for categorization.

While many errors did not immediately lead to badly errored pesakim, their use by others may not have been so fortunate. One example suffices to illustrate the issue. As we can now very precisely calculate, the period between sunset and the day’s end varies by both distance from the equator and the time of year. Early in (modern) halakhic history (17th century,) Rav Avraham Pimential errored when he equated that variation to the length of the day, sunrise to sunset. While his formula is imprecise during the summer, it is entirely incorrect in the winter. Intuition or some might argue, siyatta di’shemaya, led him to caution against the use of his formula in the winter. Given his prominence, that error, together with his caution, is still to be found in the rabbinic literature. Now, however, we also have a prominent congregation and its well-respected Rabbi using something that appears remarkably similar just last winter on their website.

For those familiar with the notion of recursion in mathematics/logic, this is a similar notion in the sense of Douglas Hofstetter’s book Godel, Escher, Bach. In a stronger but more primitive sense, trop exhibits a recursive structure 1000 years before Bach.

The actual algorithm that demonstrates recursiveness is found here

The attached manuscript covers 4 areas in kinnim. The third is now posted and a prior version was published in Hakirah. What is included is a proposed explanation of perhaps the most challenging Rambam in MT. Rambam uses the ve’yairaeh li, it appears to me, about 150 times in Mishneh Torah. Except in 6 instances, Raavad agrees to Rambam’s insight, half time acknowledging that he also knows of no proof and in the other cases points to supporting sources. However, in two places concerning kinnim in Pesulai Ha’Mikdashim, Raavad’s comment expresses strong opposition with severe language to boot. That question has never been satisfactorily answered, I believe that I have. Comments would be most appreciated. This is followed by a clear explanation of both what I call the more standard interpretation (rooted in the Ba’al ha-Moar, Rosh, and Bartenura) as well as both the unique and different approaches offered by Raavad and Rambam to the first 3 Mishnayot of the second perek.

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