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This is an introduction to depression angles accumulated from various papers I have written and focused on simply explaing depression angles intuitively.

It was published on the Seforim blog recently:

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.

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

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 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.

This book is in manuscript form. Criticism, questions, requests for clarity, suggestions for wording, etc. are requested. Section 5 has been rewritten and submitted for publication; as such it has been temporally omitted.

The 9 sections in the book present the background halakhic information as fairly as I can; however, no human, certainly me, is free of bias.

The epilogue contains an informed or some might argue a biased review of those 9 sections. The first part outlines what I believe to be my hiddushim. The epilogue concludes with something similar to, but less analytic and comprehensive than my article in Hakirah, on errors in the halakhic literature on zemanim. Most significantly, it concentrates on only one posek, Rav Moshe Feinstein, among the greatest posekim of the second half of the 20th century. Unlike most posekim, Rav Feinstein would often reveal his unique insights into the question under discussion.

Various reasons for this ancient minhag have been proposed. I have heard that 40 minutes allow one to watch the candles being lit before walking to the kotel or that 40 minutes is 30 minutes adjusted for the summer, among others. What we suggest is that 40 minutes is the earliest uniform time that throughout the year always occurs after plag ha-minha. That would be most logical, were it only true. What is shown that a long-forgotten method of calculation of what we call the position of the Magen Avraham makes 40 minutes precise. This method was certainly used in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was discarded because of a major problem that plagued it. What is demonstrated is how to solve the problem with only minor adjustments without discarding the method in toto. Colloquially, discarding the bathwater, not the baby.

In his peirush on the Shulchan Aruch, the Vilna Gaon fundamentally changed the reading of both primary texts of zemanim, Shabbat 34a-35b and Pesahim 94a. The Gaon vigorously opposed the still dominant opinion of Rabbeinu Tam and those who followed his viewpoint including Ramban, many hakhemai sforad, and both the Mehabair and Rama in the Shulchan Aruch. Beyond the Gaon’s dramatic influence on pesak, his impact on interpreting the text of both sugyot, something not often addressed, is the primary focus of what is discussed.

impact on sugyot