Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Must A Potential Bride Mention She Has Not Yet Experienced Menarche? Part II

Having read this teshuva over Rosh haShana, I can perhaps comment on this a bit more. Scans of the teshuva, from Igros Moshe Even HaEzer III, siman 27, are included below. This was already mentioned by DafNotes, and is about whether a potential bride must mention that she had not experienced menarche.

The case is a girl who is already 20, but has not yet experienced menarche. She is about to get married and the girl's father wishes to know if he must inform the groom of this fact before the marriage. There are some doctors who say that once she is married and begins having intercourse, she will begin having her period.

Putting aside all halachic justifications mentioned in the teshuva, Rav Moshe Feinstein's conclusion is that he does not have to tell the groom, not even from a consideration of middat chassidut, but that she and her father should accept upon themselves that if she does not experience menarche or have children within 4 years, she should accept the get from her husband with no complaints, reservations, or claims on him.

One cannot pasken without understanding where the questioner is coming from, and we do not have the benefit of knowing this, in this anonymous teshuva. The question is framed as whether the father, rather than the girl, should reveal this, so perhaps this is from a background in which shidduchim are arranged between parents. Understandably, there might well be stigma if the shidduch is canceled, and if word about her condition gets out, such that she might never get married. This practical concern is certainly something that should factor in. It might all be well and good to be entirely honest, but not if it is to your detriment in a situation in which idiots will misinterpret it past what it actually is.

This framing of it as entirely above board, especially if she agrees to accept divorce with no claims after four years, is not necessarily true. Unfortunately, closed-mindedness when it comes to shidduchim extends to cases of divorce, such that some may consider a man or woman who is divorced to be "damaged goods." People will ask why he was divorced -- was it something about his personality? Or else they will not even ask the question, but will reject the shidduch out of hand without further consideration. If this fellow wishes to have a Jewish home life with a wife and children, a failed marriage with an infertile woman may condemn him to a life of bachelorhood, or at least significantly reduce his dating pool. As such, it is a somewhat mean thing to do to him, or at least to possibly cast him into by withholding this information. On the other hand, revealing this information before marriage may well eliminate this girl's chances of being married entirely, and this will be true for the present prospective groom as well as for any other. There are competing goals here.

Still, if we are to trust these doctors, there is nothing to worry about at all. (Unless they cast it as a "maybe.") If so, why need to appeal to gemaras at all? She will menstruate and be fertile. Unless there is still less likelihood of having children, or of having many children. Rav Moshe does consider in this teshuva, based on readings of the gemara, that she might have fewer children than other women, and whether this would lead to a mekach taut or not.

It is not our place to evaluate these doctors' words. It is certainly plausible. Studies have shown, e.g., that girls living with an unrelated male (e.g. a stepfather) on average experience menarche earlier than other girls. And other species ovulate in response to stimulation, and in fact gemaras discuss this phenomenon. The same might well be true for humans. This would be a separate post, but we will just take these doctors at their word.

Another issue is how to cast the case in the gemara that Rav Moshe applies. That gemara, on Ketubot 10b, reads:
Someone came before Rabban Gamaliel the elder [and] said to him, 'My master, I have had intercourse [with my newly-wedded wife] and I have not found any blood. She [the wife] said to him, 'My master, I am of the family of Dorkati, [the women of] which have neither blood of menstruation nor blood of virginity.' Rabban Gamaliel investigated among her women relatives and he found [the facts to be] in accordance with her words. He [then] said to him: Go, be happy with thy bargain. Happy art thou that thou hast been privileged [to marry a woman] of the family of Dorkati.

What is [the meaning of] Dorkati? — A cut-off generation. —

R. Hanina said: Vain consolation Rabban Gamaliel offered to that man, for R. Hiyya taught: As the leaven is wholesome for the dough, so is blood wholesome for a woman. And one has [also] taught in the name of R. Meir: Every woman who has abundant blood has many children.

It has been said: R, Jeremiah b. Abba said: He [Rabban Gamaliel] said to him [the husband]: Be happy with thy bargain. But R. Jose b. Abin said: He said to him: thou hast been punished with thy bargain. We quite understand the one who says 'Thou hast been punished' with thy bargain — this is [according to the view] of R. Hanina. But according to him who says 'Be happy' [with thy bargain], what is the advantage [of such a marriage]? — He [the husband] does not come to any doubt regarding menstruation.
What is the status of this woman, and what is meant by her family being Dorkati? Various commentators give various explanations. I will not offer my own explanation of the gemara at this time. It could mean that this woman has no blood from a torn hymen or menstrual blood but could still have children. It could mean that the women in the family are all barren. It could mean that some of the women in the family are barren. It could mean that the women in the family are not barren but have no blood. It could be from the father's side of the family or from the mother's side of the family.

See Rashi's explanation and the Rama's explanation, and read the teshuva inside.

A few of my own insights. (I may be a bit off, so correct me where I am wrong. But, roughly:) Firstly, menarche is in almost all cases required in order to bear children. A woman ovulates and in preparation for this, a membrane develops on the uterine wall. If the egg released during ovulation is fertilizes, it attaches to this membrane on the uterine wall. Otherwise, the egg does not attach and the membrane breaks down. It then leaves the woman's body as she has her period.

A woman can get pregnant before menarche simply by becoming pregnant at the first ovulation. Thus, the membrane does not break down, but rather she becomes pregnant. Since marriage was much earlier in those days, this situation is not really so out of the ordinary. Theoretically, if nursing held off her period after her first birth, and then she became pregnant again at the next ovulation, a woman could go for years and years without menstruation but with several children. What about the blood from the torn hymen? If it was torn beforehand, or gave way easily with little and thus undetectable blood, we could have this as well. Thus, we can actually find a situation using modern science that could account for this. She would have to be very fertile, though.

She could also have very irregular periods, which would accord with the suggestions of Rabbi Meir that less blood accords with less children. If she had intercourse regularly and thus became pregnant every single, though infrequent time, she also would never see menstrual blood. Usually irregular periods are associated with difficulty conceiving, though.

Another possibility, but nothing I have seen in any literature, is that just as there are cells whose job it is to clean up waste in other part of the body, perhaps these women have some mutation such that they have some cells that attack and process the broken down membrane such that there is no period associated with it. This would be surprising.

Do we associate this condition with few children or with barrenness? This is a dispute.

Let us consider the idea that it indicated barrenness. The problem with saying this is that barrenness is hereditary. If your mother does not have children, neither will you. Yes, that is a joke, but it is true. If the girl's mother was barren, then the girl would not exist.

Therefore, she could not have gotten it from her mother. The problem with that is that a girl is formed by an XX -- an X from the father and an X from the mother. (XY is formed by an X from the mother and a Y from the father.) If she did not get it from her mother, since her mother was not barren, she must have gotten it from her father. But the father does not contribute a Y but rather an X, which came from his own, non-barren mother. Furthermore, if this is indeed something that is the case on the father's side of the family, that implies something like her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father all had daughters who were barren. But this makes no sense, since traits passed from father to son are on the Y chromosome, not the X chromosome. But these daughters are not receiving any Y chromosome, since they have two Xs. The situation would seem to be impossible.

Unless we consider some multi-genic situation, in which the X's being passed along by the fathers have a recessive gene which comes into play with a gene on the wives' side, which happens to be prevalent among women in that particular geographical area. This could lead to many such barren daughters.

Another possibility (mentioned in the teshuva but not in these terms, IIRC) is that some but not all women in this family are barren. Her mother might be normal, but her mother's sister is like her. As a result, there is something passed along on the X chromosome that, when exposed to certain environmental factors, or when combined with other genetic material, will result in her being barren and without seeing this blood.

The other possibility is that these woman actually do have children, even without seeing blood. This was discussed above.

(Another, undiscussed possibility, is that they see blood, but very little of it, such that it is possible to miss. And they also have children.)

Rav Moshe does not try to accord Rema and Rashi to modern medical science so as to figure out the actual case of the gemara. Though he discusses the possibilities, I do not think he necessarily feels that he needs to do this.

That is, whether Rashi or Rama or any other explanation of the gemara are plausible to modern medical science is not really a concern. Rather, these explanations form the historical medical-halachic positions which have developed. Even if scientifically inaccurate, the positions mapped out form important halachic precedent, which Rav Moshe can then apply to the current situation. Assuming she would be barren, would this be considered a mekach taut? We see it would not, from several readings of the gemara under the assumption that a family of Dorkati is barren. Assuming she is not, we have a precedent for a woman presently without menstrual blood who can nonetheless give birth, and thus can marry with no problem. We have precedent which we can extrapolate to this present situation.

One final interesting thing about this teshuva. In the middle of the discussion, he asks why one source bases his proof on what the Rif cites and does not cite, rather than a simple diyuk which can be made from Rashi.

He answers that this is because Rif is lehalacha, while Rashi really comes to give a local perush of the gemara, but not with intent towards pesak. I would note that this is an important idea, especially because there are certain sugyot where people try to make all sorts of plausible and even implausible deductions from Rashi's language, in order to come to some halachic conclusion as to what Rashi intended. One such example is by wigs, where Rashi comes to give a definition of wigs as something a woman with little hair wears so that she appears to have hair. Some try to claim that rather than giving a simple definition, so that you say "Oh! A peah nachrit is a wig!" that Rashi is restricting the permissibility of wigs to only these women. I think such is a bad diyuk, but furthermore that Rashi was never coming to try to declare halacha in the first place. And this statement echoes that.

Regardless, what follows is Rav Moshe's teshuva. The next teshuva is even more interesting, if I may say so. Read it all. For each of these, click on the image to see a much larger, and therefore actually readable, image:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reading For Succot; And Daf Yomi Ketubot 48a: Rav Matna's Statement

Two short points.

First, some reading for Succot: Rif on Succah is available here. 45 pages, good stuff.

Second, a passing thought as I prepared Rif on Ketubot 48a, to be published on my Rif blog in a few weeks:
{Ketubot 48a continues}
אמר רב מתנה האומר אם מתה אשתו אל תקברוה מנכסי שומעין לו
מאי שנא כי אמר דנפלו להו נכסי קמי יתמי כי לא אמר נמי נכסי קמי יתמי רמו הלכך בין אמר בין לא אמר כיון דנפלו נכסי קמי יתמי לא קברינן לה מנכסי דיתמי ואין היתומים חייבים בקבורתה
דהא תנן אלמנה ניזונת מנכסי יתומים ומעשה ידיה שלהן מתה אין חייבין בקבורתה
אלא האומר אם מת הוא אל תקברוהו מנכסיו אין שומעין לו לא כל הימנו שיעשיר את בניו ויפיל את עצמו על הציבור

Rav Matna said: If one said that if his wife dies, do not bury her from my assets, we listen to him.
Why must it be that he said, for the assets have fallen before the heirs? When he did not say as well, the assets are cast before the heirs. Therefore, whether he said or he did not say, once the assets fell before the heirs, they do not bury her from the assets of the heirs, and the heirs are not obligated in her burial.
For they learnt {in a Mishna}: A widow is provided for from the assets of the heirs, and the work of her hands belongs to them. If she dies, they are not obligated in her burial.
Rather {, Rav Matna's statement should read}: If one said that if he dies, they should not bury him from his assets, they do not listen to him, for he thereby enriches his sons and casts himself on the community.
In fact, Rav Matna's statement seems pretty clear, and the emendation the gemara proposes is quite a drastic one. Change her to him, change listening to him to not listening to him.

A simpler explanation, it would appear to me, is that Rav Matna was not talking about a case where the husband died. Indeed, the immediate context in the gemara has no mention of the husband dying, where they provide or do not provide for the wife's burial. Rather, the cases are where he became insane or where she died when he was in an overseas country.

To cite once again from my translation:

{Ketubot 48a}
רבי יהודה אומר אפילו עני שבישראל:
א"ר חסדא אמר מר עוקבא הלכה כרבי יהודה ואמר רב חסדא אמר מר עוקבא מי שנשתטה ב"ד יורדין לנכסיו וזנין ומפרנסין אשתו ובניו ובנותיו ודבר אחר.
"Rabbi Yehuda says: Even the poorest man in Israel":
Rav Chisda cited Mar Ukva: The halacha is like Rabbi Yehuda.
And Rav Chisda cited Mar Ukva: One who becomes insane, bet din descends to his assets, and sustain and provide for his wife, sons, and daughters, and anything else.

תניא מי שהלך למדינת הים ואשתו תובעת מזונות ב"ד יורדין לנכסיו וזנין ומפרנסין אשתו אבל לא בניו ובנותיו ולא דבר אחר ומ"ש מדמר עוקבא התם שלא לדעת הכא יצא לדעת
They learnt {in a brayta}: One who goes to an overseas country and his wife demands provisions, bet din descends to his assets and sustain and provide for his wife, but not for his sons and daughters, nor for anything else.
And why is this different from the case of Mar Ukva? There, it was without intent, but here, he left with intent.

מאי דבר אחר
אמר רב חסדא תכשיט
רב יוסף אמר צדקה
מ"ד שאין נותנין תכשיט כ"ש צדקה ומ"ד צדקה אבל תכשיט נותנין דלא ניחא ליה דתינוול
א"ר חייא בר אבין אמר רב הונא מי שהלך למדינת הים ומתה אשתו בית דין יורדין לנכסיו וקוברין אותה לפי כבודה

לפי כבודה ולא לפי כבודו אימא אף לפי כבודו וקמ"ל עולה עמו ואינה יורדת עמו אפי לאחר מיתה What is "anything else?"
Rav Chisda said: Costmetics {/ornaments}.
Rav Yosef said: Charity.
The one who holds that they do not give cosmetics, certainly not charity, and the one who holds charity, but they do give cosmetics, because it would not have been to his liking that she become unattractive.
R' Chiyya bar Avin cited Rav Huna: One who goes to an overseas country and his wife dies, bet din descends to his assets and buries her according to her honor.
According to her honor and not according to his honor? Say, even according to his honor, and this informs us that she ascends with him but does not descend with him, even after death.
Thus, based on context, it makes most sense that these "instructions" the man is leaving is not instructions to be carried out after his death, but rather instructions as to how others should treat his assets if anything happens when he is in this overseas country. Bet din in general would take it upon themselves to descend to his assets and bury his wife, but will not do this in case of explicit refusal by this man. This is the simplest reading of Rav Matna's statement.

Thus, there is no question from the Mishna, and there is no reason to drastically rewrite his statement.

Iran's President In Fact Threatens to Attack Israel First

Not that I don't believe that this weasel would out-and-out lie to suit his purpose, but Ahmadinejad weaseled out of a question posed by an AP reporter in a way that made people believe he has promised no attack on Israel.

Thus, CBS says in a headline:
Iran's Ahmadinejad: No Attack On Israel --AP Interview: Ahmadinejad Says Iran Will Not Attack Israel Or Any Other Country

And the Edmonton Sun reports: Iran: No Attack on Israel

And so on, and so forth.

This is quite different from what he actually said:
"Iran will not attack any country," he answered, when asked if his country would ever strike first against Israel.
The problem with this is that Iran does not recognize Israel as a country. To cite Wikipedia on Iran-Israel relations:
Iran does not even formally recognize Israel as a country, and official government texts often simply refer to it as the "Zionist entity" or the "Zionist regime."
So he sidestepped the question of whether he would attack Israel, and stated instead that Iran would not attack any *country*.

This is quite a dangerous statement. To give a parallel, Hitler, and the Nazi's considered Jews to be subhumans. Imagine if he were asked whether he planned to kill any Jews, and he stated emphatically that Germany would not kill any humans.

Yet he gets away with this statement, and scores all sorts of political points with this statement, because the AP reporter did not think to follow it up with: "And is Israel a country in terms of this statement you just made?"And other news sources just expand it to what they expect to see. Thus, CBS expanded it to Ahmadinejad Says Iran Will Not Attack Israel Or Any Other Country, explicitly putting Israel in there where he did not.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nosein Taam Lifgam, and Aino Ben Yomo

Early last week I had chicken soup, and thought I had finished it up, but I accidentally left some chicken in the bottom of the pot. And since I was incredibly busy last week, I did not get around to washing the pot. The cover was on, so it was not so detectable.

After a week, it was awful. A rotting carcass. And I began to understand noten taam lifgam, and how of course this is not food.

Yet a thought occurred to me. But don't spread it lest people start taking it seriously and imposing a new chumra.

Had I placed the pot in the refrigerator, the food inside would not have spoiled so quickly. I could have even consumed the chicken days later. As such, the be'en, actual substance in the pot, would not have been lifgam. Presumably, the same would have been true for any substance absorbed into the body of the pot.

If so, refrigeration should be able to delay conversion to lifgam, even after ben yomo. Let us say that after cleaning a pot of chicken in the fridge, I had accidentally cooked dairy food in it. Would I say that bedieved, since it was not ben yomo, it would be fine? Or would it pose a Biblical problem since, though not ben yomo, it was also not lifgam?

Chazal did not have such refrigeration, and so did not frame it in these terms, but rather made the equation. Do we now say that that is set in stone (even lekullah), or is this just a good way of making an assessment, which we should reassess nowadays?

Of course, not halacha lemaaseh.

Jewish Mystics See "Star" From The East -- Believe It Portends Arrival Of Mashiach

I thought I could not be stunned any more, but they keep surprising me.

Several years ago, after davening Maariv in Etz Chaim, we went out to say kiddush levana. It was a cloudy night, and we could not see the moon. Finally, a portion of it seemed to peek out from behind a cloud, and we started to say kiddush levana. A convertess who happened to be there chastised us that we were saying kiddush levana while facing Venus, rather than the moon. And she was, of course, right.

Over at DreamingOfMosiach, in a post titled "Moshiach's Star?!!," Nava posts about "A gigantic star [...] seen tonight, 11/12 Tishrei 5768, at 3:30 am in East of Haifa, Eretz Israel." Here is one such picture -- she has another there, with a closer zoom, so check it out.

This gigantic "star" is supposed to portend the arrival of Mashiach.

In all likelihood, that is no star, but rather is Venus. According to "This Week's Sky At A Glance" from Sky and Telescope magazine, Venus is supposed to appear in the eastern sky before and during dawn. This is when it is seen as the "morning star." According to the Zemanim page at, Alot haShachar in Haifa is at 4:17 AM, and so 3:30 AM is slightly before dawn. I am no astronomer -- hey, I just admitted I started saying kiddush levana towards Venus! -- but without any other information, it seems quite likely that what is pictured here in the Eastern sky of Haifa is Venus, which is a bright celestial object that looks like a really bright star that is supposed to appear in the eastern sky at specifically this time.

Of course, they give it other significance, because they have kabbalists who say, and believe that autistics are saying, that Mashiach's arrival is imminent.

There is indeed a basis for connecting a star to mashiach. There is Bilaam's prophecy in Bemidbar 24:17:
יז אֶרְאֶנּוּ וְלֹא עַתָּה, אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ וְלֹא קָרוֹב; דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב, וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל, וּמָחַץ פַּאֲתֵי מוֹאָב, וְקַרְקַר כָּל-בְּנֵי-שֵׁת. 17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh; there shall step forth a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite through the corners of Moab, and break down all the sons of Seth.
though this can be taken most literally, as an actual star, or else metaphorically as a rise to power or ascendancy of fate.

The Zohar talks of a connection between a star and mashiach. In Zohar I, Vayera 119a {corrected from "Vaera", thanks to a comment by Gilui}:
In the year sixty-six the Messiah will appear in the land of Galilee. A star in the east will swallow seven stars in the north, and a flame of black fire will hang in the heaven for sixty days, and there shall be wars towards the north in which two kings shall perish. Then all the nations shall combine together against the daughter of Yaakov in order to drive her from the world. It is of that time that it is written: "And it is a time of trouble unto Yaakov, but out of it he shall be saved" (Jeremiah 30:7).
Perhaps this influenced what follows. Nava writes her basis for believing that this expected sighting of Venus portends Mashiach:
Batya Schneerson; mystic and widow of Tuvia Schneerson, a'h, cousin of the late Lubavitch Rebbe zs'l, has powers to see the future. She says that she was born with this gift. She is a religious Orthodox woman and has complete Emunah. When nessecary, brings proof from the TaNaCH.

In 2004, she said "A star will appear, Argaman - Initials of Ariel, Refael, Gavriel, Michael, Nuriel (angels). The star will announce Moshiach's arrival but only very few will know that it appeared. It will be able to be seen from the East. It is a very big, shiny and colorful star, bigger than a regular star. It will appear for a minute or 2 and afterwards, a gigantic golden halo will appear around it and then they will both disappear. This can be seen on a cloudless nite."

Wow. Fine, I don't believe that this woman has powers to see the future, and would regard her claim to this as fakery. Regardless, while the Zohar talks of a star in the east swallowing seven stars in the north, this different claim that a star in the east will announce mashiach's arrival seems theologically difficult. Let us ignore possible issues with belief in astrology. This claim sounds very familiar, but I can't place it...

Oh, yes. The Star of Bethlehem, from the Gospel of Matthew!
"In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage. When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born."
The King James version of this has "star in the East" instead of "star at its rising." Such predictions have just the slightest hint of Christian influence.

Since Venus was seen in the East, they assume this is the same star this mystic spoke of. But did this star appear for only a minute or two and then disappear? Did a giant gold halo appear around it before its disappearance? Both these were predicted by this mystic. No mention of these facts are made in the blogpost, and I would have expected mention of it if it had. It is quite possible that they are trying to force what they saw to accord with what they wanted to see, despite the disparity.

Also, the mystic said that the star is called Argaman. This is not the same as the name of Venus, which is Nogah, Ayelet haShachar, or Kochav haErev.

Friday, September 21, 2007

For Yom Kippur

reading, you might want to learn through the halacha leMaaseh aspects. The Rif on Yoma is 6 double-sided pages, available on my Rif blog.

Rather than summarize the few Yom Kippur posts I have on parshablog, here is the Yom Kippur label. Among those posts, two useful ones. My post on what Women Shlugging Kapparot With Money should say includes a scan of a page of Artscroll on the Kapparot. There is stuff to say before as well though. A citation and translation of Aruch haShulchan on Kapparot is here. A discussion of Yonah's rebellion and Yonah as metaphor is here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


So I was picking up Meir today from Nursery School. On the walk back, on one of the blocks, I came across two people having a heated discussion. One gentleman, perhaps from the local public school, was telling another to stay off his block. The other one told him that he was going to leave, and that he was not "disrespecting" him, but that he lived in the neighborhood and would, and should be able to, occasionally visit this block. The first fellow felt insulted by this, and threatened the other gentleman. They then parted ways.

I, of course, crossed the street in all haste so as to keep Meir, and myself, safe from any violence that might erupt.

The rest of the way home, I though about the incident. This is generally a good neighborhood and it would be pretty bad if turf wars started erupting. Secondly, I am not sure in what respect it was the first gentleman's "turf." Perhaps for a side business he had? Regardless, he did not own the block, but felt like he was a big man by claiming the ability to dictate who could and could not enter his estate. Yet all he was was a loser and a thug.

Many of us do the same thing. For example, makom kavua in shul has its merits (and demerits) as an idea, but getting upset when someone usurps you, or confronting someone over it, is silly when we consider the grand scheme of things and how insignificant we really are.

And it goes further than physical claims to space. We draw psychological boundaries, and if someone crosses them, deliberately or accidentally, we might get insulted and "disrespected" -- and try to rectify the situation while making clear to the person that they should not transgress our honor in this way. Are we really that significant?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

613 Seeds In A Pomegranate?

This assertion is easily disproved. Just take a pomegranate and open it. Count the seeds. Most likely, you will find more or less seeds in it.

But, as someone linked to on Areivim, someone did some research and discovered that the average amount of seeds in a pomegranate is indeed 613.

The belief seems to stem from the connection that our zechuyot should be as many as a rimon. And since zechuyot come from doing mitzvot, and the mitzvot according to sources in Chazal number 613, it would indeed be appropriate. And indeed, who is going to take the trouble to check? It is an inspiring statement, and your average non-skeptic back then is not going to painstakingly count the seeds in a rimon just to prove this wrong. And the skeptics probably had bigger fish to fry.

To quote Bertrand Russel:
Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.
This is the result of coming to conclusions on the basis of logic, rather than looking for empirical evidence which proves or disproves.

This fellow looked at pomegranates from several different countries, and came to the conclusion that the average number of seeds in a pomegranate overall is 613.

1. Statistical Summary

Country Sample Size min #seeds max #seeds avg #seeds min weight (g) max weight (g) avg weight (g)
US 150 286 1370 680 145 1065 421
Singapore 2 339 579 459 250 400 325
Iran 37 165 1263 338 200 660 354
Spain 2 580 837 709 280 330 305
Turkey 12 267 971 576 226 1001 603
Brazil 3 647 1054 809 568 658 599

All 206 165 1370 613 145 1065 420
Table 1.1: Pomegranate Statistics (download the data file for a complete listing of each pomegranate)

Of course, I don't buy this. (Assuming he actually did count all these pomegranate seeds.) This seems like the problem that may or may not exist by the Torah codes. Statistical conclusions are perhaps valid in Torah codes where you made the prediction first, and it came out like that. But if you are not working on an a priori basis, but first searching for all matches and then circling the ones that happen to come out, that is a different story.

In this case, did he choose the specific number of pomegranates from each country in the beginning, or as the experiment went on? Did he know beforehand, based on earlier inspection, roughly how many seeds there were in pomegranates from each country?

As it stands, U.S. pomegranates are overwhelmingly represented, with a sample size of 150. Add another 200 pomegranates, the average would not be 613, but a larger number.

Similarly, why 2 from Spain and Singapore but 3 from Brazil. If someone wanted to come up with the number 613, once he had a rough estimate of the min and max in pomegranates from each country, all he needed to do was -- if the average so far is below 613, add a pomegranate from a country which would take you higher. If above 613, add a pomegranate from a lower country. Keep doing this until you converge to 613.

I don't know if this was a joke, or intended seriously, in which case he has a load of time on his hands. But I do not think that this proves an average of 613.

Update: See here for an Google Spreadsheet that shows that the number indeed is 613.

Update Oct 24, 2007: Malbim is a source for the 613 seed claim.

Why Eat Egozim On Rosh HaShana

As I touched on before, there are reasons to eat egozim (walnuts) on Rosh haShana. Thus, the gematria was given to supplement the reason that they cause phlegm and coughing which would disturb the tekiot.

Indeed, there is reason to eat them as simanim, just as we eat rimonim, such that we should be filled with zechuyot like a pomegranate.

Indeed, in a pasuk about a graden of egozim, mention is made of Rimonim. In Shir HaShirim 6:11:
יא אֶל-גִּנַּת אֱגוֹז יָרַדְתִּי, לִרְאוֹת בְּאִבֵּי הַנָּחַל; לִרְאוֹת הֲפָרְחָה הַגֶּפֶן, הֵנֵצוּ הָרִמֹּנִים. 11 I went down into the garden of nuts, to look at the green plants of the valley, to see whether the vine budded, and the pomegranates were in flower.
Rashi comments:
הנצו הרמונים - מקיימי מצות מליאי זכיות למה נמשלו ישראל לאגוז מה אגוז זה אתה רוא' אותו כולו עץ ואין ניכר בתוכו פוצעו ומצאו מלא מגורות מגורות של אוכלים כך ישראל צנועין וענוותנין מעשיהם ואין תלמידים שבהן נכרים ואין מתפארים להכריז על שבחן בדקתו את' מוצא אותו מלא חכמה ועוד כמה מדרשות לדבר מה אגוז זה נופל בטיט ואין מה שבתוכו נמאס אף ישראל גולין לבין האומות ולוקין מלקיות הרבה ואין מעשיהם נמאסין:

And in Shir haShirim Rabba, we have:

א [יא] אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, אמר ר' יהושע בן לוי נמשלו ישראל באגוזה, מה האגוזה נגזזת ונחלפת לטובתה היא נגזזת למה שהיא מחלפת כשער הזה שנגזז ונחלף, וכצרפנים /וכצפרנים/ הללו שנגזזין ונחלפין, כך כל מה שישראל נגזזין מעמלן ונותנין לעמלי תורה בעולם הזה, לטובתן הן נגזזין ונחלפין להם, ומרבין להם עושר בעולם הזה ושכר טוב לעולם הבא, ר' יהושע דסכנין בשם ר' לוי אמר מה הנטיעות הללו אם את מכסה שרשיהם בשעת נטיעתן הן מצליחות, ואם לאו אין מצליחות, אבל האגוז הזה אם את מכסה שרשיו בשעת נטיעתו אינו מצליח, כך ישראל (משלי כ"ח) מכסה פשעיו לא יצליח, א"ר אלעשה לא היה צריך קרא למימר אלא אל גינת ירק, ואמר אל גנת אגוז, אלא מלמד שנתן להם כחן של נטיעות וזיון של ירק, ר' עזריה אמר תרתי, מה אגוז זה עצו משמר פריו, כך עמי הארץ שבישראל מחזיקין בדברי תורה, הה"ד (משלי ג') עץ חיים היא למחזיקים בה, אמר חורי מה אגוז זה אם נופל לתוך הטנופת את נוטלו ומורקו ושוטפו ומדיחו והוא חוזר כתחילתו והוא יפה לאכילה, כך כל מה שישראל מתלכלכין בעונות כל ימות השנה, בא יום הכפורים ומכפר עליהם, הה"ד (ויקרא ט"ז) כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם, ר' יהודה בר' סימון אומר מה אגוז זה יש לו שתי קליפות, כך ישראל יש להן שתי מצות מילה ופריעה, ד"א אל גנת אגוז, אמר ר"ל מה אגוז זה חלק דתנינן ר' שמעון אומר אף בחלקי אגוזים, וכל מי שעולה לראשו ואינו נותן דעתו האיך יעלה הוא נופל ומת ונוטל שלו מן האגוז, כך כל מי שהוא מנהיג שררה על הציבור בישראל ואינו נותן דעתו היאך הוא מנהיג את ישראל, סוף שהוא נופל ונוטל שלו מתחת ידיהם, הה"ד (ירמיה ב') קדש ישראל לה' ראשית תבואתה כל אכליו יאשמו וגו', ד"א אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, מה אגוז זה שחוק לתינוקות ושעשוע למלכים כך הן ישראל בעולם הזה על ידי עונות, דכתיב (איכה ג') הייתי שחוק לכל עמי וגו', אבל לעתיד לבא (ישעיה מ"ט) והיו מלכים אומניך, ד"א אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, מה האגוז הזה יש בו אגוזי פרך, אגוזים בינונים ואגוזים קנטרנין, כך ישראל יש מהן עושין צדקה מאליהן, ויש שאם אתה תובען הם נותנים, ויש שאת תובען ואין עושין, א"ר לוי מתלא אמר תרעא דלא פתיח למצוותה יהא פתיח לאסיה, ד"א אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, מה אגוז זה האבן שוברו, כך התורה קרואה אבן ויצר הרע קרוי אבן, התורה קרויה אבן, שנא' (שמות כ"ד) ואתנה לך את לוחות האבן, ויצר הרע קרוי אבן, שנא' (יחזקאל ל"ו) והסירותי את לב האבן מבשרכם, א"ר לוי למקום ארימון שהוא משובש בגייסות, מה עשה המלך הושיב בו כוסטריינים בשביל לשמרו כדי שלא יקפחו לעוברים ולשבים, כך אמר הקב"ה תורה קרויה אבן ויצר הרע קרוי אבן, תהא האבן משמר האבן, ד"א אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, מה אגוז זה אינו יכול לגנוב המכס שלו שהוא נשמע וניכר, כך הם ישראל כל מקום שאחד מהם הולך אינו יכול לומר שאינו יהודי, למה שהוא ניכר, הה"ד (ישעיה ס"א) כל רואיהם יכירום כי הם זרע ברך ה', ד"א אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, מה אגוז זה השק מלא אגוזים בידך את נותן לתוכו כמה שומשמים כמה חרדלים והן מחזיקין, כך כמה גרים באו ונתוספו בישראל, הה"ד (במדבר כ"ג) מי מנה עפר יעקב, ד"א אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, מה אגוז זה את נוטל אחד מהכרי וכולן מדרדרין ומתגלגלים זה אחר זה, כך הן ישראל לקה אחד מהן כולן מרגישין הה"ד (שם /במדבר/ ט"ז) האיש אחד יחטא וגו', אמר ר' ברכיה מה אגוז זה עשוי ארבע מגורות והסירה באמצע, כך היו ישראל שרויין במדבר ארבע דגלים ארבע מחנות ואהל מועד באמצע, הה"ד (במדבר ב') ונסע אהל מועד, ד"א אל גנת אגוז ירדתי, זה העולם, לראות באבי הנחל, אלו ישראל, לראות הפרחה הגפן, אלו בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות, הנצו הרמונים, אלו התינוקות שיושבין ועוסקין בתורה ויושבין שורות שורות כגרעיני רמונים

And in Bereishit Rabbati (from Rav Moshe haDarshan) on parshat Toledot, on the pasuk hakol kol Yaakov, he has:
הה"ד אל גנת אגוז ירדתי (שה"ש ו' י"א,
למה נמשלו ישראל לאגוז, אלא אם יטול אדם קופה וממלא אותה תמרים וגרוגרות ויבקש ליתן לתוכה דברים דקים חטים או שומשמין אינה מחזקת, אבל אם יש בתוכה (תמרים) אגוזים ומבקש ליתן בתוכה דברים דקים מחזקת היא, כך אם יבאו גרים מכל העולם להתערב בישראל מחזיקים הם אותם לכך נמשלו באגוז. ד"א אל גנת אגוז א"ר לוי כל הפירות אתה משליכן ואין להן קול אבל אגוז כלו קול, כך ישראל כשמגעת להם צרה מרצין בקולן לפני הקב"ה, מפני שהוא ירושתן, ולכך נאמר הקול קול יעקב (קול יעקב). ד"א מה אגוז יש לו ד' פרדים כך ישראל יש להם ד' דברים מועילים וטובים, מקרא משנה (פרק) [הלכה] והגדה.

Perhaps I will bother to translate this later, in a later post if I have the time. But it basically compares the Benei Yisrael to egozim in various ways, ways which are positive. They are tzenuim like the goodness of the egoz is inside the shell. You cannot take out one egoz without the others making a lot of noise. A walnut can be mired in the dirt, but you can wash it off and it becomes good as new. Just as a walnut is noisy, so too when there are dire circumstances, they make everything all right with their voices in prayer. Just as a walnut has four chambers, Israel has 4 good things -- Mikra, Mishna, Halacha, and Haggadah. (Another source describes how a walnut has an inner and outer shell.) And so on. Read it all.

As a side note, we could use these comparisons to confirm that when Chazal spoke of egoz, they meant walnut, by taking the mashal rather than the nimshal and seeing what nut matches.

The Sky Is Falling - Again

The following are quotes from the DreamingOfMoshiach blog. Many in the mystical community -- this includes kabbalists as well as facilitators pretending to convey the words of autistics -- are convinced that the world is ending yesterday, September 18, 2007. (Or rather than catastrophic war will break out, etc.) Therefore, people should stock up on supplies in Eretz Yisrael. Thus, the Bunny cartoon above, serendipitously published September 17th, 2007.

According to the writings of the Vilna Gaon, zs'l, a sign of the Gog uMagog war is its breaking out on the Jewish holiday of Hoshana Rabba (the 7th day of the Sukkot holiday), just after the conclusion of the 7th or shemittah [agricultural sabbatical] year.

The Mazishov Admor האדמו"ר מזצ'ישוב zs'l explains that when Moshe Rabbenu zs'l asked HaShem (Parshat Shemot) "שלח נא ביד תשלח" "Please send by the hand that You will send". (send someone else to Paroah). The word נא (please) in Gematria is 51. The Admor said 200 hundred years ago, that this is a clear indication that Gog uMagog will begin Hoshana Raba, 51 days after Rosh Chodesh Elul.

The Saintly Rav Kaduri, zs'l, also said that the seven years of Gog uMagog begun on Hoshana Rabbah (the seventh day of the Feast of Booths) in the first year of a shmittah cycle, 2001, and would conclude at the next Shmittah cycle, 5768. He also said that it would be the year of the war. Yehoshua Meiri, explained Rabbi Kaduri's understanding of the events based on the calculations of the Vilna Gaon: "On Hashanah Rabba, the actual war of Gog and Magog will commence and will last for seven years," said Meiri.

The actual war of Gog uMagog started (the bombs started to drop) in Afghanistan, precise to the minute, at 9:30 p.m. on the night of Hoshana Rabba, the time when the final judgment on the nations of the world is sealed and execution begin. US and British forces began an aerial bombing campaign targeting Taliban forces and Al-Qaida. That year was the beginning of the shemita year, 5761.

We are now in the 7th and final year.
Today, 6 Tishrei is 15 days prior to Hoshana Raba 5768.
The date of Hoshana Raba 5768 is 21 Tishrei, October 3, 2007.

I suggest to everyone to take ALL WARNINGS very seriously!

Sandhedrin סנהדרין צ"ז
באמר רבא: מתוך שעתידין ליגאל בשביעית, לפיכך קבעוה בשביעית. והרי אמר
בששית קולות, בשביעית מלחמות, במוצאי שביעית בן דוד בא
In the 6th, voices of war -5767
In the 7th, war (Shemita year) 5768
END of 7th, Moshiach Ben David Arrives - 5769
September 18 - Tishrei Vav

Prepare as soon as possible.

The last war is about to explode any second, Gog uMagog, prior to the complete Geula. WE must prepare prior to it all necessary preparations because a state of emergency is about to happen any second, we will know what we must do, but must be prepared as early as possible.

Emergency Physical Preparation:
1. Dry food - canned goods, crackers, Matzot, medicine. If you have young children: diapers, baby food. Prepare anything that does not need refrigeration.

2. In case of a blackout: Prepare candles, flashlights, emergency lighting, generators, batteries!

3. In case of stoppage of running water:
Prepare buckets of water for regular usage (Netilat Yadaim, etc.), water bottles.

4. In case phone lines are dead, do not panic. Take a sefer Tehillim and pray. There is no benefit speaking on the phone at a time of emergency. The best benefit is speaking directly to HKB'H.

Emergency Spriritual Preparation - Weapon for the war:
1. Sefer Tehillim always available, say it every minute and second, every pasuk and perek. This is our strength and lifeline. Start now.

2. Viduy (confession). Be strict to say it at least once a day with much devotion, announce your sins. It's better to say it twice, three times a day.

3. Devotion in prayer and blessing - concentrate and glue yourself to the holy words of HKB'H with love and fear. Concentrate when saying Amen, blessings, Kaddish.

4. Read TaNaCh every available moment, read with your lips, not in thought. Also Shir HaShirim and all holy prayers.

5. Read books that speak about the Geula, it causes the Geula to arrive quicker. (Sefarim of Rav Nachman, zs'l, HaRaMCHaL, zs'l, every tzaddik).

6. Give lots of charity with happiness to poor family.

7. Light candles for all the Tzaddikim of all generations to be Malitz Yosher us for the near Geula.

September 18, 2007, at 9:30 pm Israel time, It Will Start...
It was reported that on September 18, 2007, at 9:30 pm Israel time, it will start. The world as we know it today will start changing from one extreme to the other. What will happen and exactly how will it happen no one knows. Even though this forecast is based from many different groups, they all agree on the date. But no one can give an answer, but one thing they agree - it will be a day that never happened in human history.
The forecast starts with apocalyptic prophecies in connection to the Mount Temple and Yerushalayim. They say that the changes that will occur are called - Song of Solomon 2:8: 'קול דודי הנה זה בא The voice of my beloved! Behold, He comes".
The events will start in Yerushalyim, the holy city. The foreseen changes that will occur in the world will begin with the Jewish nation, in Yerushalayim at the main gate, in the Old City and the Jewish nation will lead the process.
They also say that there will be 3 days of darkness. During these day, many will die.
Of course, nothing happened. That's no problem:

On of the fathers of the autistics writes in:

In regards to the article September 18, 2007, at 9:30 pm Israel time, It Will Start...,

בנתיים הכל פה כרגיל
Meanwhile, everything here is same
השמש זורחת הציפורים מצייצות
The sun is shining, the birds are chirping
נ.ב. P.S.
בנימין אמר: אף אחד לא יודע איך זה יהיה עד שזה יגיע
ב"ה שניהיה מוכנים לכך
Binyamin said: No one knows how it will be till it arrives. B'H, we should be prepared for it.
BeEzrat Hashem, we should have Moshiach today! But not the one the autistics predict, with the vast majority of even frum Jews dying because they wear wigs rather than tichels, or learn in kollel while their zonah wives go out to work, etc.

I will be clear that I think that there is nothing to these predictions, and it is a bad thing that they are working everyone up into a frenzy. There is a danger in figuring out the ketz, because the galut is long. Many times in the past, people have deluded themselves into thinking the end is near, and it was not good for klal yisrael.

But do not worry. When nothing happens, and if chas veshalom Mashiach does not come next year, they will have a ready explanation of why it did not happen, or a rationalization that it did in fact happen, but in a way only appreciated by them. This is also part and parcel of these messianic movements.

Why do I point this out? Am I just mean? Well, perhaps that is part of it. But it is also important to note failures as well as successes. Otherwise, if one only notices and counts the positive predictions, then one's world view develops that these predictions are infallible. Then, they and others fall for it the next time.

Reading Pitum haKetoret From a Klaf, part ii

In my previous post on Pitum haKetoret, I noted that the Aruch haShulchan noted (citing sources IIRC) that it is easy to miss one of the complicated, arcane ingredients of pitum haketoret, and since we say in it that if he omitted one of its ingredients -- when actually producing/offering it -- he is liable to death, and since saying it is as if being makriv it, one should take care to read it from a text.

Each independently is sufficient. That is, one should say prayer properly, and thus for difficult parts of prayer one might err in, one should pray from a text. The second reason is cute, and is consistent within a certain world view. It serves to bolster the first reason, and also reinforces the feeling that one is standing in for actual offering, such that one should be careful in this way. But would Aruch haShulchan really say that one who accidentally omitted one of the ingredients is really chayav mita? Or even that he sinned to a greater extent than had he omitted a word in Az Yashir. I imagine that if pressed on the matter, he would not say so.

I also suggested that the modern practice of reading from a klaf evolved from this minhag. I thought it arose from a simple misreading of the "requirement" {within this specific custom} of reading from a ktav. However, Mordecai noted in a comment there:
the customs stems I believe from several places. The Caf Hachaim states that saying Pitum haktoret from a klaf in ashurit is a segula for parnassa.
The concept of ashurit as something beyond being used in the torah is sourced in the ben ish chai who says that we are required to envision the name of hashem in ashurit all the time and in order to elevate all of thoughts we should envision all of our words that we use in ashurit.
Good points. I still think is possible that this was a minhag which developed, starting with reading from a text and evolving to reading from a klaf written in ktav ashurit. That is, it took a foothold with the first point, reading from a text. Then, people gave all sorts of rationalizations, even kabbalistic ones or segulah-based ones. And ritual attracts formalisms. And it evolved into an insistent on ktav ashuri from a klaf. Or, as appears below, they combined in another segulah. This type of development of custom happens over and over, and I would expect it would be the same here.

Pictured above is a scan of the relevant segment of Kaf haChaim, written by Rav Chaim Palagi. I will summarize here his rundown. He cites various sources for each, but look for these inside:
  1. Shikchat Leket: One should look at the letters of Pitum haKetoret when he says it.
  2. Erech Lechem: One should read it from a "sefer" {and a siddur would qualify for this}.
  3. A kabbalistic reason, from Eshel MiPri: the 11 ingredients of the ketoret are a wondrous segulah to humble the 11 encampments of Samael {an accusing, destroying angel}. And if he says it quickly and by heart, as he prepares to leave shul, he has no benefit from this saying over.
  4. Sefer M"tz: One should write the parshat haKetoret on a klaf or a gevil {Gvil is the whole leather which has been proccessed to be able to write on. Gvil is usually brownish. Klaf Parchment used for Tefilin and Mezuzot is the external portion of the skin where the fur comes out.} in Ktav Ashurit and read from it, and this is a segulah, for ketoret enriches, and he will thus be assured that his parnassah will not cease, and that he will always have good and plenty parnassah.
  5. And one should say veArvah LaHashem..., and three times the three pesukim of Hashem Tzevakot. And they have the custom to say it in shul during the Yamim Noraim, but one who trembles at the word of Hashem should say so every day.
In (3) it is noteworthy that there is an additional practical reason I did not think of -- towards the end of davening, people just mutter the end stuff in order to rush out.

There is also now kabbalistic reason to focus on the words.

Still only in (4) do we see mention of a klaf, and ktav ashurit. And this is for reading specifically the parsha of ketoret. It makes more sense that this requirement of klaf and ashurit would come into play for pesukim. Now that they say it all together at this point in tefillah, we can see how all the relevant zuggach were placed on the parchment, even non-pesukim. I'd have to see it inside.

Another important aspect of this in mentioned in this article:
כן נכון לומר בכל יום לפני התפילה את פרשת הקטורת, שאף היא היתה מוקטרת בכל יום, ובזוהר (ויקהל ריח, ב) שבחו מאוד את האומרה בכל יום. גם מי שממהר, ראוי שישתדל לומר לכל הפחות את פרשת התמיד ופסוקי הקטורת

The source of a segulah for chasing away a plague is from Torah (which the Zohar apparently states), where Aharon offers the ketoret and ends the plague. The source of a segulah for parnassah would seem to be from Yoma 26a:

דף כו, א משנה הפייס השלישי חדשים לקטרת באו והפיסו והרביעי חדשים עם ישנים מי מעלה אברים מן הכבש למזבח:
דף כו, א גמרא
תנא מעולם לא שנה אדם בה מ"ט א"ר חנינא מפני שמעשרת א"ל רב פפא לאביי מ"ט אילימא משום דכתיב (דברים לג) ישימו קטורה באפך וכתיב בתריה (דברים לג) ברך ה' חילו אי הכי עולה נמי הכתיב (דברים לג) וכליל על מזבחך א"ל הא שכיחא והא לא שכיחא

And of course, we do not perform every segulah. But it being encompassed in davening ritualizes it, and the reasons already present for reading from a text, may have worked to help make it as mainstream as it has become.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Speaking After The First Round of Tekiot

On the first day of Rosh HaShana, they announced that it is asur to talk until the last shofar blasts at the end of Musaf. The next day, they mitigated the announcement someone -- just that one should not talk until after the last shofar blast at the end of Musaf. Chaim B. at Divrei Chaim has been discussing this, here and then here. There is a chidush in Tosafot that the real tekiot are the standing ones, even though we make the blessing earlier. Therefore there is a real problem with talking in between.

One can either go for Tosafot's chiddush or not. I would like to explore some of the other opinions, according to which talking is still frowned upon, and according to which talking is entirely permitted.

As you know, I am a big Rif fan. Here is an excerpt from my Rif blog, on Rosh haShana. All sources mentioned here -- the Rif, the Ran, and the Shiltei haGiborim, can be seen by clicking on the images to see it larger:

Thus it is now the case that we blow tekiah shevarim teruah tekiah three times, and we blow tekiah shevarim tekiah three times, and we blow tekiah teruah tekiah three times.

And the nation is accustomed to blow them while they are seated and bless upon them the bracha of blowing; and because the congregation are required to hear the tekiot on the order of the blessings {of Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot}, we therefore repeat and blow on the order of the blessings tekiah shevarim teruah tekiah one time, and tekiah shevarim tekiah one time, and tekiah teruah tekiah one time.

And it is logical that they should blow them on the order of the blessings like the order that they blew while seated {that is, tashrat tashat tarat by Malchuyot, tashrat tashat tarat by Zichronot, and tashrat tashat tarat by Shofarot}; however, since the blessings

{Rosh haShana 34a continues}
{of Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot} do not hold back the tekiot {from being fulfilled}, behold they have already fulfilled their obligation with those they blew when they were seated, and it is sufficient to blow tekiah shevarim teruah tekiah, tekiah shevarim tekiah, tekiah teruah tekiah on the order of the blessing one time so as not to burden the congregation. And so is the custom in the entire world and in the two yeshivot.
According to this, the primary obligation is fulfilled with the "sitting" set of tekiot. However, since there is a communal need to hear shofar blasts associated with the blessings of Mussaf, they repeat it, but are not medakdek to do the blasts according to all opinions. Therefore, they do Rabbi Abahu's tekiot for one blessing of Mussaf, Rav Avira's for another blessing, and Ravina's for another blessing of Mussaf. They did not do as we do, a tashrat tarat tashat for each of the three, because of concern of tircha detzibbura. Contrast that with our 100 tekiot, as well as long chazzanut and piyutim!

Still, there is still this extra component of the mitzvah that is to be fufilled. May one speak in between? The Rif continues, citing a question posed to a Gaon:
They asked before the Resh Mesivta: If one blessed on the day of Rosh haShana on the blowing of the Shofar after the sefer Torah {that is, those wihle seated} and he spoke {והשיח -- Bach emends to והסיח ודבר -- and he diverted his mind and he spoke}, does he needs to bless on the tekiot on the order of the blessings {of Malchuyot, Zichronot, Shofarot} or not?
And he responded to them as follows: The Sages see that we rebuke one who speaks before they blew on the order of the blessings; however, to repeat the blessings, he does not repeat. And it is not similar to tefillin which Rav Chisda said one who speaks between tefillah {shel rosh} and tefilla {shel yad} repeats the blessing, for these are two mitzvot, for they learnt {tnan}: The tefillah shel yad is not a prerequisite for the shel rosh and the shel rosh is not a prerequisite for the shel yad.
And not only that, but he does not bless the first blessing {of lehaniach tefillin}, but rather he blesses a different blessing {of al mitzvat tefillin}.
For we ask {there}: This implies that if he did spoke, yes; if he did not speak, no! But Rav Chiyya bar {Rav} Huna sent in the name of Rabbi Yochanan {from Eretz Yisrael to Bavel}: On the tefillah shel yad he says lehaniach tefillin and on the shel rosh he says al mitzvat tefillin.
And we resolve: Abaye and Rava both say that if he did not speak, he blesses one, and if he spoke he blesses two.
And even so, it is difficult {=not good} to speak, for they learnt {in a brayta}: If one spoke between tefillah {shel yad} and tefillah {shel rosh} it is a sin in his hand and he returns because of it from those arrayed in battle. And certainly one who speaks between the tekiot of sitting and the tekiot of standing; however, he does not repeat the blessing, for it is one mitzvah -- Go out and see, for behold, there is the Hallel upon which they bless before its reading, and even so, between one perek and the next perek, he may interrupt and is not required to repeat the blessing.
Thus, he need not repeat the blessing, but still, goarin bo, they yell at him.

It is extremely relevant to note that this question appears to be as regards specifically the baal tokea. That is, the Rosh cites the same source, and then cites another opinion (approvingly) that this should also apply to those who are listening.

But, it is easy to draw a distinction, in that, despite talking in between, the hearers have fulfilled the first component of the mitzvah, and then hear the second component of the mitzvah which is being in shul for shemoneh esrei while the tekiot are blown on the order. And even perhaps bring in Rabbi Yochanan that hefsek is not a problem, since if one hears 9 shofar blasts at 9 hours of the day, he fulfills. And he is hearing it even from someone who made a blessing beforehand and did not interrupt, such that the original blessing was chal. After all, it is the baal tokea who makes the blessing. One can of course argue in the other direction, but it is important to establish the exact limits of the question as posed.

The Ran dismisses the concern here. He argues that not only need he not make a new blessing, he sees no basis for yelling at the guy. He marks a distinction between tefillin on the one hand, which has two separate components, and would then necessitate two blessings in case of interruption, and tekiat shofar on the other hand. By tekiot, since he will not have to be gores another blessing, what sin is there? He writes:
הרי לא שמענו בשום מקום שמי שבירך על המצוה והתחיל, שלא יהי רשאי לדבר עד שיגמור, ואטו מי שיתחיל לבדוק חמצו כלום אסור לו לדבר עד שיגמור ביעורו
Behold, we have never heard in any place that one who blesses on a commandment and begins, that he is not permitted to speakk until he finishes, such as for example one who begins to search for his chametz is certainly not forbidden to speak until he finishes his removal.
Alas, one man's reductio ad absurdum is another man's ein hachi nami. People nowadays are often insistent not to speak until bedikat chametz is complete. (Perhaps one can argue that he meant specifically until after the biur the next day by burning, which certainly no one says, and yet the blessing is supposed to go on that as well. But it should apply for the lengthy bedika as well, since there is no problem of talking once you have started.)

Yet, Ran concludes that despite the fact that it is baseless, since it came out of the mouth of the Resh Mesivta, it is fitting not to talk for no purpose. This would imply that if for a purpose, it would be allowed, and proper. (I would offer an example -- the kids are clamoring for something, and charades would not work very well, you could say something to them.)

Shiltei haGiborim, on the side, notes that there are some who forbid speaking, but כבר ביאר מז"ה that it is permitted to speak between them, for they have already fulfilled their obligation with the sitting tekiot, and the standing tekiot are only to hear them on the order of the blessings only for the chaver ir, as we have explained. (He says this in note bet on 10b, that a yachid has no obligation to hear them al haseder, see there.)

Caveat: Of course, not intended halacha lemaaseh.



Washing Out the Cup Before Kiddush, Continued, Continued

I posted a while back about a custom some have to put some water into the cup to be used for kiddush and then pour that water into the wine bottle.

I gave three suggestions: 1) Remove pegam of the wine; 2) dilution as described in the gemara of their thick wine; and 3) the kabbalistic requirement to wash out even a clean cup prior to kiddush, followed by a need to put the water somewhere. I prefer #3, out of all of these.

My father told me that Rabbi Friedman does the same thing, and SoccerDad told me he saw it at Rabbi Rosenberg's table. They both give the same reason: The red wine represents din, judgment, and we add water to be mamtik (sweeten) then din with chesed (water). I still consider #3 to be somewhat plausible, with a practice of specifically putting the water into the wine bottle afterwards, once the water was in the glass, to be coming from this reason of being mamtik the din, or else with this reason developing afterwards and then reinforcing the custom.

Update: A bit later, Rabbi Rosenberg emailed me something else he came across on this subject, from the Raavya:

ראבי"ה ח"ב - מסכת ראש השנה סימן תקמז

ומה שאנו מטילין מים בכוס של הבדלה ושותים ומה שנשתייר אנו רוחצין פנינו, כדי לחבב את המצות, ואמרו חכמים שיורי מצוה מעכבין את הפרענות

And this that we pour water in the cup of havdalah and drink (presumably the water itself), and from what is left over we wash our face, is in order to make the precepts dear, and the Sages said that the remnants of the precepts hold back the punishment.
This seems to be specifically the cup of havdalah, and it is not before drinking the havdalah wine but rather when cleaning it out afterwards. Thus, there is mostly water in the cup and a bit of wine stickiness. Yet we hold these remnants dear and drink the water, and use it to wash our face.

This custom may indeed be related to this other custom of pouring water to clean out the cup for kiddush, then pouring that into the wine bottle such that, here too, we can drink this water. If so, when at someone else's house, they might appreciate it if you poured the water into your hands and used it to wash your face, or into a separate cup to drink later, rather than pouring it into the bottle.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Daf Yomi Ketubot 20a-b: Does Rav Ashi Act Against His Own Pesak?

Ketubot 20, about whether a litigant may help a witness recall the testimony:
איבעיא להו לעצמו מאי
פירוש אם שכח העד מהו שיזכירו בעל דין
רב חביבא אומר אפילו לעצמו מדכר
רב אשי אמר לעצמו לא
והלכתא לעצמו לא
ואי צורבא מרבנן הוא אפילו לעצמו כי הא דרב אשי הוה ידע ליה סהדותא לרב כהנא אמר ליה מי דכר מר לההוא סהדותא
א"ל לא אמר ליה ולאו הכי והכי הוה לא ידענא לסוף אידכר רב אשי אזל אסהיד ליה חזיא לרב כהנא דהוה מחסם א"ל מי סברת עלך קא סמיכנא אנא הוא דרמאי אנפשאי ואידכר:
It was a question to them: For himself, what?
To explain: If the witness forgets, may the litigant {himself} remind him?
Rav Chaviva says: Even he himself may remind.
Rav Ashi said: For himself, no.
And the halacha is that for himself, no.
{Ketubot 20b}
And if he is a Torah scholar, even for himself. Like this of Rav Ashi in which he knew evidence for Rav Kahana and he {=Rav Kahana} said to him, "does Master remember the testimony?" He said to him "no." He said to him, "and was it not such-and-such?" "I don't know." In the end, Rav Ashi remembered and went to testify for him. He saw Rav Kahana that he was surprised. He said to him, "do you think that I am relying upon you? I was the one who wracked my brains and remembered."
So goes the gemara. According to this, Rav Ashi first says that a litigant cannot. Then, a story involving Rav Ashi himself appears to contradict it. The anonymous setama digmara preempts this question of maaseh listor by introducing it with the equivalent of adam chashuv shayni.

Who is the tzurba meirabbanan? It could be Rav Kahana the litigant, who we might now trust that he is not trying to unduly influence the testimony. Or, much more likely, it is Rav Ashi, the witness, who just ruled one could not rely on the litigant.

Indeed, it is hard to see how this is a maaseh listor. After all, Rav Ashi says that he was not relying on Rav Kahana, the litigant. Rather, he wracked his brains until he recalled it by himself.

This may be the intention of the gemara with its exception of tzurba meirabbanan. We can trust the Torah scholar -- he is granted neemanut -- that he will not be unduly influenced, such that the litigant's prompting will not exclude it. He, unlike other witnesses, will not testify if he has the slightest doubt about the matter, and so will only rely upon his own recollection in the end. The prompting by the litigant will only prompt him to dwell on the matter until he can or cannot remember.

Thus, in reality, a tzurba meirabbanan is no different, in that even he may not rely on the litigant. He is different in that we are confident that he is not relying on the litigant.

This is essentially Rashi, but possibly slightly different and with slightly different stress.

Oval Tefillin? As Mentioned In The Mordechai

FailedMessiah recently posted about evidence that tefillin shel yad was not square, but rather oval. See some of the pictures he has there. (The picture to the right, taken from his blog, is tefillin shel yad from the Cairo Geniza.) These pictures are also in Daniel Sperber's Minhagei Yisrael, volume 4. Someone by the name of Historian commented on the blog:

There are opinions that the hand tefila (singular for tefilin) does not have to be round. This was the custom in Italy up until the holocaust. The picture is of an Italian Jew.

By the way, the Italian school of kabbalah did not have beards.

Things like this do not trouble me. I know that this, and many issues like this, have been addressed and discussed by historians. I give here scans of the short article, and a summary of points addressed in it:

Citing from my translation of the Rif, on Megillah 24b:

כהן שיש בידו מומין לא ישא את כפיו
רבי יהודה אומר אף מי שהיו ידיו צבועות איסטיס וקוצה לא ישא את כפיו מפני שהעם מסתכלין בו
האומר איני עובר לפני התיבה בצבועים אף בלבנים לא יעבור בסנדל איני עובר אף יחף לא יעבור העושה תפלתו עגולה סכנה ואין בה מצוה נתנה על מצחו ועל פס ידו הרי זה דרך מינות
A kohen who has on his hand blemishes should not raise his hands {for birchat kohanim}.
Rabbi Yehuda says: Even one whose hands are dyed with wood or madder roots should not lift up his hands, because the people stare at them.
If one says: I will not go before the lectern {as a shliach tzibbur} with dyed {clothing}, even with white clothing he may not go up. {I will not go} with a sandal, he may not go up even barefoot. If one makes his tefillin {shel rosh} round, it is a danger and there is no mitzvah. If he places it {the tefillin} on his forehead or on the palm of his hand, this is the way of heresy.
That it has to say this, I would note, means that it is reacting to people actually doing this. Making it round is merely a mistake, while the other actions are heresy, because they are based on literal interpretations of Scripture. But it would seem clear that some people back then at least had the idea. Finding such tefillin shel rosh would not even be so surprising then.

But, he asks in the article, what then to make of these pictures of tefillin shel yad which are circular?

He notes that, in truth, this custom of oval tefillin shel yad is already brought down in the Mordechai as a pushed off minhag, a minhag dachui. His words are based on Menachot 35a:
They taught: Square tefillin are a halacha leMoshe miSinai.
Rav Pappa said: In their sewing and in their diagonal. {But in a footnote Sperber brings down the opinion of some Rishonim that the primary requirement is in their sewing.}
Let us say this {Mishna} supports him: If one makes his tefillin {shel rosh} round, it is a danger and there is no mitzvah.
[Rashi explains that when he passes by a doorway and hits his head upon the lintel, the tefillin should not be driven into his head.]
Rav Pappa said: The Mishna refers to where it is like an amgoza.
[where the bottom is also rounded and thus sharp, but if it is flat, there is nothing to worry about. Note that though the tefillin shel yad in question are oval, they do indeed have a flat base.]
And upon this writes the Mordechai:
They taught: Square tefillin are a halacha leMoshe miSinai. This would seem to refer to the actual body of the houses {batim} {not the base}, whether of the shel yad or of the shel rosh, to the exclusion of those who make the shel yad in a circular form {that is, the oval form mentioned above}, with only the base underneath being square. And just the opposite! The brayta speaks about the actual body of the batim, which are the essence of tefillin. And Rava {in our girsa of gemara it is Rav Pappa} comes to add about the sewing and the diagonal, and not to subtract.
And his words are brought down in the poskim, including the Magen Avraham, the Olat haTamid, and the Mishna Berurah.

Thus we see from his words that there were those who had the custom of making the batim of the shel yad oval and the base square. And it is against this custom that the Mordechai is complaining. Despite this, it appears that in certain places the long-standing practice was to make the tefillin shel yad oval.

Here is the article -- the above was a very rough translation and summary. Click on the scans to see it bigger. And get the set of sefarim. A really good read, if you are into this kind of stuff.

How Isis Wearing Tefillin Increases My Emunas Chachamim

While some bloggers think the article about Isis wearing tefillin while standing behind the Pharaoh Osiris poses a problem, for here we have a Jewish practice based on Egyptian practice, I am not bothered in the least. Indeed, it strengthens my emunat chachamim.

In the past, Chazal had a tradition that bein enecha meant not literally between the eyes, on the bridge of the nose, but rather on the forehead over the hairline. For centuries and more, this was simply tradition. But then, in the Baal Chronicles, we saw it paired up in poetry against kodkod, head-pate, such that it was clear that bein einecha was an idiom which meant this. Thus, confirmation for this oral tradition of the meaning of the phrase. Similarly, this Egyptian "tefillin" is situated above the hairline.

Furthermore, there was another tradition that tefillin should be square. And indeed, so it is apparently depicted in the Egyptian drawings. (I will address circular tefillin shel yad in a later post.) Not to mention, as the article does, an Egyptian connection to the strange Biblical word totafot.

Much Biblical law is taking what was already present in the Ancient Near Eastern culture and adapting it, making use of it. I see no problem with their having taken Egyptian totafot and investing it with a a specific meaning, and a specific internal text, as the Bible does.

It is also a good response to Karaites. The Torah tells us (Devarim 11):

יח וְשַׂמְתֶּם אֶת-דְּבָרַי אֵלֶּה, עַל-לְבַבְכֶם וְעַל-נַפְשְׁכֶם; וּקְשַׁרְתֶּם אֹתָם לְאוֹת עַל-יֶדְכֶם, וְהָיוּ לְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם. 18 Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul; and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.

Rather than taking the commandment to put these words between your eyes and on your heart literally, as we Pharisees do, they took it figuratively. Proof to this understanding are other Biblical verses such as in Mishlei 3:

ג חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת, אַל-יַעַזְבֻךָ:
קָשְׁרֵם עַל-גַּרְגְּרוֹתֶיךָ; כָּתְבֵם, עַל-לוּחַ לִבֶּךָ.
3 Let not kindness and truth forsake thee; {N}
bind them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thy heart;
Yet, if it was actual Egyptian practice, then it greatly increases the odds that Chazal are correct in their understanding of the relevant verses in Torah, that it means something literally between the eyes and upon your hand.

On the other hand, I wonder whether the Sages protested when Isis wore tefillin. It is a dispute whether they did when Michal bat Kushit (or bat Shaul) did.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Daf Yomi Ketubot 35b: The Mature Woman's Claim of Virginity, Reconsidered

I posted earlier about this subject.

And now let me take the opposite position, and show how I am wrong. Again, this is why I say is not halacha lemaaseh.

Assuming we sever the Rif's connection between the gemara in Ketubot 35b and in Niddah 64b, we still should read the gemara in Niddah as referring to having seen menstrual blood previous to this.

The Rif had drawn a relationship between his girsa in Ketubot and Niddah. The Rif's girsa in Ketubot said that a bogeret has no claim of missing virginity against her, but this was only where she had menstruated in the past. Thus, kalu dameha, her blood had been finished up. A bogeret who had not yet menstruated was able to have such a claim lodged against her. And similarly in Niddah, Rav gave a bogeret that entire night, and the gemara clarifies that this is where she had not seen blood. Thus, it is a woman who had never before seen menstrual blood, but if she had, perhaps we would say kalu dameha and so she has no blood from a torn hymen, and so we would attribute it to menstrual blood and she would have to separate immediately.

I questioned the Rif's girsa in Ketubot for several reasons, including a much simpler and straightforward available girsa and an otherwise contradictory Yerushalmi. But further, I noted that this was a strange medical theory linking previous menstruation to kalu dameha such that she would not see blood from tearing her hymen.

However, as I noted in my introduction to this, even assuming we sever the connection between Ketubot and Niddah, we still may read it as above. Indeed, it may be the most plausible reading.

If you recall, the gemara in Niddah 64b read:
אמר רב בוגרת נותנין לה לילה הראשון
וה"מ שלא ראתה אבל ראתה אין לה אלא בעילת מצוה ותו לא
Rav said that for a bogeret, we give her the entire first night.
And the gemara clarifies: And these words were where she did not see, but if she did see, she only has the intercourse of the precept and no further.

The Rif summarizes this -- or perhaps it is his girsa -- as
והא דרב אוקימנא פרק תינוקת בבוגרת שעדיין לא ראתה דם אבל בוגרת שראתה ועודה בבית אביה אין לה אלא בעילת מצוה ופורש
Thus, that she saw blood of menstruation in the past in her life. I suggested it meant that she saw blood during the wedding night.

Even rejecting the connection between sugyot and rejecting the strange medical theory, we can explain this as the Rif does.

That is, if she has even seen blood in the past, then we know that she menstruates. Therefore, we have reason to fear that this blood we see now is not blood from the torn hymen but rather menstrual blood. However, if she has not menstruated in the past, why should we assume it is such now. We have an even stronger case to assume that it is from the torn hymen.

Indeed, this is the reading of the setama's restriction that makes sense. After all, granting her the entire night, or in other cases, granting her until Shabbat, means that even if she sees blood, we can attribute it to the torn hymen. So how in the world are we "granting" her this night is she has to stop when she sees blood. It would be have to be a reinterpretation of granting, such that we grant her so long as we do not see blood. But if she does not see blood, she should theoretically be allowed to continue for much longer. But if she sees blood on the second day, we no longer grant her this.

And indeed, there is precedent for such an interpretation. For example, in Ketubot 6a:
R. Hisda objected: If a girl, whose period to see [blood] had not arrived yet, got married, Beth Shammai say: One gives her four nights, and the disciples of Hillel say: Until the wound is healed up. If her period to see [blood] had arrived and she married, Beth Shammai say: One gives her the first night, and Beth Hillel say: Until the night following the Sabbath [one gives her] four nights
Thus, we have a girl {= a virgin} whose period to see menstrual blood has arrived and married, and she gets the first night, says Bet Shammai. It is not exact but pretty close in terminology.

So, most women who marry, even virgins, are bogeret, and furthermore have had their periods. (One exception is the 20-year old woman mentioned in this teshuva from Rav Moshe in Igrot Moshe.) Thus, no one will get the full night mentioned by Rav. Rather, they are all subject to the second case:

אבל ראתה אין לה אלא בעילת מצוה ותו לא

What does this mean? It is where she saw menstrual blood before. But what does אין לה אלא בעילת מצוה ותו לא? We could read it that once she sees blood, she immediately separates. But it never said that she saw blood that night. So it might mean that she only gets that intercourse of precept ever, regardless of if she saw blood.

If so, we can read present practice into the gemara's words.

Whether this extra restriction is Talmudic {/stammaic} practice or post-Talmudic, we can find precedent with a certain incident in Ketubot 10a:
Some one came before Rabban Gamaliel the son of Rabbi [and] said to him, 'My master, I have had intercourse [with my newly-wedded wife] and I have not found any blood.' She [the wife] said to him, 'My master, I was a virgin.' He said to them: Bring me that cloth. They brought him the cloth, and he soaked it in water and he washed it and he found on it a good many drops of blood. [Thereupon] he [Rabban Gamaliel] said to him [the husband]: Go, be happy with thy bargain.
Thus, the idea that blood may have been covered by semen is one already introduced in the gemara.


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