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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Divine Presence’

Q & A: Yotzrot (Part II)

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Question: I read The Jewish Press’s Luach of February 17 with much interest. You write, “We daven Shacharis as usual.” I find it difficult to understand why you don’t mention reciting the special yotzrot for Parshat Shekolim. Are yotzrot a relic of history? I’m a senior citizen who remembers saying yotzrot as a child. But now, they seem to have disappeared from Orthodox synagogues.

Milton M. Adler
Cherry Hill, NJ

Answer: Yotzrot (often referred to generically as piyutim) have disappeared from many, but not all, congregations. Rabbi Yosef Grossman (in Otzar Erchei HaYahadut, ot peh, 377) defines piyutim as prayers, poetic refrains, or sanctified songs written by venerable authors (beginning with geonim in Babylonia) and added as optional additions to the liturgy for special occasions. Many of these authors served as shluchei tzibbur themselves and were capable of effecting a unique spiritual arousal on the part of the congregation. Piyutim include words of rebuke, reproof, and lamentations and yearning regarding the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Divine Presence. We continue our answer with more information from Rabbi Grossman’s work.

* * * * *

One of the earliest (and most famous) paytanim is Yosi b. Yosi, whose compositions have found their way into the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur prayers. Also well known are the compositions of Yanai and his disciple Rabbi Eliezer HaKalir, who is considered one of the “fathers” of Jewish liturgical poets.

In the Middle Ages, liturgical poetry reached the height of its development in both Sefarad – Spain, North Africa, and the oriental lands – and Ashkenaz – Germany, France, and other European lands. Among the liturgical composers in Spain were Rabbi Shlomo ibn Gabirol, Rabbi Moshe ibn Ezra, known as “Ha’Salach,” and Rabbi Yehudah Ha’Levi. Famous liturgical composers in Ashkenazic lands included Rabbenu Gershom Me’or Ha’golah, Rashi, and Rabbenu Tam.

Yemen also possessed many composers, the greatest of which was Rabbi Shalom Shabazzi. Yet, for the most part, piyutim were generally more accepted (and included in the liturgy) in Ashkenazic lands than in the Sefardic lands.

With the passing of time, more compositions were added from the works of such able composers as Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz (the author of “Lecha Dodi”) and Rabbi Yisrael Nidgara (the author of “Kah Ribon Alam V’almaya”).

Piyutim are at times referred to by more specific names. As delineated by Rabbi Grossman at the conclusion of his discussion in Otzar Erchei HaYahadus, they are:

Yotzrotpiyutim accompanying the blessing of “yotzer or” in birkat Kriat Shema.

These are added to the liturgy during the Days of Awe and on specific Shabbatot.

Ofanim – piyutim recited before “ha’ofanim v’chayot ha’kodesh,” also found in birkat Kriat Shema of Shacharit.

Zulatotpiyutim recited before ezrat avoteinu after Kriat Shema.

Geulotpiyutim recited right before the blessing ga’al yisrael.

Avodahpiyutim accompanying the Avodah service of Yom Kippur.

Ma’aravitpiyutim especially composed to accompany the Ma’ariv service of festivals.

Havdalotpiyutim for Motza’ei Shabbat (traditionally sung at Melave Malka).

Hoshanotpiyutim sung throughout the course of Sukkot and climaxing in the Hoshanot ceremony of Hoshana Rabbah.

Selichotpiyutim in the form of confessionals that are recited on public fasts, throughout the month of Elul, and during Aseret Yemei Teshuva.

Kinot – lamentations recited on Tisha B’Av.

Numerous factors contributed to the widespread decline in the recitation of these piyutim. One factor is the comprehensibility of the piyutim. Prose, no matter how beautiful, is often hard to understand. Furthermore, often Aramaic words found their way into the compositions. (To their credit, ArtScroll and other publishers of siddurim and machzorim often offer excellent English language translations of piyutim, thus affording people the opportunity to enjoy their beauty.)

I think one of the most obvious reasons for their omission nowadays is their length. The olam ha’yeshivot – the yeshiva world – for example, does not recite them because their roshei yeshivot believe them to be rather lengthy. Yeshivot generally daven at a slower pace and reciting piyutim would greatly lengthen the services and cut into study time.

Regular synagogues also likely omit them for the same reason. Many people do not wish to remain in shul past midday. This sentiment is based upon the following: The Gemara (Pesachim 68b) notes that one verse (Deuteronomy 16:8) states, “atzeret laShem Elokecha – an assembly to the L-rd” while another one (Numbers 29:35) states, “atzeret tiyeh lachem – an assembly for you.” Which is it: an assembly to the L-rd or to us? The Gemara replies that the day is both – “chetzyo lachem v’chetzyo laShem – half for [us] and half for the L-rd.” Even though the verses concern the end of Pesach and Shemini Atzeret, R. Yehoshua applies this rule to all festivals. In our time, many people extend this rule to Shabbat as well.

Chronicles in Crises In Our Communities – 7/10/09

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Dear Rachel,

One of the details that struck me about the sad article (Wife in Silent Suffering / Chronicles 6-12-09) was the following sentence: “We have a TV in our home, yet I must tell you that the Internet is ruining our lives.”

I am not writing this anonymously because I want to stress the sincerity and truth in what I am saying.

I am not proud of myself. Actually, I am quite ashamed of myself yet am disclosing embarrassing information with the hope that you can use my input to help others. Out of respect for my wife, please do not print my real name!

I have a great marriage, but I succumbed to the yetzer ha’ra of the Internet. (The fact that so many people are having this problem does not make it any less of a sin.) While I never went so far as to meet anyone online or in person, I am sad to say that I looked at plenty of filth.

Thank G-d, I have come a long way and have been “clean” for a while already. I, nevertheless, am aware that I can never let my guard down, for as the Mishnah says, “Don’t believe in yourself until the day you die.”

What I wanted to discuss was my personal experience and what I believe had a strong effect on my wanting to view such filth. I realize that everyone is different, but I believe that the world we live in – especially the television and movies, once a big part of my life – is a major contributor to the lure of Internet filth.

When a man watches TV and the females are dressed in a seductive fashion, where every other show or film features affairs as normal events and nightclub settings as routine, how can a man not be affected?

Every loving wife should wake up to the dangers of the “side effects” of modern- day television and the many movies that plant dangerous seeds of filth, which can be detrimental. One of my ways of staying clean is by not watching any movie, period. We do not have a TV in the house anymore.

I believe that it is essential for every man to find inside of himself the desire to cling to and to love his Creator. There are plenty of resources online (Aish.com is one of my personal favorites) where one learns about the fact that Hashem wants us to have pleasure and of how to be aware of the counterfeit pleasures – which are not only “not real,” but also extremely destructive.

While I am not proud of my past, I do want to help anyone that I can, even if it means embarrassing myself by discussing my past. I would speak to anybody – roshei yeshiva, teachers, etc.

One of my future goals is to start a website for people searching to fill an emptiness. The site would focus on the real and ultimate pleasure of connecting to the Almighty, in laymen’s terms and on a level that would speak to people suffering from this addiction.

Please feel free to contact me for any other information that may be helpful to you or your readers.

There are ways to overcome…

Dear There,

Certainly not by happenstance, it is in this week’s Torah portion (Parshas Pinchas) that we find the “daughters of Moav” seducing the Jews into idol worship. Furthermore, so gripped with hatred were the Midianites for the Jews that they offered their own king’s daughter for harlotry just to incite the Jews to sin.

Today we are exposed to the “daughters of Moav” all around us, not only as inanimate objects in sultry poses on lifelike billboards, but as living, breathing – barely, one would imagine, in their body-hugging flimsy attire – entities whom we cannot help but cross paths with on the streets, in the subways, etc., the kind who would have been considered even by secular standards not that long ago as “loose women.”

So, my dear man, much as the television and Internet, as you articulate, contribute and maximize the potential for immorality, the yetzer ha’ra in our time is having a field day.

And, sad to say, the concept of modesty seems to be lost on many of our own, thus creating a double jeopardy in our midst: Not only does this place a stumbling block in front of our men (in the workplace, at social events, etc.), but this laxity in the area of tznius is also delaying the coming of Moshiach and our ultimate redemption – for the Torah makes it clear that the Divine Presence can dwell only amongst a holy nation, a people who behave in a modest fashion.

Perhaps now, as never before, we must harness the creativity and intellectual prowess of our children early on by steadfastly steering them in the one direction that offers immunity to the evil inclination: the illuminating path of Torah spirituality.

Thank you for proving that old habits can be conquered – with a genuine will to overcome and a commitment to persevere. The sincere penitent can be assured of guidance from Above and is thereby never alone in his struggle.

Having an understanding and supportive wife at your side is a blessing in itself. May you find hatzlachah in all your lofty undertakings and continue to grow in midos tovos and yiras shamayim.

Please send your personal stories, thoughts and opinions to rachel@jewishpress.com

Woman And The Forbidden Fruit

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006

The sin of the Etz HaDa’at, the Tree of Knowledge is one of the most perplexing episodes in the Torah. Insight into the story sheds light on women’s unique qualities and role in the process of redemption.


After Adam’s creation, G-d placed him in the Garden of Eden. Man was permitted to partake in all the delicacies except for one food, “From the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat, for on the day you eat of it, you will become deserving of death” (Gen. 2:17).


The prohibition of eating from the Etz HaDa’at and the consequence of death upon its violation was intimated for Adam, Chava and their descendants. Although Adam relayed this prohibition to Chava, she became confused with the directive, which then set the tone for the entire sinful episode.


The cunning serpent that was the embodiment of the evil Satan, asked Chava whether G-d had forbidden her from eating from any trees in the garden.


Chava answered, “Of the fruit of any tree in the garden we may eat, just of the fruit of the tree which is in the center of the garden, G-d said ‘You should neither eat of it nor touch it, lest you die’” (Gen. 3:2-3).


Chava added the prohibition of touching the Tree of Knowledge. When the serpent then forcibly pushed Chava against the tree, he victoriously claimed, “See, just as death did not ensue from touching, so it will not follow from eating.”


Through his beguiling words, the serpent introduced doubt into Chava’s mind. It now became easier to dare Chava to taste the forbidden fruit. He convinced her that G-d did not actually intend to kill her and Adam, but merely threatened them to intimidate them.


The serpent enticed Chava by predicting beneficial outcomes. “Your eyes will be opened… The fruit will awaken a new desire and appreciation for the pleasures around you. It will be a source of intellectual benefit.”


Chava longed for this new knowledge and exciting awakening and ate the forbidden fruit. She then used her persuasive powers to convince her husband to eat the forbidden fruit.

Chava’s downfall began when she expanded and distorted G-d’s command, which she did not personally hear.


The Talmud (Kiddushin 49b) states that 10 measures of speech were given to the world. Nine of them were allocated to women.


This statement is neither praiseworthy nor derogatory. Each of us, however, has the responsibility to determine how to use our communication skills. We have the choice of gossiping, lying, plotting and talking evilly; or, conversely, we can express empathy, understanding, and constructive teaching.


Woman’s extra allotment of speech can have many positive or negative ramifications.

Chava distorted G-d’s command, because she did not hear it directly. The command was relayed by Adam and, therefore, was slightly ambiguous to her. Elaborating on the prohibition to include something that it did not include, caused her to eventually be persuaded to sin.


The above explains the circumstances leading Chava to violate G-d’s word, but her reasoning is still unclear. What intrinsic spiritual changes did Chava anticipate that were so irresistible?


Prior to this sin, mankind was not a mixture of good and evil but was innately good, seeking to do the will of his Maker. Although he possessed free will, temptation came from the outside. Evil, per se, was embodied in the satanic serpent that became a vehicle for temptation.


Man’s mission was to elevate himself to the level where evil would become completely senseless and unappealing. If man, an essentially physical being, chose to ignore temptation, he would elevate the entire physical realm.


Had humanity fulfilled this mission, our purpose would have been achieved by the time the sun had set on the sixth day of creation, at the onset of the world’s first Shabbat. Life would have become an upward spiral of spiritual ecstasy.


Chava thought she could do better. She understood that overcoming an external temptation is never as great as overcoming an internal one.


By eating the forbidden fruit, Chava consciously caused temptation to become a part of humanity’s make-up. They became enlightened people. Their eyes were open to the evil of the world. They now displayed a desire for base pleasure, despite its harmfulness.


They had thought they could please G-d by resisting this constant inner call to evil. They now realized that they had stripped themselves of the one precept entrusted to them. Then they heard the “Voice of G-d withdrawing in the garden” (Gen. 3:8). This was the first tragic withdrawal of the Divine Presence.


Though we cannot fully fathom the cosmic effect of this sin, our long exile became one consequence. Death, as well, became necessary.


Yet man’s sin was also part of Creation’s design. Adam and Chava were, in a sense, correct in their assumption that the outcome of this sin would ultimately lead to a greater sanctification of G-d’s Name.


In the era of Mashiach, once the world reaches its eventual state of purity, humanity will have achieved a greater accomplishment. Once we will have overcome temptation from within, the positive forces will be strengthened. Accordingly, man’s reward will be greater, as well.


For this to happen, it was part of the Divine Plan that Adam should relay G-d’s command to Chava. Chava would never have dared to violate a prohibition given to her personally by



Women are stronger in this aspect of faith. Women’s innate humility makes them more conducive to Kabbalat Ol, accepting the Divine Will, regardless of their comprehension.

Had Chava heard the direct command, in her humility, she would not have dared to make any further calculation. But we also would not have achieved our ultimate objective of negating an internal evil. Thus, the greater feat would have been relinquished.


Since woman caused the original taint of sin to become part of man’s make-up – a sin that will only be removed in the era of Mashiach – she must be the one to correct it. She is entrusted with the responsibility – and the privilege – of bringing about this ultimate rectification.


The Final Redemption will arrive in the merit of righteous women, who utilize their immense spiritual capabilities for positive endeavors.


(Excerpted from Tending the Garden by Chana Weisberg)


Chana Weisberg is the author of several books, including the best-selling Divine Whispers-Stories that Speak to the Heart and Soul and the soon-to-be released book, Tending the Garden: The Role of the Jewish Woman, Past, Present and Future. She is a columnist for www.chabad.org and she lectures worldwide on a wide array of issues. She can be reached at weisberg@sympatico.ca

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/jewess-press/woman-and-the-forbidden-fruit/2006/10/18/

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