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December 2, 2015 / 20 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘tefillin’

Daf Yomi

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Do Not Add To Them! ‘Shabbos is not a Time for Tefillin’ (Shabbos 61a)

The Gemara cites a machlokes about wearing tefillin on Shabbos. As we all know, the accepted custom is not to wear tefillin on Shabbos. However, what is not clear is whether it is simply unnecessary to wear tefillin on Shabbos or actually forbidden.

Elsewhere, the Gemara cites two reasons for why tefillin are not worn on Shabbos (Eruvin 96a; Menachos 36b). One reason is based on the pasuk in parshas Bo, “They shall be for you as a sign upon your arm” (Shemos 13:9). The Gemara explains that tefillin must be worn as a sign on weekdays. Shabbos, however, is also referred to as a “sign” in the Torah; therefore tefillin are not worn as they are not necessary.

The Maharsha explains that according to all opinions this is the primary reason (see Aruch Hashulchan 30:3). The Rishonim (Smag, positive commandment 3; Rabbeinu Bachaye, parshas Lech Lecha) add that on weekdays, we have two “witnesses” who testify that we are servants of Hashem: bris milah, the sign of the covenant that Hashem made with us, as well as tefillin, which serve as a sign of our servitude to Hashem. Shabbos is also a sign of the unity of Hashem and the Jewish people, as the pasuk says, “It is a sign between Me and you,” (Shemos, 31:13).

No Bris Milah, No Tefillin On Shabbos

The Terumas Hadeshen (Teshuvos 2:108, cited in Birkei Yosef 31) asks whether an uncircumcised Jew must wear tefillin on Shabbos. Halacha dictates that if two brothers die as a result of bris milah, it is forbidden to circumcise a third brother. On a regular weekday, this third brother has only one “witness,” that of tefillin. On Shabbos, he would have an opportunity to have two: Shabbos and tefillin.

The Terumas Hadeshen states that this Jew should nevertheless not wear tefillin on Shabbos. He explains that the Smag drew the metaphor of two witnesses as an aggadah. He never intended it to be the basis for halachic conclusions. Therefore, an uncircumcised Jew is also exempt from tefillin on Shabbos.

The Radvaz (Teshuvos 2:334) adds that even according to the metaphor of the two witnesses, an uncircumcised Jew is exempt from tefillin on Shabbos. Why? The Gemara (Nedarim 31b) states that if a person makes a neder not to let uncircumcised people benefit from his possessions, he is forbidden to allow benefit to a gentile but he may allow benefit to an uncircumcised Jew. This is because the very mitzvah to perform bris milah, even if one is unable to, is a sign of the covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people.

Interestingly, the Rokeach (30, cited in Aruch HaShulchan) explains that bris milah alone is an insufficient sign since it testifies only to the covenant Hashem forged with us. Tefillin testify also to yetzias Mitzraim, as does Shabbos. Therefore, the sign of Shabbos can take the place of tefillin.

The Mechaber And The Zohar

The Mechaber (O.C. 31:1) rules quite clearly that it is forbidden to wear tefillin on Shabbos. “Shabbos is itself a sign,” the Mechaber explains. “By wearing a different sign, one denigrates the sign of Shabbos.” The Vilna Gaon (ibid.) points out that there is no source for this ruling in the Rambam or Tur. Rather, the Mechaber draws this ruling from the Midrash Ne’elam, the Zohar’s commentary on Shir HaShirim, which is cited at length in the Beis Yosef. This is one of the very few halachos that the Mechaber draws from the Zohar rather than Shas.

Tefillin On Shabbos Is Bal Tosif

According to the Mechaber’s explanation, wearing tefillin on Shabbos is not a Torah prohibition (see Aruch Hashulchan; Levush, ibid). However, the Magen Avraham (ibid.) cites the Rashba that wearing tefillin on Shabbos is a violation of bal tosif, the prohibition against adding mitzvos.

The Magen Avraham adds that this applies only if a person wears tefillin with the intention to fulfill a mitzvah. If he puts them on without this intention, he is not violating bal tosif (see Eruvin 96a). Nor is he demeaning the sign of Shabbos since he does not intend to wear them as a sign.

Parshas Toldos

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

New York City
November 16, 2012 – 2 Kislev 5773
4:17 p.m. NYC E.S.T.


Sabbath Ends: 5:24 p.m. NYC E.S.T.
Weekly Reading: Toldos
Weekly Haftara: Masa D’var Hashem (Malachi 1:1 – 2:7)
Daf Yomi: Shabbos 44
Mishna Yomit: Sotah 1:8-9
Halacha Yomit: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayyim 153:21 –154:1
Rambam Yomi: Hilchos Rotzeach u’Shemiras ha’Nefesh  chap. 2-4
Earliest time for tallis and tefillin: 5:49 a.m. NYC E.S.T.
Latest Kerias Shema: 9:14 a.m. NYC E.S.T.


99 Year Old Man Becomes Bar Mitzva

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

At age 99, Isaac Volinsky was given the opportunity to put on tefillin for the first time in his life, the Australian J-Wire reported. He did it at the “120 Club” for elderly expatriate Soviets in Sydney.

With more than 50 club members looking on, Lubavitch Rabbi Eli Schlanger helped Volinsky put on the tefillin.

Rabbi Schlanger told J-Wire: “It was an amazing scene. The first time a Jewish boy puts on tefillin is regarded as his Bar Mitzvah and all the club members treated it as a simcha. They were all standing and singing Siman tov u’mazal tov. Isaac told me he remembered his father and grandfather putting on their talit and teffilin in his native Odessa.”

Volinsky, who studied science and technology, was a colonel in the Russian army before moving to Australia. His wife passed away a few years ago. He has two children, one in Sydney and the other in Odessa.

His 100th birthday celebrations are just six months away.

Mazal tov!

Two Men, Two Prayers, Two Miracles

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

My column on prayer last week touched sensitive chords in many hearts. It is apparent that in our troubled times people are struggling with the entire concept of prayer. Does it really work? Is there Someone listening, or is it a waste of time?

I will share two stories that shed some illumination on the subject. To protect the privacy of all involved, I have used pseudonyms.

Man #1

Arthur lived in the community where my husband, Rabbi Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, was the rabbi. He was a member of a Reform temple and we had never met him until the day he came knocking at our door.

“Rabbi,” he said, his voice filled with emotion, “my wife has been diagnosed with cancer. It’s very serious and she is scheduled for surgery. I am coming to you because you are a man of G-d and I need a miracle.”

My husband, in his usual caring, loving way, invited him in and put his arm around him, indicating he was there for him. “Miracles,” he explained in his gentle voice, “are all around us – the entire world is one big miracle. So now we have to appeal to G-d for yet another miracle – the miracle of refuah sheleimah – the blessing of healing.”

“That’s it, Rabbi! That’s exactly what we need. How do we make it happen? I’m ready to do whatever it takes.”

“Let’s start with your own and your wife’s Jewish names.”

Arthur searched his mind and finally said “I am Avraham and my wife, Lisa, is Leah.”

My husband proceeded to explain to him the significance and power in our Jewish names. Arthur was overwhelmed and repeated, “So let’s make it happen, Rabbi. Tell me what I have to do.”

“We have a threefold formula that gives us access to G-d’s direct line and puts us through to His inner chamber,” said my husband. “It’s as simple as that.”

Arthur was listening with rapt attention and my husband explained that this formula is public knowledge. “It’s announced for all to hear during the High Holiday services: “Teshuvah (repentance) tefillah (prayer) and tzedakah (charity)… have the power to annul all evil decrees, and that, Avraham, is our direct line to G-d.”

Arthur’s face registered disappointment. He had thought there was some magic potion that would do the trick and cure Lisa. Nevertheless, to his credit he once again said, “I’m ready to do whatever it takes.”

“Easy,” my husband said gently, “I will explain it all. Teshuvah means rediscovering our roots, reconnecting to our heritage, coming home to our G-d. So let’s start with just a few steps in that direction: Welcome Shabbos into your home; the Rebbetzin will teach Leah the blessings over the Shabbos lights and how to make a festive Shabbos table. It will illuminate your home with serenity and joy. And on Shabbos morning you will join us in shul.”

Arthur looked upset.

“Don’t worry, I will show you the way,” my husband assured him. “In no time at all, you will pick it all up. It’s part of your genes, your DNA, from the genesis of time.”

“Now wait a minute, Rabbi,” he said. “This won’t work for us! Saturday is always the day I golf and Lisa goes to the beauty parlor and does her shopping. We both work the rest of the week. So this just doesn’t fit into our schedule.”

“I understand,” my husband assured him. “It will most certainly require a change in your lifestyle, but your Jewish name, Avraham, will stand you in good stead. He was our Patriarch who taught mankind the meaning of G-d. He was a trailblazer. Unafraid, he went against all odds and moved mountains and hills for the sake of our Creator. No matter what sacrifices were demanded of him, he remained undaunted and fulfilled his mission.

“It all may sound overwhelming, but your Jewish name will energize you. You will see, this will be a piece of cake – a piece of cake that once you taste you will come to love. It’s there, on your table; you need only try it.”

Avraham and Leah embarked on their new journey with the basics of Shabbos, but it didn’t stop there. Soon my husband kashered their home and I took Leah to the mikveh for the first time in her life.

Tevye in the Promised Land, Chapter Seventeen: The Milkman’s Daughter

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Tevye decided to stay in Shoshana until the birth of Hodel’s baby, which was only a month away. He forbade Bat Sheva to speak to Ben Zion, and asked Goliath to keep his eyes open to make sure there were no rendezvous. Tevye, by nature, had a trusting, good-natured soul, and in the past, it had led him to be too lax with his daughters. This time, he was determined to keep a tight rein on his youngest, lest her impetuousness lead her astray.

Hava went to work in the kitchen. For all of her openness to modern ideas, Hava felt ill at ease with the notion of women’s rights. To her way of thinking, a man had his duties, and a woman had hers. The theory that a woman could do the work of a man seemed foolish to her. As far as she was concerned, it was better to work in the kitchen, feeding people, than to work in a stable, feeding horses and cows.

Everyone in the commune ate together in the dining hall, so there was always plenty of work to occupy Hava, and to keep her from thinking about Hevedke’s new life in a faraway Jaffa yeshiva. The kibbutz diet consisted of sour cereals, vegetables, olives, goat’s cheese, black bread, eggs, and sardines. Meat was a luxury which the treasury of the kibbutz could rarely afford. The unrefined olive oil they used for cooking was purchased from Arabs in goatskin bags which gave the oil a bitter taste. There were not enough knives and forks for everyone, and settlers had to sometimes eat their main course with spoons. Though many of life’s staples were lacking, a spirit of thankfulness and singing accompanied the meals. Even Tevye was impressed. He had been in the luxurious homes of the rich people of Yehupetz and had never experienced such genuine happiness and joy. Inspired by their mission of working the land, the kibbutzniks were happy with the little they had. Hava tried to do what she could to improve their conditions, but when she put flowers and tablecloths on the tables for the Friday night meal, she was criticized for being bourgeoise.

For all of his devotion to Torah, Tevye was not a fanatic. Though the lifestyle in Shoshana irked him, he was able to restrain his chagrin over the secular character of the kibbutz. He remembered the words of the wise Rabbi Kook who said that the very act of settling the Land of Israel was a religious act in itself. Hadn’t the Sages of the Midrash taught that living in the Land of Israel was equal to all of the commandments in the Torah? Perhaps it was his age, or because Hodel was his daughter, or because Tzeitl’s death had left him too tired to fight – whatever the reason, Tevye accepted the lapses of Yiddishkiet as a situation which was not in his power to change.

Shmuelik’s reaction was different. The fervent scholar was horrified by the kibbutzniks and by their disdain for Jewish tradition. While Tevye had traveled far from Anatevka with his wagonful of cheeses, rubbing elbows with the rich and meeting free-thinkers in Boiberik and St. Petersburg, the young Shmuelik had never left the sheltered confines of his shtetl. To him, the kibbutznikim were heretical apikorsim who were to be avoided as much as the plague. “Gentiles who speak Hebrew,” he called them. Their desecration of the Sabbath, of the dietary laws, and the laws of family purity, were offenses that cried out to Heaven. That their heretical behavior should occur in the Holy Land was even more of an outrage in his eyes. When he learned that an animal pen under construction was intended for the breeding of pigs, that was the end. Though Shmuelik had come to love Tevye as a father, he found the situation unbearable. After ten days, he decided to set off for Zichron Yaacov, where the central office of the Jewish Colony Association was located. Just as Jacob’s son, Yehuda, had journeyed to Egypt to prepare the way for his family, Shmuelik would scout out new settlements and send word to Tevye regarding the opportunities he found. That way, Tevye would have a kosher, religious community waiting for him when he left the kibbutz. Alexander Goliath, the oversized Jew with the oversized heart, decided to stay by Tevye’s side. At Tzeitl’s gravesite, he had made a solemn promise to look after her children. Her last wish had been that Moishe and Hannie would grow up with Ruchel and Nachman, and Goliath felt it was his duty to carry out her request.

Jacqueline Nicholls: New Works

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

JCC Manhattan
334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street: Laurie M. Tisch Gallery
Call for hours
Through November 1 – www.jccmanhattan.org; 646-505-4444

Jacqueline Nicholls, a Jewish artist from England, presents us with a formidable challenge. Namely, what is the role of a contemporary Jewish Woman artist and how does one confront patriarchal dominance? She presents her response to both queries in her current exhibition at the JCC Manhattan, beautifully curated by Tobi Kahn and organized by Tisch Gallery director Megan Whitman. The results are breathtakingly forceful, subtle and insightful.

For Nicholls a Jewish woman must be armed with a deep and abiding knowledge of Torah, Tanach and Talmud, hand in hand, if she so chooses, with an artistic immersion in what has been called the Feminine Crafts, i.e. the fabric arts and traditional “Women’s Work.” This Jewish artist affirms that she must be especially articulate in Jewish texts to practice a “counter-voice to turn the narrative” and indeed that is what she does both in her choice of subject and exposition thereof. Her explorations are exhilarating.

The exhibition has three components: “Gather the Broken,” meditations on the Omer; “The Kittel Collection,” studies of a ritual garment and “Ghosts & Shadows,” considerations of women in Talmud.

The series of 49 omer meditations explore the multiple aspects of loss that the days between Passover and Shavuos engender. As an aspect of the semi-mourning that the omer demands, Nicholls looked to the minutia of her daily existence for inspiration. Her emphasis on that which is broken reflects, “only by acknowledging the broken, imperfect aspects of daily life [can]… creativity and a new life can be revealed.” This new and renewed life is of course accomplished on Shavous in the acceptance of the Torah at Sinai. This year she created a series of small drawings, one on each day of the Omer and posted on her blog, accompanied by the poetic commentary of Amichai Lau-Lavie. The strength of these drawings, aside from the pure skill of her draftsmanship, is that Nicholls manages to totally personalize the obsessive ritual of omer counting in a way that internalizes both the ritual and the meaning of each individual day even while making a unified work of art. This asserts a uniquely Jewish notion that from brokenness creativity arises.

The kittel is a ritual garment that cloaks us in white in the effort to convince ourselves that we can actually be “white,” as Isaiah (1:18) proclaims that; “Come, now let us reason together, says Hashem. If your sins are like scarlet they will become white as snow.” So too are the other times when we use the kittel – to bury, to marry, to pray on Yom Kippur or lead the congregation on momentous occasions. We don the costume of purity in the effort to become pure. In a similar manner Nicholls has created a series of 10 garments based on the kittel template to explore how a garment can be used to transform meaning and identity in the Jewish tradition.

The “Shame Kittel” is little more than a simple apron, stained black at the bottom edge and discolored a sickly yellow up around the neck. Buried in the yellow is an array of epithets used against the Jews by anti-Semites of all ages. What Nicholls is affirming is that an important part of Jewish identity is never forgetting what those who hate us say about us. Nonetheless a number of the other kittels are more positive, especially the “Majestic Kittel” and the “New Kittel.” The latter offers its seams stitched in gold and an embroidered label in gold with the Shehechayanuprayer, emphasizing our thankfulness to God for giving us new and beautiful things to wear.

Mourning Kittel (2012) cloth, wire by Jacqueline Nicholls
Courtesy JCC Manhattan

Perhaps the most moving kittel is the “Mourning Kittel,” as it transforms the shirt of mourning into a lurid expression of mourners’ emotions. Not surprisingly one of the sleeves is shredded from a frenzy of kriah, the mourners’ ritual tearing of garments. The collar is high and closed tight by a dense coil of metal wire around the neck, deeply expressive of the choking pain of loss. Finally in the center of the ragged garment, somewhere between the chest and stomach, the seams come together to form a hollow that sinks into the interior of the garment. It is as if this is where the pain of bereavement has burrowed into the very substance of the mourner. The symbolic power of this garment is awesome.

Fighting In The South Pacific

Friday, September 14th, 2012

My name is Eli Freundlich. I was 18 and had just graduated Torah Voddath in Williamsburg. America had entered the war a few years before. I wanted to be drafted so was happy when I received my notice. It was July 1943 – July 27, 1943 to be exact – when I was sworn into the American Army.

My parents were not happy. They would have rather me stayed in yeshiva than be in the trenches. In my day you either went to college or went to work after high school. The yeshivas, though, set up a system where you could register as a divinity student and that way get out of being drafted.

In front of a downed Japanese plane

On August 18, I reported to Camp Upton in Long Island. We received our inoculations and uniforms and then we were sent to Camp Croft boot camp in South Carolina. This is where I received my basic training. I learned things like how to fire a gun, get around at night, dig foxholes and how to march.

Our day started with reveille at 6:00 a.m. – roll call, exercises and clean up. But I would always manage somehow to hole myself up in a corner to daven before breakfast. After breakfast, we “fell out” in formation.

There was another religious soldier in my barrack. He was a German refugee named Yitzchak Goldschmidt. He didn’t carry his weapons or any muktza item on Shabbos and did his training over on Sunday, which was our day off. He also made an arrangement with the guys in the barrack. Every Friday night we had to spotlessly clean the barracks, with a toothbrush, we would joke. We called it the “floor show.” Yitzchak agreed to clean all the windows by himself throughout the week so that Friday night he could go to chapel.

At the end of the training period, he came over to me and said, “They offered me an honorable discharge because my religious practices are incompatible with the army. I don’t want to take it because it might cause a chillul Hashem. The goyim will think I used this shtick to get out of the army.”

Firefight in the night sky over the Philippines

Later he was sent overseas to Europe. The last letter I sent to him was returned – killed in action. He stepped on a booby trap set by the Germans. I believe he was an only child. Yehi zichro baruch.

The army didn’t supply kosher meals in those days so I did not eat any meat and tried to stay away from anything mixed with meat. This was difficult as everything was fried in lard. I also made it my business to daven every day and put on my tefillin. As a matter of fact, once overseas, I spent a lot of time in the jungles of the Philippines looking for a quiet, private place to daven. I finally found it at the end of the war, in Japan. I asked the Catholic chaplain there if I could use his office to pray.

“By all means.” He said.

So I covered the crosses and finally got my privacy!

After 4 months of basic training, we were sent overseas. I hoped to be assigned to Europe but was sent to Asia instead and so I resigned myself to thinking that wherever Hashem would send me, that’s where I would fight.

Why was I so bent on being in the army in the first place? It’s true that I and most Americans had no idea at that time the extent to which the Jews in Europe were being exterminated. We just knew there was a lot of anti-semitism and sporadic Jew killings. Nevertheless it was enough for me; I wanted my chance for nekama– revenge.

In the Pacific Theater

Up until then I had been regularly sending letters home. I knew as long as my mother thought I was safe in South Carolina, she wouldn’t worry about me. So I prepared a batch of letters to be sent out weekly by a fellow soldier who was staying behind so she would continue to think I was in the States. I’m not sure how long she was fooled but I know it did work for a while.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/potpourri/fighting-in-the-south-pacific/2012/09/14/

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