Learning on Tisha B’Av Afternoon
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss (“Is It Proper…? July 21), responding to a question regarding the proper comportment for Tisha B’Av afternoon, writes: “Mourning in the afternoon on Tisha B’Av is less stringent than in the morning. In the morning, one cannot study Torah except for texts dealing with the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash and the like, while in the afternoon one may learn Torah if they are not too tired.” He adds: “There are really no major halachic limitations in the afternoon except to continue fasting….”
This is inaccurate. It is true that the rules of Tisha B’Av do become slightly more relaxed after chatzos (halachic noon, around 1 p.m. in New York City). However, the emphasis is on “slightly.” One is not permitted to learn non-Tisha B’Av-related Torah subjects in the afternoon. As the Mishna Berurah (Orach Chaim 554:1, subsection 1) states: “All [these restrictions] apply the entire day.”
On the matter of Tisha B’Av, permit me to add that in the past 40 years or so, the day’s public programming has expanded exponentially. There are “explained Kinnos,” lectures about different aspects of the mourning, and widely available videos. Many do not know that the prime mover behind this expansion was Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l. He pioneered the concept of explained Kinnos, wherein rather than simply reciting all the Kinnos, select ones were chosen for explication. The Rav would begin the day with a shiur and would end Kinnos at around 5 p.m.
While I did not have the honor to be at the Rav’s Tisha B’Av program in Boston, among those who attended was Rabbi Jacob Schacter, who brought the program to his shul, Manhattan’s Jewish Center, in the early 1980s. I recall vividly how in 1985 my brother urged me to come and hear Rabbi Schacter, and how that first year and subsequent ones totally changed my perspective on Tisha B’Av.
Today, explained Kinnos are common across the spectrum of Orthodox synagogues, including more “right-wing” ones, and so the Rav is owed a massive debt of gratitude for his innovation. (I am told that Rav Yisroel Belsky, zt”l, used a similar program in the camp where he stayed for the summer.) Let us pray that this year will, finally, be our last in exile.
Far Rockaway, N.Y.
Not Guilty Until Proven Guilty
I am responding to the article “Is It Proper…?” in the July 14 edition concerning lawyers representing “guilty” defendants.
First, to introduce myself, I am an observant criminal defense attorney in Boston. In fact, my practice has a connection with The Jewish Press. About 20 years ago, I was reading an Arnold Fine column in your paper entitled “World’s Stupidest Criminals.” I started reading the second story in that article about a robbery in a pizza store and quickly realized it was my case. To this day, I do not know how Mr. Fine learned about this matter.
As to the article, I agree with Rabbi Maroof’s analysis of the situation. I respectfully disagree with the positions of the other esteemed rabbis. But at the outset, I take issue with the whole premise of the article for two reasons. First, a defense attorney should never think his client is guilty. Guilt is a legal term that would apply only when a trier of fact, jury or judge, concludes that the prosecution has proven each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Second, it is beyond mine or any human’s ability to determine if someone is “despicable.” Only Hashem has the ability to truly judge a person fully. Often a crime may be horrific but there may be circumstances in its commission that make the perpetrator less than despicable, such as self-defense or mental illness.
The job of a defense attorney is to ethically ensure that a criminal defendant receives all the protections provided by the constitution, statutory law and case law to which he is entitled. This means that the government has to be held to its responsibility to prove its case. There are many cases where there is overwhelming evidence that my client committed an offense, but, as I said, that does not equate with “guilt.” Sometimes evidence was acquired unconstitutionally and must be suppressed. Sometimes a witness either does not show up or tells a different story under oath. Sometimes there is a defense, such as self-defense. Sometimes a defendant is overcharged, such as with robbery when in fact it was only a larceny There are times when it is extremely unlikely that a defendant will prevail in a case. Then, I assist him in obtaining the best deal he can, something he could not do on his own.
I disagree with the position that I should turn down a case when I believe my client committed the crime. That is a far shot from being found guilty. But it is also shirking my responsibilities, both to the defendant and to the justice system. My ethical conduct in support of American justice should not be criticized due to my client’s conduct before I met him.
In the end, it is Hashem who will mete out each person’s appropriate judgment, regardless of what I or a court will do.
Robert E. Fox
Attorney At Law
The Jewish ‘Farmers’ of Armenia, New York
We enjoyed Saul Singer’s “Jewish Farming in America” (July 14). My family was one of many beneficiaries of Baron de Hirsch’s largesse. My paternal grandparents, Sara and Harry Rothstein, were fortunate to be chosen to participate in his land grants for persecuted Jews. They emigrated from Belarus on January 9, 1902, and were granted land near Amenia, New York about 100 miles north of New York City.
My father was born there in 1909, and I was born there in 1945. Amenia is a small farming town in the foothills of the Berkshires. Unfortunately, most of the granted land was not arable, so the farmers modified their homes into kosher boarding houses.
The forty Jewish families with the help of a $10,000 grant from de Hirsch were successful in building a synagogue. The community continued to flourish.
Although Amenia was an idyllic place for children to grow up, it wasn’t easy raising two Jewish girls (my sister and I) in such a small Jewish community. My parents worked hard to ensure that we had a strong sense of our Jewish background and connections.
Thank you, Baron de Hirsch.
Great Neck, N.Y.
A Mother’s Example
Tisha B’Av marks the yahrzeit of my mother, Rivka bas Tzvi Hersh, obm. My mother kept many Jewish laws, such as kashrut, licht-bentching, and separate dishes for meat and dairy for both every day and Pesach. She learned this from her mother, Etta. I truly feel that I would not be leading a Torah-observant life today without her example to guide me. May her neshama have an aliyah.
Coral Springs, Fla.
What’s the World Coming To?
It’s shocking to hear that kids have been shooting at each in Times Square after Governor Kathy Hochul had the city hang up signs all around Times Square that it’s a gun-free zone. This is terrible; kids can’t read these days.