by Joel Rich
A letter recently published in our local Federation paper. Comments?
Kaddish and meaning
July 10, 2014
Re “Local women reflect on saying Kaddish,” June 18
Your recent articles on Kaddish confirm the Jewish people’s ability to infuse a prayer with meaning. (“Local women reflect on saying Kaddish,” June 19). Kaddish itself is essentially a powerful prayer for our ultimate redemption, which most likely became associated with mourning in an attempt to give those in need of hope something to cling to. There are those who posit that this occurred as a response to the tragedy of the Crusades.
The issue of a daughter saying Kaddish is primarily a meta-halachic issue in that the specific result is bounded by the range of halachically defensible options and the general weltanschauung of the community in question.
My general sense is that in the Modern Orthodox community the practice is to support women who wish to say Kaddish. There is often an additional requirement that a man be saying Kaddish at the same time although I believe this is also for meta-halachic reasons.
There’s a lot more to be said on this issue. A few years back our congregation had a three-hour study session on the topic, sources available upon request.
I think it’s worthwhile to conclude any discussion about the saying of Kaddish with a quote from the Chayei Adam, a 19th-century decisor of Jewish law: “Though saying Kaddish and prayers are helpful to the departed, in any event, they are not of primary importance. Rather it is essential that the children proceed in the path of righteousness, for by this, they bring merit to the parents.”
While Kaddish may well have beneficial effects on the sayer, our real focus should be on the results for the departed.
In the last two paragraphs of kaddish we say aleinu v’al kol yisrael. I remember learning that once it’s said as a complete phrase and the other time with a comma after aleinu. Does anyone know the source (I thought it was mishneh brurah but was unable to locate)
Rules concerning wearing tzitzit in a graveyard (details). One should try to wear a garment which obligates them to wear tzitzit.
Specific rules concerning tzitzit and brachot, as well as tzitzit and kriat shma.
A potpourri which begins with some insight into psak methodology (e.g. rabbinic vs. Torah issue, ancillary issues vs. primary issues, consult peers):
• Friday night lights (fireworks by a Jew, can you watch them?)
• Can you sign a false affidavit?
• Allowing your music (Maccabeats) to be used in a recorded Shabbat service on Shabbat?
Kallah teachers pushing vow to give tzedaka each time a couple attempts to fulfil pru – a good practice?
Waiting for Godot The Rabbi for davening in general and Shmoneh Esrai in particular. Many sources reinforce the concern for tircha d’tzibura (communal bother) and not making the tzibbur wait (apparently unknown to some “frum” guys who in a suburban minyan where there are only 10 participants and the 1 guy is still saying Shmoneh Esrai 3 minutes after the other 9 finish). It all boils down to what’s a reasonable amount of time!
LOL when R’AL mentioned the shatz waiting for Rabbi not just to take 3 steps back but to finish yhi ratzon – I do that and hear a lot of coughing behind me! (hamevin Yavin)
Wearing a nice tallit/tzitzit is a good thing but putting a verse from Tanach on them may not be a good idea. Then on to tfillin and tallit wearing interaction rules. Ein maavirin (one shouldn’t pass over a mitzvah) is a Torah prohibition.
Having proper intent when putting on tfillin is important. Discussion of rules of brachot for tfillin and explanation of tfillin donning procedures.
Rules on touching head tfillin first when taking them from their container as well as interruption between tfillin putting on rules. One shouldn’t talk between donning head and arm tfillin even if not making a bracha.
Some technical discussion of sfek sfeika (double doubt) rules.
Discussion of basic rules of hezek riah (visual damage). There are two issues – the damages inflicted by the watcher by preventing the watchee from engaging in normal activities plus a prohibition against the watcher looking at things he shouldn’t be seeing. Then a discussion of how things have changed over time (architecture, society) and rationalization of why these rules seem not so closely followed. Then on to respect/saying Kaddish for a non-ben brit.
Discusses whether sheva brachot is a mitzvah in birchat hamazon or a totally separate mitzvah. In general, a priori, the starting time of the meal determines the meals halachic time status. Then some issues with bracha achrona (after eating) for wine in cases of doubt.
Discussion of standing for Torah reading in general and specifically for Asseret Hadibrot (and why Ten Commandments is a misnomer).
Some technical discussion of defining particular types of idol worship activities.
Bloodletting, shaving, haircuts and nail cutting – when is washing thereafter needed?
Nail biting in general is a bad habit!
When dvar segulah (supernatural?) practice is quoted as halacha, we don’t extend it past its quoted scope.
More on the relative priorities of Tallit and Tfillin. Best to put on at home or in anteroom to Shul (per Zohar). You must have them on for Shma and Shmoneh esrai.
Taking off tfillin or moving them; the original practice was to make a new bracha each time but now (similar to tallit) we have in mind from the start the possibility of taking them off or moving them and thus don’t need a new bracha. [I’d love to know what changed and why]
There is a priority to give a Talmid Chasham your business (me – must he be a practicing one?). There is a medrash to give priority to amitecha (ben brit? Religious?) Rationalizations as to why this is routinely ignored (but it shouldn’t be!).
Should one cut their bread before making the bracha so as to minimize the pause between the bracha and eating? How much should one cut? Do you do this on Shabbat? (no)
There are two types of beliefs – emunot (belief in) and deot (belief that). First in a series on the Rambam’s take on all this.
Should you wear tzitzit if you’re going to get all sweaty? Background provided concerning balancing going out of your way to subject yourself to doing a mitzvah versus doing so in extreme conditions.
Some more on the Gra and science as well as the Gra and Israel.
Why was he so vehemently opposed to Chasidism and why was his opposition buried by frum historians. Various versions of history explored, is it possible the Gra was somewhat misinformed (and somewhat human)?
We live in two worlds – physical and spiritual, an ultimate goal is to unify them. Shabbat as reflective of this dual reality.
Analysis of sources and force of the 20% limitation on charitable donations. Interesting Yerushalmi quoted on this limit originally being a halacha Moshe misinai which was lost and reinstituted by Chazal. Is the goal of avoiding impoverishing oneself prescriptive or descriptive?
Interaction with other mitzvoth (e.g. pidyon habein) also discussed.
Tfillin brachot redux – interruptions between them and the impact of Shomea K’oneh (hearing is like saying). Then physical specifics of putting them on. Interesting summary of what to do when kabbalah and halacha (me – seem to) conflict (see – I’m frum!).
Brachot rules – borrowed or stolen tfillin. Number of opinions on when it’s appropriate to take tfillin off at the end of tfila.
Goel hadam issues, when can the goel hadam act? Warning (hasraah) issues, which court (beit din) acts when (separate for determining whether there will be trial?). Very technical.
Preparation for a mitzvah is important and how we do so is telling on us as individuals and communities. Comparing Shabbat and Shviit in this regard.
Two schools of mussar – shiflut (lowliness) vs. gadlut (greatness) of man. In learning you need only gadlut (I don’t agree). 11 is an unlucky number – it’s at the edge of shleimut (completeness) as in a minyan.
You have to be there for your kids.
We need to make our kids understand that being less than perfect is OK. BTW, most kids eventually end up being their parents (based on anecdotal observation).
There are no 100% proofs in Torah learning. Some examples are where it’s not clear whether the gemara is being sarcastic. You need context and intuition. (Me – how do we put ourselves in their culture to really know?)
With our remixing of communities (e.g. ashkenaz and sfard) how do we deal with differing halachic standards? Either convince “less strict” to keep the “more strict” standard or find a heter for the more strict. Example of R’OY and bishul akum. [me – another example of halacha not being purely algorithmic]
The message of Iron Dome and being part of the Land of Israel family, not a tourist.
Please direct any informal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.