Friday, September 29, 2006

I Think It Is Appropriate

that ShondaLand is the production company of "Grey's Anatomy."

Important Note For Women Who Are Shlugging Kapparot With Money Rather Than Chickens - A Correction to the Artscroll Nusach

Important Note For Women Who Are Shlugging Kapparot With Money Rather Than Chickens - A Correction to the Artscroll Nusach
Well, not really important. But just a correction to Artscroll's nusach.

Why do women say "zot chalifati" while men say "zeh chalifati?" Because the custom arose for women to take a female chicken and men to take a male chicken. Thus, zot is feminine and zeh is masculine.

When using money -- well, kesef is a masculine noun. That is why, in the middle of the nusach for women, they have zot hatarnegolet telech lemita, they put in brackets, for those using money, zeh hakesef yelech limita.

They thought to make this change for this phrase because one cannot refer to a tarnegolet when one is swinging a napkin with money around one's head (and thus they have a similar change for the men as well, for this phrase).

However, they apparently forgot that the masculine/feminine distinction applies to all of the other phrases as well, since it is always in reference to the chicken or money.

Therefore, if using money, use zeh throughout, rather than zoteven if you are a woman.

shlugging - post to follow

Egoz and Simana Milta - Why Should One Eat Egozim? part 6

One thing I did not elaborate, or even specify, in my earlier posts on the subject is that when Sperber suggests that egozim were initially eaten deliberately on Rosh haShana because of simana milta, he has basis for it.

He cites one source that says how one need not be deliberate to eat egozim and other such things on Rosh haShana. The implication is that others took care to eat these things, egozim among them.

Why? He suggests that there is quite a good connection to Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur, in Shir haShirim Rabba. I scanned the relevant midrash - it is toward the beginning. It states:

אמר חורי. מה אגוז זה אם נופל לטנופת את נוטלו ומורקו ושוטפו ומדיחו והוא יפה לאכילה כך כל מה שישראל מתלכלכים בעונות כל ימות השנה בא יום הכפורים ומכפר עליהם הדא הוא דכתיב כִּי-בַיּוֹם הַזֶּה יְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיכֶם, לְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם

In other words: On the verse 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.
This midrash states:
Another explanation: Just as an egoz (nut), if it falls into filth, one takes it, scours it, washes it, and rinses it, and it is fine for eating, so too, all that Israel gets itself filthy all the days of the year, Yom Kippur comes and atones for them. This is what it states {Vayikra 16:30}:
ל כִּי-בַיּוֹם הַזֶּה יְכַפֵּר עֲלֵיכֶם, לְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם: מִכֹּל, חַטֹּאתֵיכֶם, לִפְנֵי ה, תִּטְהָרוּ. 30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins shall ye be clean before the LORD.

Since this shows repentance for sins, such that they are excused, and Israel is compared to an egoz in this positive respect, one can see how consumption or looking at egozim could have been practice during Rosh haShana because of Simana Milta.

I would add, it is also quite possible that this connection was viewed as negative -- bringing up sins, even ones that Yom Kippur shall atone for -- on Rosh haShana. This very siman can be viewed almost as negatively as egoz being gematra of chet.

There are other midrashim about egoz, in shir haShirim Rabba and elsewhere, such as Bereishit Rabbati. Here are two scans of shir haShirim Rabba and one of Bereishit Rabbati (the latter from Rav Moshe haDarshan, most likely). There are other connections to egoz, some more positive. I hope to discuss these in a later post, where I try to cover the question: what is an egoz. In turns out that all of these statements מה אגוז which work to deduce something from a property of egoz will work in the opposite direction - to identify what exactly is meant by an egoz -- most likely, the walnut.

egoz 1

egoz 2

beresihit rabbati 1

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Gamasutra Covers "The Shiva," Jewish Text Adventure Game


The clear hit game of the evening came from completely out of left field. It wasn't from some up and coming company that's just gotten in-flux of venture capitalist funding due to it tapping into what's hot right now, nor does it utilize some cutting edge technology to break untested gameplay waters. The game in question was The Shivah, from Dave Gilbert, an unknown in the New York circles (until that evening that is). The game in questions is simply a graphic adventure, in the tradition of Monkey Island and Gabriel Knight, with the twist being that it deals heavily with the Jewish faith.

When Dave first went up front to address the audience, he asked "Are there any Jews in the audience?" which got some chuckles, and a show of some hands. Dave went over a brief explanation of the game, then a film-like trailer was shown. After the gruesome murder which ended the clip, Dave responded with "Yeah, the Jews get that". Again, more laughs.


Check out the article here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More on the Nuts, Phlegm, and Rosh haShana - part 5

ADDeRabbi has a very nice post on Galen, simana milta, and the practice of eating, or not eating nuts on Rosh haShana. Check it out.

A link to another interesting writeup was posted by Anonymous in a comment to one of the earlier posts.

Still more to come.

Egozim Causing Phlegm, Part 4 - A Possible Etymology For כיח

One reason given for the custom of some not to eat nuts on Rosh haShana is that it it increases kicha veni'a, phlegm and mucus. (It also means coughing and hawking up phlegm and mucus.)

Jastrow defines כיח as "cough, phlegm," and lists its root as כחח.

I would suggest that כיח is of imitative origin, an onomatopoetic word, based on the sound of coughing up phlegm or clearing one's throat of phlegm.

Indeed, the English word "cough" appears to be of imitative origin. From, the etymology, according to Random House Dictionary is:
[Origin: 1275–1325; ME coghen, appar. < OE *cohhian (cf. its deriv. cohhettan to cough); akin to D kuchen to cough, G keuchen to wheeze]
and American Heritage Dictionary gives:
[Middle English coughen, ultimately of imitative origin.]
The gh sound in Middle English is similar to the ch sound of khaf, כ. While Hebrew כחח or כיח has ח in place of כ, and they are not the same sound, the word might be of similar origin. That is, both may have been imitative.

Balashon, what say you?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why the New Sanhedrin Blew the Shofar On Shabbat

Apparently, the newly reconstructed Sanhedrin blew the shofar on Shabbat. Some viewed this as following Rav Shlezinger's position about blowing the shofar even on Shabbat. I don't know the specific reasons he gave, but perhaps it is the reason given here in this post, which as we will see is only relevant to a bet din.

Some might view this as "taking back Judaism" because the reasons changed for the cancelling changed, as one comment categorizedit. But really, this is simply just applying the halacha, as it is listed in the gemara, and brought down by the Rif.

Citing from the Rif, who is just citing the gemara:
{Rosh HaShana 29b}

The Yom Tov of Rosh HaShana that fell out on Shabbat -- in the Temple they blew but not in the medina {whether this includes Yerushalayim or not is up for debate among Rishonim}.
When the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai established that they should blow everywhere there was a bet din.
Rabbi Eliezer said: When Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai established this, he only established it in Yavneh.
They said to him: Both Yavneh and anyplace which has a bet din.

"In the Temple they blew, but not in the medina":
What is the reason?
Rabba said: All are obligated in blowing of shofar, but not all are experts in blowing of shofar. This is a decree lest he take it in hand and travel to an expert, and carry it four cubits in the public domain. And this is the reason for lulav, and this is the reason for megillah.

{Rosh HaShana 30a}
"Once the Temple was destroyed":
Rav Huna said: And with bet din.
What is the implication of "and with bet din?" Before bet din, to exclude not before bet din, when one should not {blow}.

It was stated also {by Amoraim}:
Rabbi Chiyya bar Gamda cited Rabbi Yossi ben Shaul who cited Rabbi: They only blow during the time when bet din is in session.
The Rif only brings things which are relevant halacha leMaaseh bezman hazeh, so it would seem that this would be the case in front of any bet din. But certainly if the new Sanhedrin consider themselves to be a Sanhedrin, they should blow.

Of course, as Rabbi Chiyya bar Gamda cited Rabbi Yossi ben Shaul who cited Rabbi, this is only when the court is in session.

Update: A discussion of why on their forums.

Egozim Increasing Phlegm - Part 3

Do nuts increase phlegm? I am no doctor, so I will have to leave any conclusive statement to those in the know. A related question is whether nuts were believed, by people in general, or by doctors, to increase phlegm "back in the day," when this custom came about.

Maharil (d. 1427) gives over this explanation, so we should look for sources from about that time. I did find a source from a bit later which connects almonds to raising up phlegm:

From this website:

This business of almonds stopping excessive secretions is not exclusively an Indian idea. If we travel to England in 1597 we find Gerard running his mouth about almonds acting to stop the over production of mucous.

"white juice, like milke, which over and besides that it nourisheth, and is good for those that are troubled with the laske and bloudie flix (bloody discharges), it is profitable for those that have the pleurisie and spit up filthie matter;for there is likewise in the almonds an opening and concocting qualitie, with a certain clensing facultie, by which medicine to the chest and lungs, or lights, and serve for the raising up of phlegm and rotten humors. It also cures old coughs."

The almond is a member of the Rose family and the entire family contains tannins, chemicals found in plants that were once used in tanning leathers. Tannins dry out animal skin and convert them into leather. They do the same thing to the linings of the human body. Almonds contain tannins in the brown peal that surrounds the seed and it is likely that these chemicals are in part responsible for the drying nature of the almond.

I'm not certain it means stopping phlegm, for this 1597 source mentions "raising up of phlegm."

From another website, about white walnuts:

Has been used to clear long standing phlegm or mucous.

From what I can make out, it may be the result of tannin in these nuts. But again, I do not know what modern medical science has to say about nuts and mucus.

Egoz With Gematria Chet Part 2

Over Yom Tov, I mentioned the issue of egoz and gematria chet to Dov, my brother-in-law, and specifically how chet is spelled without the aleph at least 8 times in Yerushalmi, and how this was common spelling. He noted a midrash that seems to work based on the assumption that chet is spelled without the aleph. I traced this midrash to its source in the Biblical commentary by Rabbui Yaakov ben Asher, son of the Rosh, who authored the Biblical commentary Baal HaTurim as well as the halachic work, the Tur Shulchan Aruch. He lived from 1268-1340, so we can trace this spelling to that time period.

The statement in question, summarized by this webpage at Ohr Sameach: The letters chet, tet, tzadi, kuf, are the only letters of the Hebrew alphabet missing from the names of the sons of Yaakov.
These four letters missing from the names of the twelve sons of Yaakov form the basis for the dialogue that the Ba’al Haturim (Bereishet 49:1) suggests took place between the Patriarch and his children as he lay on his deathbed. When he wished to reveal to them the ketz — end of days — he felt the Divine Presence depart and was unable to do so. Turning to his sons he asked if they were guilty of any sin that should have denied them this treasured knowledge. “Look at our names,” they countered, “and you will not find the letters chet and tet which spell sin.” “True,” replied Yaakov, “but your names also lack the letters kuf and tzadi which spell the word ketz – the end of days – so you are probably not deserving of that knowledge.”
The letter aleph does occur in the names of the shevatim - in Re`uven and Asher, and he is clearly working only with the letters chet and tet.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

But Egoz is NOT Gematria Chet!

Note: Several edits and updates.
There is a famous statement that one should not eat nuts {egozim} on Rosh haShana because Egoz has the same gematria at Chet. The almost as famous objection is that Egoz does NOT have the gematra of Chet, since אגוז = 17, while חטא = 18. The answer given is that in gematria, you are allowed to be off by 1. That is fine, but I would ask: why not then note that it is also 1 off from חי, that is, life, which is surely a fine sign for Rosh HaShana?

Sperber actually covers this in his series Minhagei Yisrael, and gives a detailed answer. He notes that there is another reason given - these promote coughing phlegm, and that would disturb the davening. He also notes the practice of either looking at or eating various foods whose names are propitious, under the idea that simana milta. His solution: One such food that was eaten (or looked at) by some were these egozim, and since these promoted coughing phlegm, they wished to discourage their consumption. That is the real reason not to eat it. However, it is hard to discourage people from doing these propitious acts, especially once they become minhagic. Thus, he developed a negative connotation to the nuts, and noted that their gematria was the same as Chet. This would discourage people from eating them in the same way they had previously been encouraged to eat them.

What about the one-off problem? Sperber also notes that חטא can also be spelled חט, without the aleph. This is indeed the spelling in the Yerushalmi, at least 8 times:

סדר מועד, מסכת יומא
  • דף לח, א פרק ז הלכה ג גמרא: כפרה האמורים בפנים בן הבקר מכפר על שופכי דמים אף כפרה אמורה בחוץ בן הבקר מכפר על שופכי דמים כאן בשוגג כאן במזיד שנייא היא עגלה ערופה בין שוגג בין מזיד א"ר יוסה כאן על חט ידוע וכאן על חט שאינו ידוע
סדר מועד, מסכת חגיגה
  • דף ח, ב פרק ב הלכה א גמרא: וידע כל ישראל מדן ועד באר שבע וגו' נתיירא מיום הדין אנו על אחת כמה וכמה והדין כי הנה יוצר הרים ובורא רוח וגו' אפי' דברים שאין בהן חט נכתבין לאדם על פינקסו ומי מגיד לאדם הבל היוצא
סדר נשים, מסכת נדרים
סדר נשים, מסכת סוטה

If I recall correctly, Sperber showed that, influenced by the Yerushalmi usage, this was indeed the spelling in the time and location of the origin of this gematria. {Update: Indeed, Rema in Orach Chaim 583:2, citing Maharil, spells חט this way.}

Also, I do not recall if Sperber suggested it - I don't think so - but there is another reason people would eat egozim on Rosh HaShana. It is a kiyum of simchat Yom Tov. We see in Yerushalmi how one fulfills simchat Yom Tov. For men, this is meat and wine. What about women and children?
דף סח, ב פרק י הלכה א גמרא: רבי יודה אומר נשים בראוי להן וקטנים בראוי להם נשים בראוי להן כגון מסנים וצוצלין וקטנים בראוי להן כגון אגוזין ולוזין

And indeed, if one looks through the girsaot in the parallel Bavli, it may well be part of the reason Rabbi Akiva/Rabbi Tarfon distributed egozim and kelayot on erev Pesach. If this is an element of Simchat Yom Tov, they might have been distributing them on Rosh Hashana as well, in which case people would be coughing up phlegm or clearing their throats during prayer and during tekiat shofar. Then, insert the matter of attempting to discourage the practice. It does work out better, though, if they were eating it for the purpose of simanim.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tekiat Shofar and Sisera's Mother - post 1

דף לג, ב משנה סדר תקיעות שלש של שלש שלש שיעור תקיעה כשלש תרועות שיעור תרועה כשלש יבבות תקע בראשונה ומשך בשניה כשתים אין בידו אלא אחת מי שבירך ואחר כך נתמנה לו שופר תוקע ומריע ותוקע שלש פעמים כשם ששליח צבור חייב כך כל יחיד ויחיד חייב רבן גמליאל אומר שליח צבור מוציא את הרבים ידי חובתן:

דף לג, ב גמרא והתניא שיעור תקיעה כתרועה אמר אביי תנא דידן קא חשיב תקיעה דכולהו בבי ותרועות דכולהו בבי תנא ברא קא חשיב חד בבא ותו לא: שיעור תרועה כג' יבבות: והתניא שיעור תרועה כשלשה שברים אמר אביי בהא ודאי פליגי דכתיב (במדבר כט) יום תרועה יהיה לכם ומתרגמינן יום יבבא יהא לכון וכתיב באימיה דסיסרא (שופטים ה) בעד החלון נשקפה ותיבב אם סיסרא מר סבר גנוחי גנח ומר סבר ילולי יליל


דף לד, א גמרא אתקין רבי אבהו בקסרי תקיעה שלשה שברים תרועה תקיעה מה נפשך אי ילולי יליל לעביד תקיעה תרועה ותקיעה ואי גנוחי גנח לעביד תקיעה שלשה שברים ותקיעה מספקא ליה אי גנוחי גנח אי ילולי יליל מתקיף לה רב עוירא ודלמא ילולי הוה וקא מפסיק שלשה שברים בין תרועה לתקיעה דהדר עביד תקיעה תרועה ותקיעה מתקיף לה רבינא ודלמא גנוחי הוה וקא מפסקא תרועה בין שברים לתקיעה דהדר עביד תש"ת אלא רבי אבהו מאי אתקין אי גנוחי גנח הא עבדיה אי ילולי יליל הא עבדיה מספקא ליה דלמא גנח ויליל אי הכי ליעבד נמי איפכא תקיעה תרועה שלשה שברים ותקיעה דלמא יליל וגנח סתמא דמילתא כי מתרע באיניש מילתא ברישא גנח והדר יליל

{Note: In my discussion here, I am using only a surface interpretation of this gemara, though there is plenty I could do using girsology (specifically the Rif), historical knowledge, and academic methods, which would yield a quite different reading. I will save that for a later post. This should have no major impact on the point of this post.}

Thus, it appears that the teruot were to be patterned after the cries or moans of Sisera's mother. That is, there is an apparent disagreement (and according to the gemara, indeed one) between the Mishna and the brayta on the definition of teruah - whether it is composed of teruot (=yevavot) or shevarim.

Abaye says בהא ודאי פליגי. That can be interpreted either as: while I, Abaye, harmonized the same Mishna and brayta as regards the correspondence between the lengths of tekia and teruah {ftnote: another source of great dispute and confusion, to which I may make another post to resolve}, in this second point of whether it is a shevarim or yevava, they most certainly do argue. Alternative, in the following point {בהא} is what they are certainly arguing about.

Either Abaye or the setama explain a basis for the argument, which is a dispute about what exactly Sisera's mother did. Did she sob, or did she moan?

Why are the actions of Sisera's mother relevant exactly? The answer is that there is a linguistic point to be made here. We need a definition of teruah, as either yevava {=what we call teruah} or shevarim. The Targum on the word teruah {in the phrase Yom Teruah} is yevava. Thus, whatever is a yevava in Aramaic is what we should blow. This is either going to be what the Mishna calls yevava {=what we call informally teruah}, or what the brayta calls shevarim.

To determine this, of course we do not use Mishnaic Hebrew, and thus immediately conclude that the Mishna is correct in identifying it as yevava, since the term yevava may have shifted. Rather, we look to Biblical Hebrew, and indeed, this arcane word occurs right where we would expect - in Biblical poetry, in the Song of Devorah. There, at least according to Abaye/the gemara's interpretation {and Jastrow agrees, by the way, though Rashi and the JPS translation do not -- subject for yet another post}, Sisera's mother cried or moaned as she waited for Sisera's return. Shofetim 5:28, with slight modification to the English translation:

כח בְּעַד {ר} הַחַלּוֹן נִשְׁקְפָה וַתְּיַבֵּב אֵם סִיסְרָא, בְּעַד הָאֶשְׁנָב: {ס} מַדּוּעַ, בֹּשֵׁשׁ רִכְבּוֹ {ר} לָבוֹא-- {ס} מַדּוּעַ אֶחֱרוּ, פַּעֲמֵי מַרְכְּבוֹתָיו. {ס} 28 Through the window she looked forth, and cried out, the mother of Sisera, through the lattice: 'Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots?
The assumption is that vatteyabbebh is of the same root as yevava, and they mean the same thing. Thus, whatever Sisera's mother did here is what is called yevava in Biblical Hebrew and Targumic Aramaic, and since the Targum defined teruah as this, that is the definition of teruah. Whether she sobbed or moaned will lead either to different definitions of teruah and thus different practice.

What I want to stress here is that this is purely a linguistic connection. There is not some special significance to the cries of the mother of a rasha that we are trying to match, as I've seen too many homiletic divrei Torah attempt.

The Aruch also mentions a custom to blow 100 blasts = tarat tashat tashrat each three times while seated {for a total of 30}, another during the Shemoneh Esrei on the seder of Malchuyot, Zichronot, Shofarot of the chazarat haShatz, for a total of 60. The additional 40 were thirty during the silent Shemoneh Esrei and 10 at the end. To cite a secondary source:

h) 100 - The ARUCH himself does not count just 60 Teki'os. He mentions that the custom is to blow 100 Teki'os altogether, corresponding to the 100 wails that Sisera's mother wailed for him when he did not return from the war with the Jews. (He apparently had a Midrashic source for these 100 wails.) It is from the Yevava (cry) of the mother of Sisera that we learn what a Teru'ah is (33b). The extra 40 sounds were blown as follows: 30 during the silent Shemoneh Esreh, and another 10 at the end of the Tefilah, before leaving the synagogue.
Others apparently connect it to the 101 letters in Sisera's mother's lament, but I am not sure how they reckon these 101 letters.

The Meshech Chochma has another take on the 100 blasts, which does not have to do with Sisera's mother. From the same secondary source:
The MESHECH CHOCHMAH (Parshas Tazria) cites another allegorical source for blowing one hundred blasts. The Midrash (Vayikra Raba 27:7) says that when a woman gives birth, she wails and cries out one hundred times. 99 of those cries are out of the conviction that she is going to die, and the final, 100'th cry is out of the realization that she is going to live after all. Similarly, we blow one hundred Teki'os on Rosh Hashanah. 99 are blown out of our fear of the judgment of the day, but with the one- hundredth we demonstrate our confidence that we will emerge from our judgment blessed with life.
Though I would point out that what are described there in Vayikra Rabba are pe'iyot, not yevavot. Which is good, I suppose, given that we are counting blasts, including tekiot, in the 100.

In terms of the Aruch, I would suggest that this midrash is after-the-fact-rationalization of the existing custom that developed. That is, the point of Sisera's mother was just a linguistic connection and nothing more. Further, within the gemara itself, this is a connection to yevava, but not to tekiot as well! Further, what is the basis of the midrash that she cried 100 cries? And if we say that it is the 101 letters, there are 101, not 100 -- assuming we can identify which letters are intended.

Indeed, until the Aruch it would seem that this wasn't the custom. E.g. Rabbi Yochanan, and the brayta, that if one blew 9 blasts at 9 different hours he fulfilled. Rabbi Abahu instituted tashrat, and either he or others much later {depending a bit on girsology -- another post} instituted tarat and tashat, for a total of 30. And even counting those of sitting and of standing, one would have a total of 60.

Rif, who is a bit earlier than Aruch, stated that they blow 30 while sitting, as above, plus while standing, one set {rather than three sets of tarat tashat tashrat each} during each of Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot. The reason they do not do all tarat tashat tashrat during each Malchuyot, Zichronot, and Shofarot is because of tircha detzubura, because they already fulfilled while seated, and because this is just for the purpose of doing it al haSeder. Rif writes that this was the custom in the entire world and in the two yeshivot, so it would seem that this custom of the Aruch was relatively recent.

I would suggest that they first instituted the custom by having 30 while seated, 30 for the silent Shemoneh Esrei, and 30 for the chazarat haShatz. Then, one set of each as a nice conclusion of davening. Then, this came up as a midrashic basis ex post facto, to justify existing custom.

Thus, I would still maintain that the connection to Sisera's mother is purely linguistic.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

In Case You're Wondering Where I Went...

School started at CUNY, and I've been trying to catch up with several papers which I hope to eventually publish. Some good stuff, but I'm not posting it. Hopefully will resume blogging soon. Meanwhile, I've been keeping the Rif blog updated.


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