- Once again, the new Sanhedrin in Israel is going to blow the shofar on Shabbos Rosh Hashanah. I discussed it the last time they did it, in 2006.
- At Wired, people are more willing to give false eyewitness testimony (that they witnesses a misdeed firsthard) when shown manufactured video evidence.
- Chaptzem on a female mohel. Indeed, Rif maintains based on the gemara that women are authorized to perform bris milah, but only should do so if there is no qualified man to do it.
- Rationalist Judaism distinguishes between different types of rationalists, and argues that modern Jewish rationalists are supposed to step out of the particular medieval positions of the Rambam.
- At news.com.au, confirming a giant, man-killing eagle thought to be legendary. It would be capable of swooping down and lifting up a child. This is different from other types of legendary creatures, such as mermaids, because this type of bird can logically exist within our understanding of zoology.
- At Vos Iz Neias, the halachics of kneeling on a stone floor.
- A call to restore a prayer for the government, at Cross-Currents:
So what happened? If the Prayer for the Government is such an old institution and has been recited by Gedolim for centuries, how is it that it has fallen out of style? Why isn’t there a Prayer for the Government in so many standard siddurim printed in the 20th century? Why do so many fine, deeply committed shuls and yeshivos omit the prayer?And Emes veEmunah weighs in, in favor, as well.
So here is my challenge and my call to action: If you daven in a shul where the Tefilla LiShlom HaMedina – the Prayer for the Welfare of the Government is not recited, respectfully approach your rabbi. Ask him: What is the basis for our not reciting it, if the Avudraham, the Magen Avraham, Rav Yisrael Salanter, et al, all did? If you don’t get an answer that definitively rules out its recital, suggest that it be instituted as one way for the Orthodox world to regain its moral footing in this country. If your child attends a yeshiva where there is no American flag on display or where the Pledge of Allegiance is not recited, approach the school leadership and ask the same question.
While philosophically I am all in favor of it, pragmatically, shul is too long as it is. (Though some shuls I daven in in fact say it.) In terms of why people don't say it, I wonder why people did say it in the past. We are talking about praying for the Czar, for goodness sake! Was the Czar always a friend of the Jews? As the famous prayer from Fiddler on the Roof goes, "May God bless and keep the Czar... far away from us!"
While there is certainly an idea of gratitude, without any specific knowledge of the basis of this prayer, I would guess that a large part of it was to maintain good relations with an often-oppressive government, and to communicate to them that we are loyal citizens of their country, and that our religion is not anti-government.
If this is the case, then it is a mark of the wonderful nature of the USA that people don't feel compelled to make say such a prayer in shul. And don't forget that Barack Obama was a patriot even though he did not wear the flag pin on his lapel. In a sense, we can celebrate the wonderful nature of the United States by not feeling compelled to say such a tefillah.
Of course, then we should turn around and as a result of our gratitude and our recognition of what a wonderful country this is, founded on wonderful principles and which treats its religious and other minorities with respect, we should in fact pray for the welfare of this country. And I don't know how many people feel this gratitude, but we should work to develop it if not present.
But I don't know that the established practice of prayer for the government is sufficient precedent. There is a difference of acting because of quasi-pikuach nefesh on the one hand, and saying it because you really mean it, on the other hand. You can tell me that all the people in the past praying for oppressive governments all meant it, but I have my doubts.
- At Frum Satire, a serious account of the repercussions of hair covering, for one woman.
- Eruv Online has cute Rosh Hashana well-wishes.
- As related by Rafi G., according to a story, now pulled for alleged falsehood, Rav Elyashiv said that tzedaka organizations (think Kupat HaIr and the like) were permitted to stretch yeshuos stories past the absolute truth in order to encourage the community to donate.
Whether or not he said it, making such public has the effect of undermining any yeshua story, since the public will simply think that it is an exaggeration.
It seems plausible that he did not say it, since I have seen quotes of Rav Elyashiv taken out of context and exaggerated; and I have seen on video how people ambush Rav Elyashiv, say their own opinion, and try to get him to agree politely, which they can then take as his endorsing of such.
It might be plausible that he did say it, even though at the moment I don't have a halachic justification for it. I see how various gedolim endorse the dubious (from my perspective) practices of such Tzedaka organizations by promising miracles to vulnerable suffering people in exchange for money. So this is not such a far stretch.
Regardless, I think the ideal should be to be true and authentic, in order to live an authentic Judaism.
Update: See the story in full at Vos Iz Neias, together with an image of the original article.
- Here at parshablog, the Rav on Arami Oved Avi as darshened in the Haggadah.