mail-jewish Vol.66 #67 Digest

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Dec 14, 2023, 5:00:51 AM12/14/23
Mail.Jewish Mailing List
Volume 66 Number 67
Produced: Thu, 14 Dec 23 05:00:49 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Birchat Kohanim
[Menashe Elyashiv]
Haftarat Mikeitz
[Martin Stern]
Milchemet mitzvah
[Joel Rich]
Saying Tehillim verse by verse
[Martin Stern]
Tzedakah collectors
[Martin Stern]


From: Menashe Elyashiv <>
Date: Tue, Dec 12,2023 at 02:17 AM
Subject: Birchat Kohanim

David Tzohar wrote (MJ 66#66):

> ...
> BTW does anyone know why there are some communities in the Haifa area whose
> custom is not to do birkat kohanim every day.

The Ashkenazim in north Israel, have Birkat Kohanim (B"K) only in Musaf. Why? No
good reason. R. Auerbach of Tiberias is very strict about this, so visiting
Kohanim pray with Sefaradim. When R. Elyashiv was asked if Jerusalem Kohanim say
B"K in R. Shimon's cave at Meron, he answered that he cannot understand what a
Kohen is doing there in the first place. R. Kook, when vacationing in Haifa, did
B"K against the minhag. R. Shaar Yashuv, a Kohen himself, relied on that, and
instituted B"K in his Beit Keneset in Ahuza. When some Hazon Ish students moved
Zichron Yaakov, they held that the north starts after Zichron Yaakov. The
Breslev in Safed changed the minhag, and do daily B"K. The new Zanz shtibal in
Tiberias also does daily B"K.

BTW, B"K in the daily prayers is very important for Kabbalistic reasons but I
don't understand them.


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Wed, Dec 13,2023 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Haftarat Mikeitz

This year is unusual in that we read the haftarah of Mikeitz, which is usually
Shabbat Chanukah. It relates the dream (vision) of Shlomo Hamelekh in which two
women come to him for the judgement of a dispute. Both gave birth to boys at the
same time and were sleeping in the same room. Some days later, one of the babies
died in the night and both claimed that it was the other's child who died.
Shlomo Hamelekh ruled that both children should be chopped in half and each
woman should get half of each. Of course, it was not his intention that this
should really be done - rather it was to determine the true mother as the one
whose maternal instincts would rather see her child given to the other than be

I heard this explaned once that these two women were a mother-in-law and her
daughter-in-law and the latter's husband (the former's son) had also died after
the births of the two boys. If it were her boy who died, she would fall for
yibbum to her newborn brother-in-law, essentially an agunah for 13 years,
whereas if it were the other boy who had died she would be free of any ties.
This was meant to illustrate the depth of ill-feeling generally supposedly felt
by a mother-in-law for her daughter-in-law.

Is anyone else aware of this explanation and, if so, can they provide its source.

Martin Stern


From: Joel Rich <>
Date: Tue, Dec 12,2023 at 11:17 PM
Subject: Milchemet mitzvah

Is the duty to join in a milchemet mitzva limited to those dwelling in Eretz

Bsorot tovot

Joel Rich


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Tue, Dec 12,2023 at 05:17 AM
Subject: Saying Tehillim verse by verse

David Olivestone wrote (MJ 66#66):

> .... Personally, I think the alternate verse practice encourages more
> kavannah (paying attention), as you have to stay more alert and follow along
> more closely. Also, saying the next verse after the chazan says his, instead
> of just repeating it, gives you a participatory role in what is happening.

Another advantage is that it ensures that the chazan waits a bit longer
before going on to the next verse, since he has to hear the congregation say
its verse in order to be yotsei [exempt] through shomeia' ke'oneh [listening (with
intent) which is considered as if one were saying the words oneself]. If they only
repeat what he had said previously, he tends to start just that bit earlier
which pressures the congregation and prevents them from concentrating on why
they are saying tehillim.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Thu, Dec 7,2023 at 04:17 PM
Subject: Tzedakah collectors

Joel Rich wrote (MJ 66#66):

> What is the best practice if you've started the amida and a tzedakah collector
> comes in front of you to collect?

He should be completely ignored unless it is a clear case of pikuach nefesh,
i.e. he is about to drop dead from starvation. I have yet to see such a case -
they are usually collecting for an institution or on behalf of someone else in
an unfortunate situation rather than themselves personally. They can safely wait
until one finishes - a few minutes will not be fatal, merely slightly
inconvenient for the collector. If someone is really in a situation of genuine
pikuach nefesh, a monetary donation will probably not be of much use but,
rather, they need some food immediately. My neighbour in shul keeps a stock of
granola bars which he gives such collectors. They tend to be a bit nonplussed
when he gives one to them - but that just proves that they are only interested
in collecting money, possibly to fund their tobacco addiction (evident from the
smell surrounding them).

In any case, it is forbidden to pass within 4 amot (approximately 6 feet) in
front of someone who is davenning shemoneh esrei, let alone to speak to them.
This was brought recently in the Chukei Chaim sheets distributed weekly in shuls
(Passing in Front of Someone Davening - sheets 311/312). Ideally, someone
davenning shemoneh esrei should be so immersed in his conversation with HKBH
that he or she would be unaware of anything else happening around him or her.
Personally, I say the quiet (regular weekday) shemoneh esrei from memory with my
eyes shut, which I find more effective in keeping out extraneous thoughts than
davening from a siddur, so I do not see any collectors though sometimes I am
made aware by the disgusting stench of stale tobacco smoke.

However some collectors can be "overzealous" and are prepared to make themselves
noticed by even the most devout. Many years ago, I was sitting with my hand over
my eyes to say the first verse of the shema when such a person shouted in
my ear "Hachnossas Kallah" which gave me such a shock that I lost track of what
I was saying, and I had to start again. I would have thought my posture would
have made it obvious where I was in davening but apparently not.

After that I produced a card which I put on display after saying yishtabach at
the end of pesukei dezimra and remove it after the kaddish after shemoneh esrei.
If anyone comes collecting while it is out, and insists on speaking to me, I
simply point to it without entering into any conversation.

On it is written:

Unfortunately I cannot attend to you at present
so, unless it is a case of pikuach nefesh mamash,
please come back after chazarat hashatz and the
kaddish after it.

Most collectors have taken the 'hint' though very few have actually returned to
collect a donation!

There is a general principle of "zeman tefillah lechud uzeman tzedakah lechud
[prayer and charity each have their own appropriate times]!"

Martin Stern


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