Friday, June 27, 2014

New Minhag Ashkenaz (Yekkish) minyan in Passaic

The Passaic-Clifton Ashkenaz Committee is happy to announce the formation of a new Minhag Ashkenaz (Yekkish) minyan. Our first tefilloh will IY’H be as follows:

When: This Erev Shabbos Parshas Balak (Friday July 4),

Location:  Tifereth Israel of Passaic (“The Tiff”) in the downstairs Bais HaMedrash.

Address: 180 Passaic Avenue (corner of Boulevard)

Time: Mincha at 6:45 PM

For now, we will be meeting approximately one Friday night a month.

Please note, as only one person will say kaddish at a time (as per minhag Frankfurt), if you have a chiyuv to say kaddish, please contact the organizers at

If you would like to join our mailing list to be informed of upcoming minyanim or events, please visit the following link:

Please contact the organizers for sponsorship opportunities:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Relevance of Secular Studies

"A secular education is a most beneficial help to our young in understanding the times in which they live and the conditions under which they will have to practice their life's vocation; hence it is most desirable also from the Jewish religious viewpoint and consequently deserving of warm support. But at the same time, and even more important, a good secular education can give our young people substantial new insights, added dimensions that will enrich their religious training. For this reason, too, secular education deserves the support of the religious educator.

There is no need to cite specific evidence that most of the secular studies taught at higher educational institutions, including our own, are essential to the future vocational careers of the students. There seem to be no differences of opinion in this respect. However, any supporter of education and culture should deplore the fact that when these secular studies are evaluated in terms of their usefulness to the young, too much stress is often placed on so-called practical utility and necessity. Under such circumstances, the young are in danger of losing the pure joy of acquiring knowledge for its own sake, so that they will no longer take pleasure in the moral and spiritual benefits to be obtained from study.

There is only one point we believe we must mention in support of the utilitarian view of secular education: the training of the young in skills that will earn them a respectable livelihood as adults is a sacred duty also from the Jewish religious point of view. According to Jewish tradition, a father who fails to give his child such training himself, or fails to provide for such training, is to be considered as one who teaches his child to become a dishonest adult. Thus, the general education of our youth should be conducted with religious punctiliousness even from the viewpoint of his future vocation.

But it seems to us that no thinking Jew, aware of his mission as a Jew, should deny that, quite aside from considerations of vocational and professional education, it is also essential that young Jews, particularly those of our own times, should learn about the factors that influence the life of modern nations; in other words, that they should be introduced to those branches of study that will enable them to acquire this knowledge. This would hold true even if we were not so fortunate as to be living at the dawn of an era, at the beginning of a new humaneness, signified, first of all, by a purer sense of justice, inviting also the sons of the Jewish people to join actively in all the humane, social and political endeavors of the nations. Even if our present-day contacts with -general culture were merely passive, as they were in the days of our parents, it would be of vital religious importance for us to see that our young people should be guided toward that high level of insight which would enable them to evaluate, from the vantage point of truth and justice, all the personal, social, political and religious conditions under which they would have to discharge their duties as Jews and as citizens. But now that our young people will be given an opportunity to participate in the public affairs of the land in which we live, how much more important is it that they should receive the education they will need in order that they may enthusiastically embrace all that is good and noble in the European culture of our day, within whose context they will have to perform also their own mission as Jews. Only knowledge, the ability to realize when we have erred in judging our fellow men, can guard us from prejudice. Lack of knowledge always breeds illusion and prejudice."

The Relevance of Secular Studies, R' Hirsch, Collected Writings, Vol. II, pp. 88-89

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Guest Post: Dr. Yitzchok Levine - From The Wisdom of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, ZT”L - III

From The Wisdom of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, ZT”L - III

Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Department of Mathematical Sciences
Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ 07030

The purpose of this column is to acquaint the reader with the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (RSRH).  RSRH’s writings give deep insights into the nature of Yahadus.  Today many are familiar with “bits and pieces” of Torah knowledge, but often lack an overview of Judaism.  Familiarity with the writings will aid one to gaining an authentic Torah Weltanschauung (world outlook).

Note: The Rabbi Dr. Joseph Breuer Foundation and Feldheim Publishers have graciously granted the author permission to publish any quotations below from the writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. (These are available at )

The following is from RSRH’s essay Sivan I (Collected Writings of RSRH, Volume I.)

The Uniqueness of the Torah

There is no symbol for the Torah for the same reason that there is no symbol for God: the Torah is One and Unique like God its Creator. It has nothing in common with other laws, teachings, systems and institutions. It is so unique that it can be compared only to itself, it is something sui generis; as soon as you describe it by names and terms taken from other spheres you falsify the essence of the Torah and bar the way to its real understanding.

It is most essential to utter this warning. We think of all other things as belonging to classes which contain many individuals resembling one another. This rule of thought makes it difficult to admit the existence of an absolutely unique phenomenon which has no parallel whatever in any similar sphere. But “absolutely unique phenomenon” is the only description we can apply to the Torah.

One is accustomed to call the Torah “Jewish Religion;” but what is usually called religion outside Judaism relates primarily, as we have seen, to something within man, to his conception of God: And any outward observance which is connected with this inward experience is, according to the general idea of religion, only its form, and, therefore, the unessential and indifferent part of it. Indeed, as long as the thought which inspires a religion is true, its sentiment pure and noble, any form which clearly expresses that inward character is acceptable; and this form must change with the inward religious sentiment. It is here that the danger of identifying the Torah with "religion" becomes manifest.

Having once applied the term “religion’ to Torah, one naturally concludes that in the sphere of the Torah too, man’s inward frame of mind, his thoughts, conceptions and sentiments alone are the essential things; while the outward observances are merely unimportant forms which may and should change as we ourselves do according to times and circumstances. But, in fact, the whole unique character of the Torah and every word it contains are a living protest against this whole conception.

It is simply not true that our inward frame of mind and our sentiments are the essence of the institutions of the Torah, while everything is merely external framework or mantle. What the
Torah wants to regulate is not only the thoughts and sentiments of man, but the whole of human existence-man’s sensual impulses, his needs and desires, his individual life as well as that of his family, society and state. The Torah is the unique message of God addressed to Man in his totality. The few sayings of the Torah which refer to our thoughts and sentiments exclusively would cover only one small page. Are we then to regard ninety-nine hundredths of its 613 precepts as a mere wrapping which can at need be dispensed with? Only one who has never attentively looked into the Torah could fail to realize how strictly it demands the observance of its laws relating to outward actions, and especially to the physical and sensual spheres of life which are quite outside the realm of what we usually call religion. Among the many laws belonging to this category we will mention only the dietary laws and the laws regulating sexual relationship. We may be sure, that unless our modern age makes the Torah a “sealed book” for the Jew, it will never succeed in robbing the people of God of its Torah and giving them an anemic “religion” instead.

And finally, let us take those laws of the Torah which are expressly declared to be the embodiment of a thought, and consequently a symbol (Ose) or, to use the modern expression, a “form,” e.g. Sabbath, festivals, sacrifices, etc. The character of all these laws makes it obvious that the name “religion” does not fit them at all; for in these laws what is called "form" stands forth as something essential, original and eternal.

Religion in general relates to the thoughts of man which find their expression in symbolic actions: in any system of religion, therefore, the thought is the original, important and essential element, whilst the external, symbolical expression of it is of secondary importance. But unlike “religion” the Torah is not the thought of man, but the thought of God, expressed in Divine Laws which are to be carried out by man as symbolic actions. It is by these symbolic actions ordained in the Torah that the Divine thought is first implanted in man. This symbolic action is, therefore, of primary importance; it is the most important element in the Pentateuch. The Torah is, therefore, a Divine document the authentic form of which must be kept and preserved with scrupulous accuracy, so that man should be able to study and assimilate the Divine thoughts contained in it.

This idea has important legal consequences. Any Jew who by word of mouth expresses the opinion that the world was not created by God is not liable to punishment according to the penal code of the Torah; and, conversely, if he had merely expressed his conviction of the Divine origin of the universe by words, sermons or lyrical poems, he would not have fulfilled his duty as a Jew. Both acts as the mere utterance of views would remain in the sphere of “religion,” of what the world calls “faith,” as the expression of an opinion held at a particular time. But opinions change and creeds alter. The atheist of today may become a devout hymn-singer tomorrow. And what he imagines to be an advanced study of natural science may create in the religious poet of yesterday the conviction that his religious hymns were nothing but childish fancy. The penal code of the Torah does not punish, therefore, the expression of opinions about religious matters. It is quite different with the symbolic language of God as expressed by the commandments of the Torah. He who celebrates Sabbath in the Divine symbolical language of abstention from work (issur melacha) has proclaimed the truth that God created the world; and he has thereby expressed this truth not as a human belief, but as a revelation of the Creator to man; he has preserved a monument for himself and mankind which may help his children and grandchildren to rise to the profoundest conception of God at a time when a misguided science has blocked the way to a true knowledge of God the Creator. And again, anyone who desecrates this symbolism of the celebration of the Sabbath has thereby overthrown for himself and others the Divine monument, he has torn to pieces the Divine document which is intended to immortalize the conception of God not as “religion,” not as a human credo, but as Torah, i.e., as actual revelation of God to man.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wisdom from the Gentiles: On the Matter of Love

"Love is where you find it. I think it is foolish to go looking for it, and I think it can often be poisonous."

Author Kurt Vonnegut

Useful advice for shiduchim, no? Appreciate the one God sends you and don't go on a twenty-year search.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Not Horas Sha'ah

"...but Torah Im Derech Eretz is nevertheless the one true principle conducive to "truth and peace," to healing and recovery from all ills and all religious confusion. The principle of Torah Im Derech Eretz can fulfill this function because it is not part of troubled, time-bound notions; it represents the ancient, traditional wisdom of our Sages that has stood the test everywhere and at all times. These Sages, and they alone, have always been, and still are, our chachmas b'emes."

R' Hirsch, Collected Writings VI, p. 221

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Knowledge of the Law alone is not enough

"Knowledge of the Law alone is not enough to gain Paradise in the world to come; if that Paradise is to be won and the earth is also to be transformed into a Paradise, this Law must be not only known but also observed. And there remains a very wide gap between the knowledge of the Law in theory and its observance in practice."

R' Hirsch, Collected Writings II, p. 398

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Equally Sublime

“God has divided the sexes, giving each specific tasks in the fulfillment of life. Both tasks, if fulfilled in purity are equally sublime, equally holy.” Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch: Horeb 433

"The change from singular to plural, which we have tried to reproduce in our translation of this first mention of man and woman in the story of the creation, already indicates the full equality of status, nay, the inner unity between man and woman in the conception and the destiny of "man formed in the image of God." This term embraces both sexes. Only man and woman together make up the idea of "man", and God created both of them alike without intermediary, and with the same conscious effort of will power."  Judaism Eternal, vol. II, p 51.

"I will provide for him a help meet for him" is that kind of assistance which through taking over a part of the work to be performed allows the other partner to concentrate his attention on the part which is left to him to perform, and so enables him to perform his part properly, thus securing the proper performance of the whole. This is the essence of the division of labour." Judaism Eternal, vol. II, p. 55.

"It places the woman forthwith on a footing of equality with the man, while giving to each a different sphere of activity, so that the man cannot fill the position of the woman nor the woman that of the man. Both stand and work on the same line, they play into one another's hands and by their co-operation consummate the human task. This partition of the human task is no mere matter of agreement. The woman has from the very beginning been created knegdo, in the way required for such a fruitful supplementing of the man's activity." Judaism Eternal, vol. II, p. 55.

"It is significant that it says ohelah, written with the feminine hei, as opposed to vayisak. Whereas there, where it affected the whole household, Avraham had to exert his authority, vayisak, possibly even to persuade Sarah, here in the home, his house was really Sarah’s house. For external matters the man, internal ones the woman; as leader; guiding star, to submit the whole household in every way to the Will of God, the man is in authority, in every other matter of managing and directing the home, the woman has precedence. Such is the principle of intimate happy Jewish life, the origin of which has its roots in Avraham’s tent." Rav Hirsch on Bereishis 12:8

"The mitzvah of education devolves upon the father, whom G-d has endowed with the necessary abilities. Where a father neglects the duty, no other means can compensate. All the textbooks, all the teaching aids that have been invented as surrogates for the consecration of our youth in the home, will be of no avail." Rav Hirsch, Hirsch Haggadah, Four Questions

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Law Is Key

"It was not the land that Moses had been commanded to proclaim to his people at the outset of his mission as morasha, as the inheritance they were to preserve (Ex. 6,8). The Law, to be translated into full reality upon that soil, was to be the true morasha, the one true, everlasting inheritance, the one true center around which the nation and its leaders were to gather as one united community. Herein lay the goal and the destiny, the character and the significance of the people."

R' Hirsch, "The Kehillah", Collected Writings VI, p. 62

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

German Orthodoxy

Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz (Institute for German Jewish Heritage)
Minhag Forum
Brief History of Minhag Ashkenaz
Collage of German Rabbanim
Nusach Audio
Tefiloh Sefas Yisroel
Video of R' Shlomo Benyamin Hamburger on the Development of Ashkenaz

Sites Not Connected to Orthodox Judaism:
German Jewish History
German Jewish History in Modern Times
Worms, Rhineland, Germany - Old Images

Whatever Happened to German America?



The Institute for German Jewish Heritage has published a number of important volumes on German Minhagim. They would like to publish more but need some funding. If you would like to contribute, click here

Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz

Vol. 1 (5755), 481 pages

"Foremost in the effort of Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz during the last thirty years to research, archive, preserve and disseminate the over-one-thousand-year-old, magnificent heritage of Ashkenaz has been the publication of this monumental series, which researches the evolution of German-Jewish customs and traditions, their development, origins and views surrounding them, in a detailed and clear format.

These books have become an invaluable asset for anyone with an interest in Jewish customs in general and German-Jewish customs in particular. The series is intended to expand to tens of volumes, and currently includes a wide range of topics such as minhagim of tefillah and shul, Shabbos and Yom Tov, marriage customs, yoledes and bris milah, as well as a variety of other minhagim."


An Elzas Sargenes can be obtained at France, in the following address:
Manufacture de Ridaux
6 rue du Noyer
67000 Strasbourg
Fax: 03-88-45-07-51

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rabbi Akiva Eger

"Rabbi Akiva Eger (also spelled as Akiva Eiger), or Akiva Güns, Yiddish: עקיבא אייגער, (Eisenstadt, 1761 – Poznań, 1837) was an outstanding Talmudic scholar, influential halakhic decisor and foremost leader of European Jewry during the early 19th century. He was also a mohel.

Eger was born in Eisenstadt - the most important town of the Seven Jewish Communities of Burgenland, Hungary, (now Austria). He was a child prodigy and was educated first at the Mattersdorf yeshiva and later by his uncle, Rabbi Wolf Eger, (1756-1795) (b. 5516, d. 6 Tishrei 5556), at the Breslau (Wrocław) yeshiva, who later became rabbi of Tziltz and Leipnik. Out of respect for his uncle he changed his surname to Eger. He therefore shared the full name Akiva Eger with his maternal grandfather, the first Rabbi Akiva Eger (1722-1758) (b. 5482, d. 15 Elul 5518), the author of Mishnas De'Rebbi Akiva who was rabbi of Zülz, Silesia from 1749 and Pressburg from 1756."




Thursday, June 5, 2014

Shmuel ben Kalonymus

"Samuel ben Kalonymus he-Hasid of Speyer (Hebrew: שמואל החסיד‎) was a Tosafist, liturgical poet, and philosopher of the 12th century, surnamed also "the Prophet" (Solomon Luria, Responsa, No. 29). He seems to have lived in Spain and in France. He is quoted in the tosafot to Yebamot (6lb) and Soṭah (12a), as well as by Samuel b. Meïr (RaSHBaM) in his commentary on Arbe Pesaḥim (Pes. 109a).

"Samuel was the author of a commentary on the treatise Tamid, mentioned by Abraham b. David in his commentary thereon, and of a liturgical poem, entitled Shir ha-Yiḥud, divided into seven parts corresponding to the seven days of the week. This poem is a philosophical hymn on the unity of God, for which Ibn Gabirol's Keter Malkut served as the basis. Like the latter, Samuel he-Ḥasid treats of the divine nature from the negative side, that is to say, from the point of view that God is not like man. The Hebrew, if not very poetical, is pure; but foreign words are used for the philosophical terms. The recitation of the poem was forbidden by Solomon Luria; but other rabbis, among whom was Samuel Judah Katzenellenbogen, who wrote a commentary on it, decided to the contrary. On the different opinions concerning the authorship of the Shir ha-Yiḥud see L. Dukes in Orient, Lit. vii., cols. 483, 484. -------------------- Piyutim - Lyricist Samuel ben Kalonymus he-Hasid of Speyer, also known as Shmuel HaChassid."

from Genie, Managed by: Mordechai Isaac Rosenfeld


Photos of R' Joseph Breuer

Somebody in the Breuer family posted online dozens of photos of R' Breuer. You really can see here the class and charisma of the man, if I may use those terms. Tzidkus is probably a better term.

Slide Presentation

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

R' Yehoshua Neuwirth

Born February 15, 1927
Died June 10, 2013 (aged 86)

"Yehoshua Yeshaya Neuwirth (Hebrew: יהושע ישעיה נויברט‎) (15 February 1927 - 10 June 2013) was an eminent Orthodox Jewish rabbi and posek (halakhic authority) in Jerusalem, Israel. He was one of the primary and most renowned students of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and the author of a two-volume Hebrew language treatise, Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchatah — translated into English as Shemirath Shabbath: A practical guide to the observance of Shabbath — a compendium of the laws of Shabbat which is viewed by many as an authoritative work regarding these laws. He was also the rosh yeshiva of the Pnei Shmuel yeshiva ketana and Chochmas Shlomo yeshiva gedola in Jerusalem. He also established the "Neuwirth Gemach". He lived in the Bayit Vegan neighborhood of Jerusalem."  continue


Monday, June 2, 2014

The Beis HaKenneses in Washington Heights

"We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us."

Winston Churchill, House of Commons (meeting in the House of Lords), 28 October 1943, the Churchill Center

I love the beis hakenesses of KAJ in Washington Heights. It's such a dignified, sensible, and attractive building. It really is outstanding and it sets the right disposition for tefilla. Here are some photos. Click on photos to expand.

Photo:, used with permission

Dressed up for Shavuous:

Photo:, used with permission

Photo:, used with permission

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The sublimity of God’s Torah

“The deeper one penetrates, the higher he will set his aims; the more one investigates the humbler he will become, and the more reverently he will bow before the sublimity of God’s Torah.”

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Hirsch Haggadah (New York: Feldheim, 1988), p. 76.