Monday, November 30, 2015

Tiferes Tzvi - Vayishlach

A Student Torah Publication of YRSRH
Founded in 1984

יעקב became very frightened, and it distressed him. So he divided the people with him, and the flocks, cattle, and camels into two camps. (32, 8)

"ויצר לו stems from יצר, not from צרר or , צור the usual verbs for denoting trouble or distress. יצר means: to form. Every act of formation entails compression of material into a form dictated by an aim. These concepts are so interrelated that we also find צור in the sense of “forming”: . ויצר אתו בחרט Thus also the noun .צורה Perhaps there is a distinction between צור and יצר in their denotation of “distress”. צר is external limitation of one’s sphere, with the result that one cannot move freely. This limitation does not affect one’s inner life. The opposite of צר is .מרחב ,יצר however, is such a total narrowing of circumstances that one feels powerless to resist, like mere material in the hand of one who forms it. 

That is how יעקב felt when he faced עשו, and that is a condition in which we, too, have found ourselves for centuries, facing the nations of .עשו It is the condition that, in the תוכחה, is called “חמת קרי”, “the fury of chance.” In this condition our welfare, our lives, and our happiness are not the guiding and determining factor; rather, they are dependent on the graces and aims of others, and we must suffice ourselves with the crumbs that
happen to fall from the tables of happiness of other nations. 

Accordingly, ויצר לו means: יעקב felt that he was entirely at the mercy of עשו, who was coming toward him at the head of an armed force. Hence, he divided the people with him into two camps, so that at least a remnant would escape."

posted with permission 
full publication: Tiferes Tzvi - Vayishlach

Friday, November 27, 2015

Tiferes Tzvi Vayishlach

Tiferes Tzvi
A Student Torah Publication of YRSRH
Founded in 1984

Tiferes Tzvi

posted with permission

יעקב sent messengers ahead of him to his brother עשו , to the land of שעיר , the field of אדום .
(22, 4)

"We have already seen why יעקב left his father’s house empty-handed and penniless. Now, upon his return as a man of means – and especially considering that עשו no longer lives at home – it is important that יעקב send messengers to inform עשו of his wealth and explain to him how he acquired it.

"In three words he reveals to עשו all the bitterness and adversity of his past. Being a stranger, without rights, is a difficult trial anywhere. Staying with לבן is likewise a difficult trial under any circumstances. But עם לבן גרתי – to stay as a stranger with לבן – is truly a bitter fate.

"ואחר עד עתה , and not because I was so comfortable there; rather, I was forced to stay there until now. I would have gladly returned earlier. But, until six years ago, I had only wives and children, but not a penny of my own. On this difficult, little to be envied course, through twenty years of hardship, I came to have all that I now possess. I consider it right to inform you of all of this, so that the long period of suffering may atone for the past, and so that my present wealth may be an intercessor for me with you. (R' Hirsch)"

Monday, November 23, 2015

Linked Article: Swaying During Prayer and Torah Study by Daniel Adler

Swaying During Prayer and Torah Study

"It is a well established custom to sway (shukel) during prayer (teffilah) and Torah study.  The following questions will be addressed on this topic:
§     Is shukeling only for teffilah or is it also for learning Torah?
§     What are the reasons to shukel?
§     What are the reasons not to shukel?
§     Assuming one is permitted to shukel, what type of shukeling is allowed?
§     What is the practical Halacha? [1]
Is shukeling only for teffilah or is it also for Torah learning? 
The consensus of the majority of opinions is that one may (or perhaps should) shukel during Torah learning and all parts of prayer (with the possible exception being that of Shemoneh Esrei).  Concerning Torah learning, the commentators say the following:
Ba’al ha-turim, Ex. 20:15, on the verse, “the people saw and trembled” comments, “Therefore we sway during Torah learning (limud ha-Torah), since the Torah was given with fear, terror, and shaking (b-aimah, reses, and zeiah).”

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Only at KAJ

The latest KAJ newsletter contains a devar Torah, a respectable list of chesed activities including those at the senior center, a list of community simchas, a report of the latest father-son learning, including a photo of men in black hats and white shirts, a report on some learning opportunities for women, and a sign-up sheet for a violin concert at the New York Philharmonic. The latter of course includes a bus ride to the concert, which, as a rehearsal, is only $20.

This combination of wonderfulness is only available at KAJ in Washington Heights. Torah Im Derech Eretz and the Frankfurt Kehilla spirit is alive and well.



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Moving Story About Yekke Family

Chaim Walder's People Speak #3, chapter 15 has a moving story about a yekke family in Haifa at the Ahavas Torah, that lost a son in the war in Lebanon. The daughter in law remarried a man named Sachs that encouraged his step son to learn about his father, put a picture of the father by the son's bed, and even took him to the cemetery to say kaddish.

I don't have the time to scan or ocr but just want to let you know about it. It's a great example of yekke derech eretz.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Linked Article: Pinchas Frankel, "And Moshe Assembled"

Parshiyot VaYakhel/Pekudei/ HaChodesh - 5761 


"Va-Yakhel Moshe…,"  "And Moshe Assembled" 

"Parshat VaYakhel begins, "VaYakhel Moshe …," "And Moshe assembled all the congregation of the Children of Israel, and said unto them, 'These are the words that the L-rd has commanded:…" (Shemot 35:1)  The choice of word by the Torah, "VaYakhel…"  is, as always, precise.  It suggests that Moshe gathered the People into a "kehilla," a "community," before he introduced them to the Laws of Shabbat, which help define the community of Israel.         
"I'd like to discuss the meaning of the word "Kehilla" as understood and implemented by three "gedolim," giants of Israel, Rabbi Shimshon Rephoel Hirsch, who molded the Jews of Frankfurt-am-Mein into a "Kehilla," his son-in-law and successor, Rabbi Shlomo Breuer and his son and successor, Rabbi Yoseph Breuer,  who in Washington Heights continued their legacy on the shores of the Hudson."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Guest Post: Daniel Adler: Yom Kippur at KAJ

I had the good fortune to daven at K’hal Adath Jeshurun (KAJ – ‘Breuer’s’) this past Yom Kippur (2013); since that time I have debated if I should put my experience in writing. An article in a local publication convinced me that sharing this experience may be worthwhile. Although when it comes to minhagim I personally follow Rav Binyomin Shlomo Hamburger of Machon Moreshes Ashkenaz (MMA-, the differences between KAJ and MMA are minimal and generally nothing to be uptight over. 

Being of German-Jewish descent and involved with MMA, I have wanted to attend KAJ for Yom Kippur for many years and when the opportunity arose I was about as excited for Yom Kippur as one can be. 

As in a typical schul, the paroches, shulchan and sifrei Torah were covered in white. In addition to these characteristic features, the inside of the aron was also covered in white, as was the platform (duchan) in front of the aron and the steps leading up to the platform. Every shtender was covered with a white cloth that says l’shana Tovah. This sets the tone for a very royal configuration.

Supplementing this, most congregants (men, women and children) were dressed in white. For men, this minimally includes a white yarmulke (or kaepchen – a type of yarmulke that is larger than a contemporary yarmulke but smaller than the old Rabbinic yarmulkes) and tie. In addition, married men also wear a kittel (or sargenes – a type of kittel which is closed all around and is pulled over the head in the same manner as one would put on a T-Shirt) and a white-on-white tallis. Single men and boys wear their regular black striped tallis. Although the general rule in KAJ is that only the Rabbanim cover their heads with their talleisim, on Yomim Noraim this rule is relaxed. Some individuals cover their heads at various times while others do not. Hats are not worn in schul during these days. 

Since KAJ follows the old Ashkenaz messorah, teffilas Zakkah, a prayer instituted by the “Chayei Adam” (Rabbi Avraham Danzig, 1748–1820) is not officially recited (although one can certainly come earlier and say it). The prayers of Shema Koleinu (until Amareinu Ha’azinu) and Unesaneh Tokef are similarly not recited. The piyut (liturgical poem) Unesaneh Tokef was instituted for Rosh Hashanah and was never accepted among German Jewry for Yom Kippur.

Before Kol Nidrei, the congregation did not don their tallaisim until the Rav and Chazzan recited the blessing on their tallaisim aloud; the congregation followed suit quietly. A similar procedure was followed before Baruch Sheomar in the morning. 

The piyutim are generally recited according to the intention of the paytan and not according to the manner they are written in many machzorim. Portions set aside for the chazzan are recited aloud exclusively by him; those portions set aside for the congregation to respond with are said aloud exclusively by them. Many of the piyutim have their own melodies which sets the tone for the chazzan and tzibur for that particular piece. 

Most melodies used in KAJ are, of course, of Western European origin, although many of the melodies are extremely old. It is possible that some are derivatives from the time of the second temple. In general, the tunes of German Jewry were composed to the words of a piyut as opposed to using a random popular song. At times, the congregation would sing along with the chazzan, although this was not the rule. In other schuls, when the shliach tzibbur reaches the end of a piyut or various parts of Shemone Esrei, the tzibur will briefly sing to fill in the pause. This does not exist in KAJ. Of course many of the tunes were foreign to me, as can be expected. Many of the kaddaishim have their own special tunes. The chazzanus at KAJ is generally not operatic as some might imagine; these are skilled ba’alei teffilah who adhere faithfully to the messorah during davening and keep the teffilah moving along. 

Just about every piyut in the Machzor was recited, which of course takes time. Additionally, select selichos were recited at every teffilah, including Shacharis, Mussaf and Mincha. The selichos to be recited are chosen in advance; seven selichos are recited during each of these three teffilos. It is astounding that so few Ashkenazic congregations recite selichos as is done in KAJ (and elsewhere) which until about 200 years ago was fairly standard in Europe and still is among non-Ashkenazim. The theme of Yom Kippur is selicha and kapparah and is the day when the 13 Middos were first proclaimed – it is a shame to go through the day only reciting selichos during Maariv and Neilah. Due to this grueling schedule, from the time Shacharis begins on Yom Tov morning through Maariv on Motzaei Yom Tov, there is no break. I thought I would have a lot of trouble adjusting to a schul with no downtime, and I therefore made sure to take my own breaks during the day. This, and the fact that the Kehilla adheres to the printed schedule, allowed me to focus on the teffilah. 

The Kohanim went to the duchan three times; Shacharis, Mussaf and Neilah. Each time they sang a different tune relating to a different part of teffilah. The songs used by the Kohanim were different than anything I have ever heard and the tunes were obviously complicated. The singing was extensive even though Yom Kippur was on Shabbos. The tunes and effect of the birchas kohanim was particularly majestic and beautiful. 

Unlike other schuls, the Kohanim do not leave schul to wash their hands. Two carts are situated toward the front of the schul, each equipped with a silver pitcher and basin. The Kohanim line up to have their hands washed. 

The Shacharis laining was read with the Yomim Noraim tune which is almost identical to the one that is used in most Ashkenaz schuls. This is in contrast to Maftir which was chanted according to the ancient standard trop as practiced by German Jewry. 

The Torah, which during the year is wrapped in one wimpel, is wrapped with two wimpels on all Yomim Tovim. (A wimpel is a cloth used at a baby’s bris which is later decorated and wrapped around the Torah instead of the modern gartel. It is then donated to the schul. Chazal refer to the wimpel as a mitpachas. The mantel, a later innovation, is placed over the wimple. or is pronounced [vimpel] in IPA /vɪmpəl/). The first wimpel was wrapped facing outward so one looking can see some of the words written on it. The second wimpel does not have any words on it. In KAJ, the wimpels are wrapped from the top down rather than the more common custom of wrapping the wimpel from the bottom of the Torah to the top. 

During Mussaf, kor’im was done in a different manner than I was used to. The tzibbur recited the paragraph of V’hakohanim v’ha’am to themselves and everybody bowed upon reaching the appropriate words. The Chazzan then sang the entire paragraph after the congregation had completed their recitation. Before he began, two individuals approached the amud and pushed it away. These individuals then rolled out a white carpet in front of the Chazzan. The Chazzan (E. Lasdun) did not bow like many are used to seeing but rather, to the obvious delight of many, he performed a variation of pishut raglayim, while keeping his hands at his sides. During this time, he continued to sing, which is no doubt a difficult feat. This author does not know why full pishut yadayim v’raglayim is not performed. At the end of each teffilah, the congregation called out, unanimously and in a loud voice, “Yasher Koach!” 

At the end of Nelilah, the shaimos were recited differently than most congregations. The Rav recited HaShem hu haElokim, followed by the congregation. The Rav recited it the first time, followed by the congregation. This responsive recitation continued until the Rav and tzibur each recited the phrase seven times. Shema Yisroel was recited out loud one time by the Rav, followed by the congregation, and baruch shaim was said quietly. This was immediately followed by shofar (one tekiah) and v’hu rachum for Maariv. 

The choir in KAJ does not participate in the actual teffilah – ever, with the exception of Hallel. On Yom Kippur, the choir only sings after Maariv (Yigdal and Adon olam), and when the Torah is taken out and put away at Shacharis and Mincha. The choir adds to the majestic atmosphere of the davening and probably did not extend the service by more than a couple of minutes. 

Even though it was Yom Kippur, people were friendly and welcoming. 

Overall, the entire experience at KAJ had a different feel to it than your standard schul or yeshiva. In yeshiva, for example, the davening clearly centers around the idea of viduy. In KAJ, to this author at least, the davening reflected a certain kingliness, malchus, that is imbued with the ancient messorah of Ashkenaz. This was an experience that I hope to be able to participate in again.

The author would like to thank Rabbi Yisroel Strauss for reviewing and commenting on this article. 

Daniel Adler is the author of an ongoing lecture series on Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch’s, “The Nineteen Letters,” on OU Torah ( The author can be reached at

Monday, November 16, 2015

They were baalei seder.

But before Moshe, the Am Yisroel were so good that even Bilaam, al corchei had to praise them. Now it states, Vayisa Bilaam es einav. Bilaam lifted up his eyes. Now he wasn't looking for good things in the Am Yisroel. You have to know that. If  Bilaam could have found faults, he would have pounced on it like a fly pounces on a speck on the rotten apple. He was looking for faults. Vayar es Yisroel shochain l'shvatim. He saw Yisroel dwelling according to their shevatim. Now this I'll say in passing although it's not our subject. He saw that they were orderly. That they didn't mix. Everything was done with a seder. Now that's off the subject.  Someday I'll talk about the importance of the orderliness of the ancient Jewish people. The ancient Jewish people were punctual in time. It's a mistake when you say Jewish time. It's a big lashon hara. There's a zman krias Shema and that's the time. You got to be punctual. No fooling around with that time. And other things in Halacha. Oh no, Jewish time is the most punctual, precise time. They were baalei seder.

Rabbi Avidor Miller, True Modesty, tape 412, 42:27.

KAJ in Washington Heights

Sunday, November 15, 2015

More from Quora,com: What Should I Not Do In Germany

"A few things come to mind that I have heard or experienced over the years (others can correct me if these are inaccurate):

Around a woman who is pregnant, do not mention the pregnancy or congratulate her on her pregnancy.  I am told (by a German) that unlike in American culture, Germans do not make a big deal of pregnancy itself, such as by having baby showers, etc., as we do in the States.  If I heard her correctly, it is almost considered rude to draw attention to the pregnancy or to give baby-related gifts or cards before the birth.  Others can correct me if I am wrong but I am just reporting what a German told me.

Also, I am told that Germans consider it rude -- quite unlike in the States -- for one to have one's free hand (i.e. the hand not holding the fork) underneath the table as one eats.  Germans keep both hands visible and above the table as they eat, is what I have been told.  Again, others can correct me if this is wrong.

Another point:  Often, in the States (or at least in the South), when we say "hey, how ya doing?", it is meant as no more than a hello.  We don't need or expect a full answer or even a short one.  But ask a German this question, and expect an answer.  This is most true perhaps when using their native greeting "Wie geht's?"  (literally, "how goes it?")  Germans will tell you how it is going.  They will look at you perplexed if you quickly walk by them saying "Wie geht's?" and walk off before hearing their reply (perhaps congratulating yourself for having given that German a nice hello).  In short, if you mean simply, "hello," then just say, "hello" or, in German, "Hallo.""  (Paul Le, Founder, and


I can't explain it but I completely relate to all of these. As I say often, America is largely a Germanic country and maybe it influenced me. And maybe you too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gerrer Rebbe

"Most interesting is the response of R. Avrohom Mordechai Alter, the Gerrer rebbe. The rebbe did not reply at first to R' Schwab's question, but R. Schwab had the opportunity to meet him personally and asked him the question directly. The rebbe then responded by saying:

כֹּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר אֵלֶיךָ שָׂרָה שְׁמַע בְּקֹלָהּ

R Schwab was understandably perplexed by the rebbe's response until the gabbi clarified matters for him by pointing out that שָׂרָה is an acronym for Shamshon Raphael Hirsch."

Rav Breuer, His Life and Legacy, Kranzler & Landesman, p. 185, footnote 12.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

From Are Germans content to earn 19% less than Americans in 2014?

Ravi Sharma, 5 years in Germany

Yes , I am content. I reach home around six pm and able to spend time with my son who will never be four years young again.

My manager don't expect me to answer any business call after 6 pm.

I enjoy the freedom of unlimited sick leaves and this saves me from lot of  stress.

My family is insured and any health issues are handled in cashless systematic way.

At work, I am motivated not by money but excellent colleagues who aim for efficiency, optimization, and a serious drive to improve the status quo.

I forgot to say, I am a foreigner here and haven't managed to pick up the language yet, but the system here ensured my integration and provided me with opportunities to do so.

It's not a perfect world, but Germany is focused on doing important things right."

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Widsom from the gentiles: Dr. Seuss

"You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.

"You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go."

Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

That we may become holy

"Before the person called to the Torah recites his own blessing, the entire congregation is reminded that the Law of God, the Holy One, was given us in order that we, too, may become holy, that it affords us instruction, wisdom, serenity, and enlightenment for all the concerns and desires of our souls, that it seeks to inure us against all temptation and that it is designed to cause us to dwell together in peace by teaching all of us to live in harmony with our God." Hirsch Siddur, p. 186.