Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Monday, July 14, 2008

Barukh Habba'

No time for posting, for anyone who happens upon my blog I'll post a video that still gives me chills and even tears in my eyes. The Santa Servicio of the Esnoga in Amsterdam singing Barukh Habba'.

I couldn't figure out how to post a youtube video link so I did it this way. This is the URL
With thanks to youtube user marcomoreyra.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kissuy rosh

Many times I have heard people say that the Shulḥan `Arukh prohibits walking four "'amoth" without a headcovering.

The source of this misunderstanding is the following in Shulḥan `Arukh 'Orekh Ḥayyim:
ו.אסור לילך בקומה זקופה. ולא ילך ארבע אמות בגלוי הראש

Of course "lo yelekh" could be interpreted both as a prohibition and as an advice. However, the same Shulḥan `Arukh in hilkhoth tephilla writes:
ג. יש אומרים שאסור להוציא "הזכרה" מפיו בראש מגלה. ויש אומרים שיש למחות שלא להכנס בבית הכנסת בגלוי הראש

Note the "yesh 'omerim". He doesn't say that he would rule this way, but he notes the opinion as one worth considering.
Now, if he already ruled that you can't walk four 'amoth without a headcovering, why would he note the opinion -without actually ruling that way- that it is forbidden to say a name of God without a headcovering? You could say that someone sitting down or standing still isn't walking four 'amoth, and is permitted to be without headcovering, but needs to cover his head before mentioning God's name. But what about entering the beth keneseth? That surely requires walking four 'amoth, so the noting of this here would be meyuttar. Off course, the "lo yelekh" refers to the reader himself, while the "yesh limḥoth" refers to other people going without headcovering, so you could argue that one should always cover ones head and, to some opinions, even protest anyone else entering a beth keneseth without a headcovering.

That said, I believe "lo yelekh" is an advice rather than a prohibition.

What does the Rambam say about this?

The Rambam only mentions mandatory headcovering (for everyone) for tephilla -that is, the `amidha-.
As the first blessing we make in the morning upon awakening is "'elohay hanneshama", this is obviously said without a headcovering. Only later (usually after making some other blessings like "poqeyaḥ `iwrim") we cover the head (for tephilla?) and make the blessing "`oṭer yisra'el".

The Rambam doesn't prohibit going "beghilluy rosh" at all, neither does the Talmudh (obviously). He does advice talmidhe ḥakhamim not to uncover their heads, but that's not for regular people and it doesn't seem to be a prohibition.

Only when we pray, we must cover our head, but what exactly is the definition of a headcovering? The little piece of cloth hanging somewhere on the back of an afro, as you see here in Israel sometimes, is obviously not a headcovering. This fellow takes the kippa for what it is; a symbol, a way of identifying with a religious community. But when praying, he should wear a real headcovering.

According to the Yalquṭ Yoseph, a headcovering is only a headcovering when it covers most of the head. But does that mean most of the entire surface of the head, or just the hair, or just the surface of the top of the head? When looking from above, my -medium sized- kippa covers most of my head. The Shulḥan `Arukh rules that a (someone else's) hand is considered a headcovering. My kippa is a bit smaller than my hand when spread, but considering the space between the fingers it is actually bigger.
So it's seems I'm okay and don't need a bigger headcovering for tephilla...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hadderekh Ha'emṣa`ith

הדרך הישרה--היא מדה בינונית שבכל דעה ודעה, מכל דעות שיש לאדם; והיא הדעה שהיא רחוקה משני הקצוות רחוק שוה, ואינה קרובה לא לזו ולא לזו. ולפיכך צוו חכמים הראשונים שיהא אדם שם דעותיו תמיד, ומשער אותן ומכון אותן בדרך האמצעית, כדי שיהא שלם

הלכות דעות().

After a lot of searching within Judaism, I found the way of the Rambam most in accordance with my worldview, both in philosopy and halakha.

I couldn't agree with the various Qabbalistic ideas I learned and that is one of the reasons I also follow the Rambam in halakhic matters.

That's all very well, but Judaism is not an individualist religion, it is one of community. After all, we are first of all a nation.

So I tried to find community with followers of the Rambam, I studied with certain Rabbi's, got acquainted with some "Rambamist" people.

Then I stumbled upon a problem; I noticed that for some reason, many followers of the Rambam have very extreme ideas about certain things and I never quite understood where this comes from.

For example, part of the "Darda`im" have become Litvak-style haredim, black hats and all, while another part became politically very right-winged. I noticed the same among other -non Temani- Rambamists.

How is this the way of the Rambam? What about the derekh ha'em

I think we should all take a look at the way of Mori Yoseph Qafih z"l, who was definitely not an extremist, and learn from him.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Maimonides' letter?

I started this blog with the will and inspiration to discuss interesting matters, I haven't even started yet and already I'm having second thoughts. There are many things I want to write about but everytime I feel I need to study the subject better before writing about it.

So for now I will just mention something interesting I found:

In a series of CD's with traditional Sephardic music called "The Sephardic Experience", there is a booklet with some background information on Sephardic culture.
It includes a supposed quote from a letter written by Maimonides to his son, I have no idea which letter it is and was wondering if he really wrote this because this type of generalization sounds unlike the rational Maimonides. But then again, he lived in different times....

"Seek pleasing company only with our beloved brethren, the Sepharadhim, who are called Andaluzios, for they have intellectual capacity, sense and perception, and a clear brain ...., [and avoid the French Jews,] eaters of boiled beef, dipped in vinegar and garlic .... their minds permeated by the fumes .... for they then imagine that through these they will attain a concept of the creator .... Who will be near them in their prayers and cries; [and also the German Jews, who] have no fixed ideas except on intercourse, eating and drinking; [and even in North Africa] you should always be extremely cautious of the people who live between Tunis and Alexandria, as well as those who live in the mountains of Barbary, for they are more stupid, in my opinion, than other men, although they are strong in faith."

Does anyone know if this is real? Which letter this was taken from?
I've thought a while if I should post this or not, because of the possibility that someone might misuse it.

Update: It seems the letter is not authentic after all..

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Electricity and Shabbath

It seems that the only traditional Jews (as in non-liberal Jews - I do hate these terms, but couldn't come up with something better..) that have recently questioned this issue are Rambamists.

Let's face it, electricity is not fire. Incandescent lights (the traditional lightbulb) could be included in the prohibition of lighting a flame -or possibly cooking-, but turning on fluorescent lights, LED's or an electric fan definitely not.

Some have tried to argue that electricity falls in the category of bone, or makke bappaṭṭish, but that seems pretty far-fetched.

(On a sidetrack; let's say LED's are permitted, would typing digits on a computerscreen fall under the prohibition of "writing two letters"?)

So what are the reasons I don't use electricity on shabbath? 1. I still have my doubts. 2. It is "lo nahugh", -not a very good reason, as I very much dislike that concept..- 3. This might be the best reason: I just love being free from telephones, internet and TV at least one day a week.

To conclude: Even though personally I don't use electricity on shabbath, I don't object to anyone who does.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Maimonideans or Rambamists

Many Jews, when they hear the word "Rambamist", smile and say "Ah, those guys that think time has stopped after Maimonides.."
That's NOT what we're about. Maimonideans believe in the way of Maimonides, in terms of halakha and philosophy. Halachicly, Maimonides was a Talmudist. And he was -sadly- the last great talmudist poseq. That's why we rely more on him than on anyone else.

Esnoga Amsterdam

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Esnoga Den Haag