Recent Reform Responsa

Reform Responsa
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What to do when a body is lost at sea? These questions and more shed light on the issues of concern to the Jewish community when this book was first published, and still provide insight today. Overview Music Video Charts. Opening the iTunes Store. If iTunes doesn't open, click the iTunes application icon in your Dock or on your Windows desktop. If Apple Books doesn't open, click the Books app in your Dock.

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Description This volume of Responsa, originally published in , answers such questions as: Customer Ratings We have not received enough ratings to display an average for this book. He doubts whether such a conversion and remarriage should take place nowadays. Herzog indicates that in spite of the Mishnah Yevamoth II: However he continues, saying that even though the law is that we may convert this woman, Nevertheless, I have great hesitation about such a conversion in our day.

In the days of the Talmud and of the Poskim, there was almost no place in the Jewish community for a sinful Jew ie,, one who did not obey the Torah. But, unfortunately, in our days the situ- ation is so wild and disorderly that Jews who, according to the Law should be counted sinners, are in large num- bers leaders of congregations and national leaders. Why should he observe the mitzvos when so many Jews do not observe them?

These statements are not isolated and can be duplicated many times. They reveal a typical and an understandable attitude. The problem confronting the Orthodox rabbinate is unprecedented in Jewish histoiy since the development of rabbinic Judaism. For the first time in fifteen hundred years the majority of Jews are nonobservers of the Law.

This creates a tremendous social influence, an antilcgalist mood prevalent in all of Jewish life. Thus, from the point of view of Orthodox lawgivers, the Jewish people as they exist today have become, as never before in their history, a danger to the continuity of Jewish law. Now for the first time the Jewish law must be protected from the Jewish people. A year or so ago, in the magazine Hamaor, which repre- sents the extreme anti-Zionist wing of Chasidic Orthodoxy, there appeared a series of articles denouncing the civil and criminal courts of the State of Israel.

They were declared to be sinful courts since they do not judge cases according to the Torah, Therefore a pious Jew would be a sinner if he brought any case before them, and it is his duty to avoid obeying any of their decisions. One rabbi wrote a letter to the editor protesting against these violent articles on the ground that upon the majority of the Jewish people they would make a bad impression. To which the editor of the magazine quite logically said: The Law must be protected at all costs. It must be protected against the nonohservant majority of Jews whose influence would destroy it.

The only safe thing to do is to build the wall higher. Do not permit any leniency. Whenever you have a decision to make, decide it in the strictest possible way. In this way alone, at least among the pious Jews, the Law will live. Here, then, is a historic legal system which, like all legal systems, would claim to use the instrument of logic. Yet the choice of alternatives is predetermined by an overwhelm- ing emotion of def ensiveness and even fear.

In our Reform movement there has been an observable change of mood toward the rabbinic legal literature. This change has occurred within a generation. The Central Con- ference of American Rabbis, over sixty years old, has had a Responsa Committee from the very beginning and, over the years, a certain number of questions were presented to the Committee for answer. I have been a member of the Responsa Committee for about forty years, and its chair- man for almost a decade. In these years there has been a great increase in the number of questions asked. Whereas thirty and forty years ago the Committee would receive ten to twenty questions a year, in the recent decade there have often been more than two hundred questions a year.

Such a change deserves notice for it surely reveals a con- siderable alteration in the attitude toward the Halachic literature.

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It is clear that this greater interest in rabbinic literature is not due to any conscious decision on the part of the Con- ference nor to the prevalence of any new philosophic doc- trine. The Conference has not passed any resolutions favor- ing a new relationship to rabbinic literature, nor have new books dealing with a philosophy of Judaism had a great influence upon our members in this direction.

How, then, can we explain this manifestly greater interest in Jewish law? In the early days of the Reform movement there was a strong interest in questions of Jewish law. Although the early reformers rebelled against the authority of the Ortho- dox rabbinate, they did not brush aside the importance of Jewish law itself.

All the early rabbinical assemblies in Germany, all the synods which combined rabbinical and lay leadership debated vehemently various problems of law and life. These questions were carried over to America, and the first two Yearbooks of the Central Conference of American Rabbis contained a summary of all the legal deci- sions made by the German conferences and synods. The great debates at the beginning of our own Conference were also primarily legal: All these questions, so frequently and earnestly debated in the early days of our movement, faded from our interest, and there was less and less legal discussion until the subject of specific observances or cere- monial changes largely faded out of our Conference ses- sions.

Then, in recent years, the subject revived until we have come to our present widespread interest in it. Why this similarity between the early days of our movement and its present status? In the early clays Reform Judaism was very close to its Orthodox origin, Every family in a Reform congregation had parents and grandparents who were Orthodox. While we may wish, as die early reformers wished, to come to new decisions more suitable to modern life, nevertheless there is again the same desire to come to some decision on the basis of Jewish law and tradition.

We are not reverting to the past except insofar as we have returned to the same sense of kinship with Orthodoxy which had occurred in the early days of our movement. It is not easy for us today, with our family bond with Orthodoxy, to brush aside or to remain ignorant of Jewish law, as was possible and easy a generation ago before we had our sudden new growth. Our movement is again in family relationship with Orthodoxy and therefore feels a kinship and a need to come to terms with the legal systems which govern Orthodox life.

The sudden growth of our movement has brought about a certain disorderliness which cries aloud for some order and guidance. Fifty years ago when most of the people in the American Reform movement were children and even grandchildren of Reform parents most of the daily re- ligious life and observance in all the Reform congregations all over the land had grown to be virtually the same.

One easily recognized a Reform congregation fifty years ago. Each one resembled each other. This is no longer true to- day, now that the movement has suddenly expanded and embodied a vast variety of Jewish moods and observances. The similarity and the uniformity of outer form in all the congregations has disappeared.

Many now have Bar Mitz- vahs; many do not. Many set tombstones; many do not Some rabbis wear a form of the tallis; some do not. All this disorder may be wholesome. It may be the beginning of experimentation and perhaps a prelude to a positive cre- ativeness in religious Hfe. But disorder it surely is. Therefore there is a new desire for guidance, for codes, for guides to practice, for decisions. Should we have a chuppah? Should we break the glass at weddings? Should we have Bar Mitzvah on Sabbath afternoon, and scores of kindred ques- tions which a rabbi in the more homogeneous days never thought of asking and never needed to ask.

Hitherto there was nothing to decide, particularly, in, the ceremonial life. It was all set. Now it is unsettled again. If at our Confer- ence of Rabbis or at our Union of Congregations we debate nowadays the question of whether or not to have a code or a guide of practice, the debate is only whether the time has already come to have a fixed code, whether we have evolved enough for that, whether or not we should con- tinue this period of free and varied experimentation.

But no one would doubt that some sort of guidance, some sort of answers to questions, perhaps not systematic but subject by subject, are necessary in the new religious disorder of our times. But most of the inquirers write in appreciation of a lengthy and full responsum which deals with the entire relevant law from the Bible to the Talmud and the Codes. They are interested not only in the decision itself, but in the literature upon which it is based. There seems to be a growing interest in the rabbinic lit- erature itself.

If this is so, it indicates an important stop taken in our historical development, specifically in our rela- tionship to the achievements of the Jewish past. When the early reformers in their conferences and synods discussed matters of legal decision, this was a practical necessity for them because of their close kinship with Orthodoxy. But their personal creative inspiration was not the Talmud and the Codes.

It was the Bible-more speciGeally the pro- phetic ethical idealism of the Bible. One may well say that. The word o the prophet became the great word and the ethical ideal the great ideal. Reform created a centrality of religious morality. But this achievement cost a heavy price. It involved a break in our contact with a great literary self-expression of our people. As far as the average Reform rabbi was con- cerned, Judaism had produced the prophets and nothing further mattered much.

Thus, Reform lost touch with the whole rabbinic literature. This was a great loss, because the literature, beginning with the Mishnah, developing into the Talmud, into the Codes, ramifying into the vast tree of rabbinic literature, was, if nothing else, a tremendous ex- pression of intellectual effort, and perhaps constituted the greatest achievement of democratic intellectuality in the history of human thought.

Furthermore, rabbinic literature certainly would not have developed as brilliantly as it did and would not have survived so many vicissitudes if it had not been somehow inherent and indispensable to Judaism. It was this contact with the brains of Judaism which we had set aside.

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Now we are resuming contact, I believe, with this great part of our Jewish experience. We had long ago understood its heart. Now we are finding our way back to its mind. Re- form clarified the morality of Judaism.

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Now it is rediscov- ering its intellect. If this is not a hasty generalization, which we hope it is not, then the Reform movement in heart and mind is finding a complete reunion with the heart and mind of Judaism, The ethical ideal, the original emphasis of our move- ment, will always remain its primary and essential motiva- tion. So it seems that our colleagues find a special joy when, in studying a responsum on a practical problem, they find that the ethical idealism so clear in the prophets expresses itself, also, if in muted tones, in the rabbinic literature.

One of the landmarks among the papers read before our Conference was that of my revered and unforgettable teacher, Jacob Z. When- ever the ethical standard of the law in a specific case does not comport with our conscience, we turn aside from it, resolutely and without fear. But where, as in most cases, we find the moral intention inherent in all the Law, we find joy in the vindication of our long tradition. We never were happy with that mood voiced by some Bible eiities which describes the Jews as having once produced the prophets and then degenerated into impotent futility.

Our interest in the Halacha broadens our reverence from the Biblical prophets to the generations of rabbis and scholars. We are increasingly aware that the totality of Judaism de- serves the reverence of our movement and of all Jews. I wish to express my gratitude to the many colleagues who frequently write to ask questions which prompt a study of the literature. Whether modern Reform responsa, motivated as they are by these various emotions which we have mentioned, are of any lasting worth in Jewish litera- ture, only time can tell. Certainly they are greatly different in mood from modern Orthodox response Where Orthodox decisors are inclined, for the emotional reasons described, to say "no" on almost every occasion, we are inclined, for emotional reasons which are equally evident, to say "yes" whenever possible, Neither choice is dictated entirely by reason, Wherever it is impossible to say "yes," the law not permitting it, then we know that that law, if contrary to RECENT REFORM RESPONSA 13 our modern conscience, will not continue to be observed.

Jewish history, long before the Reform movement, amply demonstrates that laws fade away; but whatever in the great legal literature can inspire us, whatever can help or- ganize our life, we gladly study, happily accept, and proudly observe. O -I O Kaddish When Worshiping Alone It often happens that an older person no longer can come to the synagogue; or, a sick person is confined to the hospital room or to the home.

Such people fre- quently read the service in the prayerbook. Is it permissible to say the Kaddish wilhout a quorum minyan of the congregation? Precisely this question was asked of the Chaplaincy Com- mittee of the Jewish Welfare Board during wartime. Sol- diers on lonely duty for example, coast guardsmen pa- trolling isolated sections of the coast wished to say Kaddish on the yahrzeit of their parents. The answer that we gave was based upon an analogy between the Kaddish and the Tefillah. It was for that reason that we felt im- pelled to add that if the soldier or sailor would write to our Committee, giving the name of the relative and the date of yahrzeit, we would arrange to have Kaddish said in one of our civilian congregations.

Our answer then was perhaps adequate for the special purpose and circumstance, but now that the question comes up in peacetime, it requires closer analysis. In general, we can say, as we told the inquiring soldier, that Kaddish can be said for the deceased even in the ab- sence of the mourner. This is true especially in our modern congregations where we recite Kaddish together. We all understand that the Kaddish is in honor not only of those mentioned by name, but of the other deceased whose yahrzeit is being observed by members of the congrega- tion.

In addition, if, as in many of our congregations, the name of the departed is read before the Kaddish, then ar- rangements can be made to have the name commemorated by being included in the list. But even without this, the Kaddish is meant for all the departed kin of the congrega- tion. If, therefore, this shut-in does not say Kaddish at all, he may take it for granted that the Kaddish recited in the congregation that week is in reference also to those whom he would wish to commemorate.

Nevertheless, the very fact that this inquiry has been made indicates that there are some who would like to say Kaddish themselves, even though they cannot attend the services- May they do so? The importance of the minyan for the saying of the Kaddish and so forth can be seen from the rale in Orah Hayyim Of course, there are some minor mitigations of the rule requiring a quorum of ten.

If, for example, the relevant part of the service was begun with a full minyan and then somebody left, the incomplete minyan can nevertheless recite the Kaddish and the Kedusha and so on. Also, where people have been praying alone as individuals in the syna- gogue, they may be joined together for a shortened form of the service Poreys Al Shema so that they can hear the Kaddish and the Kedusha see Orah Hayyim In fact, what seems to be most important about the Kaddish is not even its recitation but the congregational response to its recitation by the leader.

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Fast, page-at-a-time viewing that works in any web browser, and in web enabled handhelds like the iPhone or Blackberry, as well as the iPad. Now we are resuming contact, I believe, with this great part of our Jewish experience. When Chaim Cheslda Medini published the first volume of his great legal com- pendium, he named it after the verse in Isaiah Of course, custom has made printed prayer books sacred and they are carefully preserved and buried. The opinion of the Tosafists is clearer in die comment in Gittin 88b 5.

See also the statement of Joshua bon Lcvi in b. If, then, a minyan is required specifi- cally for the Kedusha and the Kaddish, and if an important part of the Kaddish is the congregational response, then it would be clearly contrary to the laws and traditions of the service for an individual to recite it when praying alone. Moreover, from the practical point of view, we certainly should not encourage people to recite the Kaddish at home.

The Shulchan Aruch tells us Orah Hayyim There often has been difficulty gathering a regular minyan, especially in the smaller cities. Great effort was expended to make possible the privilege of pub- lic worship, and it was a frequent enough practice to hire men for a minyan that the law takes cognizance of it ibid. Now in modern times the feeling of piety at the yahrzeit date is one of the justifiable motives which urges people to come to public worship.

It would surely not be for the good of Judaism if we weakened this motivation and allowed the spread of the custom of saying Kaddish on the yahrzeit at home. Nevertheless, there are certainly special cases which de- serve consideration, namely, sick people or aged people, to whom it would be of great consolation if they themselves could say Kaddish in their home worship.

Is this in any way possible without encouraging the practice? It is note- worthy that the Orphan's Kaddish is not the only form of Kaddish recited. The cantor himself recites four forms of Kaddish in the regular traditional worship. Then there is a Kaddish which is not at all part of the public worship, the Kaddish of Scholars Kaddish di Rabbanori. After tibe day's study was completed, the scholars present recited the Kaddish. How many scholars need to be present to permit the recitation of this Scholar's Kaddish?

Originally it is pre- sumed that it required ten, as with the Kaddish in the services. But soon it was taken for granted that fewer than ten could recite it after their study. Judah Green- wald, in his responsa "Zichron Judah" vol. At all events, it is clear that the requirement of a minyan of ten does not apply to the Kaddish recited after study. If the person in whose behalf the inquiry is made is eager to recite the Kaddish and cannot come to the synagogue, which would be preferable, then let him study a chapter in the Bible and recite the Kaddish after it.

Of course, the title Rabbi's Kaddish indicates that this was mount to fol- low the study of rabbinical literature, but we need not be quite so strict about it. Incidentally, the form of Kaddish which we use in our Reform service is much closer in text to the Scholar's Kaddish than to any of the others. From Rabbi Morton M.

Kanter, Bay Shore, Long Island, New York The form of the question indicates at the outset that this is not a problem primarily of law as it is a matter of congre- gational policy or organization in face of a social situation. Clearly there has arisen in relation to Bar Mitzvah a prob- lem of congregational organization or management which is becoming more and more difficult. Up to about twenty- five years ago, very few Reform congregations had Bar Mitzvahs, All of them had Confirmation for an entire class at one service. In most of the Reform congregations, until recently, Confirmation was considered to have supplanted Bar Mitzvah.

The few Reform congregations which re- tained the ceremony had only an occasional Bar Mitzvah. But in recent years, perhaps the majority of our congrega- tions have Bar Mitzvah, and in those congregations almost every boy who reaches the age of thirteen goes through the ceremony. Even if there are two Bar Mitzvahs a Sabbath, there simply are not enough Sabbaths in the year to accommodate all the Bar Mitzvahs. One wonders what happened in Europe in the Orthodox communities when, also, every single boy became Bar Mitzvah.

In the first place, in the one community there were many little synagogues, and thus there was plenty of room to scatter the Bar Mitzvahs over the community. But with our large congregational institutions, this is more difficult. A middle-sized city, which in Europe would have perhaps twenty little places of worship, has in America only three or four. There is an additional problem besides this one of the reduced availability of separate synagogues in modem times. Nowadays, in America and in England too, the Bar Mitzvahs have become huge social affairs.

Hundreds of people come to almost every Bar Mitzvah. As a result, the regular congregation is "swamped. In Europe, where Bar Mitzvahs were modest affairs and perhaps ten or fifteen extra people might have come, the worshiping con- gregation did not lose its sense of identity from Sabbath to Sabbath because of these occasions. Nowadays it is pos- sible to have a different congregation every Sabbath, one that rarely returns to the synagogue. This explains the number of new questions which have been received in the last decade similar to the one which we are now discussing.

These questions all reflect a search for other days in the week on which to put Bar Mitzvahs besides the regular Sabbath service. There have been ques- tions as to whether it is proper to have Bar Mitzvah on Sunday morning, one even on Yom Kippur day. Friday evening has by now been fairly well established as a time for Bar or Bas Mitzvahs, The present question concerns the propriety or at least the advisability of having Bar Mitzvah on Saturday afternoon.

It should be clear that the ritual of the Bar Mitzvah, as it developed over the centuries, was always bound up closely with the reading of the Torah. It is at the reading of the Torah that the father recites the familiar bless- ing, transferring religious responsibility from himself to his son. This connection of Bar Mitzvah with the Sefer Torah has become so intimate that the right of the Bar Mitzvah to be called to the Torah is a right superior to almost all others; for example, to the right of a father whose child will be circumcised during the week, or to the right of a husband whose wife has come to the synagogue for the first time after childbirth.

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The CCAR applies Jewish scholarship and transition to contemporary issues through the creation of Reform Responsa, based on the historic Jewish system of . Recent Reform Responsa. Can women serve as pall-bearers? Is it appropriate to refer to God as YHVE? May a bar mitzvah take place on Shabbat Shuvah?.

The only right to be called to the Torah which is superior to that of the Bar Mitzvah is the right of a bridegroom in the week of his wedding. So there is one general answer to possible dates for Bar Mitzvah, If there is a Torah reading on that day, then the Bar Mitzvah may properly take place. Bar Mitzvahs on Friday night are not justified by Orthodox law because there is no Torah reading for Friday night, but by our Reform custom they are amply justified. When the Union Prayerbook was newly revised, the Committee was confronted with a widespread demand for a Torah-reading service on Friday night.

The majority of our people come to services on Fri- day night and they should hear the Torah read. Therefore, we went beyond Orthodox custom and, because we felt that the times needed it, ordained the reading of the Torah on Friday night. The suggestion made in the pi'esent question that Bar Mitzvah be held on Saturday afternoon has much to com- mend it. In the first place, the Torah reading on Saturday afternoon, as that on Monday and Thursday morning, is traditional. Although there is no prophetical reading, there is the regular reading of the first part of next week's por- tion. Besides the advantage that tins is a traditional time for Torah reading, there is another practical religious ad- vantage if some Bar Mitzvahs are held on Saturday afternoon.

No matter how many Bar Mitzvahs wore held on Sabbath afternoon which, by the way, in most of our American business and professional life is a day off from work, and many people can come , such ceremonies would not be destroying the regular Sabbath service attendance. On the contrary, we would be adding a service, or at least reviving one which had fallen into complete neglect. This certainly would be good. I wish it wore passible Unit many Bar Mitzvahs could be thus placed.

O 3 O Mentally Retarded Child and Bar Mitzvah A child who is mentally retarded, but to some smatt degree educable, is approaching his thirteenth birth- day. His father would like the child to be Bar Mitz- vah. It will be possible to teach the child to recite the two blessings over the Torah, but not more than that. Therefore the father himself will read the Haftorah. Is it justified, according to the spirit of Jewish law, that such a retarded child engage in the ceremony of Bar Mitzvah? There are, alas, many mentally retarded feeble-minded- children; and undoubtedly their parents have wanted them to have whatever joy they could and perhaps bring joy to themselves by celebrating his Bar Mitzvah.

Yet, since Bar Mitzvah means the formal acceptance of responsibility for the commandments and since, clearly, such a child can hardly be responsible, then whether Bar Mitzvah is per- missible is surely a question which must have often been asked before. Yet I do not recall a single responsum on this sad but important subject. There are many laws in the Mishnah, Talmud, and Codes dealing with the feeble-minded. Of course, mental ail- ments are so varied that one can hardly expect the Talmud to have a precise definition, if indeed precise definition is at all possible, covering a wide spectrum of mental defi- ciency.

The Talmud gives a rough-and-ready way in which to judge whether a person is insane b. From the legal point of view, the mentally retarded person shota is grouped with two other classes, namely, the deaf-mute and the minor. While many laws apply to all three equally, they are nevertheless not entirely of equal religious status. For example, the marriage of a mute would be recognized as valid see Shulchan Aruch, Even Hoezer Among the other special legal disabilities of the shota is that lie cannot en- gage in buying or selling either movable property or real estate.

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No sales made by him or made to him are valid see Maimonides, Yad, "Mechira" He cannot even transfer prop- erty to another without sale or have property transferred to him Choshen Mishpot A general description of the legal status of the shota is summed up in the com- mentary of Rashi to the passage quoted from Chagiga Sfo. Rashi says a shota is free from all the commandments and from all punishment for the violation of them. Therefore it is quite understandable why a shota cannot be included in the quorum of ten minyan necessary for public wor- ship.

See Orah Hayyixn The father recites the blessing generally interpreted to mean that from now on this boy will bear the responsibility for his own sin and be in duty bound to obey all the commandments. Clearly, then, a shota who is free from the duty of obeying the commandments and is free from punishment if he vio- lates them cannot possibly be Bar Mitzvah. The normal boy through Bar Mitzvah, or at least through becoming o age, which the Bar Mitzvah symbolizes, changes from the status of irresponsibility to that of responsibility.

The shota cannot change at all. He was irresponsible as a minor and, according to the law as cited above, remains irresponsible as an adult. Therefore it is clear that the Bar Mitzvah has no meaning in his case and should not be carried out. All this is according to the strict letter of the law. Never- theless, even acknowledging that he cannot be made re- sponsible for the mitzvos, there is some justification for per- mitting this child to participate in the ceremony. Actually, the whole Bar Mitzvah ceremony is only a custom, a minhag.

It is hardly mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch. Ac- cording to the law, it is the boy's maturity which makes him responsible. The ceremony grew up later, and is in no sense equivalent to an ordained ceremony like the Seder or the Succah or putting on the tefillin. Therefore, even though the law says that this feeble-minded lad if he re- mains feeble-minded cannot be responsible for the com- mandments, still, is it really objectionable if he goes through this ceremony? Nowhere in the literature is there any direct statement as to whether a shota who knows the blessings may be called up to the Torah.

The Talmud says clearly in Megilla 23a that all may be counted among the seven who are called up Saturday to the Torah, even a minor. The Shulchan Aruch, in Orah Hayyim Provided he knows to Whom the bene- dictions are addressed. This additional test, namely, that a minor should be aware of God, to Whom the benedictions are addressed, is derived by the Shulchan Aruch by anal- ogy from the Talmud in b. Berachos 4Sa, where we are told that if a minor knows to Whom the benedictions are ad- dressed, he may be included in the public grace after meals M'zumari.

If, then, this unfortunate child has enough in- telligence, not merely to learn the blessings, but to under- stand that the blessings are addressed to God, then he may be called up to the Torah at any time. If that is the case, why not also on the Sabbath after his thirteenth birthday? In Reform congregations, the Bar Mitzvah ceremony is not taken to have a strict formal and legal meaning as it might have in an Orthodox congregation. The six hundred and thirteen commandments do not become more a part of the life of a child after this Sabbath than they were before.

The Bar Mitzvah is taken to be a symbol much like the general spiritual symbol associated with Confirmation, namely, that it is a taking on of a new and stronger sense of ethical and spiritual responsibility, of becoming adult in mind, heart, and conscience. If that is the case, it would not be of too much importance to us that technically this child, being a shota, is, according to Rashi, freed from all responsibility for the mitzvos. We would rather judge the ceremony on its spiritual and ethical side. To sum up, then, we must make a distinction between Bar Mitzvah "the coining of legal age" and the later ceremony of Bar Mitzvah which is primarily calling the boy to the Torah as a symbol of his religious majority.

As far as the actual coining of legal age, this is beyond the reach of this child. The law declares him to be perma- nently irresponsible, therefore permanently a minor. But the ceremony of Bar Mitzvah is not a firmly rooted part of the law. It is only a formal participation in the public Torah reading. This any minor may do who knows to Whom the blessings are addressed. Especially in liberal congregations where the conferring of technical responsi- bility does not count as much as our helping the child to- ward a happier and more useful life, the ceremony, while necessarily pathetic, may be of encouragement and benefit Individual Wine Cups at Congregational Kiddush You ask my opinion about a novel suggestion made by one of your congregants.

He had viewed a Christian church at worship taking their Communion. The question is whether it would be wrong to institute some such custom in our congrega- tions on Friday night: To Rabbi Amiel Wohl, Waco, Texas In your letter you quite properly call attention to the fact that it is forbidden by Jewish law to imitate Gentile re- ligious practice in our worship. This is based on the verse in Leviticus This analysis is found primarily in the Talmud, b.

There the discussion concerns one of the four modes of capital punishment, namely, executing a criminal by means of the sword.

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One rabbi objects to use of the sword on the ground that this is the method used by the Roman government. The majority of the rabbis answer that, since punishment by the sword is mentioned in Scripture, the fact that the Romans use the sword docs not make our use of the sword an imitation of them. The phrase used there is: If it has, then it would not be an imitation, for "not from them do we learn it. Is there, then, any justification in tradition for some such technique? The whole practice of having Kiddush in the synagogue on Friday night does not have a firm basis in Jewish law.

We can learn this from the fact that Joseph Caro reports in the Shulchan Aruch, Orah Hayyim , that in Palestine it was not a custom at all to have a synagogue Kiddush; and, as a matter of fact, Jacob ben Asher, in the Tur same ref- erence after a long discussion of the legal difficulties in- volved in the synagogue Kiddush, says that if he could do so, he would abolish it altogether.

The main development of the kw as to the Kiddush in the synagogue is discussed by Jacob ben Asher in the sec- tion mentioned and is somewhat more fully dealt with by the Spanish liturgist Abudraham in his Code. The first difficulty is reflected in what Samuel Pesachim lOla says, that Kiddush should never be recited except in the same place where the meal is eaten. Therefore it should be recited only at home. However, since there are or used to be travelers who ate in the synagogue or in the adjoin- ing rooms the Kiddush was recited in the synagogue for their sake.

Since, therefore, the chazan who made the Kid- dush was not going to eat on the synagogue premises, he must not taste the wine. But if the wine is not tasted, does not the blessing in the Kiddush become a wasted blessing Beracha Tvatala? To avoid this, the custom arose of giv- ing the children a taste of the wine. This custom still pre- vails in many Orthodox synagogues. The children gather around the chazan as he makes tie Kiddush and they taste the wine. Although this would make it clear that the wine should not be tasted at all except by the children , nevertheless, there is a fairly well-founded tradition that the entire con- gregation was given to taste of the wine.

What is the cure? Let him taste the wine of the Fri- day night Kiddush. Later commentators say that if they drink it, it is also healing in effect see Joshua Falk in his "Derisha" to the passage in the Tur. Nevertheless, in spite of the custom mentioned by Na- tronai and his justification for it, it never became wide- spread that the entire congregation should taste of the synagogue Kiddush. In fact, Hai Gaon says that if there are no strangers who will eat on the synagogue premises, there should be no synagogue Kiddush at all.

Incidentally, this rather rare custom that adults partake of the Kiddush seems to have revived in our time in the Friday evening services at most Army posts. The chaplains' assistants pass out little paper cups of wine; and after the Kiddush is completed by the cantor, every worshiper drinks his wine. However, this custom could more easily be justified by the law than the custom which you propose.

Therefore, since there is so little Jewish precedent for members of the congregation to partake of the Kiddush only Natronaf s report it would certainly look like an imi- tation of Gentile practice if such a procedure were insti- tuted. Perhaps it should be avoided, as the law is fond of saying in such cases, "because of the look of things" Mipne marts ayri. In spite of all the above, there is perhaps a way in which something like the procedure suggested could with pro- priety be instituted.

First of all, at any congregational meal on the Sabbath or on a holiday, each individual could have his cup of wine and the Kiddush made, since it is indeed "the place where the meal is served. Many of them have the Kiddush at the Oneg Shabbas. That is cer- tainly in the place where a meal is held.

If we assume that many did not have the Kiddush at home over wine, we may then provide Kiddush for them now. This could be organized in a very orderly way. The first procedure at the Oneg Shabbas would be the making of Kiddush with every member of the congregation tasting his cup of wine. Then the rest of the collation would follow. This certainly would be less objectionable and look less like "imitation" than serving individual cups at the service. With a little plan- ning, the individual Kiddush at the Oneg Shabbas could be developed into a beautiful ceremony which would be widely approved and adopted.

This, of course, will take place on Saturday, after lunch, in the temple building. There were some members of the Commit- tee who felt that it might be wrong to give a school dance on Saturday. What then, if any, is the attitude of Jewish law on the question? From Vigdor Kavalcr, Executive Secretary, Rodef Shalom Temple, Pitts- burgh, Pennsylvania All questions involving the observance of the Sabbath in Reform temples are difficult to deal with, since the observ- ance of the Sabbath in Reform and, for that matter, in Conservative temples is rather vague and is always under- going considerable change.

Therefore, we cannot expect consistency in the feelings of the people. For example, no member of the congregation would ever think of raising any objection to the clear violation of traditional Sabbath law involved in the transportation of children to the school or in the writing which the children do in the class- room. Questions had been frequently raised as to whether a shochet who sends his child to a public school this was in Europe where the child must write on the Sabbath, is fit to con- tinue as a shochet, and whether the animals which he has slaughtered can be accepted as kosher.

Such questions would never come up in America in a modern congrega- tion. Yet, inconsistently, the question arises with regard to the comparatively mild violation of the children dancing on the Sabbath. Perhaps this question arises in spite of the inconsistency involved because it is an innovation now being introduced, or because dancing is, after all, not es- sential.

In any event, whatever questions our people raise with regard to honoring the Sabbath should be respected. Even if, then, it comes from a minority, at least we should not dismiss such questions with a simple affirmative or nega- tive. It happens, also, that this question of dancing on the Sabbath finds considerable discussion in the Law, and thus on its own account is worthy of investigation. Even in the traditional sources it is evident that a balance is sought for between strict law and the desires and the feelings of the people. The law is mentioned in the Mishnah m. This kw is applied a fortiori to the Sabbath.

Therefore, this prohibi- tion stated in the Mishnah is cited, virtually verbatim, twice in the Shulchan Aruch, once as a prohibition for the Sab- bath Orah Hayyfen Yet, remarkably enough, the law having once been stated in the Mishnah is immediately set aside and deemed theo- retical. The Talmud itself b. Let them rather sin in innocence than presumptuously. He speaks of the Tanzhaus provided in the medieval ghettos for wed- ding dances and very likely for general dancing. This love of dancing led the people to dance even on the Sabbath and holidays, and the rabbis apparently put up only a token resistance even in Talmudic times.

In die eleventh and twelfth centuries in France, there was virtually a con- scious abolition of the law as such, as stated in the M ish- nah. This is seen from the Tosf os to the Talmudic passage which calls attention to the fact diat the Talmud gives a reason for the original prohibition of the Mishnah, namely, that if dancing had been permitted on Sabbath and holi- days, it might lead to the repairing of a broken musical in- strument, which is certainly a work prohibited on the Sab- bath. However, the Tosfos says it is precisely for this reason that the law is no longer in force.

Inasmuch as we, continues the Tosfos, are no longer skilled in the making and repairing of musical instruments, it becomes totally unnecessary to make this cautionary decree against the danger of repairing on the Sabbath. This statement of the Tosfos, virtually abolishing the law as an unnccded precau- tion, is then cited by Isscrles in the Shulchan Aruch. After Joseph Caro formally states the law of prohibition against dancing as it is given in die Mishnah, he says as follows; "As for the fact diat people dance nowadays and we do not protest against it, that is because it is better they should do RECENT REFORM RESPONSA 35 so in ignorance" and so forth quoting this from the Tal- mud , "and because some say that nowadays all of this is permitted since we are no longer skilled in instrument making.

Therefore it is our custom to be lenient" this he quotes from the Tosfos. Thus it is clear that from almost the very beginning, dancing was permitted on the Sabbath and holidays, since there was not enough basis in the law itself for resisting the universal preference of the people. However, for the sake of completeness, it must be stated that there were occasionally some puritanical voices raised against this popular amusement, but these objectors were hardly concerned with the fact that the dance was on the Sabbath or holiday although they do not fail to mention the letter of the law.

Their chief concern was an objection to dancing itself, especially mixed dancing. Thus, the strongest responsum against dancing was by Joseph Stein- hart, Rabbi of Fuerth in the eighteenth century. He tells how, when he was Rabbi in Alsace, he was shocked at the people dancing in mixed dances and he pro- tested to the government against it. He calls upon all rabbis to prohibit this sin of mixed dancing.

Of course, many centuries earlier, the "Sefer Chasidim" ed, Margolis, objected to mixed dancing, but this puritanical objec- tion was not especially effective, nor is it of much signifi- cance to us today see also "Slia'ar Ephraim" 36, and David Cohen, of Corfu, "Redach" XII: Some objection may be raised or felt about the hiring of musicians for this dance on the Sabbath. In this regard, it is of interest to note that the great Rhineland authority, the Raviah , says that there is no prohibition to direct Christian musicians to play on the Sabbath. This statement of the Raviah is quoted with approval by the Mordecai, at the end of chapter 4 of Alfasi Beza, where he says that Alfasi himself decided thus at the end of the tractate "Eruvim.

Of course, while the hiring of Jewish mu- sicians would thus be objectionable to the law, it is certain that our people would feel no sense of wrongdoing if they themselves used a phonograph to provide the music. Thus it is clear that while there was a law in the Mishnah objecting to dancing and clapping the hands on the Sab- bath, and while some few puritan-minded rabbis objected to mixed dancing, which led them to object to any dancing at all on Sabbath, festival, or weekday, nevertheless, from the very beginning the rabbis yielded to the peopled de- sires in this matter, and the Tosfos, and Isserles later, vir- tually abolished the prohibition.

This year the first day of Rosh Hashonoh falls on Saturday, but since Reform congre- gations follow the Biblical rule and observe only one day of the New year, should they sound the shofar on the first day, or omit it altogether? From Rabbi Judah B. Miller, Wichita, Kansas This question has been discussed in previous years in our Conference sessions.

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It is useful to discuss the question once more, and perhaps more fully. On the face of it, it is forbidden to blow the shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashonoh when it falls on the Sabbath the second day of Rosh Hashonoh can never fall on the Sabbath. Thus the Shulchan Aruch Orah Hayyim However, it is necessary to go below the surface and to consider the actual legal status of the practice of omitting the sounding of the shofar if the New Year falls on the Sabbath. Is this omission based upon law or on custom?

The duty of blowing the shofar is a Biblical mandate. The Talmud raises the question that if the shofar should not be sounded on New Year Sabbath, why then did they always sound it on New Year Sabbath in die Temple? If so, then why should it be prohibited anywhere i. The answer given is that since it is a skill, a man might be tempted to carry the shofar on Sabbath in the public domain Birshuss Ho-Rabbim to an expert, in order to be taught on the Sabbath.

So it is not the sounding of the shofar which is pro- hibited per se, but merely the carrying of the shofar on the Sabbath. To prevent the carrying of the shofar on Sabbath, the rabbis prohibited the sounding of it on the Sabbath, but merely as a cautionary decree. This is further evident from the fact that it is permitted to teach young people on the Sabbath to sound the shofar b.

If, then, it is not really prohibited to sound the shofar on the Sabbath, but there is only the rabbinical caution based on the danger of carrying it in public on that day, how could Johanan ben Zaccai permit it in the presence of a Beth Din? The answer given is that the Beth Din is alert ZYfem and will watch against the violation i. However, there is a disagreement as to just what is meant by the Beth Din in whose presence Johanan ben Zaccai gave permission for the shofar to be blown on the Sabbath.

What sort of court was it? Did he mean the Great Sanhedrin of Seventy-one, or any other special type of court? On this there is disagreement. Some of the latest scholars believe that he meant the Sanhedrin itself. Others Maimonides, for example believe that he meant any court of regularly ordained men i. There is no doubt of this fact; it is widely attested to. Asher ben Yehiel mentions it in his com- pendium to the Talmud ad loc. Of course, those who speak of Alfasi having the shofar blown on Shabbas add that his disciples did not follow him in this custom.

There is further evidence of the shofar blown on the New Year Sabbath, not of a great individual authority like Alfasi, but of an historic congregation. Zunz, in his work Die Ritus p. The source which Zunz quotes has been re- printed in modern times in the large edition of the Yad. Inci- dentally, a great modern authority, Akiba Eger, of Posen , was rather concessive on this matter. He stated that if one did blow the shofar on New Year Sab- bath, while indeed he did violate thereby the rabbinical cautionary decree as to Sabbath rest Shevus , nevertheless he would have fulfilled the Biblical command of blowing the shofar on the New Year.

This admission is quoted with great surprise by Joab Joshua in his work "Chelkas Joab" 99 p.

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Joab Joshua then tries to refute Akiba Eger's opinion. It is clear that while there was a general custom not to blow the shofar on the New Year Sabbath, this custom was merely cautionary. The blowing is not prohibited as work on the Sabbath; die prohibition was decreed by the rabbis as a caution against carrying the shofar on Sabbath to an expert for instruction.

Isaac Alfasi and the pious community in Damascus. What, then, shall be our own procedure in this regard in those years when the New Year comes on the Sabbath? In such matters we should use our judgment, weighing the status of the law, our spiritual needs, and the mood of our congregation. It is to be noted that Alfasi and the Damas- cus community had the shofar sounded on the New Year Sabbath even though they observed two days of Rosh Hashonoh, and, following the general Orthodox custom, would have sounded the shofar also on the second day.

Nevertheless, they sounded it on the first day too. There- fore, we who, following the Biblical calendar rule, do not observe the second day on which we might sound the shofar, should certainly sound it on the New Year Sabbath which is our only New Year day, Alfasi and the Damascus community would not have been depriving their people of hearing the shofar if they did not sound it on the New Year Sabbath, since the people would be hearing it the next day, but if we did not sound it, it would be depriving them completely.

We should also consider the mood of our people, since these matters count a great deal with us. It is, of course, illogical that some of our people should object to the sounding of the shofar on New Year Sabbath. They cer- tainly do not object to the playing of the organ, xvhich is at least as violative of Sabbath laws. Still, some people might think that since it is both Sabbath and New Year they would rather not have the shofar blown. If the rabbi senses there is that much feeling against it, he should not permit the blowing of the shofar on the New Year Sabbath.

But if there is no strong objection, as there is not likely to be, then, since the sounding of the shofar on the Sabbath is RECENT REFORM RESPONSA 41 not really prohibited in itself, since the sounding of the shofar on the New Year is a Biblical mandate, and since some authorities at least permitted the shofar to be sounded on the New Year Sabbath even though the people would have heard it on the second day anyway, we, who observe only one day, should not, in my judgment, deprive our people of the spiritual benefit of hearing the sound of the shofar when the New Year comes on the Sabbath.

Synagogue Near a Cemetery The congregation has bought a lot upon which to build its new synagogue. A main highway runs in front of the lot, and on the other side of the highway, directly opposite, there is a cemetery. The larger part of the cemetery is for non-Jewish burial. There is, however, a small section for Jewish burial, and this is set aside for this congregation. The Gentile part of the cemetery directly faces the street across from the temple lot. The Jewish part is toward the back of the cemetery. The question is whether it is contrary to Jewish law, or tradition, or sentiment, for the congre- gation to build its synagogue so close to the cemetery.

The Shulchan Aruch, in Yore Deah If there is a wall bounding the cemetery, then he does not need to remove himself even as far as four cubits. Thus it is evident that there is no legal objection to syna- gogue services conducted across the broad street opposite the cemetery, even if the cemetery were in plain view of the worshipers. However, it may well be that some of the congregation will not be content with the simple statement that the law does not object to this location of the temple, but will feel that somehow it is improper even though ad- mittedly legal.

Such feelings in the congregation, that there is something wrong about having a synagogue near the cemetery, are not to be brushed aside. It should be stated at the outset that the reciting of prayers in the cemetery was well known as a regular practice in Talmudic times. The Talmud, in Taanis 16a, discussing the fact that individuals go to the cemetery on fast days to pray, indicates that they used to go either to Jewish or to Gentile cemeteries.

So it is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch as law Orah Hayyim When during the droughts, for example, the individual prayers in the cemeteries and else- where were not answered, then public fast-day services were held in the public square of the city. There is an additional indication that public services were not held in the cemetery, namely, that it was defi- nitely prohibited to bring a Sefer Torah into the cemetery or for a man to come in with the tefillin on his head or wearing the fringes tzitzes on his garments.

However, it is important to note the reason for the ob- jection to the bringing of Torah, tallis, and fringes to the cemetery. The prohibition is found first in the Talmud, in Berachos , where it is stated that a man should not bring these sacred objects into the cemetery because if he did so he would commit the sin implied in the verse in Proverbs This prohibition, with its rather pathetic folk reason- ing, is recorded in the Codes as law Yore Deah For us, the idea that the dead are aware of what we bring into the cemetery and are made unhappy by their depriva- tion can have very little significance.

Therefore, since per- sonal prayer in the cemetery was definitely the custom, we would not find it objectionable to conduct an occasional memorial service there also. This, however, still means only an occasional special public service. It is a far different matter to visualize a per- manent building erected on cemetery grounds for regular Jewish worship. Yet, actually, synagogues were built or proposed for building on cemetery ground, and there are a number of cases in Jewish law discussing the regulations involved.

From the cases we can gather most of the legal principles involved. One case was discussed by the famous Rabbi David Oppenheimer, of Prague , He wrote a long responsum which has been published at the end of the book of responsa of Yair Chaim Bachrach "Chavos Yair". A congregation bought land for a syna- gogue. When they started to dig for the foundation, they found human bones, and they realized that they were building on a former cemetery.

A second case, a century or so later, is discussed by Mordecai Benet , Rabbi of Nikolsburg, Moravia, in his "Parashas Morde- cai" 9. A most aggravated case of this same situation occurred in England in the city of Hull a generation ago, A congre- gation bought a Christian chapel and found in its basement vault about three hundred bodies which had been buried over the centuries. He defends his position in a book called Taharas Hakodesh. About a decade later, a rabbi named Mordecai Schwartz declared the synagogue unusable.

He defended his opinion in a book called Lahavdil. To Distinguish between the Clean and the Unclean. In these four responsa, al- most all the arguments that can in any way be involved are fully dealt with.