Friday, February 22, 2008

The Real El Adon

Musical Note By Cantor Sherwood Goffin
The "Real" Keil Adon Melody

Every Shabbat, during Shacharit, a highlight of the tefilla is the singing of Keil Adon. As your Chazzan, I try to choose appropriate melodies that fit the words, the "mode" (minor), and melodies that tend to "move" - that is, not too slow. However, as you've heard from me previously, before the 20th century we didn't "sing" congregational-type melodies in shul as we do today. The question therefore begs, what did they sing for Keil Adon before 1900?

There is a "nusach", a chant, for Keil Adon that was always recited and is still heard in some Yeshivish/Chassidic shtibels and in synagogues with the "old" tradition. That melody is one our oldest, and can be traced back to the 16th and 17th centuries, and possibly as far back as the 1200s. You may remember your grandfather or great-grandfather singing a very special "Kol Mekadesh Sh'vii" on Friday Night for Zemirot before and during the Shabbat meal. That melody is the tune of the "nusach" of Keil Adon, for as long as anyone can remember. We know that it is very old, because in the oldest existing Judao-German book of folk songs by Boeme, c.16th/17th century, there is a melody called, "Bruder Vietz's Ton," "Brother Weiss's Tune," and this is exactly the same melody that we know of today! It is not a "sing along-type" melody, so, unfortunately, you won't hear it here at LSS or in any "modern" shul. It is now traditional to sing a "niggun" at this point. I do occasionally wonder whether we are actually poorer for its lacking in our service. But then again, I'm always nostalgic about such things!

Daven Well and Sing Along!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rambam as Failure

I’ve been listening to the tapes of the recent e-Tim conference on Torah and Science. Much focuses on Rambam, esp. as two of the major speakers are R’ Menachem Kellner (Must a Jew Believe Anything?; Maimonides’ Confrontation with Mysticism; many others) and R’ Marc Shapiro (The Limits of Orthodox Theology; Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox; etc.)

Kellner, characterized as the foremost contemporary writer on Maimonides, notes that we should remember that before Europe called him Maimonides, he was the Rambam. Maimonides seems to make him more subjective, as there is Maimonides, Marc’s monides, Twersky’s monides, etc.

Kellner notes that despite his clear intellectual prowess, Rambam tried to create a rationalistic, philosophical Judaism, yet failed. Traces of this program can be found in his writings, particularly the Mishneh Torah (MT).

1) In Maimonides’ Confrontation with Mysticism, Rambam is seen as creating a philosophical interpretation of Judaism, particularly the esoteric parts such as the Matter of Creation and the Matter of the Chariot, in part to undermine and quash the proto-kabbalistic ideas that were beginning to arise in the 12th century. I haven’t read the book yet, though. Clearly this didn’t work, as the 13th century saw a tremendous Kabbalistic counter-reformation, culminating in the publicization of the Zohar c. 1290 by R’ Moshe de Leon. Kabbalah has clearly won the day; while there have been others who lean towards philosophy since Maimonides, popular Jewish culture in both Levant and Occident is dominated by Kabbalah. As I like to say, in Judaism, Plato has defeated Aristotle.

2) In the introduction to the Mishneh Torah, Rambam writes famously

For this reason, I, Moshe son of the Rav Maimon the Sephardi, found that the current situation is unbearable; and so, relying on the help of the Rock blessed be He, I intently studied all these books, for I saw fit to write what can be determined from all of these works in regard to what is forbidden and permitted, and unclean and clean, and the other rules of the Torah: Everything in clear language and terse style, so that the whole Oral Law would become thoroughly known to all; without bringing problems and solutions or differences of view, but rather clear, convincing, and correct statements, in accordance with the legal rules drawn from all of these works and commentaries that have appeared from the time of Our Holy Teacher to the present.

This is so that all the rules should be accessible to the small and to the great in the rules of each and every commandment and the rules of the legislations of the Torah scholars and prophets: in short, so that a person should need no other work in the World in the rules of any of the laws of Israel; but that this work might collect the entire Oral Law, including the positive legislations, the customs, and the negative legislations enacted from the time of Moshe Our Teacher until the writing of the Talmud, as the Geonim interpreted it for us in all of the works of commentary they wrote after the Talmud. Thus, I have called this work the [Complete] Restatement of the [Oral] Law (Mishneh Torah), for a person reads the Written Law first and then reads this work, and knows from it the entire Oral Law, without needing to read any other book between them.

Thus, one need not spend all one’s time learning the minutiae of halacha, since one can always look up what one needs to do, in the Mishneh Torah, the Restatement of the Law. Now, in the Hilchot Talmud Torah, the Rambam lays out the standard for a learning program. When one is young, one divides one’s time between Mikra (scripture and its interpretation), Mishnah (settled law, legal texts), and Gemara (the way one idea develops from another, in other words, reasoning and philosophy). When one has learned the Scripture and Settled Law well, one should then devote one’s time to Gemara, to the improvement of the mind. To that end, he wrote this code, so that one need not spend all one’s life on legal matters, leaving more time for the ideal study: philosophy.

Clearly he failed in this program as well. His critics took the idea from the Introduction as arrogance: “He wants to replace the study of Talmud and Torah with his book! Sacrilege!” while really, he only emphasized Torah study. Just, his idea of Torah study. They ignored the connection with the laws of Torah Study, which laid out why he wanted to make more time for Gemara, because Gemara qua Philosophy was for him the ideal.

He makes much the same argument in the Guide, in the critical chapter III:51. He gives his parable of the Castle, where the pinnacle of intellectual achievement is knowledge of God, through metaphysical speculation and intellectual meditation. One studies the regular material and gains closer and closer approach to the inner areas of the castle, but only metaphysical speculation leads to meditation on God, the innermost, highest level of learning.

He alludes to this as well in the Mishnah Commentary, in the introduction to Chelek and the 13 Foundations, where he lays out his concept of the World to Come as a zone of purely intellectual enjoyment (elaborated on in MT Hilchot Teshuvah 8], whose benefits are reached only through selfless dedication to philosophy.

Clearly, then, philosophy as the inner teaching of Judaism was part of his program from beginning to end, and the MT was only a tool to encourage it. But his critics either did not perceive the overall program, or as neoPlatonists, dismissed it.

3) While not necessarily a Straussian numerologist, Kellner notes that the idea expressed at the exact midpoint of the MT is one of universal philosophic bliss. There are 14 volumes in the MT, this is the end of the 7th section (Shmitta veYovel, which happen every 7 or 7x7 years) of the 7th book (Seeds, and there are Seven Special Species for which the land of Israel is praised), at the end of the 13th chapter (13 are the tribes, or Divine attributes, etc.). One would expect something so carefully thematically placed to have special significance.

After describing the reason for Levitical landlessness as its devotion to being the national teachers of Torah, he writes:

13: And not just the tribe of Levi, but any human being (kol ish v’ish mikol ba’ei olam) who has pledges his spirit to God, and understands from his knowledge, to separate himself, to stand before God to serve him, and to worship him, in order to know God, and walks uprightly as God made him, and throws off the yoke of all the calculations that most men make – this one is sanctified as the Holy of Holies, and God will be his portion and inheritance forever and ever; and he shall merit in this world sufficient sustenance, as suffices for the priests and Levites. Behold, it is as David said (Ps 16:5) 5The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.”.

Any human being, who devotes himself to contemplation and knowledge of God, is as the Holy of Holies. And it leads right into the mitzvah to build a Temple, which, as we say on the High Holy Days every year, will be called “a house of prayer for all the nations” – a universal messianic vision.

Such a strong universal message. And yet, through the ages, it has been reinterpreted out of existence. The commentators on the page simply ignore it. Shu”t Minchas Yitzchak limits it to those who engage in a Yissachar-Zvulun relationship. R’ Aharon Kotler limits “all human beings” to “yeshiva bochrim”, according to R’ Kellner. But it is a strong universal message of the possibility of human perfection. And in this too the Rambam failed. Instead, the vision of the Tanya, where non-Jews have naturally inferior souls and thus selves, has won out, perhaps due to centuries of persecution.

In what did the Rambam succeed? In establishing his personal reputation, certainly. In inspiring many moderns, yes. Perhaps he was just ahead of his time. Although, even today, neo-Hasidism and a Kabbalistic renaissance (kosher as well as Bergian) also offer strong enticements for the Jewish soul.

Monday, February 18, 2008

[Super]Natural Messianic Age – Mima Nafshach?*

– due to R’ Moshe Sokol’s shiur after davening, Tetzaveh, 5768, Moshiach according to the Rambam.

Gemara Shabbat 63a

For Samuel said, This world differs from the Messianic era only in respect to servitude of the exiled, for it is said, For the poor shall never cease out of the land.6 This supports R. Hiyya b. Abba,7 who said, All the prophets prophesied only for the Messianic age, but as for the world to come, the eye hath not seen, O Lord, beside thee [what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him].8

6) Deut. XV, 11. This implies that poverty will continue in the Messianic era. Hence the prophets' tidings of a new state of affairs cannot refer to the Messianic era, which will be the same as the present, save in this matter.

7) Sc. the Baraitha which states that weapons of war will cease to exist in the Messianic age.

8) Isa. LXIV, 3. — The conception of the future world is rather vague in the Talmud. In general, it is the opposite of [H], this world. In Ber, I, 5, 'this world' is opposed to the days of the Messiah, and this in turn is differentiated here from the future world. The following quotation from G. Moore, 'Judaism' (Vol. 2, p. 389) is apposite: 'Any attempt to systematize the Jewish notions of the hereafter imposes upon them an order and consistency which does not exist in them'.

The Gemara sets up an opposition between Shmuel’s naturalistic vision of the Messianic Age (political independence) and R’ Yochanan’s supernaturalistic vision (lions lying down with lambs, other changes to the natural order). However, note the following passages in the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah:

First, in Hilchot Teshuvah chapter 7, after laying out his idea of the World to Come as a purely intellectual space, where the intellects of the dead reach their place solely by the set of correct ideas about God they managed to obtain in their lifetimes, contrasts this idea with the prophecies of the Messianic Era:

the first Sages have already made it known that it is beyond one's capabilities to comprehend the goodness of the World To Come at all, and that one cannot know its greatness, beauty and very essence, but it only the Holy One, Blessed Be He, who can understand it. All the goodnesses which the Prophets prophecised to Israel are only physical pleasures from which they will benefit in the days of the Messiah and when monarchy has been returned to Israel. The goodness of the World To Come, however, has no limit or size, and was not discussed by the Prophets so as not [even] to hint that it might have a limit.

Second, in Hilchot Melachim, laws of Kings chapter 12:1

1. One should not entertain the notion that in the Era of Mashiach any element of the natural order will be nullified, or that there will be any innovation in the work of creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern.

What’s going on here? The Rambam always follows the Gemara, yet here, where the Gemara set up an opposition between Shmuel’s naturalistic messianic era, and R’ Yochanan’s supernaturalistic idea, the Rambam quotes one thing in one place, and the opposite idea in another place!

Are we to reconcile the two visions, take the supernatural ideas as metaphors for political and naturalistic ideas, such as the lion and the lamb meaning no more war? Some later commentators have gone there, but R’ Sokol (and I) don’t think that’s really what the Rambam was getting at.

He thinks that the Rambam was following a common Talmudic construct, where a whole Baraita is quoted with two opposing views, just to bring in one of the views. So too here. The Rambam as the prime Aristotelians rationalist, holds similar non-spiritual ideas about the Messianic era and the World to Come. The miracles of R’ Yochanan are just brought in as an aside to be discarded. He quoted the whole passage there simply to justify his purely intellectual view of the World to Come, by disassociating the World to Come idea from the Messianic Era idea, even if that passage attributes supernatural results to the Messianic age. His whole purpose was to demonstrate that Chazal differentiated between the two. On the contrary, while discussing the age of the Messiah itself, he brings Shmuel’s perspective, because it matches his own.

So, even if the Gemara sets them up as opposing one another in terms of the Messianic age, they are used for different purposes by Rambam, hence they are not used in a contradictory way.


*Note: mima nafshach is an Aramaic expression meaning you can’t have it both ways.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We are All Together

Sermon preached by R’ Moshe Sokol, Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush, Parshat Tetzaveh, 5768

Summary, and mistakes, mine.

The parsha opens with a pair of puzzling pesukim:

20 "Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning… 21 …in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.

These raise several questions:

1) the verbs have suddenly changed from the previous section about building the Mishkan

2) the timing seems strange, between building the mishkan and the priestly garb – why are the priests being told what to do before being given proper clothing and consecration? Shouldn’t this have been somewhere in parshat Emor, where the priests are given duties?

3) What is the Ner Tamid (eternal light)?

4) Who are the actors and why?

It’s a puzzling passage. All the commentators deal with some subset of the above questions, and all their answers seem strained. R’ Sokol will offer a pshat (simple reading) that will attempt to answer the questions.

What is the clear oil of pressed olives? Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), from pressed, not crushed olives, is made with special care. This is to be made by the Children of Israel, regular Jews, “lamaor”, specifically with the intent that it be used for the Temple lights. The priests are then to take this offering, and use it to light the Eternal Light.

What is the Eternal Light? That’s a machloket rishonim, an argument among medieval sages. Rabbenu Bachya maintains that it’s a collective noun for all the lamps in the Mishkan, and later the Temple. Ramban, on the other hand, sees it as the Ner Hamaaravi, the Western Lamp, or central lamp on the Menorah. Just as the Jews pull in many different directions, but are unified through the Torah and its observance in and out of the Temple, the Ner Hamaaravi unites the divergent branches on the Menorah, and is always lit, even if the rest of the Menorah is only lit on certain occasions.

What is the command, and to whom? You, Moshe, should command the Children of Israel, to prepare pure, refined oil, in purity and sanctity, and give it to the priests, who can then use it in the Eternal Light in the Temple. The usual reading of this passage would have the Israelites representing gashmiyus, physicality, and the priests representing ruchniyus, spirituality, and the spiritual priests elevate the product of the rude Israelites. R’ Sokol would undermine that reading, seeing it as more of an intertwined set of responsibilities. The Israelites prepare the oil in holiness and purity, normally the priestly mode. The priests then take the oil made by ordinary Jews, and use it for the holy purpose. The regular people and the priests join in sanctity.

Judaism doesn’t recognize a caste system, rather, a separation of roles. The people have their role, the priests have their role, and the two working together accomplish God’s purpose. There is no such separation between the spiritual and the physical, the two work hand in hand.

Thus the passage fits here, as a prologue to the priestly clothes. It reminds the priests, that despite their special clothing, their special roles, they are not actually above the rest of the people. Rather, they are part of an organic whole, integrated as part of Bnei Yisrael

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I was thinking in shul today - have we returned to the 17th Century? I mean, think about some of the major issues affecting the Jewish world:
  1. Christian Kabbalism (Philip Berg's Kabbalah Centre that appeals to the likes of Madonna)
  2. Massive false messianic movement - Shabtai Tzvi, which was much larger, vs. Lubavitch.
  3. Obsession with heresy and excommunication - Spinoza and Da Costa vs. Slifkin.
  4. Religious Wars - last time Catholic vs Protestant, now returning to the Crusader phenomenon of Christian vs. Muslim
Perhaps a microcosm.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Early [Jewish] Music

Musical Note By Cantor Sherwood Goffin
The First Notated Jewish Music

Historically, Jews have had musical symbols for Torah Reading since the time of Ezra, and according to some, from Moshe at Mt.Sinai. Nevertheless, we didn't have Jewish musicians who knew how to notate music until the late 17th century. Except for a 30 year period in 15th century Italy (Solomon Rossi), music was a closed book to all communities outside of the Church. Any Jewish music we have from before that time was notated by non-Jews. The earliest notated Jewish Music ever found was discovered in the Cairo Geniza by Solomon Shechter at the turn of the 20th century. These were two compositions written out by Ovadia HaGer, Obadiah the Norman Proselyte of the early 12th century. A monk from a noble Norman family of Southern Italy, he converted to Judaism in 1102, emigrated to the Near East, and finally settled in Cairo. He learned Gregorian neume notation as a clergyman of the Church, and was able to compose and notate for various Jewish occasions. The two pieces discovered include his famed "Mi Al Har Chorev", a eulogy of Moses that was sung on Simchas Torah. Its character is typically ancient Gregorian, and is a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Jews of that period. It is also the first synagogue music ever to be notated!

Daven Well and Sing Along!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gratuitous Numerical Post II

Thank you, my adoring three dozen fans, for bringing us to this milestone of 20,000 hits. It only took us 7 months this time, instead of 2-3/4 years. How good and pleasant it is to write stuff a few times a week, that mildly interests other people.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cantors Conference II

The conference was very interesting. Here are some of my reactions to it.

Cantor Beer, using standard, well-known tunes as taught in the Baal Tefillah track at the Belz school, gave some nice background on the modes and moods helping us to properly "interpret the words" (to use Rabbi Lookstein's phrase). There was a strong emphasis on the need to stick with nusach hatefillah, which has tied together Jewish communities for centuries. While Musaf Kedushah is often the "hit parade", one should bear in mind the nusach, the modes that have been used for centuries - minor (Mogen Ovos), "Jewish major" (7th step depressed a half-step), etc. when selecting tunes for the different lines of kedushah.

Also, each chatzi-kaddish in the davening has its own tune. As Cantor Goffin has noted before, the chatzi-kaddish before Shabbat musaf is not the same as the one after leining. Neilah is not the same as Tal/Geshem. Etc.

The Modzitz presentation was fascinating, I hadn't known so much about the conscious musical training of the Modzitzer rebbes. One even called his sons before him to test them on which knew the nusach and niggunim (yes, Modzitz emphasized their variant of standard nusach, not just the niggunim) to decide which should get the rebbeschaft. Cantor Motzen gave us a sample of a Modzitzer Friday night service, that could be "real"-chasidic, as opposed to the somewhat contrived Carlebach service. Also, Cantor Motzen feels that the Modzitz niggunim fit the words better, or can be made to fit better, than the standard Carlebach tunes.

For example, the Carlebach Mizmor leDovid is done in a gloomy minor mode, while Cantor Motzen uses a major, hence more cheery and fitting the words, tune. [Yes, people can argue, majestic not gloomy, still, both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic tunes that I know for returning the Torah, are major, hence upbeat. -jjb] Enough with the crying all the time. It doesn't always fit. Even with the niggunim, though, nusach is emphasized - each psalm is sung, but the closing verses are done in the normal Shabbat night nusach, as appropriate to the community.

This is just another example of a repeated theme: do not sacrifice the text to the tune. The tune should fit the words. The tune should not mangle the grammar, or the emphasis of each verse. This is a problem many people have with the Carlebach davening - the tunes are adapted from other words, and don't quite fit the less-rhythmical meter of the psalms.

[This just in - Blog in Dm also discusses the Cantor Motzen's presentation]

Cantor Malovany's presentation was impressive as always, but by the same token, less useful to most cantors and baalei tefillah today. For example, a tune which he presented as simpler than his own compositions, from a chazan who was not into coloratura, well, he sang it in his usual ornate style. Further, as Cantor Goffin and Cantor Beer note, chazzonus has largely fallen out of favor, making way for the simpler baal-tefillah style.

Now, one can draw congregants into a space where they may appreciate chazzonus, says Cantor Malovany, by periodically interrupting the recitative with a simple sing-along melody, then you've co-opted them, and the chazzonus may reach them; but the current trend against repetition of words and phrases militates against trying this.

For example, when I was growing up, the High Holidays cantor would sing "berosh hashanah yikatevun, uvyom tzom kipur yeichateimun (2x)", three times during that paragraph of UnesanehTokef, as a sing-along refrain; today, because repetition has fallen out of style, most won't do that, and the paragraph becomes either a long tiring stretch of pure chazzonish recitative, or the chazan rushes through it so as not to bore people. In either case, some of the impact of its solemnity is lost.

Interestingly, all of the speakers noted that "this is how you can do this or that without repeating words." Clearly, for all of them, repeating words is not completely anathema, but one has to fit the style of the time. The conflict between the cantors' mesorah of repetition and the rabbis' textual opposition to repetition goes on.

Cantor Goffin and Cantor Joel Kaplan gave a good discussion of their issues with nusach hatefillah and its fading from prominence on the Nachum Segal show, JM in the AM. Give it a listen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cantors Conference I

Musical Note

By Cantor Sherwood Goffin
Gala Jewish Music Conference in Teaneck–Free Admittance To All

This Sunday, the Cantorial Council Of America, an affiliate of the Belz School of Jewish Music at Yeshiva University, is presenting a free program including myself, Cantor Joseph Malovany, Cantor Yaakov Motzen, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb (Exec. of the OU) and Cantor Bernard Beer, Director of Belz, in a full-day synagogue music educational program at the Roemer Shul in Teaneck. At 10AM I will be presenting “Highlights of the Shacharit Shabbat prayer” as found on my new MP3 program, a project of the Belz School and Davka Software. At 11:15, Cantor Beer will present “Highlights of Musaf”. An optional Lunch will then be served at noon, for a cost of $25. At 1:15 Cantor Motzen and Rabbi Weinreb will present “The Music of Modzitz” and how the music can be effectively used in davening. At 2:30 Cantor Malovany will present “New Cantorial Selections for the needs of today’s synagogue”. It is a program for everyone who has an interest in the music of the synagogue, and I would love to see many LSS members joining with us. Pre-registration is not necessary, except if you expect to have lunch with us. To reserve for lunch or any questions, call the Belz School at 212-960-5353 or write to

The Roemer Shul is Cong. Keter Torah at 600 Roemer Ave., Teaneck. Take the GW bridge to Rt.4, exit at River Rd., go left on River Rd.. At Roemer Ave. turn right and you will see the shul on the right. Buses from Port Authority go there as well. See you on Sunday!

Daven Well and Sing Along!

Unfortunately, I didn't get this in time to post. We hope the CCA will produce videos - the presentations were all videotaped. If you're interested in so-so MP3 recordings (the voices are too quiet, the singing is pretty loud), drop me a note, or leave a comment with your email address. Also, I missed Cantor Goffin's presentation. I would advise yez to buy his new MP3-CD, "Be a Baal Tefillah: The Shabbat Davening".

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Modesty or Pride

Bruria Keren, the rebbetzin at the heart of the Jewish burka “movement”, has been burning up the JBlogosphere and the media. She appears to be less than totally sane, or at the least some kind of OCD (obsessive-compulsive); she “dresses” in so many layers of clothing, wraps, shawls, scarves, cloaks, that she cannot even stand up. She is described as a mound of cloth hiding in her apartment. Some of her followers even go so far as to cover their eyes, requiring their small children to act as guide dogs or seeing-eye people.

She has attracted over a hundred followers, to the point that they are becoming a visible minority in Bnei Brak and Meah Shearim (religious areas in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem). The phenomenon has been reported in the Israeli secular press, which admittedly likes to point out the sensational and extreme, particularly among the religious. The question one must ask is, if the halachic principle guiding Jewish women’s clothing styles is “modesty”, tzniut, is this truly modesty, or is it a proto-feminist sensibility exhibiting itself in a prideful (gaavah) manner?

What is tzniut? It comes from the verse “Walking modestly with your G0d”, and defines our attitude, both men and women , regarding our general comportment and mitzvah observance. Regarding clothing, it is taken to mean that one should not wear clothing that screams out “Look at me! Aren’t I pretty? Aren’t I sexy?” That goes for both sexes. Orthodox Jewish men don’t tend to go around in the fishnet basketball shirts, or very flashy suits, unless one is in a social context where that is the norm, e.g. at a formal dinner, or while playing basketball. Women similarly don’t wear very short skirts or sleeves, clothing which screams out “I’m Sexy, Look at Meeee!”. The basic idea is not to stand out, not to feed our pride, not to place ourselves above everyone else.

There is another verse, “Kol Kevudah bat melech penimah”, the King’s daughter’s glory is internal. This is an extra warning to women not to dress very materialistically, which is a recognized, and somewhat tolerated, temptation. E.g., the mishnayot (early legal code) regarding Shabbat observance allow women to go out in various kinds of jewelry, but not the most ostentatious kinds, even though they are in effect carrying, not wearing the jewelry, and carrying is generally forbidden on Shabbat. It is an extra piece of advice for women not to yield too much to the temptation to show off their dresses, jewelry, etc. Even for other women – as my wife says, women dress as much to impress other women, if not more so, than to impress men.

R’ Mordechai Torczyner and Chana Luntz, Esq., have an interesting exchange on the relationship between these verses.

It would seem, therefore, that this Rebbetzin Keren has taken the latter verse to such an extreme that she has tripped over the first verse. She is so anxious to hide her light under a bushel basket, her intelligence and charisma under a pile of cloth, that she has made a public spectacle of herself and her followers, thus likely running afoul of the virtue of modesty.

Now, Rabbanit Keren has been described in a not-quite-all-there manner, between the compulsive over-clothing and her claim to have spoken with God and been told to behave like this. OK, so she’s not quite sane. However, she still granted an interview to Maariv, an Israeli secular newspaper. She has no great modesty objection to being in the media, in the public eye – so is she modest or using modesty as a tool to feed her pride, her desire for recognition?

But what about the other women who are attracted to emulate her, and even to go beyond her, yet unlike her, take their excessive pseudo-modesty into the public sphere, into the street? I submit that they must have some kind of proto-feminist sensibility, as one of my more conservative correspondents describes it. OK, the Jewish world has defined “modesty” as the province of women, let’s go out there and show everyone how modest we can be! We’ll shove it in their faces, this modesty! We can wear our modesty on our sleeve, even if that sleeve is hidden under a dozen wraps!

In overemphasizing modesty, Rabbanit Keren has created a movement of completely immodest, albeit heavily clothed, women. When one’s “modesty” not only stands out, but imposes extra burdens on one’s children, is it not time to step back and say, “am I truly walking modestly with my G0d?”

It's like Chazal say, or at least imply in Pirkei Avot (and is brought out by the Tiferet Yisroel): making a big chumra in one area can lead to a kula in another area. Excessive pnimiyut (internalization, hiding) even in the name of modesty, can become gaavah, pride, its exact opposite.

(Hey, I can jump on a bandwagon with the best of them!)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Harbinger of Purim

Musical Note By Cantor Sherwood Goffin

The Harbinger of Purim and a Milestone Family Bar Mitzvah

This Shabbat we will bless the new month as we always do with the recitation of "M'vorchim Hachodesh,” the Yehi Rotson paragraph that we insert before Ashrei once a month before we return the Torah to the Ark. Normally, this would be the introduction to the month of Adar and the coming of Purim. However, since this is a leap year in the lunar-based Jewish calendar, there will be two months of Adar, and we will only celebrate Purim in Adar II. I will allude to the missing

Purim in Adar I by announcing the day of Rosh Chodesh with the melody of Megillat Esther. However, I will not sing a Purim melody, as I would usually do for the paragraph of “Y'chad'sheihu," to show that Purim is not quite here yet.

I am informing you about this month's musical allusion to Purim because Batya and I will not be here for next month's Blessing of the New Month of Adar II when I would utilize Purim melodies for the entire blessing. Our absence is because that Shabbat will be THE BAR MITZVAH OF OUR OLDEST GRANDCHILD, YONI HAWK, IN SILVER SPRING, MD! Yoni was born in Mt. Sinai hospital in Manhattan, as was his mom -our daughter Tsipi, and his Bris was a gala celebration here at LSS 13 years ago. All the members of LSS have always shared in our simchas, but unfortunately we cannot invite everyone to Maryland for that Shabbat of March 1st. Some time later we hope to sponsor a Kiddush in honor of the Bar Mitzvah, and in this way enable you to share in our joy. If you are going to be in the Silver Spring/Kemp Mill area that Shabbat anyway, you are welcome to daven with us at the Young Israel - Shomrei Emunah for the tefilla at 9 AM. Otherwise, we will see you at the LSS Kiddush somewhat later in the calendar. Have a Chodesh Tov - a great New Month of Adar I. May we always have such simchas!

Daven Well and Sing Along!