31 August 2008

Is Starbucks' New Vivanno Kosher?

Last month, Starbucks launched a new beverage, Vivanno™ nourishing blends. There are two flavors currently available: orange mango banana and banana chocolate. According to their press release,
With customers looking for healthier options to fit their on-the-go lifestyles, the new Vivanno™ beverage line is one way Starbucks is meeting requests for great-tasting, good-for-you offerings while furthering its commitment to food and beverage selections that support a healthy lifestyle. The simple ingredient list for both beverages includes:
• one whole banana,
• a proprietary whey protein and fiber powder,
• choice of milk,
• and ice (in the Orange Mango Banana Blend, Naked® Juice is also added).
This is certainly an interesting move, especially for those trying to get more protein into their diet. However, the question is, "Are they kosher?" So, to this end, I e-mailed Starbucks' customer relations and Madeline responded "Due to the nature of your inquiry, we are unable to provide an ideal response via email. Therefore, we would like the opportunity to provide/gather more information in order to best assist you. Please call our customer relations department at 1-800-235-2883." So, today, I called.

A nice, young lady named Kate answered my questions (Starbucks' customer relations, if you are reading this, she did an excellent job). Kate said that the protein powder is a proprietary blend certified by the Kof-K. However, she said that the Naked juice in the orange mango banana blend is not certified kosher. This strikes me as strange since the OU says Naked juice is kosher. Anyways, in the orange mango banana blend, aside from the Naked juice and the proprietary protein blend, there is also water and milk. In the chocolate banana blend, aside from the proprietary protein blend, there is milk, water, banana, and mocha sauce (the mocha sauce, according to Kate, is certified kosher by the OU).
Of course, at the beginning of the call, Kate gave a general kosher disclaimer that Starbucks uses non-kosher products behind the counter and that none of the stores are certified as kosher, per se (even though there are many products that are kosher).
Anyways, while searching for my answer to the original question, I came across KosherStarbucks.com that says "The Orange Mango Banana, and Chocolate Banana Vivanno are kosher only without the Protein & Fiber Powder. You must specify each time you order that the Protein & Fiber powder should not be included in your beverage." This statement seems bizarre to me if the Kof-K says that the protein and fiber powder is kosher.
Anyways, I don't know / caveat emptor.

27 August 2008

Meta-Vlogging Post

I'm going to slightly change up the format of my vlog posts (I know the lighting is fairly dark in this post - I hope to remedy that (at least the sound is working again (yay!))):

24 August 2008

Vlog Post #4

I really don't know what's up with the sound in this vlog posting at times. At some points (such as in Montreal on Wednesday), it seems fine, but then it is just bad at other points. Then again, my camera is four and a half years old....
In this one, among other things, I show a little bit of J's Big Gym, the local gym to which I belong (for a few years now) and have mentioned previously. After having been asked about it, I decided I would show some of the gym for those interested (if you sign up for a membership, make sure you mention my name as a referral(!)). Not mentioned in the video is that it is kind of empty since I shot the video clips close to or at closing time on Sunday evening, so not many people were around.

An Explanation for a Halakhic Prenuptial Agreement [video]

On Wednesday, I went to a friend's wedding in Montreal and the wedding officiant, Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, explained the need for a prenuptial agreement:

Rav Moshe Feinstein on Birkat HaMapil

I recently found what Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote regarding ברכת המפיל (the blessing said before going to sleep (about which I have previously written)) (שו"ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק ד סימן לו) over a quarter of a century ago*:
הא איכא זמן דא"א לאדם לחיות כלל בלא שינה, וכשבא לזמן כזה הא ברור לו שיישן. וגם ברובא דרובא פעמים שכל אדם ישן כהרגלו, ואין זה אף בחשיבות מיעוט שנחוש לזה. וגם חזינן שלא חשו לזה דהא התקינו לברך ברכת המפיל בכל לילה קודם השינה, ולא חשו כלל לשמא לא יישן אף ללילה אחת, וצ"ע.
Behold, there is a time for which it is not possible for a person to live at all without sleep and when a time like this arrives, it is certain to this person that this person will fall asleep. Also, a majority of most of the time, everybody will sleep as they usually do, and we do consider the rarity [of not falling asleep] about which we may concern for it. Also, we see that [the Talmudic Rabbis] did not worry about this, since they established for people to bless the blessing of hamapil every night before sleep and they did not worry at all lest one would not sleep even one night. And further looking into the matter is necessary.
Although Rav Moshe says that the Rabbis were not concerned lest one be unable to fall asleep one night, it's interesting that this seems to be proved from the lack of mention of a concern, rather than an explicit mention of lack of concern.
* Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Igerot Moshe, vol. 8, ed. Rabbi Shabsai Avraham HaKohen Rapaport (Jerusalem: Rabbi D. Feinstein, 1996), 222.
Rav Moshe wrote this on 25 February 1982.

21 August 2008

Our Martinique Experience

{this is the last, if not one of the last of our honeymoon postings}
After arriving on Wednesday 9 July in the airport, we then took a cab to our hotel, Hotel de la Pagerie in Trois-Îlets. The hotel is situated right near the harbor and there are a few shops around. That evening, we just wandered around the little town a bit.
The next day, we arranged to go on a little boating excursion for the following day. Since we didn't think we would be able to go on a different boat ride that afternoon, we decided to take a ferry into the capital, Fort-de-France. While there, we walked around for a bit, stopping in various stores and checking out a local market. We then headed back on the ferry to Trois-Îlets and relaxed for the rest of the evening and afternoon.
On Friday morning, we took a boat ride out to see the Mangrove forest. While the captain of the boat was speaking about interesting things regarding the local fauna and flora, he was nice enough to translate some stuff for us when we asked. At one point, one of the passengers started explaining what the guide was saying in French. The lady, a German who was with her husband and two children, was tremendously helpful in translating what our guide was saying.
After the trip, we got a little food and relaxed in the afternoon, including getting feet massages at a nearby place, before spending our evening in our hotel room.
The following day, we spent mostly in our hotel room and I got a lot of reading done. As mentioned previously, we were nowhere near the synagogue for shabbas, which is why we spent it in the hotel. In the evening, we got full massages, which was nice and honeymoon-appropriate (and also my first full massage).
The next day was Sunday and, as a lot of things were closed, we mostly hung out (I learned Talmud and read) for the day and swam in the pool.
Finally, the next day, we set out to return to the US.
One other thing: the hotel was okay, but since I must've gotten used to the comfy American mattress on which we slept at La Toubana for the previous three nights, I had such a difficult time sleeping the five nights we were at Hotel de la Pagerie.

WiFi at ATL?

Last Thursday, when my wife and I arrived at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), I tried getting WiFi, but found that it wasn't free. Once again, several days ago on Monday evening, I tried once again, but to no avail before boarding our plane.
However, apparently there is a way at ATL to get the WiFi for free (HT: lifehacker):
I found that I could easily visit sites like slashdot, google, or even this weblog, when adding a ?.jpg at the end of the url.
Pretty neat, though I'm not sure when the next time I will be in Atlanta.

19 August 2008

Vlog Posting #3

For more on our/my visit to the World of Coca-Cola, click here.
For the entire video of Anna Elashvili's performance of Vittorio Monti's Czardas on violin, click here.

Vlog Posting #3: Atlanta from Drew Kaplan on Vimeo.

Big "Sidewalk Closed" Signs Finally Go Up

I recently noticed that the American Development Group has posted big signs saying that the sidewalk next door is now closed. Although they had previously posted smaller signs, I guess they figured after nearly two and a half years after starting this project, that they would post big signs saying that the sidewalk was closed (although it's really obvious to any passerby that it's closed, but I guess it's got to be posted...). (Oh, btw, there really hasn't been a whole lot done since May.)

15 August 2008

Visit to the World of Coca-Cola

Drew and Rachel in front of the World of Coca-ColaToday, my wife, one of my brothers-in-law, one of my sisters-in-law, and I went to the World of Coca-Cola, which is kind of like a museum. Although the first time I was in Atlanta was a dozen years ago [during the 1996 Olympic Games] and my family and I had visited the Coke place then, apparently, this is a new exhibition that just opened last spring. Also, (and obviously) there were not as many people as there were then in the Olympic village. They had some movies and an exhibit with Coca-Cola paraphernalia (along with amusing note that "The display of these materials in this museum is for historical and educational purposes only and is not intended to imply endorsement by any person or organization of The Coca-Cola Company or its brands today." !) and a little assembly line where visitors could see how the bottling process takes place.Drew at Taste It! with a cup in his hand at the World of Coca-Cola
However, Coca-Cola is known for its beverages and, to that end, the highlight of the building was the tasting area, "Taste It!", toward the end [right before the obligatory gift shop]. In the tasting area, they had eight different beverages to taste from each of five different world regions (oh, yes, that is quite more than the eight different beverages that are at EPCOT (which I enjoyed)): Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America in addition to having a separate section for various Coca-Cola products. After trying all 32 foreign beverages, my favorite was Kinley from England and the runners-up would be the various apple sodas. People kept talking about the Beverley beverage, but it wasn't as bad as some of the others. One of the interesting facets of the World of Coca-Cola was how much they tried to show that they are not a large, cold heartless global corporation. This was shown throughout, especially starting off with their fake documentary, "Inside the Happiness Factory: A Documentary", with various creatures, including some fuzzy little creatures that kiss the bottles. Anyways, I think they did a nice job in trying to show that they appreciate various world peoples, that they are very philanthropically involved and that they are generally warm and friendly.
Also, I noticed that the bathroom smelled nice and speaking of water, apparently "The Coca-Cola Company strives for water efficiency in its operations", specifically at the World of Coca-Cola, "minimizing the amount of water" used, "including motion-activated, low-flow faucets and waterless urinals" (from a sign entitled "Water Efficiency").

13 August 2008

Day Two of 2008 YCT Yemei Iyun in Bible & Jewish Thought

Rav Carmy speakingOn 30 June, I attended day two of YCT's sixth annual Yemei Iyun in Bible & Jewish Thought (the previous day, I attended day one). Just like the previous day, the sessions were on the Bible. I started off with Rabbi Shalom Carmy's "War in Sefer Devarim". I then heard Rabbi Yitzchak Blau speak on "Jewish Thought Perspectives on the Concept of Tumah".
After lunch, I heard Yehuda Kraut speak on "Deciphering the Shema: Staircase Parallelism in Devarim 6:4", which was really neat and the most academic session for me of not only the day, but of the three days. After going through four different standard syntax solutions for deciphering
Deuteronomy 6:4, he then explored four imaginative syntax solutions from scholars, then presented his understanding of it being an AB//AC=ABC, thus resulting in Hashem Elokeinu Ehad for the latter half of the verse. Apparently, "staircase parallelism figures prominently in Ugaritic literature" and there are several other instances in the Bible of this feature.Rabbi Klapper speaking
Then Rabbi David Fohrman spoke on "Why Couldn't Moshe Enter the Land? The View from Sefer Devarim", although apparently he had submitted two different topics and both got squished into one time slot, so he spoke about the view from Sefer Bamidbar. It was the most entertaining presentation of the day for me, accompanied not only by a powerpoint presentation, but a really cool pointing out that in every instance in which there is a water crisis for the Jews, there is an anagram of Miriam's name (thus the Rabbis' having such an idea as Miriam's Well). He also had a very close and good reading of the story of Moshe striking the rock, etc.
The last session of the day Rabbi Aryeh Klapper on "Beyond Good and Evil: A Philosophical Reclamation of the Concept of Holiness" started off with the problematic of the notion of sexual morality being reduced to interpersonal and turn to ethics, and that there is no language of value involved in the discussion. It was yet again another interesting class.

Day One of 2008 YCT Yemei Iyun in Bible & Jewish Thought

Shalom Berger speaking at the panel discussionThe first day of YCT's 2008 Yemei Iyun in Bible and Jewish Thought was 29 June and the first session I attended was Rabbi Dr. Tsvi Blanchard on "Origins and Beginnings: Genesis, Law and the Redemptive Narrative", which was chock full of information - it was definitely a session for which I would have liked to have more time. After that session was Rabbi Uri Etigson on "Does God Haave Real Feelings? An Inquiry into Reading the Bible", which was interesting as he started out discussing Maimonides' conception of God not having feelings. Having been reading the Guide this summer, it is clear to see that he is fighting an uphill battle, going against the straightforward readings in the Bible (I would also say rabbinic literature, but he doesn't really have to defend those readings to the masses). Indeed, Rabbi Etigson said that he used to think about these things in a Maimonidean fashion, but came around to seeing it as it is. He then presented some rabbinic statements about God's emotionality and then moved on to try to show that God cared for Adam & Eve by providing for them (I was skeptical about this last point).
There was a special panel discussion in celebration of ten years of LookJed on "Using Academic Methods and Tools in the Study of Tanakh", co-sponsored by the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education. This was a new feature not found in any of the previous Yemei Iyun, but was definitely excellent - I definitely enjoyed it. Although there were definitely some interesting points, I wanted to quote here some neat points made by
Rabbi Zvi Grumet: "Intellectual Orthodoxy isn't for the masses." "Teachers don't have to have all of the answers - but they should know such things exist." "Dogma shuts down discussion and there is no more opportunity for dialogue."
The Followed by dinner.
After dinner, I heard an excellent presentation by Professor Leeor Gottlieb on "Did Nehemiah Have a Kosher Lulav?", which I found to be the most enjoyable class of the day for me.
The last class of the day I heard was by
Rabbi Tzvi Grumet on "Confronting Halakhic Sections in Humash", wherein he presented the idea that the Humash is really alll narrative, even the discussions of commandments (a thesis of which I wasn't convinced (sorry)).
Then came ma'ariv, and thus concluded day one of the Yemei Iyun of 2008.

12 August 2008

Not Saying Hello or Greeting People on Tishah b'Av

(I could've entitled this blog posting "You had me at not saying hello", although that would not be original.)
(Totally, btw, Havel Havelim #177: The Tisha B'Av Edition is out, with a link to one of my recent blogposts.)
I had started to look into the topic of not greeting people on Tishah b'Av on Sunday, but then abandoned it until I saw that Rabbi Ari Enkin wrote today on the same topic and I thought that I would add to the discussion [what I was planning on posting, pretty much, with some stuff in response to Rabbi Enkin's posting]. My main direction was going to be that the action forbidden on Tishah b'Av is שאילת שלום - inquiring into one's wellbeing and that saying "hello" should be okay, since they are different.
Why is it that on Tishah b'Av Jews are not supposed to greet people? Yes, as noted elsewhere, this custom "is rooted in the Laws of Mourning, because on Tisha B’Av we observe many of the same laws and customs that apply to a mourner." However, what I'm asking is how did this come about / why?
So before we actually get to answering this question, we first need to see what came before. We're going to start with Rabbi Yosef Karo's work, the Shulhan Arukh (או"ח תקנד:כ):
אין שאלת שלום לחבירו בת"ב, והדיוטות שאינם יודעים ונותנים שלום, משיבים להם בשפה רפה ובכובד ראש
There is no inquiry of wellbeing of one's fellow on Tishah b'Av. And simple people who know not and greet - we respond to them with a weak lip and with seriousness.
The phrase that Rabbi Karo uses here (שאלת שלום - inquiry of wellbeing) is one that goes way back, going back to Talmudic times of something that is not to be done. However, the question is what exactly constitutes this action from which people are to refrain? At face value, it would seem that inquiring of how one is doing is a problem but not simply greeting someone. At this point, it would seem that this could, as Rabbi Enkin wrote, "include the saying of 'good morning' or 'hello' in the prohibition of Sheilat Shalom, it is not entirely clear if such a greeting was intended to be included in the prohibition."
Rabbi Enkin references what
Rabbi Zechariah Mendel (son of Aryeh Leib) of Cracow in the 18th century wrote (באר היטב יו"ד שפה:ב) on this topic:
אפשר לומר כיון שרוב שאילת שלום שלנו אינו אלא שאומר צפרא טבא וזה מותר שאינו שאילת שלום ממש כדאיתא בבית יוסף בא"ח סימן פ"ט והביאו בש"ע שם. ועוד מביא בב"י שם בשם ר"י פרישת שלום כמו כריעה אבל שלום בפה מותר כמו צפרא דמרי טב וכיוצא בו ע"ש. וכתב שם בד"מ דבזוהר פקודי דף ק"ג ע"א משמע דאינו אסור רק כשמזכיר השם וזה שם לענין שלא יתן שלום לחבירו קודם שיתפלל וש"מ שכל זה שאנו נוהגין אינו בכלל שאילת שלום כנ"ל
It is possible to say that since most of our inquiry of wellbeing is simply just saying "Good morning" and this is permissible that it is not really inquiry of wellbeing, as Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote in his Beit Yosef (OH §89) and he wrote this there in his Shulhan Arukh. And furthermore, he mentioned there in his Beit Yosef in the name of Rabbenu Yeruham that extending a greeting is like bowing, but saying hello is permissible, like "Good morning, sir" and other similar things - see there. And Rabbi Moshe Isserles wrote in his Darkhei Moshe that in the Zohar it is inferable that it is only forbidden when one mentions God's name (Pekudei pg. 103a). And this there is referring to the topic of not saying hello to one's fellow before praying. And infer from this that all of this that we are accustomed is not in the category of inquiry of wellbeing, as it seems to me.
An excellent summary of Rabbi Zechariah Mendel's words by Rabbi Enkin is that "[o]ffering another Jew a 'Shalom Aleichem' is more of a religious act than a greeting. Common expressions of 'hello', 'good morning', and the like, are simply not in the same league as is 'Shalom Aleichem' in neither depth, structure, nor status." While this is very logical and sounds nice, there are other positions in Jewish thought through the ages.
Rabbi Eliyahu Shapira wrote (אליה רבה סימן תקנד) in the century prior to Rabbi Mendel, starting off quoting[/paraphrasing a little of] what Rabbi Avraham Gombiner wrote:
כתב ביו"ד סי' שפ"ה יש אומרים דזה מה שאנו נותנין שלום לא מיקרי שאלת שלום שבימיהם, וצ"ע הא בטור כתב שלום עליכם וגם בגמרא אמרינן שלום עליך רבי, ולכן אין להקל (מג"א ס"ק כא). ולענ"ד כוונת רמ"א על צפרא דמריה טב דנהיגין האידנא, דלא מיקרי שאלת שלום וכמ"ש לעיל סי' פ"ט [ס"ב]. גם נ"ל דבט' באב הכל אסור, דלא עדיף מאבל תוך ל' דהכל אסור.
"Rabbi Moshe Isserles wrote 'There are those who say that when we give greetings to each other it is not called 'inquiry of wellbeing' that was in Talmudic times' and there needs to be further looking into the matter." Behold, in the Tur, [Rabbi Ya'akov, son of Asher] wrote "peace be upon you". And also in the Talmud, it says "Peace be upon you, Rebbe". Therefore, one should not be lenient." But in my humble opinion, Rabbi Isserles' intention was about saying "Good morning, sir" which we do nowadays, which is not called inquiry into wellbeing and as is written above in Shulhan Arukh, §89. It also seems to me that on Tishah b'Av, everything is forbidden, since it is not better than a mourner who is within the first month of their mourning, that everything is forbidden.
Furthermore, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein wrote (ערוך השולחן או"ח תקנד:יח) a little over a century ago:
שאילת שלום אסור בט"ב דאינו יום של שלום כמו באבל כמ"ש ביו"ד סי' שפ"ה ושם י"א דשאילת שלום שלנו לא מקרי שאילת שלום אבל מהירושלמי שהביא הטור שם משמע להדיא דאמירת שלום עליכם הוה שאילת שלום ולכן אין להקל [מג"א סקכ"א] והדיוטות שאינם יודעים הדין ונותנים שלום מחזירים להם בשפה רפה ובכובד ראש אבל שלא להשיבו כלל אין נכון כדי שלא יתבייש וכן אין לילך ולטייל בט"ב בשוק וברחוב דהטיול בעצמו אסור בט"ב ... וכן לומר בט"ב צפרא דמרי טב ובלשונינו גו"ט מארגי"ן אין לומר בת"ב
Inquiry into wellbeing is forbidden on Tishah b'Av, since it is not a day of wellbeing, like a mourner (as is written in YD §385). And there, there are those who say that our inquiry of wellbeing is not called inquiry of wellbeing, but from what Rabbi Ya'akov ben Asher wrote in the Tur, quoting the Yerushalmi, it is explicitly inferable that saying "peace be upon you" is inquiry of wellbeing. And therefore, one should not be lenient. And common people who do not know this rule and greet you, we return to them with a weak lip and with seriousness, but it is not proper to not respond at all, in order to not embarrass them. And thus, one should not walk and wander about in the marketplace or in the public square on Tishah b'Av, since just walking about on Tishah b'Av is forbidden. ... And thus, one should not say "Good morning, sir" (or "Good morning" in Yiddish) on Tishah b'Av.
In any event, I'd like to agree with what Rabbi Enkin suggests that
it seems quite reasonable that using God's name when in mourning may be inappropriate, saying "hello" should be no worse than any of the other mundane conversation which take place on Tisha B'av, or in a house or mourning, for that matter. When one picks up the telephone the first word is always a "hello" which is not truly a greeting at all, but rather an expression of readiness to engage in conversation. There is no prohibition on conversation on Tisha B'av or in a house of mourning.
Rabbi Enkin concludes by suggesting that although there are those who may follow the opinions that are not so okay with greeting (such as we saw with Rabbi Shapira and Rabbi Epstein) that "it cannot be suggested that a simple social acknowledgment is in violation of halacha. Those who feel that it is rude or uncomfortable to pass others without an acknowledgment of some sort should feel free to offer a somber 'hello' without reservation."

11 August 2008

Vlog Post #2

I got delayed in publishing this yesterday, so here is my second vlog posting. (info links: "the Three Weeks" and Tisha b'Av)

Vlog Post #2 from Drew Kaplan on Vimeo.

07 August 2008

According Oneself on Tisha b'Av with One's Spouse

This Sunday will be Tishah b'Av. Tisha b'Av shares some similarities with Yom Kippur in that they are both fast days that begin at nighttime and a number of other prohibitions include not applying creams or oils, no wearing of shoes with leather in them, and no sexual relations. As this is my first ever Tishah b'Av being married, I figured I would look into the details of this last prohibition - what are the parameters?
Well, the sages of the Talmud provide no further details beyond abstaining from sexual relations. However, in the thirteenth century, Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel wrote (בהגהותיו דמועד קטן):
בפרק קמא דכתובות גבי הוא ישן בין האנשים והיא ישינה בין הנשים - פירוש: דתשעה באב ויום הכפורים אסור לישן עם אשתו במטה
In the first chapter of Ketubot regarding "he is to sleep amongst men and she is to sleep amongst women" - the explanation is that one is forbidden to sleep with his wife in bed on Tishah b'Av and on Yom Kippur.
What's interesting about Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel's statement is that this is actually a creative read of the following two beraisas (the first one is on Ketubot 3b-4a and the second is on 4a):
הרי שהיה פתו אפוי וטבחו טבוח ויינו מזוג ומת אביו של חתן או אמה של כלה - מכניסין את המת לחדר ואת החתן ואת הכלה לחופה ובועל בעילת מצוה ופורש ונוהג שבעת ימי המשתה. ואחר כך, נוהג שבעת ימי אבילות, וכל אותן הימים - הוא ישן בין האנשים והיא ישנה בין הנשים, ואין מונעין תכשיטין מן הכלה כל שלשים יום
Behold: if the bread is baked [for the wedding reception], the animals have been killed for meat, and the wine is properly mixed and then the father of the groom or the mother of the bride dies - we bring the corpse into a room and the bride and the groom into the huppah, they have sexual intercourse, separate from each other, and have seven days of celebration. Afterwards, then they enter into shivah, and all of those days he sleeps amongst men and she sleeps amongst women and we do not hold the bride back from ornaments any of the first thirty days.
הרי שהיה פתו אפויה וטבחו טבוח ויינו מזוג ונתן מים על גבי בשר ומת אביו של חתן או אמה של כלה מכניסין את המת לחדר ואת החתן ואת הכלה לחופה ובועל בעילת מצוה ופורש ונוהג שבעת ימי המשתה ואח"כ נוהג שבעת ימי אבילות וכל אותן הימים הוא ישן בין האנשים ואשתו ישנה בין הנשים וכן מי שפירסה אשתו נדה הוא ישן בין האנשים והיא ישנה בין הנשים ואין מונעין תכשיטין מן הכלה כל ל' יום בין כך ובין כך לא יבעול לא בערב שבת ולא במוצ"ש
Behold: if the bread is baked [for the wedding reception], the animals have been killed for meat, and the wine is properly mixed, and they had placed water on the meat and then the father of the groom or the mother of the bride dies - we bring the corpse into a room and the bride and the groom into the huppah, they have sexual intercourse, separate from each other, and have seven days of celebration. Afterwards, then they enter into shivah, and all of those days he sleeps amongst men and she sleeps amongst women. And similarly, one whose wife breaks into nidah - he sleeps amongst men and she sleeps amongst women, and we do not hold back ornaments from the bride all 30 days. In either instance, they should not have sexual intercourse either just prior or just following shabbat.
After these are quoted, the following is then mentioned (same page):
אמר רבי יוחנן אע"פ שאמרו אין אבילות במועד אבל דברים של צינעא נוהג
Rabbi Yohanan said, "Even though the [sages] said 'there is no mourning on a holiday', nevertheless, private matters are accorded."
Having seen the Talmudic pieces related to what Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel is referencing, we see the creative read he takes: he connects these teachings regarding mourning of
a groom's father or a bride's mother their intended wedding to the mourning-like practices on Yom Kippur and Tishah b'Av.
A few centuries later, Rabbi Moshe Isserles wrote (דרכי משה תקנ"ד:ז):
ומהר"א כתב בהגהותיו דאנו נוהגין בו איסור ושמש בית הכנסת מכריז דברים שבצנעה נוהג. וכך הכי במנהגים ובאגודה. ובהגהות מרדכי דמ"ק הלכות ט"ב דט"ב ויוה"כ אסור לישן עם אשתו במטה. ועיין לקמן סימן תרי"ד דאסור ליגע באשתו ביוה"כ כאילו היתה נדה. ואפשר דהוא הדין בט"ב
Rabbi [? (if someone knows who this is, please let me know - DK)] wrote, in his notes, that "we are accustomed prohibition on it and the gabbai of the synagogue announces private things of which we are accustomed." And such is this in [Rabbi Yitzchak Tyrnau's work,] Minhagim and in [Rabbi Alexander Susslein's work,] Agudah. And Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel wrote "It is forbidden to sleep in bed with one's wife on Tishah b'Av and on Yom Kippur" (Hagahot Mordekhai, Moed Katan, Hilkhot Tishah b'Av). And see further in [Tur,] section 614 that it is forbidden to touch one's wife on Yom Kippur as if she was in nidah. And it is possible that this is the case on Tishah b'Av.
Rabbi Isserles takes the core of Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel's creative reading (albeit without the interpretive part regarding the Talmudic quote) and suggests that it might be like that of Yom Kippur in the sense of not touching one's wife.
In the Shulhan Arukh, Rabbi Yosef Karo wrote (שו"ע או"ח תקנד:יח):
יש מי שאומר שלא יישן בליל ט"ב עם אשתו במטה, ונכון הדבר משום לך לך אמרינן נזירא
There is someone who says one should not sleep with one's wife on the night of Tishah b'Av. And this thing is proper on account of saying to a nazir stay far away [from a vineyard].
Rabbi Karo seems to kind of accept Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel's suggestion, in addition to adding onto it a statement that originated with Ulla (פסחים מ עמוד שני) regarding vinegar and Passover:
אחד זה ואחד זה אסור, משום לך לך אמרינן נזירא, סחור סחור, לכרמא לא תקרב.
Anyways, Rabbi Avraham Gombiner wrote, regarding what Rabbi Karo wrote
ואפשר שלא יגע בה כמו בי"הכ (ד"מ) ונ"ל דביום יש להקל עבי"ד סימן שמ"ב
It is possible that he should not touch her, just like on Yom Kippur. But, it seems to me, there is to be lenient during daytime.
Rabbi Gombiner starts off quoting Rabbi Isserles regarding not touching, but then suggests that one can touch during the day. After that, Rabbi Gombiner then refers the reader to check out section 342 of Yoreh Deah in the Shulhan Arukh, where Rabbi Karo discusses the laws regarding a bride whose mother has died or a groom whose father had died (like the Talmudic citations from above).
Rabbi David HaLevi Segal (about whom I had posted previously) wrote (
ט"ז אורח חיים תרטו:א):
בסי' תקנ"ד דגבי ט"ב לא זכר איסור הנגיעה רק איסור שינה עמה במטה ובאמת שוין הם כמ"ש ב"י בשם הגמ"ר לענין שינה במטה כאן רק שבס' אגודה הביא איסו' נגיע' בי"כ ולא זכר ט"ב ותו נראה לדקדק כאן בש"ע דכתב וכן אסור לישן כו' דהוא מיותר לגמרי דהא אשת חבירו שאסור לישן במטה א' ומותר בנגיעה וא"כ כיון שכ' תחלה איסור נגיעה פשיטא שאסור במטה א' ולענ"ד לחלק דבט"ב לא אסור בש"ע הנגיעה כי באותו יום הולכת בבגדים בזוים ולא יתאו' לה כ"כ משא"כ בי"כ הולכת בבגדים נקיים ובי"כ יש ג"כ לחלק דבלילה יש לאסור אפי' הנגיעה דתשמיש רגיל בלילה אבל ביום אין איסור כ"א בשינה במטה א' אבל לא בנגיע' בפרט שיש אימת היום עליו כמ"ש ס"ס תרי"ב משא"כ בשינה שאז אין עליו אימה יש ליזהר אפי' ביום במטה א' וע"כ כ' כאן תחלה איסור נגיעה שהיא דוקא בלילה וכ"ה באגודה ליל י"כ אסור ליגע כו' משמע אבל ביום א"צ ליזהר ואח"כ כ' הש"ע איסור שינה במטה שהוא אפילו ביום כנ"ל דעת הש"ע והוא נכון
In section 554 regarding Tishah b’Av, [Rabbi Yosef Karo] does not mention a prohibition of touching, just of sleeping in [the same] bed with one’s wife. But they are really the same, as he wrote in Beit Yosef in the name of the Hagahot Mordekhai regarding sleeping in a bed here [in section 615]. But in Sefer Agudah, [Rabbi Susslein] mentions the prohibition of touching on Yom Kippur, but does not mention Tishah b’Av. Furthermore, it seems here that one should read closely in the Shulhan Arukh that [Rabbi Karo] wrote “and similarly, it is forbidden to sleep with one’s wife in [the same] bed…” that [touching] is totally permitted, since one is prohibited to sleep in the same bed with someone else’s wife, but one is allowed to touch her. And, if so, since he wrote at the beginning about the prohibition of touching, it is evident that it is forbidden to sleep in the same bed. But, in my humble opinion, one should differentiate this instance from Tishah b’Av, where touching is not forbidden in the Shulhan Arukh, because on that day, one’s wife wears ignominious clothes and one doesn’t really desire his wife all that much, versus Yom Kippur, when she wears clean clothes. And, on Yom Kippur, we can also differentiate regarding nighttime, that there is to forbid even touching, since one is used to having sexual relations at nighttime. But, during the day, the only prohibition is sleeping in the same bed, but not touching specifically, since the awe of the day is upon him, as it is written in the end of section 612. But sleeping is different because then there is no awe upon him, then there is to be careful, even during the day upon the same bed. And therefore, [Rabbi Karo] wrote here at the beginning of the prohibition of touching, since that is specifically at night. And, so, too, is this in Sefer Agudah – it is forbidden to touch the night of Yom Kippur… implying that one need not be careful during the day. After that, Rabbi Karo wrote of the prohibition of sleeping in the same bed [on Yom Kippur], which is even during the day, as is mentioned above the opinion of Rabbi Karo and this is correct.
Rabbi Segal's distinction between Tishah b'Av and Yom Kippur is certainly interesting. Anyways, on how we are accustomed, Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein wrote that married folks are accustomed to sleep in separate beds on Tishah b'Av (ערוך השלחן או"ח תקנד:יז), as Rabbi Mordechai ben Hillel had written.

06 August 2008

More Than You Ever Expected to Learn About the Targum to Chronicles

I've recently been listening this week on my iPod [intermittently (thanks to iTunes' remember playback position feature (which is great when listening to lectures/shiurim))] to Leeor Gottlieb's lecture on "The Lost Legend of Moshe's Children" from last year's YCT's Yemei Iyun (audio for all of the shiurim) and came across the following on the targum (Aramaic translation) of Chronicles:
After responding to a question, Dr. Gottlieb says, "I'm going to use that question as an opportunity to speak on the targum of Divrei HaYamim; just a short introduction," and continues
Basically, nobody knows about this targum. And when I say nobody, I mean nobody. The rishonim that wrote a perush for Divrei HaYamim that appears in the Mikraot Gedolot did not use this targum, even though it existed in their day and age. Nobody knew about it. It was just an unknown - it's just one of those things that happen. "Hakol talui bemazal afilu sefer torah shebehekhal", tell us, our sages.* This targum was unlucky enough to be a targum of Divrei HaYamim. Now, nobody reads Divrei HaYamim in Hebrew, let alone the targum in Aramaic, so it just was left in the backshelves, I guess, of the libraries and not many people knew about it. Therefore, RaDaK, for example, and other mefarshim, who wrote a perush on Divrei HaYamim, when they need to prove the meaning of a word and they bring a targum, you will note, and I checked this, and I'm one of the few people today who actually study this targum and it's a topic I put a lot of time into, so when they quote a targum, they, in their perush, it is not the targum of Divrei HaYamim that they quote, it's Targum Yonatan on the parallel chapters in Shmuel and Melakhim. Each and every time that they bring a targum on one of the pesukim in Divrei HaYamim, you'll see that it's only on pesukim that have parallels in Shmuel and Melakhim.
So nobody really knew about this targum, but manuscripts were copied over the generations. There were four manuscripts about sixty years ago, by the way, all from the thirteenth century and I say there were four, because now there are only three. This fourth manuscript happened to be in Dresden at the end of World War II and the Allies destroyed the city of Dresden and all that is left of this mansucript is like a charred, black block that cannot be deciphered in any manner or form. So that's one that's out of the question. Then, there's another manuscript that is so brittle that it can't be used either, but we have the good fortune of using a printed edition of this manuscript that was made in the eighteenth century that was made by one of the last people who was able to open it up without ruining it. So that's pretty much all we have: just these three manuscripts and some printed editions. You'll see, whoever wants to check, you'll see that there are some Mikraot Gedolot that don't have a targum at all for Divrei HaYamim. There are others that don't have the targum on the printed page of the text, but at the end of the volume, you'll get the whole targum in one block. And then there is a third group of Mikraot Gedolot editions that bring the targum on the page and they ascribe it to Rav Yosef of Sura, but I think that's a mistaken yihus. It seems almost impossible to ascribe it to Rav Yosef for linguistic reasons - I'm not going to get into that now. But what's improtant for us to know is that the enormous traeasure of information and wealth that is in this targum is basically unknown to almost all mefarshim. Only some of the very late mefarshim - when I say late, i mean in the past couple of centuries and not much more than that actually used it. and even then they didn't make full use of it.
* - Found in the Zohar (האדרא רבא כרך ג (במדבר) פרשת נשא)

03 August 2008

Vlog Post #1: Bronx Zoo and the new Madagascar exhibit

Previously, vlog posting #0.

Vlog Posting #1: Visit to the Bronx Zoo from Drew Kaplan on Vimeo.

Jewish Travel to Martinique

Over the weekend, I saw that the Jewish Week had published an article entitled "From Chabad to Rum" and figured I would post on Jewish travel to Martinique, having gone there a few weeks ago. The one problem, however, is that, as opposed to Guadeloupe, when we stayed near the synagogue there for shabbas, we didn't access that information in time to stay near the synagogue for shabbas (ending up staying in Trois-Îlets our whole time there). However, that doesn't stop me from having information on the topic. Anyways, if you are interested in traveling to Martinique, here is some information written a few years ago by Professor William F. S. Miles:
In 1976 the Association Cultuelle (sic) Israélite de la Martinique (Hebrew Worship Center of Martinique, ACIM) was officially formed and registered with the prefecture. Until 1979 a building in Terres-Sainville was used as a synagogue, replaced by one in Plateau Fofo in Schoelcher. For high holidays and sacramental occasions, such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and burials, a rabbi would be brought in from Caracas. Kosher meat was also imported from Venezuela.1
Miles continues
In February 1996 a major step in the apparent anchoring of the community was taken with the inauguration of a new synagogue, Kenaf Aaretz, meaning wing or ends of the earth, in Anse Gouraud, Schoelcher. ... The Kenaf Aaretz Community Center runs religious school classes, maintains a mikva, or ritual bath, sells kosher meats and wines, publishes a monthly newsletter, and employs a full-time rabbi.2
As far as getting to the synagogue, Kenaf Aaretz, it is "on the main northbound road to St. Pierre, on the right hand side of the road" although the easiest way to get there "is to get dropped off/get directions to the Restaurant de l'École Hotelière. If you follow that (short and narrow) street downslope to the end (towards that same main northbound road to St. Pierre), you turn right at the end and you are in the parking lot of the synagogue."3

Regarding the size of the Jewish community there, as of a few years ago,
There are approximately 450 Jews in Martinique today, representing 190 households. Approximately 280 of the adults are official members of the ACIM. The vast majority are Sephardim from North Africa, particularly Algeria....4
In addition to the synagogue, "there is a new kosher restaurant, I am told, on the top level of the 'Rond Point' commercial center, located on the same road I indicated previously, except on the left hand side, heading towards Schoelcher from Fort-de-France."
I realize that I haven't yet posted any honeymoon posts yet on our time in Martinique, but I hope to.
1 - William F. S. Miles, "Caribbean Hybridity and the Jews of Martinique", in The Jewish Diaspora in Latin America and the Caribbean: Fragments of Memory, ed. Kristin Ruggiero (Brighton, UK & Portland, OR: Sussex Academic Press, 2005), 145.
2 - Ibid.
3 - Idem., "Martinique Synagogue," 10 July 2008, personal e-mail (10 July 2008).
4 - Idem., "Caribbean Hybridity," 147.
5 - Idem., "Re: Martinique Restaurant," 12 July 2008, personal e-mail (12 July 2008).