Monday, December 29, 2008

disclosure in shidduchim

See R' Aviner on the subject -- this is in English -- at

Halachic Weddings -- this may surprise you

So does not a photographer and various guest milling about constitute public? Long ago I blogged as follows:

A Touchy Subject

Thursday, October 26th, 2006

Please pardon the pun above.

Actually this post came about unintentionally.In the course of gathering info on what frum NY wedding costs, I got a number of interesting responses. One of them included the following:

. Some rabbanim (a growing number) are recommending doing all but the touching pictures before the chuppah bec it’s getting rediculous, let alone the lack of kavod for your guests to make them wait for 2 hours while you take pictures. People have lives, especially community leaders who may not be staying for the entire wedding. Some rabbanim (much fewer) are allowing taking even touching pictures (so I’ve heard).

I have my own strong view on the “touching pictures,” but I won’t bring them up here so that you can feel free to express your opinion on these opinions.

What I only hinted at was that I do not find such pictures the least bit appropriate. Yes, the chasson and kallah are married now, but that does not mean they need to publicly exhibit their affection for each other by clasping hands, embracing, etc., all at the photographer's direction! Now I have a rabbinic (and not RW chareidi) source. My husband directed me to R' Aviner's piece entitled "A Wedding is not a Performance." It is all in Hebrew. So if your language skills are up to it, you can read it here:
The principle I refer to is reiterated several times in the piece. First in the exhortation not to keep gazing into one another's eyes at the time of the bedecken:
יש נוהגים להסתכל זה על זה בלובן העיניים זמן ממושך, וכל המרבים להסתכל, הרי זה סימן לכולם שהם אוהבים, כמו שיש חושבים שככל שבעל התקיעה מאריך בתקיעה גדולה זה סימן של עומק תשובה ויראת שמים. אדרבא, כידוע, כתוב בשולחן ערוך ובקיצור שולחן ערוך שאין לבני זוג לגלות סימני חיבה הדדיים לפני אחרים, קל וחומר בחור ובחורה על סף נישואיהם. אין צורך שתעמדו זה מול זה עם פרצוף מתמוגג של פיגורינות של שעווה, אנו מאמינים לכם שאתם אוהבים. באותו מעמד, עוד נוהג החתן ללחוש באוזני אהובתו מילים מתוקות של שיחת נפש. זה יפה מאוד, אבל לא ברבים, ונשמח מאוד אם ינהג כן כל ימי חייו אחרי החתונה.

and under the chuppah
7. תחת הטלית. ספרדים נהגו לפרוש טלית מעל ראשי החתן והכלה. מנהג קדוש וקדום. אך אין זאת אומרת שיתעטפו בו שניהם כאחד לאורך החופה כברדיד משותף, מה שגם מצא חן בעיני אשכנזים לעמוד כן בזמן החופה. זה אמנם מאד רומנטי, אך כבר אמרנו: ביטויי חיבה בין בני זוג – לא ברבים. ועל כגון זה לימדנו רבנו הרב צבי יהודה: ``רומנטיקה – אחרי החתונה``. אך יש גרוע מזה: החתן והכלה מתחבאים תחת הטלית, ותחת מסתור זה מתחבקים ומתנשקים. זה כבר עובר כל גבול! אבל יש אפילו בתוך גבול היצר הרע: בסיום החופה הם מתחבקים ומתנשקים לעין כל! ביום טהור וקדוש שיש לחזור בתשובה!
They do make it sound like that is their choice, but based on how our own photographer behaved, I would think that the the photographers assure the couple that this is a standard shot that must be included for the wedding album to be complete. (no, our photographer did not go that far, but he did try to direct where to put out hands, etc. So, nearly 16 years later, I see that my feeling about this was correct -- despite everyone else taking it for granted.)

and when dancing in front of the newly married couple:
10. כלה נאה. הכלה ודאי יפה בעיני החתן, שאם לא כן, לא היה מתחתן אתה, ואפילו אומרים לחתן: ``כלה נאה וחסודה``. אבל אין זה מתיר לציבור להסתכל עליה. לכן בוודאי אין להושיב את החתן והכלה על פלטה ולהרים אותם, כאשר הם ישובים שם בישיבה מזרחית והכלה נאחזת כל רגע כדי לא ליפול, וכולם מסתכלים עליה. וקל וחומר אם בני הזוג יושבים שם מחובקים, כפי שהזכרנו לפני כן שאין לגלות חיבה ברבים.
other problems that arise in dancing:
11. ריקודים סלוניים. מאותה סיבה, המנהג החדש שהחתן והכלה רוקדים לעיני הבנות, כאשר הוא מסובב אותה ומרים אותה ומחבק אותה, אין לזה היתר. גרוע יותר: אחות הכלה ובעלה מצטרפים. גרוע עוד יותר: האחים וההורים רוקדים שם הורה משפחתית מעורבת. ומכאן עוד צעד, והחתן והכלה רוקדים ריקודים סלוניים בעזרת גברים.

Then there is the separate issue of at what point the kallah must cover her hair and how. While we tend to be very meikil in the type of covering -- allowing the combination of headpiece and veiling to function as such, though it does not cover everything completely, there are still minimal standards:

9. כיסוי ראש. אחרי חדר ייחוד לאשכנזים או אחרי החופה לספרדים, הכלה צריכה כיסוי ראש. יש רבנים מחייבים כיסוי מלא ככל אשה נשואה, יש מסתפקים בטול הדק של ההינומא, יש הולכים בדרך אמצעית של שתי שכבות טול, כד שהשיער מכוסה כדין ויחד עם זה אין הבלטה. אבל כלה בגילוי ראש, אין זו דרך טובה, וכן אם יש רק טול התולה מאחורי הראש כאשר השיער מגולה.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Tall Order

Apparently, now to be "good for shidduchim," a kallah maidel needs not only to reflect the "right" hashkafos through a certificate of a proper BY education for seminary as well as high school, as well, as working, ideally, in a chinuch, but she has to fit the physical ideal that includes a minimum height. Now I am certain that all the bochurim in Lakewood or their equivalent have not suddenly shot up above 6 feet tall, yet it seems that they (or those who speak for them) are demanding girls of 5'5". Hey, even I am just 5'41/2", yet I am quite average height and taller than a lot of my counterparts. So what gives with the height requirement? Remember, I am not talking about a girl saying she would like her prospective husband to be above 5 feet tall but of a boy who rules out a girl because she is too petite.

Good for Shidduchim: a modest proposal for a blog

Recently, I noticed that one of the blogs that are not anonymous switched from public to "open only to those invited." I just had the opportunity to ask that blogger why he closed off access. He responded that he did so at the insistence of his children "in the parsha." They -- at least the daughter -- maintain that his blog has a negative effect on their shidduch prospects. I was somewhat surprised because the blog is usually on Torah rather than controversial topics. But, I supose just about anything that does not strictly toe the party line may be construed as deviant, and, consequently, bad for shidduchim. There is a even a blog (completely unrelated to the blog I refer to), that offers commentary on the current shidduch scenario.

So I proposed that the blogger who is no longer public start a blog called "Good for Shidduchim" in which he can spout just right views on all the relevant issues for those involved in shidduchim. He could also present his children as the ideal shidduch candidates with all the right boxes on the paradigmatic (albeit hypothetical) shidduch form checked. That, of course, would include the right schools, right camps, and right occupation for a maidel who has completed seminary, which is, ideally, teaching.

Friday, December 26, 2008

a rabbinic view on the amen and challah gatherings

My husband subscribes to R' Aviner's email list. In the one copied below, he addresses the 4 questions you see listed. I only kept in the first two. Josh W. may wish to contrast his response on lifeguards with R' Falk's. I still have the Oz Vehadar book, in which he cites R' Moshe for the heter of a male lifeguard but misrepresents R' Moshe's argument in saying that it is ok to have a male lifeguard who is not a Jew. On the "Amen" gatherings, R' Aviner says it is not forbidden but rather new-fangled. Now, when something is suggested for women that people associate with feminism, the new-fangled quality is considered enough to categorically prohibit, say, a woman dancing with a sefer Torah on Simchas Torah or reciting Kaddish on the grounds of Poretz Geder. However, when the practice is adopted by women who dress the practice in the guise of feminine spirituality that is not to be associated with feminism, then they are usually considered frum.

On the Air with Ha-Rav Shlomo Aviner

From Ha-Rav's weekly radio programs in Israel

29 Kislev 5769 – #65 Prepared by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig

Visit our blog: To subscribe, send e-mail to:

Questions in this issue:

1. A male lifeguard at a women's pool or beach

2. "Amen Meals"

3. Shemoneh Esrei with eyes closed or from a siddur

4. Reciting Kaddish for a non-relative

A male lifeguard at a women's pool or beach

Q: Is it permissible to have a male lifeguard at a women's pool or beach?

A: It is very difficult to find a female lifeguard since there are not exclusive courses for female lifeguards in Israel. It is sometimes possible to find a female lifeguard who is a "Baalat Teshuvah"- a woman who became religious. If it is not possible to find a female lifeguard, it is permissible to have a male one since it is a potentially life-threatening situation to swim without a lifeguard, people can drown. I am constantly warning people not to swim or immerse in a place without a lifeguard. I know people who drowned in places without a lifeguard even though they were excellent swimmers. Based on the fact that it is a life-threatening situation and that the lifeguard is involved in his job by making sure everyone is alright and is therefore not staring at women, it is permissible. My advice for women is to wear a robe until you reach the water and put it on when you leave the water.

"Amen Meals"

Q: What is Ha-Rav's opinion about "Amen Meals" (participants take different types of food, recite a blessing before eating and those who hear the blessings answer "Amen")?

A: This is a new creation. It is permissible to participate since they are not doing anything inappropriate; they are reciting blessings and saying "amen." Why do women do this? In order to increase merits for themselves, for the sick, for young women to find mates, etc… But if people want to increase merits they do not have to invent new venues. The problem of increasing merit has always existed, and we have already been told what to do: repent, pray and give tzedakah (prayers of the High Holidays). One should pray, give the money one would spend on the "Amen meal" to tzedakah and repent for things he is not doing well. Is it worthwhile to participate in an "Amen meal"? It is preferable to increase merits not through newly created paths but through well-established and clear ones. There is, however, another aspect to these meals: they are a social gathering. Some women are being constricted at home by running the home and taking care of the children and they need to get together with friends. Without friends they will die, as it says in the Gemara: "friendship or death" (Ta'anit 23a). Instead of bumping into friends at the supermarket and chatting, they recite blessings and answer amen. This is fine, but if it is to increase merits, Hashem already thought of this and gave us 613 mitzvot and we do not have to create new things.

Q: What about women gathering to separate challah?

A: This is also a new creation. If one bakes and uses a certain amount of flour there is a mitzvah to separate challah, but nowhere is it written that people should gather together to do so. It is possible to take that time and use it to fulfill other mitzvot - ancient creations.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

book on halachos of marital relations

I accompanied my son and husband to the seforim store today. While they went in search of what my son wanted (some in stock, some had to be ordered), I browsed through some of the marriage books on the shelf. I would love some reader feedback on this.

In the book, Guidelines: Questions and Answers about the Laws of Family Purity by Elozor Barclay, Yitzchok Jaeger Targum Press, 2004, on p. 135 there is a text given for a "bracho" (though it lacks shem and malchus) for the groom to say upon his bride's confirmation of dam bethulim. It begins Baruch ata asher zag egoz began eden . . . and concludes habocher bezro shel Avraham.
I have never come across the concept of this text; it was, certainly, not mentioned by my kallah instructor or any of the books on the subject I've encountered up until this point. Yet, the book does not present it as a novel or merely suggested idea but as a given that this is what is done. Anyone else heard of this?

The second book of note is Taharas Am Yisroel: A Guide to the Halachos of Jewish Marriage by Rabbi Shaul Wagschal.
It was first published in 1979. The one in the store was the 4th edition from 2002 (Judaica Press). On pp. 122-123, the topic is 'The Designated Times for Oinoh." It contains the usual information about frequency with the warning that a man may sap his strength which is needed for kollel or work, so his wife should understand and not demand too much. But what really got me was point #7: "A kallo may not exactly know what oinoh means, [I am refraining from adding my comment in here] but she should accept that this is the way Hashem planned the complete union of husband and wife, though we do not understand why [bold in the source]. She should also know that this is the only way in which a woman can become pregnant."
Shall I infer that with test tube babies, oinah can be considered irrelevant? This is the argument of the Victorian age, that wives must endure so that they can experience the joys of motherhood.

Speaking of motherhood, there are a scant two pages that address the issue of "Torah Views on Family Planning" -- from midway down p. 124 to the very top of p. 126. Forget methods, the number and genders of children already born, etc., there is no need to discuss all that; the answer is simple -- no planning, period.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The winter issue of Kallah Magazine is now online

I usually delay uploading the PDF a bit longer. But someone who lives outside distribution area asked for the issue to be made available online. So I put it up now I tested it a number of times with 2 browsers. Mozilla still shows an error at download though it does show the PDF. It works just fine on IE, though. It is also linked to from the home page but you can go directly to

Thursday, December 11, 2008

rant on (kosher) supermarkets

We now have no fewer than 5 area kosher supermarkets in the 5 Towns and Far Rockaway. You would think that the competition will keep them all on their toes. Sadly, that is not quite the case. This week I shopped at 3 different ones -- and more than once at two of them. So here are my complaints. One is more minor but it took up quite a bit of time. I was looking for crockpot liners and couldn't find any. Logic would dictate they should be in aisle 9 of that store, but I remember from previous times that they were actually located one aisle over, so I scoured, 7,8,and 9 a few times, literally looking high and low. Finally, I gave up and went to check out. When I spotted one of the people who work there, I asked him about the liners. He said that they have not been able to obtain any more. OK.
Complaint number 2 --this store keeps changing its prices on milk, which is somewhat disconcerting because most groceries keep that pretty standard. So this week, they advertised Elmhurst 1% (right, you would have a higher price for full, 2% and skim) on sale for $1.49. I checked the dates and picked one carton which allowed about a week according to the NYC date. I have found that the more extended date is some fiction like the MSRPs you find printed on some clothing tags beneath the "our price" amount. Anyway, at checkout, the milk rang up as $1.79. I questioned this based on their sale price which appeared in a sign in the milk section. The cashier, backed up by another cashier, said that only applies to the Elmhurst milk in the plastic containers not to the milk in the waxed paper carton and would not yield even though I pointed out that the sign says no such restriction other than the brand and 1% -- nothing about carton type. In case, you're wondering why I didn't merely substitute the plastic container for the one I had chosen, it is because all the plastic container milks were stamped with the date of Dec. 14, and this was already Dec. 10. I look for a week's freshness as a minimum for milk. I told the cashiers that they are going to lose customers this way and really do not intend to return to that store in the near future.

Episode 3 (BTW these are not written in chronological order) one store advertised flour on sale for 99 cents with additional $30 purchase. I usually walk to this store and so don't buy very large quantities in a single purchase. But I needed flour for this week's Shabbos baking, so I put more than enough together to qualify. The flour I had selected was unbleached, my usual preference. At checkout, the flour did not ring up at the sale price. The cashier, just like the one in the other store, was backed by another cashier in insisting that only the bleached variety was on sale. So I switched the flour But they were wrong and I was right! Today when I passed outside the store, I saw that the sign that advertises the flour on sale says explicitly both bleached and unbleached. But I do not have time to go home, get the flour, and exchange it. And I do not want to risk getting it wet in the rain. Instead I am complaining here.

Kallah Magazine Winter Issue

The magazine was already distributed in the 5 Towns, Far Rockaway, Queens, Flatbush, and Borough Park. It should be in Baltimore and Teaneck by next week. Pick up your copy to read Rabbi Slatkin on rededicating your relationship, Rabbi Brown on Tu B'Shvat, Mimi Samuels on kallah classes, Nancy Zwiebach on "Signals for Singles" Ms. Maven's advice on the wedding venue, Levana's guidelines to preparing crockpot and soup dishes to warm you up, Debby Grossman on lipstick, and the Money Matters feature on the book Don't Throw it Out!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the ruby segula

I have posted on the topic of sgulas in the past. I also once did a post on a proposed ruby gmach for women to borrow ruby jewelry either as a sgula to prevent miscarriage and/or have a easy birth. Gem quality rubies are rarer than diamonds, which is why any more affordable piece containing a ruby larger than a chip would likely incorporate a synthetic stone. In fact, you can find synthetic ruby pendants for under $30. I checked online. So I was wondering, can these gmachs purchase the affordable synthetic stones, or would only the natural gems be considered efficacious?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The RALBAG vs. Chazal on the Time Frame in Parshas Vayetze

According to Seder Olam, all the shvatim except Binaymin were born within 7 years, and all the pregnancies were curtailed to 7 months. The RALBAG is aware of this but finds difficulty with such a phenomenon and the fact that then Yehudah would perforce have had to become a father while still under 13 and married his sons to Tamar while they were younger than 13 -- soemthing he finds very difficult to accept. So he learns the pshat for the order of events quite differently than Rashi does. He says that Yaakov did not work 7 years then marry Leah and a week later marry Rachel. Rather that he contracted to work 7 years for Lavan, had the wedding right away, discovered the switch and then agreed to work an additional 7 years for a total of 14 after marrying Rachel a week after Leah. He argues that when Yaakov demands his wife (29:21) "ki maloo yamay," [for my days have filled] he is not saying that his days of work have been completed but that his lifetime has advanced, for Yaakov was already past seventy at this point.
The RALBAG's pshat allows 14 years for the birth of 12 children -- 11 boys and one girl. It also allows enough time lapse for Leah to worry about the fact that she has not conceived for a while and to give her maidservant, Zilpah, to Yaakov as a wife, before she finds herself pregnant again with Yissachar, Zevulan, and, finally, Dina. Within a space of only 7 years, she would hardly have time to catch her breath between pregnancies and births while having 7 children, let alone see a definite cessation and feel that further action is needed after having given birth to 4 in what must have been no more than 4 years.

But I have two major difficulties with reading the order of events as the RALBAG does. one is that 29:20 says that Yaakov worked 7 years for Rachel before he demands his wife in the next verse. My other difficulty with this is that I find Lavan pulling off the switcheroo when he is in a poor bargaining position seem very unlikely. If Yaakov had not yet done his part of the bargain and saw that Lavan had given him the sister he had not asked for, he could easily have walked away from the deal or simply said that he would keep Leah but only fulfill his promise of 7 years work for Rachel and not a day for her sister. And Lavan would have nothing to negotiate with. The way the text sounds, Lavan got Yaakov to pay first with 7 years work and then delivered Leah. Knowing that Yaakov still wants Rachel, he is able to demand an additional 7 years. But I fin it hard to believe that Yaakov would agree to indenture himself for 14 consecutive years after seeing that Lavan had attempted to dupe him.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A blog recovery!

When I switched from WordPress to Blogger, I thought my old posts were gone forever. But Josh Waxman has now directed to me to where they can be found. So I have put the link up on the sidebar. But if you wish to comment on an old post, you would have to do so either via email or in a comment here. Here is the link to the archive of the WordPress Kallah Magazine blog:*/