Thursday, July 9, 2015

Deadly Water

A fascinating case study in non-rationalist Judaism occurred yesterday. Several sources, including religious news outlets and the rabbinate of Modiin, sent out an announcement that it is dangerous and forbidden to drink water. Specifically, to drink it yesterday afternoon, between the hours of 2pm and 3pm.

This caught a lot of people by surprise. The reason given was even more surprising: that this hour is the transition point of the summer solstice, which, like the winter solstice and the equinoxes, divides between the four "quarters" of the year. As such, it is a time when the angels change shifts, and while there is nobody on duty, the Angel of Death can poison the water.

Before you rush to dismiss this out of hand, you should also be aware that while this is not mentioned in the Gemara, it is mentioned by no less an authority than the Rama (Yoreh De'ah 116:5), who notes that this is a "basic" custom that is a tradition from many great authorities.

So what are we to make of this?

The original reasons for this practice are lost in antiquity (see some discussion and references at this link). The given reasons appear to be based upon a view of Judaism and the universe that is, shall we say, not shared by rationalist Jews today. And so some would say to reject it as a pagan superstition.

But on the other hand, it is codified in halachic sources. This should give it a certain degree of authority, even if the original reason for the practice is without basis. (Cf. killing lice on Shabbos.)

Yet on the third hand, this is a practice that pretty much nobody has cared about or known about in hundreds of years. In light of that, accompanied by its non-rationalist basis, I would say that it is a similar case to the prohibition against eating allegedly lethal peeled onions and eggs that have been left overnight. It's a tradition that has no rational basis, no value, and has quietly died. There's no benefit to bringing it back from the dead.

Of course, if it does end up getting a full resurrection, as seems to be happening with the peeled onions, it's going to be difficult to justify ignoring it.

I would like to add another point. Several years ago, I gave a lecture about rationalist Judaism, lamenting how the Orthodox community has gone steadily in the non-rationalist direction over the last few centuries. Dr. Marc Shapiro, who was in attendance, disagreed - he pointed out that nobody is terrified of demons today, as they used to be. I think that this is certainly the case here. People who are resurrecting the prohibition against drinking water during the solstice are not actually afraid that it is dangerous. (Note that due to the calendars falling out of sync, yesterday was not in fact the solstice!) These people just want to do what they think makes them frum.

58 comments:

  1. Hello Rabbi Slifkin!

    I am sorry if this question sounds antagonistic, but I was really wondering: Since you clearly don't think very highly about the halacha forbidding drinking water between 2PM and 3PM on 21 Tamuz, why bother looking for ad-hoc halachic support for your position? Why not just be an atheist and do as you please?

    Don't get me wrong - everyone has qualms against aspects of the Torah and Judaism to some extent. That's perfectly legitimate. But why waist time being defensive and trying to "kasher" your hashkafos when you clearly just don't like anything that's not "rational?!"

    Tell me Rabbi Slifkin - Do YOU have a mesora that clearly counters this halacha?! Did YOU have a rebbi muvhak whom you learned with for decades telling you explicitly that this halacha doesn't apply anymore? Obviously not!! So why not just admit that you are going בשרירות לבך and are really Orthoprax like myself :)

    Perhaps we should be honest with ourselves and, if you can pardon the double entendre, stop rationalizing!

    Please don't misunderstand me Rabbi Slifkin - I really enjoy your blog and agree with you 100% on your sentiments against fanatic ultraorthodox. I just don't think in can be done in the framework of authentic yiras shomayim.

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    1. I'm sure his rebbe never told him *not* to, and had he paid attention at the (fake) tekufa, he would have seen him drinking. To rationalist Jews, that's a mesorah right there.

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    2. Do YOU have a mesora that clearly counters this halacha?!

      The Rama cites this as a "minhag," a softer language than "halacha" or "din." And when a minhag goes extinct, that too becomes part of the mesorah! Not by written decree, but implicitly via non-observance. If anything, we might argue that reintroducing the minhag (i.e. changing the default custom) is what requires justification, because it's bestowing a piece of text with the power to supersede our living mesorah.

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    3. A more significant question may be asked: There are two examples of actual halakha that are based on the tekufa. One is when v'ten tal umatar is started in chutz laaretz and the other is birkat hachama. Absent Mashiach and/or a Sanhedrin, these will become quite problematic in a few thousand years or so. (As will the whole calendar, but that's another issue.)

      So...should diaspora communities start saying v'ten tal umatar on November 21 or thereabouts? Should they just start saying it on 7 Cheshvan as Israel does?

      And while those are two easy solutions, there is no easy solution to the birkat hachama issue. If we start following the actual tekufa, we'd only say it every few thousand years. (And if we stop believing the world is 5775 years old, we never would.) So say it every year (on Tekufat Tamuz, in fact!), or whenever it's cloudy for more than a certain amount of time, as certain Gemaras have it? These are solutions, but would ruin the "every 28 years" bit.

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    4. Do you have a mesora from your rebbe muvhak of practicing this prohibition? I, for one, have lived in Orthodox communities for over three decades, learning from teachers and rabbis on various points of the Orthodox spectrum, and this is the first time I've heard of anyone advocating or practicing this prohibition. The fact that a practice is mentioned by one of the posekim - even the Rama - in a book does not constitute a mesora. Rabbanim actually teaching and communities actually practicing would.

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    5. Reading your name backwards, detracts a lot from your credibility as a thinker.

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    6. @stlfansince77: Thank you for pointing that out. I would never have caught it.

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    7. That type of claim usually comes under the category of the lady doth protest too much and the opposite is usually the truth or really ressot laer a si eh who thinks this puerile humour is funny

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    8. He lost all credibility with me as soon as he implied that if you don't keep every minhag (absent specific instructions not to) then you might as well be an atheist.

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    9. yeah, someone posting with that name on an Orthodox site!?!?!!? c'mon man!

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  2. It's entirely possible that the basis is completely rational. "Correlation is not causation" is a cliche that is a relatively recent addition to the lexicon. If you know someone ate a peeled onion and then suffered some illness, you might draw the wrong conclusion. It's also possible that such foods were indeed prone to infection by some organism that does not affect our health today, or that causes an illness so trivially treatable that we don't care.

    The water thing is a bit out there, I agree.

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  3. And for an additional wrinkle, this minhag is observed on inaccurately calculated days of equinox/solstice - as was poiunted out in the discussion. To put another way: is there a justification for someone who wants to observe this minhag on the correct day of the e.g. solstice - June 20/21st

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  4. 2pm - 3pm in what time zone? If the answer is that each observe it at that time in their own time zone, then is one to believe the changing of the guard it repeated every hour for 24 hours?

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  5. First of all, cute graphic.

    I had seen this topic yesterday, and ironically, it caused me to think about your blog AND Dr. Shapiro. Specifically, his book title "the limits of orthodox theology" and how it might be applied to your blog, "the limits of orthodox rationalism." Because, of course, it is indeed ridiculous to not drink water at the change in seasons, because the ancient Babylonians believed leprechauns were going around poisoning the water at that time. But note that the Moddin rabbinate, in its flyer, cited חמירא סכנתא מאיסורא . Is this any more absurd than not eating fish at the same time as meat, for which there is not even a hint of proof that it is actually dangerous? Or has that custom become hallowed merely because of the passage of time alone?

    All of this is, of course, the inherent difficulty in attempting to wed rationalism and religion, particularly the orthodox Jewish version thereof. A purely rational life is both impossible and tasteless, but attempting to subject religion to the measuring test of rationalism is foolish. This has been noted by anyone who has thought about it for at least the past thousand years. If you read Books of Quotations, or anthologies of Great Ideas and the like, you will see this theme arising time and again throughout the centuries. Like the book says, nothing new under the sun. I'm sure you will either survey the field or contribute your own understanding in the monograph (Sherlock) you intend to write.

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    1. Well, people have consistently kept from mixing fish and meat since the custom came into being. So it has that power. "Delta House has a long tradition of existence to members of the community," Robert Hoover says in Animal House, and that's a good summation of both conservative and religious values.

      As it happens, R' Schachter says the rule simply doesn't apply anymore.

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    2. > Is this any more absurd than not eating fish at the same time as meat,

      I suspect that this custom survived, while most of the rest of the gemara's medical advice did not, because it meshes with kashrus in general.

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  6. The explanation for this seems to be the same as for why people are concerned about meat and fish, or leaning right on Pesach: since it is written in Shulchan Aruch, we need to follow it.

    As to why the custom woke from its slumber, theold mimetic vs. text based instruction probably explains that.

    Tell me Rabbi Slifkin - Do YOU have a mesora that clearly counters this halacha?! Did YOU have a rebbi muvhak whom you learned with for decades telling you explicitly that this halacha doesn't apply anymore? Obviously not!! So why not just admit that you are going בשרירות לבך and are really Orthoprax like myself :)

    You do understand that this is a medical advice and not pure halacha, and we generally follow the medical advice of our own day unless the practices is tied to a halachic custom (e.g. doing Metzitza in a safe manner). This is pretty mainstream. That is why the better question is why this halacha "woke up".

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    1. To David -
      This halacha is mentioned explicitly by the Rama in the Shulchan Aruch, so it is no less of a "pure' halacha then any other halachos based on health such as separating between meat and fish or washing neigel vasser to ward off the ruach ra'ah (which was considered a health hazard in ancient times.)

      As to why the halacha "woke up", that's no more of a legitimate question as to why the halacha "woke up" regarding the issurim of mixed dancing, the requirement for married women to cover their hair, the issue of pas yoshon, etc., and many other halachos that the Orthodox community has been ignorant or negligent about in the past to various degrees, and to some extant still is.

      The "waking up" of the halacha is just another unfortunate aspect of the Chareidi takeover. The classic Rupture and Reconstruction article by Dr. Haym Soloveichik elaborates on this phenomena.

      My only objection is that this takeover cannot, in all honestly, be countered by desperately digging for Torah sources to back up ones preconceived bias on how rational Judaism needs to be. As Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein put it very succinctly: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2007/12/21/outside-the-pale-responding-to-readers/#ixzz3fP7bkjZz

      "Is the right capable of coming up with some strange ideas? Sure. Does it seem to be happening with increased frequency? Yes. Is it as likely to come up with ideas that are so extreme that they lie completely outside the collective experience of Klal Yisrael, that they should be labled not just “not for me” or “not for us” but “outside the pale?” Not anywhere as likely as from the far left.

      There are very, very few serious talmidei chachamim on the left; there are very many on the right. Talmidei chachamim can get things wrong. Great talmidei chachamim can get things wrong. But the “mistakes” they make seldom put them beyond the perimeter."

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    2. This halacha is mentioned explicitly by the Rama in the Shulchan Aruch, so it is no less of a "pure' halacha then any other halachos based on health such as separating between meat and fish or washing neigel vasser to ward off the ruach ra'ah (which was considered a health hazard in ancient times.)

      Correct, and all of these are omitted by the Rambam and the Magen Avraham (quoting from my memory) brings down in some that they may no longer apply. Rav Moshe says explicitly that Treifos for humans changes with modern knowledge. We don't heat water for a Bris on Shabbos, and the Chasam Sofer + Lithuanian tradition is not to do Metzitzah Be Pef/Feh. Going the other direction, we have smoking becoming prohibited according to some. So there is a solid halachic tradition to set these types of halachos based on the latest understanding and to change what was once done.

      As to why the halacha "woke up", that's no more of a legitimate question as to why the halacha "woke up" regarding the issurim of mixed dancing, the requirement for married women to cover their hair, the issue of pas yoshon, etc., and many other halachos that the Orthodox community has been ignorant or negligent about in the past to various degrees, and to some extant still is.

      No argument here.

      The "waking up" of the halacha is just another unfortunate aspect of the Chareidi takeover.

      Only unfortunate if done indiscriminately, IMO (not sure if you were being serious or sarcastic here).

      My only objection is that this takeover cannot, in all honestly, be countered by desperately digging for Torah sources to back up ones preconceived bias on how rational Judaism needs to be.

      Not generally, but I don't think that there is anything bad here "generally". However, the encroachment of pseudoscience can easily be dealt with using rationalist sources.

      "Is the right capable of coming up with some strange ideas? Sure. Does it seem to be happening with increased frequency? Yes. Is it as likely to come up with ideas that are so extreme that they lie completely outside the collective experience of Klal Yisrael, that they should be labled not just “not for me” or “not for us” but “outside the pale?” Not anywhere as likely as from the far left.

      This is all relative. Certainly many aspects of Chasidism were once considered beyond the pale and some still are.

      More importantly, this is not the only risk. The larger problem is losing 80% or more of jews by attrition. Combating that has most certainly involved embracing modernity and that is not an idea of the right. The somewhat more equal religious education for women was not an idea of the right.

      There are very, very few serious talmidei chachamim on the left; there are very many on the right.

      Sorry how are you defining right and left? For example, was Rav Herzog left or right? Rav Kook? Rav Soloveitchik? Rav Hildesheimer? Rav Dovid Zvi Hoffman?

      Today how do you divide the Charedi and Dati Leumi? Are they all to the right or are there some to the left?


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  7. "Deadly Water" or, Does anyone really believe they can escape death? can also work here.

    "it is a time when the angels change shifts, and while there is nobody on duty, the Angel of Death can poison the water."

    If God created the angels to protect the waters (and from where does the Rama know this?) and they fail to do so while changing shifts, then this is implying that God had overlooked an important element, making this whole process of having angels protecting the water completely useless. What would God say to that?

    But more to the point would be. How many people drink water on the solstice day (or on the out of sync day) between the hours of 2pm and 3pm every year. If it is the nature for the angel of death to poison the water, than this should cause an epidemic, if not every year, at least on some years, and scientists should have had some tracking records on a phenomenon that occurs at the same time of the year.
    Simply saying, the statistics do not support this claim.
    We can imagine all kinds of explanation based on assumptions, opinions and wild imaginations run amok, but none on any solid proofs.

    "The original reasons for this practice are lost in antiquity"
    If there was a reason, I doubt it would have been lost and most certainly would have rendered this claim a rational one. An impossibility in itself.

    "(Note that due to the calendars falling out of sync, yesterday was not in fact the solstice!)"
    How much more non-rational can one get from this?

    "These people just want to do what they think makes them frum."
    On a non-rational viewpoint, I find it no coincidence that "frum rhymes with krum."
    o

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    1. I would like to add to my comment.
      With want would the Angel of Death poison the water with?
      This practice would suggest that the poison used would be added between 2pm and 3pm and only be effective within this same hour. Not a very potent poison to say the least.
      o

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. “Now that many trample these precepts [of bloodletting] under foot, and yet escape serious hurt, one can realize the truth of the psalmist’s saying YHWH preserves the simple (Psalms 116:6)” (BT Shabbat 129b, cf. Yevamot 72a).

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  10. I thought we lean left on pesach

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    1. Sorry, I meant people were concerned to avoid leaning right on Pesach, even when they are left-handed and the Talmud implies that leaning right is actually preferred according to the Rishonim who are aligned with our current understanding of anatomy (actually going back to the Radvaz at least).

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    2. I think you'll find that the majority of Jews lean way to the right on pesach.

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    3. That is just to symbolize American Reform Jews (the absent 5th son, as it were) most of whom lean left.

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  11. > he pointed out that nobody is terrified of demons today, as they used to be.

    Regrettably, as the chasidic version of Judaism becomes more influential and continues to take over normative Orthodox Jewish practice belief in demons will probably make a comeback. I mean, think about it: who's poisoning the water during the tekufah? Arabs? Probably not. FailedMessiah recently covered a dibbuk exorcism ceremony which involves demons.
    We are expected to believe in a young Earth and that the sun revolves around it. How soon before we are told that behaviours mentioned in the gemara to ward off demons are once again normative minhagei Yisrael?

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  12. Not drinking water for 1 hour is a very easy observance, compared with many others!

    And it gives a way to recognize a turning point in a cycle which is actually one of the bedrock foundations of the Jewish year.

    If we look, we can see there are actually two "seventh"/shabbos months in the Jewish calendar, and the Jewish year can actually be looked as an alternating cycle of two shabbos month cycles nestled compactly into a twelve month yearly calendar by means of a one month overlap at each end.

    The Jewish year has two new years of creation, (Nissan and Tishrei – as per BT RH 10-11), the month of each of which is the seventh month counting from the other. Tishrei is the seventh month from Nissan and Nissan is the seventh month from Tishrei.

    As such we can conceive of the Jewish year as a thirteen month cycle comprised of two overlapping “Shabbos of months” cycles, (and each year similarly overlaps by a month with the adjacent year, so that the year can fit into a stable 12 month annual cycle.) Each cycle begins with a New Year and culminates in a seventh sabbatical festive month, which in turn marks the first month of the new cycle.

    Perhaps a deeper way to view the cycles would be to see each of the two half-year periods as running from one solstice to the next, and containing a cycle of holidays (not in exactly the same form or order) that parallel each other in many significant respects, with each cycle being centred on a seven day festival at approximately the time of the equinox, beginning at the time of the full moon, that embodies and gives expression to the character of the cycle.

    Each cycle centres on major seven-day festival around time of equinox. Some other commonalities of the two cycles may be as follows:

    -Seven day festival culminates in completion/atzeres that is celebration of Torah

    -Month preceding the festival (Elul or Adar) is month of transformation (Elul is teshuva and Purim/Adar is “ve’nahapoch hu”)

    -The first and tenth days of the festival month have special distinctions - (RH, YK, New Year of Nissan and Shabbos HaGadol, on the 10th in its original year). The first day is a new year in both cases.

    -Each cycle has apparent solstice-related observance: (1) 17th of Tammuz, leading to Tisha B’Av – time when light begins to decrease – Represents a beginning of galus/exile , and (2) Chanuka – when the light begins to increase, represents an end of galus/exile.

    As noted in previous comments, the dates are out of alignment under the current calendar. But that does not really invalidate the idea.

    The water observance is a way to commemorate this turning point in the year, in an easy and potentially meaningful way.

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    1. The Jewish Year has two New Years because the Babylonians, from whom we borrowed the calendar, had two new years.

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    2. You didn't mention that there's a season-related minor day of observance precisely two months before each seven day holiday. (Tu B'Shvat-Pesach, Tu B'Av (hottest day-Sukkot.)

      By the way, apparently there was once a practice of Elul Aleph and Elul Bet.

      G*3: Or because the Babylonian New Year was six months after the Jewish one, more precisely.

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  13. David Oshie: This isn't "ordinary" health advice as we find in abundance in various sources. (e.g. spitting out saliva when smelling the aroma of foods.) This assumes we have actual knowledge of what goes on in heaven from kabbalistic sources and therefore represents a "real" danger that can't be countered by modern medicine.

    Asah: It would seem that it's the very acceptance of kabbalistic sources that precipitated this custom. If your mesorah is that we don't decide halacha from kaballah, then you have sufficient basis for rejecting the custom. In fact, if it's not found in Rambam, that's a mesorah you can rely on too.

    One more thought: There's a halacha from a much earlier, much more authoritative source that is not followed by the vast majority of observant Jews. The takana of the Bais Din of Ezra that men should go to mikvah prior to davening or torah study after an emission. Later sources tell us that it was nullified because the people could not withstand it. There's no reference to any formal body or authority that nullified it, but it would seem that after the halachicly committed masses stopped following the practice, it was deemed no longer in effect. It would seem that this reasoning can be applied to other long dead customs that are being dug up. While this may not be as physically burdensome as the mikvah takanah, it's more burdensome on the intellect.

    Requisite joke: The Ramah could not possibly have said this, it must be a forgery! :-) (Or more likely relied on forged sources.)

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    1. David Oshie: This isn't "ordinary" health advice as we find in abundance in various sources. (e.g. spitting out saliva when smelling the aroma of foods.) This assumes we have actual knowledge of what goes on in heaven from kabbalistic sources and therefore represents a "real" danger that can't be countered by modern medicine.

      How so? What qualifies as kabbalistic and what would prevent us from noticing that there is no actual danger or that the time of the solistice is different from the model? And why is it different from "negel vasser" or Metzitzah B'Peh which are also claimed to have kabbalistic source?

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  14. Since minhag yisroel torah hie, and the minhag for hundreds of years was that people didn't live with this , then reinstating it is against the current minhag which torah hie!

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  15. ArtScroll (Pesachim 112a note 9) writes that Abudraham cites Ibn Ezra "who gives little credence to the element of danger presented as a rationale for this custom". ArtScroll continues and writes that Ibn Ezra cited a responsum of Rav Hai Haon "who explains that the practice is akin to the custom of eating certain symbolic foods on the night of Rosh Hashanah: Just as people eat sweet foods at the beginning of the year as a portent for a sweet year, so too should people consume sweet things at the beginning of a season [i.e. at the equinox or solstice], but not water which is cheap and easy to come by." That people "should" consume sweet things seems to be quite the misrepresentation of his view. To the contrary, he refers to practices like, on Rosh Hashanah, "dipping an apple in honey for a sweet new year," as ניחוש! Rather, he writes, it is the year of the עובד השם that trusts in him alone which is sweet.

    This is what the אבודרהם actually writes:
    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=26840&st=&pgnum=165:
    "וכתב החכם בן עזרא שאלו חכמי קריאות לרבינו האיי למה נהגו ישראל הדרים במערב להשמר שלא ישתו מים בשעת התקופה. והשיב כי ניחוש בעלמא הוא בעבור שהוא תחלת השנה או תחלת רביעתה ולא ירצו לשתות מים שימצאו חנם על כן יאכלו בה כל מתוק להיות שנתם מתוקה. ואני אומר מתוקה שנת העובד השם הבוטח בו לבדו."

    For those who understand Hebrew, HaRav HaGaon Ratson Arusi spoke about this (היש לחשוש לאיסור שתיית מים בשעת חילופי תקופות השנה?) at length yesterday - recorded at http://net-sah.org/audio/23649. As I recall, about the first half of the lecture was sources that have been mentioned at http://www.kikar.co.il/176036.html (linked above) so if you already read through that and are low on time, you might want to start listening from the middle. Not only is he rationalist for following the Rambam's Hashkafah but for the Rambam's Halachah as well, הלכה למעשה as the Yemenites have paskened מדורי דורות.

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    1. I was entertained by R Arusi trying to make reconcile his rationalist position with the directive of Rav Ovadiah Yosef to publish the times in the Luach so that people would know when to avoid water. Maybe sometimes it's better to say "WADR to Maran, I disagree."

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    2. I sympathize but
      יש וצריך להתחשב בין רצוי ומצוי, בפרט כשמדובר בצבור שומעים מורכב, במקום לנקוט בעמדת "יקוב הדין את ההר". ואל תדון את חברך עד שתגיע למקומו למדונו הלל.

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    3. If I understand your Hebrew right, you are saying that R Arusi is limited in what he can say here and that I should not judge him.

      1) I wasn't trying to judge. Just noting something that I found interesting.

      2) Is that really true? My impression is that Sefardim really do accept Maran's complete authority and it isn't just for the masses.

      Apologies if I misunderstood your response.

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  16. Unless you live in eastern Europe, then the fact that the Rema says "we" do this or that has no relevance to you.

    Bottom line: the halachic system that says "do whatever the Rema says, unless kabbala says otherwise, or the Mechaber says something frummer, or it became a frum fad in the past 100 years to do something different" is a Haredi halachic model and makes no sense whatsoever outside of a Haredi hashafik framework. If you believe in "rationalist Judasim" (i.e. the Torah), then you have to follow a "rationalist" halachic model. If you insist on following a Haredi halachic model you have three options:
    1) Live your religious life as a sort of "I'm so clever" game.
    2) Consign yourself to being a second class Haredi.
    3) Grow up and become Haredi.

    **

    "As to why the halacha "woke up", that's no more of a legitimate question as to why the halacha "woke up" regarding the issurim of mixed dancing, the requirement for married women to cover their hair"

    Most "orthodox" women do not cover their hair. Wearing a wig is not covering your hair, or, rather, it is significantly worse than not covering your hair.

    **

    "A more significant question may be asked: There are two examples of actual halakha that are based on the tekufa. One is when v'ten tal umatar is started in chutz laaretz and the other is birkat hachama."

    The Birkhat haHama to which you refer is not an "actual halacha", it is a Tzedoki concept that was incorporated into a psedonymous false girsa in the Gemara. This is all well known.

    http://machonshilo.org/en/images/stories/files/Birkath-Hama-Response-02.pdf

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    1. The Birkhat haHama to which you refer is not an "actual halacha", it is a Tzedoki concept that was incorporated into a psedonymous false girsa in the Gemara. This is all well known.

      Kind of. He says that the modern version (once every 28 years) of the Halacha sourced from a Beraisa was not in the Talmud. This is based on fact that all of the original mentions of this 28-year version simply give it as a possible explanation of the Talmud and not as a quotation from the Talmud. That is all very interesting and I learned something new.

      The rest is speculation about sectarian sources for this version (unfounded it appears to me). It is easy to explain why the 365 1/4 day year plays into this halacha: it is undoubtedly solar and many of the halachos based on the solar year use the 365 1/4 day year. Which is in turn understandable because that was the commonly used solar year. No sectarian influence needed.

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    2. Gavriel: I don't think even he'd deny that there is a requirement to say the bracha; he'd just disagree with how often to say it.

      If you're going to say 365 1/4 is sectarian, then what of birkat hashanim?

      They probably used it because the math is easier and they didn't think of what would happen thousands of years down the line for such minor issues.

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    3. Gavriel M: I have never understood why married women would cover their hair with someone else's hair *but* I don't understand why you think it's far worse than not covering one's head at all? (Putting aside my own issues with the need to cover one's hair at all)

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    4. The moronics of that article from machonshilo beggar belief. Someone is looking for attention and offering half-baked 'proofs' to theories that end up with little basis. His 'knowledge' of girsaos in gemoro, his understanding of the halachic process and his general respect for knowledge are extremely suspect.

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    5. 1)To be clear: there is a 'real halachah', but it is not, and never has been to say a b'racha every 28 years marking some fictive event.

      2) There is nothing particularly speculative about it. "Jewish mysticism" is, at root, Tzedoki religion placed in the mouths of Rabbis in crude forgeries. This is just one among thousands of illustrations of this point, which is, probably, the single most important thing for any Jew today to understand. Rachel Elior has documented this most thoroughly.

      3) Regarding birkat hashanim: if, in the unlikely event you live in Iraq, the obvious thing to do is count sixty days from the equinox.

      4) The specific link to Tzedoki theology is not the use of a solar calendar per se., but the association of the solar calendar with secrets about the universe inaccessible to ordinary people, secondly, the obsession with patterns of 4s and 7s (4 x 7 = 28) and, thirdly, the tedious obsession with calculating to the finest detail entirely imaginary cosmic patterns.

      5) Devora: It's quite simple, at best you have achieved precisely nothing except waste money. In 90% of cases, however, you have achieved the precise opposite of being tz'nua (namely conducting oneself in a non ostentatious manner and, secondly, making oneself less sexually alluring). On top of this you have caused everyone outside of the orthodox bubble to conclude, perfectly fairly, that orthodox Jews believe in a bunch of senseless nonsense.
      No intelligent person can simultaneously believe that it is wrong and immodest for a woman to walk in public with her hair on display and at the same time that it is not wrong and immodest for her to walk with in public with someone else's hair on display, bizarre counter-factual arguments like "dead material cannot be attractive" notwithstanding. (I have often wondered whether people who claim sheitels cannot be ervah [which in any case would not necessarily mean they were not peruah rosh] would permit someone to say Shema in front of a pornographic magazine and, if not, why not.)

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  17. > it is a time when the angels change shifts, and while there is nobody on duty, the Angel of Death can poison the water.

    Why water, though? Why not the same worry about air, or food? Why not worry that, since no one is stopping him, the Angel of Death will push your car off the road, or push you over a cliff, or just stop your heart?

    > Of course, if it does end up getting a full resurrection, as seems to be happening with the peeled onions, it's going to be difficult to justify ignoring it.

    Why do you have to justify ignoring illogical and ridiculous things?

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  18. Obviously the rationale for not drinking water in the hour surrounding the advent of tekufat Tammuz according to the Julian (Shmuel) calendar is irrational. Water doesn't turn to blood at that point (one rationale given) or the malachim allegedly guarding the water supply aren't derelict in their duty during the 'changeover' period (the more common) rationale. Not only is there no rational basis for the concern, the timing is off since the real seasonal change follows the Gregorian calendar far more closely than the Julian (the Tammuz date is 2 weeks premature). More importantly, this custom dating from the Geonic period has been disregarded for centuries now. While the ostensible rationale for such abandonment was that iron pipes used to convey drinking water was supposed to be protective (there is even a cute mnemonic involving the merit of the Imahot; Bilha, Rachel, Zilpah, Leah, i.e., Barzel), nevertheless, the result is abandonment. Attempting to resurrect an abandoned custom which had no rational basis is an affront to the intelligent Observer. It is another attempt to supercede established custom with some irrelevant or outmoded halachic writing such as the inflation of halachic shiurim based on faulty information. Having been informed of this abandoned custom that some wish to resurrect, it behooves those of us who are resentful of such action to deliberately and publically drink water next year on the 14th to 15th 'witching' hour of Tammuz (J'lem time and local time - to be 'yotzei' all opinions).

    Y. Aharon

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    Replies
    1. > iron pipes used to convey drinking water was supposed to be protective

      Because iron burns the fey folk?

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    2. I think you mean two weeks *late*.

      And what of concrete pipes? :-)

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  19. Does this affect water that was bottled before the solstice? If not, i have some business plans for next year!

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    Replies
    1. JD,
      Use a reiki crystal and call it emunah water. now that will sell like hotcakes! Of course thats judged based on all the newspaper advertisements I see lately in the jewish papers.

      Delete
  20. When the Romans provided their dominions with aqueduct systems the local conduits were made of lead pipes. The lead was of course damaging to health but the cause was never ascertained until recent times. Could it have been the "plumbing problem was the plumbum" (Latin)

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  21. It is not fair to assume people are doing it because they want to look frum. Perhaps they simply have emunah in our sages and sincerely want to simply follow what the Rema says, regardless of the reason for it? We don't inquire after the reason for most mitzvos.

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    Replies
    1. You don't reenact dead customs! Especially ones which fly in th face of current science. if thats the case than jews could throw away current customs and hold from previously more lenient customs. Let's pick and choose why don't we! Family minhagim apparently mean nothing! How about having faith in our family minhagim.
      And let sleeping dogs lie.

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  22. All new yorkers know today at 8:20 (approx) is the twice annual 'manhattanhenge'. I just finished running around from shul to shul reminding everyone not to drink the official drink of new york from 8 to 9 pm (of course not water; we don't do that). Some say its stoli, some say its imported beer (all beer here is imported, there are no breweries left here.)

    We all know the manhattan grid was set up by the instructions of the 'navi' (prophet) of lenni lenape indians. So the manhattanhenge has proper kedusha, we should take advantage of.

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  23. I was wondering if it had something to do with Kupala Night. It's also water-related and also falls out on 6/7 July(which is 23/24 June in the Julian or Old Style calendar still used by many Orthodox Churches). From that I understand that, even though the Julian calendar fell out of sync with the actual solstice, some churches rejected the updated Gregorian calendar and kept celebrating their holidays according to the old one.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kupala_Night

    In any case, given the huge number of Pagan rituals around this time(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midsummer) I think one could definitely make the claim that a person who doesn't have the minhag probably shouldn't adopt it on the basis of chukot hagoyim

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  24. I don't know why you say the custom of not eating eggs/onions that were peeled and left overnight has fallen into disuse. My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all careful. As is my wife and her mother/grandmother etc. Reb Moshe has a teshuva about it, accepting it as halacha. Hashgochos are makpid generally (Reb Moshe has caveats that are somewhat accepted by some hashgochos). Maybe some people forgot, but it is certainly not like drinking water during the solstice.
    BTW, the halocho follows Shmuel regarding drinking water and birkas hachamo, yet Rav Ada regarding the kevius of yomim tovim. That is how birkas hachama in 1981 fell on Motzei Pesach, even though the Gemoro says clearly that Pesach must be after the equinox.

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  25. Back in the 1980s when i lived in a chareidi community in Israel, i was advised by the rav of my community to place a knife under my pillow to ward off sheidim when my husband traveled to chutz laretz.
    Also the minhag of not leaving unpeeled eggs or onions overnight is still very much in existence in my Jewish community in the US and has always been the case as far as I know. It is not a "resurrection" as youve stated

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