Friday, May 13, 2016

Siren Vs. Tehillim - Which is Jewish Tradition?

In my younger years, I would not stand silently during the sirens on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron. After all, I reckoned, those are non-Jewish, meaningless customs. Instead, I would recite Tehillim, the traditional Jewish way of memorializing the deceased, which actually helps them in the Upper Worlds. (Of course, if I was in public, I would nevertheless stand in silence out of respect for others.) Such is still the normative attitude in the charedi world.

This year, it occurred to me that I had it entirely backwards.

Standing silent for the siren may have been introduced into Israel as a copy of procedures done in non-Jewish nations, but it is not chukkas ha-goy. It is simply a natural human expression of solemnity in the face of tragedy. And such a response to death goes back to the Torah itself. When Nadav and Avihu were killed by fire, it says vayidom Aharon, "Aharon was silent." Iyov's friends sat in silence with him for seven days - they didn't recite Tehillim. The Gemara (Berachos 6b) says that "the merit of attending a house of mourning lies in maintaining silence." Contemplating matters in our minds is something that is very much part of traditional Judaism.

What about the siren? A siren can be seen as simply a way of alerting everyone to this avodah, just like the Shabbos siren. Or, it can be seen as recalling the wars in which many lost their lives. It can even be seen as very similar to the shofar blast, another type of horn which sounds and to which in response we stand in silent contemplation.

Standing silent for the siren, then, echoes traditional Jewish practices. It is not something that is simply copying non-Jewish practices, like schlissel challah, pouring lead, and many other popular rituals in frum society.

But saying Tehillim, on the other hand - just how traditional is that? In my monograph What Can One Do For Someone Who Has Passed Away? I demonstrated that in classical Judaism, one gives charity for the dead and one prays (such as with the Yizkor prayer, which is recited at Yom HaZikaron events). For one's ancestors and teachers, one learns Torah and does good deeds as a credit to them. Saying Tehillim for strangers does not appear to have any basis in classical Judaism; the earliest sources to discuss such things explain that it does not actually accomplish anything for the deceased. I am fairly sure that it is a custom that goes back no more than two hundred years (but I am open to being corrected!).

So which is the traditional Jewish way of responding to such things, and which is the meaningless custom of recent origin? Like so many other topics that we have discussed here, it all depends on whether you define Jewish tradition as starting in Biblical times and carrying on through Chazal and the Rishonim, or whether you define it as starting about a hundred years ago. Similarly, it also depends on whether you follow the rationalist approach of the Rishonim or the more recent mystical approach.

(Of course, it is still infinitely better to say Tehillim during the siren than to ignore it entirely!)

91 comments:

  1. I don't think that your proof from "vaYidom Aharon" is correct - the point there seems to be that Aharon simply refrained form expressing any complaint - which is not the way I understand the silence during the siren.

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  2. In this world in which most Jews are not Torah-observant, it is important that we promote "Judaism with a human face", i.e. not get wrapped up in a war for ideological purity that is not really related to the Torah and mitzvot, but rather worring about things like "well, THEY do such-and-such so WE are going to do the opposite, davka!".
    Some years ago, I was on the street when the Yom HaZikaron siren blew and a young woman who was standing near me suddenly burst into tears. Would it make sense to go up to he and give her all the arguments the "anti-s" use?
    Regarding the national anthem HaTikva, which many say is not "religious" enough, Rabbi Leslie Hardman was an (Orthodox) British army chaplain with the 8th Corps of the British Second Army. He entered the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where there were some like TWENTY THOUSAND unburied dead bodies. Rabbi Hardman conducted the first tefillah there for the surivors. They concluded it by singing HaTikva. Now, is someone going to go up to these people and say "the song is not 'frum' enough?". Listen to it yourself:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iHg9vcRM_00

    During the big debate a couple of years ago about military service for Haredim, a Haredi Rav who is pro-Zionist stated that it is very sad that a signficant part of the Haredi world cuts itself off from the joys and sorrows of Am Israel using sterile ideological arguments. It it time that we all come together!

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  3. Any new tradition is despised in its first iteration. I'm sure there were "Gedolim" who asked "What's this with dipping challah in honey on Rosh HaShanah?" and "Why don't you cut that boy's hair until he's three, he looks like a girl!" but now, chas v'shalom you question that these aren't customs that manipulate the heavenly spheres and bring shefa onto the world.
    One day standing for a moment in silence will be accorded the same respect and some other new-fangled innovation will be villified.

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  4. Stop calling it "standing silent". Call it two minutes of "hitbodedut"...suddenly it has a entire different meaning.

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  5. R. Slifkin,
    "Standing silent in response to death goes back to the Torah itself. When Nadav and Avihu were killed by fire, it says vayidom Aharon, "Aharon was silent." Iyov's friends sat in silence with him for seven days - they didn't recite Tehillim. The Gemara (Berachos 6b) says that "the merit of attending a house of mourning lies in maintaining silence." Contemplating matters in our minds is something that is very much part of traditional Judaism."
    I see you have already been called out on your citation of וידם אהרן; the other two are equally irrelevant. The actions of Iyov's friends and the statement of the gemara do not refer to silence of contemplation, but of consolation of another, wherein we show solidarity with the mourner.
    "It can even be seen as very similar to the shofar blast, another type of horn which sounds and to which in response we stand in silent contemplation."
    Was that what the shofar was for? Certainly not primarily. Shofar blasts in the Torah always call for action not contemplation. Even Rambam understood it this way, although he did incorporate a certain element of contemplation. - But he kinda did that for everything.

    "Saying Tehillim for strangers does not appear to have any basis in classical Judaism; the earliest sources to discuss such things explain that it does not actually accomplish anything for the deceased. I am fairly sure that it is a custom that goes back no more than two hundred years (but I am open to being corrected!)."
    Why do you assume saying Tehillim is anything more than a form of prayer, albeit a very popular one? Everyone I know who says Tehillim assumes they are just praying. And praying for the deceased appears already in Chazallic writings.

    "Like so many other topics that we have discussed here, it all depends on whether you define Jewish tradition as starting in Biblical times and carrying on through Chazal and the Rishonim, or whether you define it as starting about a hundred years ago. Similarly, it also depends on whether you follow the rationalist approach of the Rishonim or the more recent mystical approach."
    This confounds me. Really. It seems that in your zeal to provide a much-needed defense of a much-needed and legitimate stream of Judaism, you egregiously distorted historical fact. The mystical approach cannot be described as "starting about a hundred years ago" as opposed to "starting in Biblical times and carrying on through Chazal and the Rishonim" and is not "more recent" as opposed to the "approach of the Rishonim". The tone of your post is honestly revolting. The mystical approach is just as ancient, if not older, and has significantly more basis in classical Judaism. Which is why, in your sidebar, you cite Rambam and not Ra'avad, R. Yitzchak Sagi Nahar, Ramban, Rashba, the Chassidei Ashkenaz or others. You clearly acknowledged this multiple times, (maybe not that it has more basis, but you don't have to), and yet, at times, you resort to such distortions of history, disprovable by a high school student, to support your point. Our rationalist approach does not need support based on the de-legitimization of the mystical one, something else you have acknowledged.
    I greatly respect your opinion even though I may disagree with you at times. However, in a case such as this, I respectfully request that you amend your post.

    R Stefansky

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    1. 1. The Torah does not say why Aharon was silent.

      2. Solidarity with others is very much the point of Yom Hazikaron.

      3. The shofar on Rosh HaShanah is something to which we respond by standing in silence.

      4. I am not at all convinced that Tehillim is the same as prayer. Prayer means asking for something (or praise, or thanks.) Rather, saying Tehillim appears to be a mechanistic way to attain "points" for others.

      5. I never said that the mystical approach began a hundred years ago. Thus your entire last section is irrelevant.

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    2. "5. I never said that the mystical approach began a hundred years ago. Thus your entire last section is irrelevant."
      Your last paragraph certainly implies so. You created a dichotomy between "rationalist approach of the Rishonim" and "the more recent mystical approach". It certainly seems that you assume a mystical approach was not the approach of the Rishonim.

      And, what then are you referring to when you write: "it all depends on whether you define Jewish tradition as starting in Biblical times and carrying on through Chazal and the Rishonim, or whether you define it as starting about a hundred years ago"?

      R Stefansky

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    3. Ahh, you were referring to the specific response to death when you wrote "it all depends on whether you define Jewish tradition...". Sorry. My bad. The rest of my contentions still stand, though.

      R Stefansky

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    4. "1. The Torah does not say why Aharon was silent."
      The Torah records his silence as a response to Moshe's comments, not as an immediate response to the death of his children, therefore it's not analogous.

      "2. Solidarity with others is very much the point of Yom Hazikaron."
      The silence of Iyov's friends and of the gemara is of sitting together with the mourners and consoling them. Entirely different than standing at the side of the road.

      "3. The shofar on Rosh HaShanah is something to which we respond by standing in silence."
      No, we're silent so we can hear it. Furthermore, we're also silent in between washing and eating, and during davening (Hopefully;)!).

      "4. I am not at all convinced that Tehillim is the same as prayer. Prayer means asking for something (or praise, or thanks.) Rather, saying Tehillim appears to be a mechanistic way to attain "points" for others."
      Most of davening is reciting Tehillim, i.e. pesukei dizimra, parts of tachanun, ashrei, shir shel yom, hallel, etc. It's composed of beautiful verses, perfect for prayer. Many people I know who say Tehillim, do so as a form of prayer.
      Prayer for the dead is the approach that can be defined as "starting in Biblical times and carrying on through Chazal and the Rishonim" and the siren is the more recent invention. That doesn't detract from its appropriateness as a yom hazikaron ritual. Until recently, we had no problem introducing new and meaningful customs. But it is new.

      I'm still curious why you haven't yet amended: "Similarly, it also depends on whether you follow the rationalist approach of the Rishonim or the more recent mystical approach."

      R Stefansky

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    5. "2. Solidarity with others is very much the point of Yom Hazikaron."
      The silence of Iyov's friends and of the gemara is of sitting together with the mourners and consoling them. Entirely different than standing at the side of the road.


      That is a stretch. They appear to standing along with all the others in the nation both to console those who lost loved ones and to mourn themselves for the loss of their soldiers in conflict.

      Delete
  6. ******************May 13, 2016 at 8:41 PM

    Yes, but for whatever reason sitting in silence in a shiva house fell out of custom many years ago. If the gemoro ever meant that - I suspect it is a machlokas like everything else. Or needs context. Or to pacify those, who like me, are not very good in shiva houses (the gemoro also says the schar of attending a shiur is the travel . And the schar of a ta'anis is the tzedoko. - which can't be taken at face value)

    When the standing still for the siren was introduced it was, even you will admit, to copy the non-Jews and pure chukas hagoy. That is why it is considered possul and maybe ossur according to some opinions. That is why chareidim avoid it.

    I agree that in the street, everybody should stay silent and still our of respect (yes I know this contradicts the fact it may be ossur, leave the lomdus for others).

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    1. When the standing still for the siren was introduced it was, even you will admit, to copy the non-Jews and pure chukas hagoy. That is why it is considered possul and maybe ossur according to some opinions. That is why chareidim avoid it.

      It is opposed for because it was originated people outside their group, just like vernacular Hebrew was originally opposed.

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    2. "When the standing still for the siren was introduced it was, even you will admit, to copy the non-Jews and pure chukas hagoy. That is why it is considered possul and maybe ossur according to some opinions. That is why chareidim avoid it."

      I think this paragraph sums up why some people loathe the charedi community. You're saying, not only will the vast majority of them not serve in the IDF, but then they won't even stand still for a moment to respect those who did serve, and died? And that might halachically "correct"? Technical Judaism vom Feinsten (from the finest).

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    3. "When the standing still for the siren was introduced it was, even you will admit, to copy the non-Jews and pure chukas hagoy."

      I will admit that it was copying 'the goy'. But it was not to copy the goy. The purpose of a two minute silence was not in order to be like the goyim, but rather because they saw a custom which they thought beautiful that the goyim had, and decided to use it themselves. That happens all the time in Judaism.

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  7. The post is excellent, but of course you know that the "problem" with the custom is not that it new. It is that it came from a "treif" source.

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  8. I don't see why saying Tehillim wouldn't be viewed the same way as learning Torah or praying. They are all a credit to the diseased, associating him with our highest values and behaviors. Those who do it conceiving of a point system probably conceive of the other practices that way as well, and does not necessarily reflect a mystical viewpoint as much as a perhaps unsophisticated one.

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    1. 1. Anonymous comments are usually rejected, in future please use your real name or a pseudonym.

      2. Learning Torah, according to classical sources, is not a credit to the deceased.

      3. Why is Tehillim the same as praying?

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    2. I am not the anonymous commenter, but I take issue with your assertion that Tehillim is not the same as praying. Sure, many people say it without concentration assuming that the mystical power of the words will score metaphysical points, but if one concentrates on the words, it is prayer just like anything else. Why is it not the same as praying?

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    3. "3. Why is Tehillim the same as praying?"

      See my comment above. Why isn't it? Most of prayer is just reciting Tehillim.

      R Stefansky

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  9. come on Rabbi Slifkin, we all know that the custom to have a moment of silence is a widespread custom throughout the world and that is where Israel got it from, not the bible or the gemara. My parents, grandparents, etc didn't have moments of silence. they poured their hearts out in prayer through tehilim. Im sure thats true of everyone who is reading this post who had an orthodox upbringing. That's how jews dealt with emotional/reflective times traditionally. If you are truly looking to follow tradition, look at your immediate ancestors, not the other nations. that is how tradition is passed on.
    Josh Miller

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    1. True, but Yom HaZikaron, though rooted in Jewish tradition, is not itself a Jewish tradition. Therefore the custom of saying tehillim has no bearing. You have a better argument, though still wrong, concerning Yom HaShoah, which arguably is covered by Tisha B'Av, and thus already has its own customs. [I say "arguably" because the frum argument rings a little hollow. One or two kinnos, at the end of the day, is hardly sufficient to cover the magnitude of the Holocaust. There's no reason to recite twenty-five kinnos from the Kalir that are completely unintelligible and barely resonate with the tzibbur, yet give such short-shrift to an event that murdered many of the siblings, parents, and grandparents of the people in an average shul.]

      In addition, silence is also part of tradition, as R. Slifkin amply illustrates.

      PS, to RNS - Pouring lead is not a common custom at all, and should not be used as a strawman to make a point.



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  10. Where exactly in non-Jewish societies was the siren borrowed from?

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  11. Practically speaking, this discussion is pointless. The tremendous hillul Hashem created by people who refuse to stand when the siren goes off on Yom Hazikaron makes all of these worries about following a custom of non-Jewish origin pale into insignificance. Furthermore, if you were to start investigating the history of social practices in Hareidi communities you would quickly discover that many of them were borrowed from non-Jewish cultures. It is VERY suspicious that of these practices standing in honor of the dead has become such a problem.

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  12. It feels almost like you've shown that both are not a good use of our time, so why do either? Let's do something else.

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  13. Rabbi Slifkin,

    You say that . "Prayer means asking for something (or praise, or thanks.) Rather, saying Tehillim appears to be a mechanistic way to attain "points" for others."

    Can you please elaborate (or maybe make a post,) what prayer is in a rationalistic setting.

    Say one ask for health, happiness or the final redemption and you don't receive them, why would a rational person continue to pray if it's essentially outcome driven, or is it?

    Would much appreciate your point of view.
    Shmuel

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  14. so... no-one really knows where and when the idea of 'saying tehillim' comes from?
    when it started? etc? come on... someone must know. (I don't...)

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  15. The weekly daf yomi sheet contained a discussion of Thanksgiving. They give a rundown of R' Moshe, somewhat inaccurately, and conclude that it's a minhag shtus and shouldn't be done.

    You'd think they'd be honest enough to add, "Other gedolim had no problem with Thanksgiving and even encouraged its observance." But apparently that's not the way halakha works these days.

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  16. "even you will admit, to copy the non-Jews and pure chukas hagoy."
    Pure chukat haGoy? Not at all. This is a common misunderstanding that anything done by non-Jews is forbidden: The Remah gives a clear definition for which practices are חוקת הגוים- the moment of silence is clearly permitted. Period. The Remah only forbids customs that have traces of idolatry, superstitions and immodesty. The G"ra argues with the Remah, but even according to him it can be argued that there's a distinctly Jewish precedent for the moment of silence. In any case, the Remah's opinion is normative as cited explicitly by the כתב סופר, and (if I recall correctly) by R' Shlomo Kluger. I'm not sure if the G"ra is widely accepted. Anyone who want to reject the Remah in favor of G"ra, may do so- especially if they accept his other innovations- two מצות, lighting the מנורה in reverse, etc... But who has the chutzpah to come after the nearly universal accepted Remah's psak and dare condemn the entire community for following normative halacha?
    The Rambam (in הלכות תשובה) has very strong words for those who separate from the community and don't mourn with them.
    I'm not a fan of the moment of silence, simply because it's too insufficient a response. But for those who have problems with the siren- they can simply get off the streets for two minutes. You can plans days in advanced to take a bathroom break at the time.

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    1. The moment of silence does seem to derive from idolatry, since it is an evolution of the moment of prayer for the souls of the deceased in Christian cultures. If Christianity is AZ, or if particular streams that began it/that Israel took it from were considered AZ, then there would be a problem here.
      It would not resolve anything to find similarities to things in Tanach if it in all truth does have a source in AZ.

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    2. The halachic source for adopting a non-Jewish custom, if it is a way of showing respect:
      יורה דעה סימן קעח. רמ״א שם - בשם המהרי״ק
      ״אבל דבר שנהגו לתועלת כגון שדרכן שכל מי שהוא רופא מומחה יש לו מלבוש מיוחד שניכר בו שהוא רופא אומן מותר ללובשו וכן שעושין משום כבוד או טעם אחר מותר (מהרי״ק שורש פ״ח) לכן אמרו שורפין על המלכים ואין בו משום דרכי האמורי (ר״ן פ״ק דעבודת כוכבים): } ״

      PS, the issur of Hukat HaGoy is to do anything which goyim do for which there is no logical reason, because then the reason might be avoda zara.

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    3. Mutar or Ossur doesn't change the fact that it is a non Jewish custom copied from the non jews. Period. That is the objection.

      No one is discussing whether there is a lav or malkus involved.

      Delete
  17. "אין שתיקה אלא תנחומין"
    אבות דרב נתן

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  18. Despite the risk of people saying that I am tooting my own (Lubavitch) horn, the Wikipedia article on "Moment of Silence" mentions how President Reagan wanted to introduce it in the public schools at the start of the day--and the Lubavitcher Rebbe also was a "strong advocate" of it. [The article mentions the Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron observances as well.]

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  19. Seems to me we stay silent when we have nothing to say. Aharon had a retort and thought better of it. When faced with death we have nothing to say, no shared language with non-living that face us.

    We pray when we have what to say. We are talking to the Almighty Living God, we have a common language and we have words to share in conversation. Tehilim provide a set of words, phrases and feelings for communication between the living.

    Not long ago, at the cemetery, the Yartziet of a loved one, I had no trouble saying Tehilim. Years have past and the conversation is a private one between me and God.

    At Har Herzl, I found myself overwhelmed by the atmosphere of Yom HaZikaron, I could not say anything, not because I was faced with death as much as I was faced with life. Life in Israel, life as part of a nation.

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  20. For those claiming that the moment of silence is obviously of non-Jewish origin and is therefore problematic, consider this responsum of Rav Moshe. He saw no issue with participating in non-denominational school prayer!

    "With regard to the short payer that children say in public school, it appears that they intentionally do not mention any hint of their religious beliefs because they established the schools to include Jewish children as well as children of other nationalities. The rulers of our country are kind people and don't want to force their religion onto other citizens. Therefore they established a such a [non-denominational] prayer. Therefore it is no possible concern that the prayer was established by [Christian] clerics with the intention to refer to their own religion. Therefore there is no prohibition and furthermore no concern that those that see the prayer [will suspect the Jewish children of Christian prayer] [...] since the it is known that the prayer was established so that each student could intend it for his own religion."

    http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=918&st=&pgnum=197


    ובדבר התפלה הקצרה שאומרים הילדים בבתי
    ספר של המדינה, כנראה שבכוונה לא הזכירו רמו
    מאמונתב משום שנעשוהבתי ספר גםליהודיםולעוד
    עמים אשר במדינתנו הגדולה והמחטלים במדינתנו
    הםאנשי חסדהויןרוצים להשליט אמונתםעל שאר
    האזרתים ולכןיסרו נוסח כזה שלכן לאשייך לחוש
    שנתייסרע-יכומרים לכוונה לאמתתם ולכןאין בזה
    איסור מדינא וגם חששרהוין אף אםנימא שאיכא
    במתפלליןיחד מסתבר שליכא בכאןשידועשנתייסד
    שכל אחריכוין לאמונתו.

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  21. No comparison whatsoever.

    Prayer is a fundemental Jewish concept. The question then arises over a non-demonational prayer. Next you will be bringing support from using a non demonational prayer room in an hospital to daven mincha. Perfectly acceptable provided there is no imagery. Yet these rooms are regularly funded and mantained by Christians.

    Standing still for a siren to rembember the dead is not a fundemental Jewish custom.

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  22. When I was a kid and Thurman Munson of the Yankees was killed when his plane crashed, at the game which I attended the next day, the PA announcer asked everyone to stand in a moment of silence to honor the memory of the great Yankee catcher.

    It was a meaningful moment, but something far-removed from our tradition of remembering the dead.

    Let's face it. The non-religious Zionists took it from the secular world. It is definitely not the way of Torah Judaism. With that said, I would still honor it only because there are many chilonim who do not understand this and not standing silently will create a Chilul Hashem. IF I was able to educate the public that the true way of honoring the dead is to learn torah, say tehilim, do a mitzva, I certainly would. Imagine if we were to succeed in replacing the one minute moment of silence with a moment where every Jew in Israel - no matter what level of obserance - says a perek of tehilim. Wow, what a kiddush hashem! But you would rather legitimize as a form of authentic Jewish zikaron a moment of silence which is non-Jewish in its origin.

    Please don't turn this into a L'chatchila and legitimate form of honoring/remembering the dead in our tradition. Unfortunately, it seems that your biases lead you to condemn all things chareidi and embrace all things non-chareidi.

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    1. You haven't actually related to any of the arguments that I wrote.

      Standing silent is NOT a non-Jewish tradition. It is a universal human tradition which also finds expression in the Torah. And it goes much, much further back than saying Tehillim.

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    2. Jack,
      Everything you wrote is irrelevant halachically. See the שו"ת of the כתב סופר where he permits the then innovative non-Jewish practice of carrying the dead on wagons. רב שלמה קלוגר disagrees, but NOT because it's a non-Jewish practice per se. Unless you reject the Remah, there's no halachic problem with the moment of silence.
      You're basic argument is this: there's a BETTER way to honor the dead. That's not an argument- it's just being argumentative!

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    3. Jon,
      It's not true that "using a siren to trigger a moment of silence is a non-Jewish custom". As far as I can tell, the use of the siren is unique to the Jewish State.
      Natan,
      Actually, there is historical precedent of some sort, for opposition to the siren for being "goyish". When, in the 19th (and perhaps early 20th) century, Jewish schools copied the secular innovations of school bells and chalk-boards, there were extremists who also opposed those now standard practices. In 1889, there was opposition to upcoming 50th anniversary observances of the yahzeit of the חתם סופר. It's not our tradition they said! Some decades later a prominent Gadol refused to participate in a 50th anniversary Torah volume for the same reason. There was even a prominent Rav who opposed printing seforim because that's not the way it was done in the Torah!

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    4. Perhaps you are correct and I am mistaken, and the opposition is based on the other components (the minute of silence, 11 am like England has (as Israel had been under British control)).

      If I do find something I will God willing post it.

      Delete
  23. No one is arguing whether being silent when you don't have what to say, such as in response to a tragedy, is a human, Jewish, or non-Jewish response. No one disagrees that being overwhelmed and therefore silent is a normal human response.

    The question is whether standing still at the siren is non-Jewish or not. Sort from the silence part of it, there is the trigger, the siren. Using a siren to trigger a moment of silence is a non-Jewish custom that comes from the Christian prayer for souls of the deceased.

    Additionally, silence in the face of tragedy is not the same as using silence to remember a tragedy and respect the loss of life. The examples you bring are silence in the face of tragedy, which, yes, is a normal response. Silence as a form of respecting their memory is not, and the examples brought are not speaking to this point.

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    1. And as I pointed out, using a siren as a trigger for something is done in Israel for Shabbos, and nobody complains that it is goyish.

      Silence as a form of respecting memory and grief is seen with Iyov's friends. And silent contemplation in general is certainly a traditional Jewish avodah.

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    2. I agree that silence for contemplation is not only normal, but probably mostly necessary for effective contemplation. We both agree on that point.

      I'm not trying to sound unintelligent, but I don't think I understand your point about the Shabbos siren. Using a siren to trigger the Christian shabbos (i.e. Sunday) is a custom? I have not heard of it, but perhaps you know more than I in this area.

      Alternatively, perhaps you just mean to give an example of a siren being used as a trigger. In that case I do understand your point. I do think, though, that it is relevant to point out that any custom, when "zoomed in on" enough will no longer retain its original overtones. For example, let us take ringing church bells as an example--somethjng that looks very non Jewish. One could argue that making noise to alert the populace of something is done very commonly, from air raid sirens to a cell phone. While true, I would still say it is chukat hagoyim because the overall action is of non-Jewish origin. When one adopts it, sees it, and thinks of it we can see it is clearly reminiscent of church bells, despite it's "zoomed-in version" not being unique to churches. If this were not true, I cannot see how one would ever be forbidden from any chukat hagoy.

      Therefore, I do not think that the fact that a noise is used as an alert for Shabbos is relevant here; the action as a whole is clearly reminiscent of the non Jewish custom.

      Delete
    3. Also relevant to your point about the Shabbos siren is the Gemara in Shabbos (35b) which talks about blowing the shofar before Shabbos as a signal. Perhaps that is why people do not object.

      Note-i do not think this helps to permit using the siren for a non Jewish practice, for the reasons outlined in my previous post about zooming in and overall actions.

      Delete
  24. Nathan

    Just admit that you are way off base, why can't you or are you so blinded?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for providing an example of a comment with zero content. In the future, such comments will not be published.

      Delete
    2. Does the expression "way off base" have a Jewish origin? And if not, why are you using it? The answer is, of course, just because something is not Jewish doesn't make it forbidden.

      Delete
  25. @***********

    Prayer is a fundemental Jewish concept. The question then arises over a non-demonational prayer.

    Yes, a prayer written by Christians!

    Standing still for a siren to remember the dead is not a fundamental Jewish custom.

    Mourning and self-reflection are both fundamental Jewish customs. Mourning exists of for all people including Gentiles (e.g. think of Yefas Toar) and so does self-reflection. At worst (for the sake of argument) this is a mourning or self-reflection ritual created by "Gentiles". The analogy is perfectly clear.

    Also, you moved the goal posts. No one said that this particular expression is fundamental to Judaism. It is not fundamental to anything, as the customs have changed since 1949.


    ReplyDelete
  26. Almost everyone in the frum world refers to pesukim in Tenach via perakim, even though these were introduced by Gentiles. Same for the layout of the Vilna Shas.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Not to speak of Babylonian month names including Tammuz named after a Babylonian deity.

      Delete
    2. And despite that, we have דרשות on the month's names that would belie a pagan origin: אני לדודי ולדודי לי for אלול.
      ניסן is the month of ניסים. etc..

      R' Menachem Kasher explains:
      והיות שידוע ששמות החדשים שלהם היו על שמות ע״ז שונים שהיו בימיהם, לכן השתדלו חז״ל ליהד את שמות החדשים, כלומד לדרשם ולהכניס בהם תוכן יהודי

      Perhaps, if Chazal could sanitize the pagan aspects of the month's names, it shouldn't be too difficult to give the moment of silence a distinctly Jewish content as well. (Again, none of this is necessary according to the Remah.)

      Delete
  27. @jack marnlstein

    The non-religious Zionists took it from the secular world.

    You do understand that the concept that you cite would be nonsense to many of the rationalist Rishonim. The notion of there being a treif "secular world" and a kosher "Jewish world" is something that goes against their world view. Thus Saadiah Gaon asks why the Torah was given at all if the principles therein are truthful and thus can be reached by reason. This question is nonsense in your worldview.

    They view the world as the world (not as a "secular world"), and the Torah as an aid for us perfect ourselves in the way that all people in the world are supposed to perfect themselves: by elevating their intellects to understand the world and thereby understand God in some way. That is how Physics becomes Maaseh Bereishis and more important in some ways than the study of Gemara according to Rambam.

    But I think that you are identifying the real objection: this is a creation of the accursed Zionists, just like vernacular Hebrew, so we must reject it.

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    1. *****************May 18, 2016 at 1:25 PM

      "Thus Saadiah Gaon asks why the Torah was given at all if the principles therein are truthful and thus can be reached by reason. This question is nonsense in your worldview. "

      Yes, but the key point is "What is his answer?"

      Presumably it's non-rationalist, as you write a rationalist would not have the question.

      Delete
    2. His answer is as I mentioned, the Torah is a shortcut that gets us to the same result faster, because reasoning takes time and not all may reach the result.

      Presumably it's non-rationalist, as you write a rationalist would not have the question.

      Can you rephrase this? I don't follow.

      Delete
  28. Using a siren to trigger a moment of silence is a non-Jewish custom that comes from the Christian prayer for souls of the deceased.

    What is your source for this? It's not what wikipedia says (and Rav Pedia knows all :).

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Touchè :)

      Honestly, I had been told this way back and never realized that it wasn't an "obvious" thing so I never really thought about it again. I'll see if I can find something, although perhaps I am mistaken...

      Delete
    2. Unfortunately, it is common for people to create factoids out of thin air to support their own positions. The one I most recently heard was that the date of Independence day was wrong because it celebrated a UN vote. Of course this is nonsense, but it was bought into because the person in question was looking for a reason to oppose Independence Day. It's always worth questioning the source of such factoids.

      Delete
  29. Prayer is a fundemental Jewish concept. The question then arises over a non-demonational prayer.

    BTW, as wikipedia points out, a moment of silence is also a form of non-denominational prayer. Which is important in Israel as not all Israelis are Jewish, even among those who would mourn for fallen Israeli soldiers.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Never having been in Israel, perhaps someone can answer this for me. Is it really a violation of the moment of silence to say Tehillim or a prayer? Are people expected to simply stand or is it acceptable for each person to pray as they see fit during that period of time.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. During the moment of silence in Israel, motorists stop their cars, and usually get out of their vehicles and stand silently. Pedestrians stop walking in the street. Praying or saying Tehillim would go totally unnoticed--no one would say that Tehillim is a "violation" of something.
      For what it's worth: A non-religious satirist on Israeli radio a few years back mocked R. Moshe Gafni (a Knesset member from Agudah)--R. Gafni said that charedim should stand still during the moment of silence, so as not to offend other people's sensitivities. The satirist said, "That seems equitable. We die, and they stand at attention."

      Delete
    2. There are some people who get offended when they see people saying Tehillim instead of being silent like everyone else.

      Delete
    3. R. Gafni said that charedim should stand still during the moment of silence, so as not to offend other people's sensitivities.

      I think that you can understand why people would take offense at this statement.

      Delete
    4. There are some people who get offended when they see people saying Tehillim instead of being silent like everyone else.

      Maybe this is hair-splitting, but it seems to me that if the Tehillim is not a protest, but really a way of embracing the custom in a way that makes sense culturally to the person saying the Tehillim, that this is exactly in line with the notion of a moment of silence; each person an privately do what is meaningful to them in their way towards the same purpose.

      Delete
  31. ******************May 18, 2016 at 1:09 AM

    David,

    You are playing with words.

    If you can explain clearly what Wikipedia means (or the source) when it says that "moment of silence is also a form of non-denominational prayer". I can consider it. Does that mean an atheist does not hold of or keep the siren? Somebody who does not believe in God or prayer does not keep the siren? That is clearly not indicated by the 'facts on the ground'. My reading of the Wikipedia article is that there are numerous debates on this point. But it is certainly not unanimous that it is a form of non-denominational prayer. It certainly seems the opposite. From Wikipedia it seems that most opinions are that it is not a prayer at all.....

    It follows that the analogy to RMF is flawed.

    "Mourning and self-reflection are both fundamental Jewish customs. Mourning exists of for all people including Gentiles (e.g. think of Yefas Toar) and so does self-reflection. At worst (for the sake of argument) this is a mourning or self-reflection ritual created by "Gentiles". The analogy is perfectly clear."

    I agree. But not the siren part of it..... That is my point - should we be taking and using a ritual created by Gentiles? - it is a perfectly valid approach to say "NO WAY".

    "Prayer is a fundamental Jewish concept. The question then arises over a non-denominational prayer.

    Yes, a prayer written by Christians!"

    I am not sure what point you are making here - That was the question in front of RMF and he permitted it.

    I differentiate again - the siren is not a fundamental Jewish concept. I am not moving the goalposts - I am retorting to your analogy.

    The fact that mourning and self reflection are fundamental Jewish concepts does not make the siren a fundamental Jewish concept.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ********************,

      Before we go on, can you explain your position more carefully.

      1) Are you saying that the moment of silence is OK, but the siren is a problem?

      2) Are you saying that the siren is a problem because it is not a "fundamental jewish concept"?

      Delete
    2. 'A' moment of silence is ok.

      THE moment of silence coupled with a siren to remember the dead is problamatic because that coupling and custom is taken directly from the non-jews.

      Now I am not saying it is halachicaly a problem and I am not saying it is not a problem, maybe yes or maybe not. That depends on how you learn the laws of chukas hagoy. I am saying that it is a hashkafa problem. Look it's either something you appreciate or not.

      RMF ruling on prayer is not comparable. It is a Jewish concept to pray, the question is simply over a prayer written by non Jews, even Christains. He allows it. I suspect others may not.



      Delete
    3. THE moment of silence coupled with a siren to remember the dead is problamatic because that coupling and custom is taken directly from the non-jews.

      Source?

      Now I am not saying it is halachicaly a problem and I am not saying it is not a problem, maybe yes or maybe not. That depends on how you learn the laws of chukas hagoy. I am saying that it is a hashkafa problem. Look it's either something you appreciate or not.

      I agree with you. It is not a halachic issue. It is disagreement with anything done by the Zionists. That is, e.g., why the R"Z poskim are treif. And why the use of Hebrew was originally not accepted (that wasn't exclusively the Zionists, but the same thing).

      RMF ruling on prayer is not comparable. It is a Jewish concept to pray, the question is simply over a prayer written by non Jews, even Christains. He allows it. I suspect others may not.

      I can't agree. If the Christians come up with a denominational prayer text, that has to be worse than if the Christians come up with a non-denominational method for prayer/contemplation that has no words associated with it (but this hinges on your claimed origin for this practice, so please provide one). I agree that others would not agree with Rav Moshe. My point is that things that seem obviously "treif" aren't necessarily so.

      Delete
    4. "Source?"

      If you can't appreciate why some people would take objection to this, I can't really help you. Even if you can't appreciate it fully, surely you can appreciate it enough not to bash them over it.

      Install bells on top of your shul to summon people to pray. I can argue there is no halachik problem either. Its a feeling.

      I don’t follow your second point. Please rephrase.

      Delete
    5. The Haredi schools in England do not keep a minutes silence on remembrance day in November either the 11th hour of the 11th day and all that stuff (unless Goverment inspectors are around)

      It's nothing to do with Zionists, MO or whatever.

      It's just we don't adopt non Jewish customs if we don't have to.

      Delete
    6. And before you start with pouring lead and all that I can assure you that whatever the author of this blog would have you believe it is not mainstream charedi practice. Its the fringe crackpot division. Every society has them.

      Delete
    7. "Source?"

      If you can't appreciate why some people would take objection to this, I can't really help you.


      That wasn't the question. The questions is: where do you find that "sirens" are more directly sourced to foreign religions, and therefore more objectionable, than a moment of silence?

      Delete
    8. The Haredi schools in England do not keep a minutes silence on remembrance day in November either the 11th hour of the 11th day and all that stuff (unless Goverment inspectors are around)

      It's nothing to do with Zionists, MO or whatever.


      I don't see how this disprove the point. If the Zionists are treif (and they are considered treif), then Kal VeChomer the Gentiles.

      It's just we don't adopt non Jewish customs if we don't have to.

      Circular. Yom Ha'aztmaut, Yom HaZikaron, etc are only a non-Jewish if you start with the Charedi viewpoint. The other side thinks that they are very Jewish!

      Delete
    9. I don’t follow your second point. Please rephrase.

      Jews speaking Hebrew as their main language is obviously a very Jewish idea. Yet since it was first revived by non-religious cultural Jews, it was considered Treif and to be avoided.

      R"Z Poskim are obviously very Jewish. But if you are a great Talmid Chacham, but R"Z, then you are not a Talmid Chacham at all in the Charedi pecking order and probably entirely ignored.

      Delete
    10. Do you honestly believe the siren was introduced because those that introduced it thought it was very Jewish?

      Delete
    11. That wasn't the question. The questions is: where do you find that "sirens" are more directly sourced to foreign religions,

      Nothing to do with foreign religions. Just the non Jews alone. Its a non Jewish custom which the zionists borrowed and that is why it is problematic to them. I really don't see what you don't understand.

      If the Zionists had stood up and said we are going to have a veyidom aharon moment they may have a different view. But they didn't and you can't rewrite history.

      Delete
    12. Your kal vchomer is not correct.

      The zionists are subject to tora umitzvos, the non Jews are not.

      So something that is treif for zionists may not be for non jews. In fact the siren is not treif for non jews. Yet the charedim in the uk still don't bother with it.shows it has nothing to do with zionism but there is a more fundemental reason.

      Delete
    13. Do you honestly believe the siren was introduced because those that introduced it thought it was very Jewish?

      The siren was likely introduced for the same reason that the printing press was introduced to print seforim and the clock was introduced to measure Zemanim. It is a ready device to synchronize the activities of millions of people spread out over a large area. Your burden is to show that there is something uniquely pagan about the Siren, not that sirens were not in existence at Sinai.

      But certainly Yom Hazikaron and Yom Haatzmaut are very Jewish. Do you think that all the Poskim who say that Hallel should be said on Yom Haatzmaut are sourcing it to some non-jewish source? This shows that the problem has nothing to do with some element being of non-jewish origin (which you haven't shown).

      Nothing to do with foreign religions. Just the non Jews alone. Its a non Jewish custom which the zionists borrowed and that is why it is problematic to them. I really don't see what you don't understand.

      What non-jewish custom? Is it a non-jewish custom to wake for davening with an alarm clock because non-jews way for their activities using an alarm clock?

      If the Zionists had stood up and said we are going to have a veyidom aharon moment they may have a different view. But they didn't and you can't rewrite history.

      This is not true. If the Zionists sourced it, then it is Posul.

      Your kal vchomer is not correct.

      The zionists are subject to tora umitzvos, the non Jews are not.


      But Rav Moshe says that Jewish Children can participate in the (non-clerically) Christian sourced non-denominational prayer! In contrast a siren is just a good way to get things done and it is use for lots of things with no religious significance.

      Delete
    14. You are jumping around from the siren to hallel and completely obfuscating the issue.

      When alarm clocks were invented they were used equally by jews and non Jews to wake up. Jews went to daven, non jews went to breakfast.

      The siren was instituted to mark the time when everybody was supposed to stand still and rembember the dead. Standing still and remembering the dead may sort of be similar to a Jewish custom but the point is that it was not instituted by whoever instituted it with any sort of religious reason in mind. It was instituted purely to copy the non Jews. That is its problem. I really don't understand what you don't get. The fact that it may be possible to reverse engineer, squash, kwetch and disassemble it into a jewish custom is neither here nor there.

      I don’t need to prove there is something pagan about the siren. The hashkafic problem they have is aping anything ritualistic from the non Jews. Especially concerning the dead which touches on the spiritual. The only thing I can think of in Jewish life of mass remembering the dead simultaneously is yizkor but that is not standing still like a stone that is prayer. So again borrowing standing still like a stone all at once at a particular time (forget the siren part if it makes you happy) is copied straight from non jews and hence the objection.

      Delete
  32. If you can explain clearly what Wikipedia means (or the source) when it says that "moment of silence is also a form of non-denominational prayer". I can consider it. Does that mean an atheist does not hold of or keep the siren? Somebody who does not believe in God or prayer does not keep the siren? That is clearly not indicated by the 'facts on the ground'.

    Quite the opposite. The atheist can participate precisely because the moment of silence doesn't mandate what it is that you are thinking at the time. Just like Rav Moshe's school prayer there where some can be thinking of God while others think of Jesus, the moment of silence allows each person to have thoughts relevant to their own worldview.

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    1. I understand that atheistic groups oppose/opposed a moment of silence in public schools because it was bringing religion into public schools "through the back door".
      As for the Christian source of a prayer: a Rav of mine noticed a similarity between what the Christians call "The Lord's Prayer" and the Ashkenazi nusach in ma'ariv on a weekday, that is added in חוץ לארץ, starting from the words, "אלקינו שבשמים".

      Delete
    2. This is correct. And it was a way to (re)enable prayer in the schools which had been found unconstitutional.

      Delete
  33. I think everybody here really knows that everyone here is arguing for the sake of arguing.

    Maybe you can find halachic issues with standing still. Maybe. But so can you for many of the things you do. It doesn't stop you doing them.

    The real question is why you're so desperate to find these halachic issues?

    And maybe there's logical reasons to say tehillim over standing still. Or to stand still over saying tehillim.

    But you know what? So long as one doesn't cause a chillul Hashem, I don't think Hakodosh Boruch Hu cares all that much which we do. And it's certainly not worth the time spent arguing about it here.

    Natan: you claim it's about a difference in worldviews. But to tell the truth, it's not. It's about each side of the chareidi/non chareidi split trying to get one up over the other. And I said each side.

    So everybody just relax. In private, do what you want. And in public, don't make a scene. And try to take what you can out of it. I think that's what Hakodosh Boruch Hu really wants.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Natan: you claim it's about a difference in worldviews. But to tell the truth, it's not. It's about each side of the chareidi/non chareidi split trying to get one up over the other. And I said each side.

    You are right about that with reference to discussions like this. However the underlying phenomenon is not based on that dynamic. The bulk of the people, orthodox or not, who support the basic institutions of the state, are truly puzzled and annoyed as to how others can seemingly shirk their duty, especially those who have obviously great religious devotion. While the other side has transplanted Europe to Israel and awaits Mashiach.

    The result may be an ugly political conflict, but the underlying cause is more straightforward and is definitely based on worldview.

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    1. Fair enough, but I think it is not a rationalist/mystical split but a chareidi/zionistic split. There are plenty of mystical zionists, but they still stand for a minutes silence.

      And this is not a direct outcome of the different worldviews. The reason chareidim don't stand still is because the mizrachim were the ones who invented the custom. The logical arguments just came to justify that.
      And Natan, I think you could have equally well come up with a rationalist argument to say tehillim if the situation had been reversed.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, just reread your comment and realised I misunderstood you.

      I agree with you 100%. I was only referring to this particular discussion.

      Delete
    3. Fair enough, but I think it is not a rationalist/mystical split but a chareidi/zionistic split. There are plenty of mystical zionists, but they still stand for a minutes silence.

      I agree with you that a lot of RZ philosophy is based on it's own mysticism. But I do think that the other way around is true, the rationalist approach lives to a greater degree in this world, and is also willing to take the truth wherever it comes from (e.g. Aristotle who denied Providence). I think that the non-Messianic Zionism of Rav Soloveitchik aligns with the rationalistic approach.

      And this is not a direct outcome of the different worldviews. The reason chareidim don't stand still is because the mizrachim were the ones who invented the custom. The logical arguments just came to justify that.

      But isn't there a sharp difference in worldviews between the Mizrachi and the Charedi? I think that there is. For example, whether the redemption has to happen in a "pure" and miraculous way or whether it can happen with the help of atheists. That definitely is implicated by worldview.

      Delete
    4. Indeed I agree that there are differences in worldview. I was only referring to whether one stands or says tehillim during the siren.

      Delete
  35. Jews speaking Hebrew as their main language is obviously a very Jewish idea. Yet since it was first revived by non-religious cultural Jews, it was considered Treif and to be avoided.

    I don’t think it was as black and white as that. The yishuv hayoshon felt the production of plays, secular stuff and shows in Hebrew, a language that at that point in time was only used for holy matters was a problem. The problem was not necessarily the fact Hebrew was produced by Zionists.

    You are right if you go back hundreds of years hebrew was used for everything although I think more recently Aramaic was used for non holy speech.

    The yishuv hayoshon looked at the here and now in their objection.

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    1. Nothing to do with Yishuv Hayhoshon. It was opposed in Europe. Also, I don't think that it was Zionists; it was also cultural Jews. The problem is that the wrong people got it started. See here for an allusion to this resistance to studying Hebrew:

      http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=20568&st=&pgnum=5

      Also, to repeat:

      R"Z Poskim are obviously very Jewish. But if you are a great Talmid Chacham, but R"Z, then you are not a Talmid Chacham at all in the Charedi pecking order and probably entirely ignored.

      Delete

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