Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Standing for the Siren

In my younger years, when I was a charedi yeshivah student, 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 I was taught 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.

But after careful study of this topic, I realized that this is entirely backwards.

The practice of sounding the siren for two minutes of silence has its roots in South Africa. During World War I, a businessman in Cape Town suggested that his church observe a silent pause in memory of those who fell in battle. Subsequently, the Mayor of Cape Town instructed that at noon on May 14, 1918, the daily firing of the Noon Gun (for the ships to set their chronometers uniformly) would serve as the signal to begin two minutes of silence in memory of the fallen. This custom later spread throughout the British Empire, and eventually to many different nations and cultures. The Jews living in Palestine adopted this custom and observed a minute or two of silence in response to tragic events. After the War of Independence, the Rabbinate of Israel decided to set Memorial Day on the day before Independence Day. The newly installed national system of air-raid sirens provided a means to simultaneously alert everyone in Israel to observe the silence at the same time.

There is a prohibition in Judaism of following in the ways of gentiles. But the practice of standing silent for a siren would not fall under that prohibition. The prohibition does not refer to any practice which happens to originate with non-Jews. It only refers to practices which are idolatrous, or a practice for which the reasons are unknown and thus potentially originate in idolatry. As per Rema to Yoreh Deah 178:1, any practice which has a sensible rationale is permitted to be adopted, even if it originates with non-Jews.

This even includes practices which relate to the religious sphere. Ketav Sofer permits the innovative non-Jewish practice of carrying the dead on wagons. In the Orthodox Jewish community today, everyone refers to verses in Scripture via chapter numbers, even though these were introduced by non-Jews. And, of course, we refer to the months of the Hebrew calendar with names that originated in Babylonia. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:24) even permitted Jewish schoolchildren in public schools to participate with Christian schoolchildren in non-denominational school prayer!

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 a non-Jewish procedure. It is simply a natural human expression of solemnity in the face of tragedy.

In fact, not only is there nothing specifically non-Jewish about the practice, it even has conceptual roots in Judaism. 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." While some see this as meaning that he uttered no complaint about God’s judgment, others see it as expressing a natural response in the fact of tragedy. Likewise, we find that Iyov's friends sat in silence with him for seven days. The Talmud (Berachos 6b) says that "the merit of attending a house of mourning lies in maintaining silence." Silence expresses both commiserations and solidarity with others, and contemplating matters in our minds. This is something that is very much part of traditional Judaism.

What about the siren? The siren was instituted simply as a way of alerting everyone to this avodah, just like the Shabbos siren. 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, does not only reflect basic human attitudes, but it even echoes traditional Jewish practices. It is not something that is copying non-Jewish practices of questionable theological basis, like schlissel challah, pouring lead, and many other popular rituals in frum society.

On the other hand, just how traditional is it to say Tehillim on behalf of the dead, and what does it accomplish? We do not find any mention of such a thing in the writings of Chazal and the Rishonim. 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. As I discuss at length in my essay What Can One Do For Someone Who Has Passed Away?, the earliest sources to discuss such things indicate that one cannot actually accomplish anything for the deceased in such a way.

So which is the traditional Jewish way of commemorating those who died in tragic circumstances, and which is the meaningless custom of recent origin? Like so many other topics, this relates to whether one follows the rationalist approach of the Rishonim or the more recent mystical approach. Similarly, it also depends on whether one defines Jewish tradition as starting in Biblical times and carrying on through the Sages of the Talmud and the Rishonim, or whether one defines it as starting about a hundred years ago.

(Note that in this post I am just addressing the arguments that charedim give for not standing quietly during the siren - and which I believed to be the reasons back when I was a naive yeshivah student. This is not the same as the actual reason why they do not stand for the siren, which I will address in a future post.)

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  1. Please see Biur HaGra on the Rema that you quoted who has a much broader interpretation of the issur to follow the ways of the gentiles.

    1. And please also see generic charedi rabbi X who takes the issue even further. And then rabbi Y who takes it further still.

    2. You are correct, but the Maharik, Mechaber and Rama are all choleik. See also Shulchan Aruch haRav in Hilchos Shavuos in re: trees in shul.

    3. NooneinparticularApril 10, 2018 at 9:29 PM

      Thanks Chaim for pointing out just how disrespectful the Gra was to the Rema. Amazing how he just disses him like that.

    4. "Church. Not saying anything but sounds some connection to religion to me."

      You deliberately misquoted. The practice was first suggested by a LAYPERSON for his church, but the practice was first widely implemented as a secular ceremony by secular governments.
      We know the origin and its secular nature.

  2. The opposition was also to making a day of mourning during the month of Nissan. It was considered a slap in the face of halacha.

    1. There is no Halacha which forbids mourning during Nissan. In fact, many Jews are observing Minhagim right this moment which were adopted as a form of mourning the loss of Rabbi Akiva's students.

    2. ...which ought to disqualify other mourning practices adopted during Sefirat HaOmer, right?

    3. Nonsense! We have yizkor on chag pesach itself. Charedim use that argument as an excuse not to commemorate Yom Hashoa. Heterim for smoking is a bigger slap in the face of halacha!

    4. I think we're talking about Yom HaZikaron here, which is safely within Iyyar, not that it matters.

      If an Israeli sees a charedi not standing on Yom HaShoah, his reaction might be "strange," or "rude," or "poreish min hatzibur." He almost certainly won't think "He doesn't respect the victims of the Holocaust."

      If he sees a charedi doing the same a week later, he might not be so generous, and for good reason.

  3. I attended charedi schools my entire life and cannot recall anyone ever saying that reciting tehillim helps in the upper worlds. This is not how litvish yeshivos think or talk.

    1. A British Rav born in Antwerp with a shteller pulpit in Brooklyn, now in Israel told me better to say a mishna or two than a perek tehillim.

  4. Why bother? Modern Chareidism (tm) is a reactive ideology. You say stand to show respect? They'll sit. And they'll say it's been that way since Sinai. Simple as that.

    1. And this is a reactive blog to that reactive ideology. If the Chareidim say 'white', RNS says 'black'.

    2. Did you see the latest post? RNS says that the Chareidim are correct about their objections to the date for Yom HaShoah.

    3. No. This is not a hashkafic issue. This is a potential 'proper' lav - just like eating pork.

      And I think you should give a little more weight to the poskim that have said 'no, not for us'. Even the 'moderate' gedolim like Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurabch told all who asked "no, it's not our custom". His yeshiva did not keep it (not addressing the other issue of what to do if caught outside, that is different question). Ditto Rav Nechamia Goldberg and countless other 'moderates'.

  5. "his church observe a silent pause in memory of those who fell in battle."

    Church. Not saying anything but sounds some connection to religion to me. What did they do during the break in church? Offer silent prayersto JC? Do we know for sure they didn't? Sounds like the 'potentially linked to idolatry' condition is satisfied.

    Now google the source for birthday candles/cake and no Jew should touch that custom.

    1. Rabbi Slifkin's intention wasn't entirely clear. Any non-Jewish custom, even if done in church, is permitted, as long as it has a rational, non-idolatrous explanation. Only according to the Gaon are we choshesh for "safek chashash avodah zarah" basically. Almost all the Acharonim are cholek.

    2. Israel,

      But unless you know for sure they were not offering silent prayers to JC, you do not know if it has a rationalist non-idolatrous explanation.

      On the contrary, seems to me to be highly probable it was a 'moment of silent prayer'.

      In which case the opposition is highly valid, and even if you still want to disagree, you cannot remotely criticise those that are choshesh.

      In fact, this demonstrates 'im eimon ne'vi'im, bnei nevi'im heim'. I bet you the opposers didn't even know it was started in a church. Now that RNS has told us that, the opposition is even more justifiable. Bit of an own-goal if you ask me.

    3. The word "church" really seems to be a trigger by you. Interesting that you didn't have as much (or anything) to say about some of the other words in that section of R. Slifkin's article, like "war" and "memory" and "fell in battle". You know, almost everyone in predominantly Christian countries used to go to church, and this was a central institution of civic life. What was less common than church was world wars. Fortunately some people in churches hoped to increase the remembrance of those who had been lost in wars, rather than simply instigate new battles or microscopically analyze the invisible mechanisms of remembrance across cultures as they intersect with highly varied psychologies and theologies. I would like to stand with such upright church goers. And just in case they are going to pull a fast one on us and praise Jesus and pull us along into their faulty and idolatrous remembrance of the dead we could mandate... silence, preceded by a siren.
      Perhaps we could even adopt further "remembrance" of the world wars by punishing those who violate the silence. This will certainly insure that the dead are properly remembered and that we are saved from noxious avodah zarah fumes, which accumulate whenever death is mentioned.

    4. Yonah,

      How exactly are you rebutting me? Leave out the rants. As far as I am concerned it is highly likely that a silence in the middle of a gathering in a church is for silent prayer. I can't prove it if course. But the likelihood is enough to meed the chukas hagoy threshold.

      If you can rebut this without the rants please do so. I will only respond to a sensible reasoned response.

      But in any event you cannot blame the charedim for taking the view they do. At the very best, even if you can provide a reasoned response, the charedim have what to rely on.

    5. *******,
      You mistake my intent.
      Unless there is a yedi'ah vada'is that a custom is idolatrous, even if it takes place in a church, it is not assur. The only dissenter is the Gaon. Most acharonim do not pasken like him here.

    6. "im eimon ne'vi'im, bnei nevi'im heim."

      Funny that you don't give the same benefit of the doubt to the well over 90% of Israeli Jews who *do* stand silently. Are they not also "bnei neviim"?

      And in answer to your inevitable point, not that it matters, but a large percentage of that 90% are religious- more than double, at least, the 7% or so who don't stand.

    7. No sect can possibly own silence or remembrance.

      People are free to use it for whatever thoughts or prayers occur to them, hopefully with compassion.

      Do you think that a JC-branded silence can be expanded and exported to a whole country, and that this silence would somehow contain within it invisible avodah zarah bugs?

      P.S. Not a rant. Rants aren't funny.

    8. *************************April 12, 2018 at 1:18 AM


      It's comment like that that make me wonder if you have actually opened a shulchan oruch. The remoh states clearly that anything that has a 'shemetz avodah zoroh' is prohibited. If you are going to tell me that a custom originating in a church meeting does not have a 'shemetz shel avodah zoroh', words fail me.

      Point 2. The ramo also prohibits anything that we don't know the reason for, in case it comes from AZ. Now in this case, we don't know the reason for it, and it may come from AZ.

      Point 3: The remoh only permits something that has a clear benefit, like a doctor's uniform, in other words some tangible clear benefit. Keeping silent has no benefit whatsoever to anybody.

      Nobody says anything about a 'yediah ve'dois' - try again.


      With your logic we may as well abolish the entire lav of b'chukoseiham. That this a prohibition, you don't like it, tough. We can't take their customs and adopt it as our own.


      Deflection. Not discussing those that stand and in any event the custom came from the irreligious leaders of the state. We are discussing the criticism of those that don't stand. Now that RNS has informed us it comes from a church gathering, it makes even more sense not to stand.

    9. " If you are going to tell me that a custom originating in a church meeting"

      Again. The custom did not originate in a church. It was always a secular ceremony.

      "Now in this case, we don't know the reason for it"
      We do know the reason for it.

      " in any event the custom came from the irreligious leaders of the state."
      There were frum leaders of the state as well. How do you know they were not involved in coming up with the practice? In any case, non-religious origins do not make something חוקת הגויים, especially if such practices have precedent in Jewish tradition.

    10. Ephraim

      "a businessman in Cape Town suggested that his CHURCH observe a silent pause in memory of those who fell in battle."

      I have no more to say on the matter. I can't debate with fact twisters.

    11. The facts are clear. He suggested that his church - i.e.. his religious community - observe a custom with clear meaning, which had absolutely nothing to do with avodah zarah.

    12. Natan,

      So you have now jumped from church to religious community. As if it makes a difference. Where you there at the time that you can say 'nothing to do with AZ so definitely;? What do you think about during yiskor for your father? In the quiet period when you have finished and others are still davening? Nothing religious at all goes through your head? Come on.

      The ramoh is quite clear. Anything that MAY have a connection to AZ is prohibited. And religious community, church, whatever you like, quite clearly satisfies that condition.

      I am of course assuming that Christianity is AZ for these purposes. But that's a different question.

    13. ""a businessman in Cape Town suggested that his CHURCH observe a silent pause in memory of those who fell in battle."

      Some guy suggested it for use in church. (Was his suggestion actually carried out?) But it was implemented en masse as a secular ceremony. An analogy would be if a certainly musical instrument was invented for use in a church, but in practice was only used in secular contexts. In any case, there is no evidence that the ceremony he suggested for use in a church was anything but secular. Churches as community centers are used for secular events.
      You're speculating based on suspicion and zero evidence.

    14. Ok Mr. ************ (Which I can only assume is an expletive, because what else would a suspicious pause in language be but that?)

      I declare you the winner and champion and paladin of our people. Your fending off of five rabid reformees with one rusty sword is reminiscent of the great holy work of Rav Hirsch's lesser cousin, Rav Hershey, the Chocolate Avenger.

      You have successfully vanquished the possibility that frum Jews will ever be able to enjoy silence if they are not surrounded by at least two insulative layers of other frum Jews. Without doing an ounce more of research than one sentence you read on a blog! True heroism-- and the generations will surely remember you, not with a hats-off drug-and-shituf laced silence, chalilah, but with some full throated and unequivocally Jewish chorus, like "SHKOYACH" or "VATIMALE HAARETZ CHAMAS" or perhaps "SHIBBOLETH".


    16. ********, I don't know what triggered the rude response. I suggest you read the Maharik in Shoresh 88. There he makes clear everything that I have told you. The Mechaber paskens like the Maharik. The Rama agrees. If that is not clear enough for you, on Havanah.org there is a link to a small kuntres I have written on this topic. It is entitled (in Hebrew) "Beinyan Ha'amadas Ilanos BeBeis Kneses," and can be found in the Shavuos section. Please enjoy.

    17. "The ramoh is quite clear. Anything that MAY have a connection to AZ is prohibited."

      That's not what the רמ"א writes:
      "ושיש בו שמץ עבודת כוכבים מאבותיהם"

      The history of the ceremony is transparent. Some guy came up with the idea and may or may not have had a religious agenda. His idea may or may not have been actually practiced by his church. Secular society subsequently then used it for a purely secular ceremony. They may or may not have been aware of the original guy's notions, or his possible religious motivations, which may or may not have been traditionally christian in nature.

      The רמ"א does not include in his criteria a mere possibility of an idolatrous connection. He requires a definite, though perhaps thin element of idolatry derived from tradition. A secular ceremony accepted by the secular masses for a secular purpose that may have been influenced by a non-traditional innovation by a single person who didn't necessarily have an idolatrous intent is not what the רמ"א was talking about.
      Your inferences are not justified by the the text of the רמ"א.
      (Also see R. Asher Weiss תשובה on the topic where he notes that the רמ"א would permit the siren- R. Weiss is concerned for the position of the גר"א.)

    18. Ephraim, I was going to write just this but you nailed it.

      It is odd that Rabbi Weiss feels the need to be chosheish for the Gr"a, despite the nearly unanimous view of the Acharonim lekula.

    19. *************************April 13, 2018 at 1:22 AM


      You are deliberately quoting the second half the remo's sentence and omitting the first half.

      או בדבר שנהגו למנהג ולחוק ואין טעם בדבר דאיכא למיחש ביה
      משום דרכי האמורי ושיש בו שמץ עבודה זרה

      By 'ta'am le'dovor' you need to refer to the next clause of the remoh, namely contrasting with something like a doctor's uniform - a positive tangible benefit. Not something as meaningless as standing still for two minutes that achieves nothing.

      The remo is saying is that something without an apparent sensible reason, there is a suspicion that it came from AZ. The 'D' of d'ikah is a joining letter. As is the 'vav' of 'vayeish'.

      All the more so, when we know that this custom was started in a church.

      "The history of the ceremony is transparent. Some guy came up with the idea and may or may not have had a religious agenda. "

      Contrast with;

      "During World War I, a businessman in Cape Town suggested that his church observe a silent pause in memory of those who fell in battle."

      If you are going to twist things and mis-quote a remo to support an idea, I really have no more to say.

      ""Now in this case, we don't know the reason for it"
      We do know the reason for it."

      Do we? As I said, maybe it is for a moment of silent prayer to JC? A strong possibility in a church. You know it was not?

  6. R' Slifkin -- how does the Hareidi community treat Remembrance Day back in the UK? (We have the same observance in Canada, on Nov 11th at 11am every year, and it is treated in a pretty ecumenical way -- an Orthodox Rabbi has given the invocation in the national ceremony on several occasions.)

    1. Totally ignored. Unless in a school and OFSTED are hanging around.

      But most of the UK ignore it to, so no harm.

    2. On the other hand, they take Memorial Day off in the US like everyone else. But very few people observe the real meaning of Memorial Day anyway.

  7. Thank you Natan for writing this article. I have been waiting for an article on this topic for some time now. Now all we need to do is translate it into Yiddish and post it all over RBS Bet

  8. In your younger years you were much more rational. All your examples of silence refer to the instances right after death or during shiva. There is no reference on standing silent (say) on someone's yahrzeit. If siren is simply a way of alerting everyone to this "avodah" as you call it, it could sound only at the beginning of it, just like the Shabbos siren does not keep sounding all the time until shkiah. As for benefits of reading Tehillim, it is mentioned in Zohar- hardly started a hundred years ago as you want us to think.

    1. You clearly don't live in Israel:

      1. Every person in this country at least knows someone who has a relation killed b'dmei yemehem. Believe me, it's fresh.

      2. The siren sounds for two minutes, not twenty-four hours.

    2. #1 I don't understand your point. We are talking about saying Tehillim vs. standing to siren.
      #2 The siren sounds during entire time span people stand silently, which would not be necessary if it was just "a way of alerting" as Natan wrote. Would not people be able to stand still for 2 min without continuous sound?

    3. You're right about the zohar. It's actually 400 years ago.

      But the practice isn't 'listed' anywhere before that, do it can't be very authentically Jewish, can it now?

    4. "There is no reference on standing silent (say) on someone's yahrzeit."

      It doesn't matter. There is a posuk mandating silence during shiva. That is sufficient to show that silence is Jewish in origin. We allow "burning" for a נשיא, even though the posuk only refers to "burning" for kings.
      You're taking an extreme position not held by the G"ra, and certainly not held by the majority of achronim who disagree with him.

    5. Ephraim,

      There is no possuk mandating silence during shivah. Trying to use 'v'yidom aharaon' to establish an authentic Jewish custom is like saying there is an authentic Jewish custom to bury somebody and then forget where they are buried, like we see from Moshe. A one-off cannot establish anything.

      This 'v'yidom aharon' thing is post-facto justification for a custom developed by secularists copied directly from the non Jews. The sort of post-facto justification the chareidim are regularly accused off, by the way.

    6. "There is no possuk mandating silence during shivah"

      מועד קטן טו
      אבל אסור בשאילת שלום דקאמר ליה רחמנא ליחזקאל (יחזקאל כד, יז) האנק דום

      תוספות: אסור בשאילת שלום דקאמר ליה רחמנא ליחזקאל האנק דום. דמשמע שתיקה משאילת שלום ומתלמוד תורה נמי משמע בסמוך מהאנק דום והא דהיה יחזקאל נוהג אבילות בהאנק דום ובכל שאר דברים לא היה עושה שהיה צריך להראות בקצת דברים שהוא אבל ולא היה נוהג דיני אבל אלא למשל:

      "A one-off cannot establish anything."
      Of course it can. Otherwise you can throw away every one-off posuk. And there goes the Torah. ר"לֱ!

    7. Ephraim,

      More distortion. There is a prohibition on she'ilas sholom and talmud torah, agreed. We know that. But that is not mandating 'silence'. But you knew that. It's called grasping at straws.

      I won't even bother to respond to your last nonsensical point.

    8. One can reasonably argue yizkor (actually, new minhag custom, not observed by sfardim, many Ashkenazim, and yekkes; though yekkes, for example have adopted it over the past two three decades due to (good intermarriage pressure) is also church origined. As is donating money le'luie neshama for rest of a soul, but of course, money is different.

  9. R' Nathan,
    Instead of advocating for everyone to observe a moment of silence which, although perhaps "pareve" from a Torah perspective, is hardly traditional, you may want to advocate for what is actually the traditional Jewish response - the Av Harachamim prayer that is said every Shabbos. This prayer is said to commemorate those who died Al Kiddush Hashem and asks Hashem to avenge their blood. Ironically, although Av Harachamim is not usually said on Shabbos Mevarchim, it is said on Shabbos Mevarchim during Sefira. It will be said this coming Shabbos - the very week in which you are advocating for observing the Moment of Silence. Although in theory a Moment of Silence might not be unreasonable, I cannot understand why you would advocate that as a proper response for Torah Jews.

    As an aside, when you stand up this Shabbos for the Tefilla for the Medina and for the chayalei tzahal (as I presume you do), will you and others remain standing during Av Harachamim which immediately follows? Or, for that matter, will you stand up for the Tefilla immediately preceding the Tefilla for the Medina - the one for the Talmidei Chachamim and Rabbonim?
    Do you perhaps see something skewered with the clear distinction in behavior regarding these Tefillos?

    1. "Do you perhaps see something skewered with the clear distinction in behavior regarding these Tefillos?"

      You're just nitpicking. Certainly, more recent events are felt stronger (by most people) than events of long ago. (Perhaps, that's why you have some קנאים who can compare Nachal Charedi to the cantonists.)

    2. I'm not sure which events of long ago you are referring to. Nowhere is there a mention of any particular event.

    3. אב הרחמים was a response to the destruction of the crusades.
      My point is this: Ask people what's in their minds when they listen to אב הרחמים and the תפילות for the חיילים. The average person would find the latter תפילה more palpable and relevant, and urgent. There are basic psychological reasons why one would feel compelled to stand for the latter תפילה rather than the others. (And there's definitely a difference for a prayer for salvation/protection vs. a memorial for past tragedies.)
      And who cares? So what if they choose to stand for one and not the other? Why are you nitpicking?
      Are you also bothered when someone cries during רפאנו and not ולירושלים? Who's in greater danger- our soldiers or our rabbonim?

  10. Rabbi Natan,
    I'm a big fan, but you totally lost me in this article. Are you seriously proposing that your form of 'Rationalist Judaism' is more traditional/authentic than the 'Mystical' approach. As a like-minded adherent of the "Rational school' myself, I never pretend that it's more 'classical' than other forms. There is a reason why rabbis were so vehemently opposed to Rambam's philosophy. I think we as rationalists should recognize that we are the ones breaking from tradition - perhaps for the better.

    How you were able to turn this annual debate into a another consequence of the Rational/Mystical divide is beyond me. There are other forces at play that drive what we do that aren't a result of our Rational/Mystical worldview. How you were able to validate standing silent from Jewish sources seems like a reach.

    It seems that you are superimposing your personal worldview onto Torah in this case. But perhaps that's exactly the definition of 'Rational Judaism'?

    How 'bout we stand stand silent as not to offend anyone and to show a little HaKaret Hatov as well? How's that for a Jewish idea.

  11. 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.

    There is a specific mitzvah of listening to the shofar on R'H. Have you accepted listening to the siren as a separate mitzvah?

    1. "There is a specific mitzvah of listening to the shofar on R'H."

      When did Rabbi Slifkin mention ראש השנה? The שופר frequently appears in תנ"ך as a signal to alert the people. The siren is most definitely evocative of the שופר in תנ"ך.

  12. At every wedding I have been to, including Charedi, the bride wore a white dress. I don't think this custom originated from the Jewish world.

    1. Ari, you're suggesting that completely independently of the non-Jewish tradition of wearing a white dress, a Jewish tradition coincidentally evolved to do the same, based on what Jerusalemite girls wore two thousand years ago at one particular annual ceremony?

    2. Exactly! As long we can find some precedent in Jewish tradition, we can dispose of the G"ra's concerns. So if there was an occasion when Jewish women wore white- that practice can be extended to other ceremonies without concern that the practice is חוקת הגויים. If we burned the king's possessions, we can do the same for the נשיא. If silence is mandated by the פסוק for some mournful occasion, we can be silent for other occasions. If standing for respect is a Jewish custom, we can extend that custom for other purposes.

    3. The tradition of the white dress at a wedding dates to the wedding of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphine of France. Mary had a freckled complexion with red hair and looked wonderful in white--almost the only color which suited her and was also appropriate for a wedding. It started a fashion trend still followed. Before that, women wore expensive jewel-toned dresses of the finest material they could afford and were permitted under the sumptuary laws. Blue was popular for purity and its supposed connection with the female they believed to be the mother of their deity. Red was also popular as it showed wealth, the dye being expensive. While it is true that Jewish maidens wore white on Tu B'Av, I'm not aware of any tradition that says they wore white to their weddings.

    4. Isn't white also synonymous with purity ie yom kippur and the chatan wearing a kittel under the chupa?

      @Ephraim Love your comment!!

    5. Ephraim, you are mistaken re: the Gaon. According to the Gaon per the Tosafos he quotes, even a mitzvas aseh de'oraysa would be forbidden if later non-Jews began performing a similar practice for idolatrous purposes. Conversely, according to the Maharik and the Mechaber, we don't need a Jewish source for the tradition. We just need a reasonable explanation which is not idolatrous.

    6. Israel: You have correctly cited the G"ra. However, I wasn't referring to that aspect of the G"ra position because I don't consider it relevant to the question of the siren or white gowns. Neither the moment of silence, nor white gowns have been adopted for idolatrous purpose. (The classic case would be decorating the shul with trees.)
      What I have been dealing with is the G"ra's insistence that even a non-idolatrous practice must have a Torah precedent.

    7. White dress on Tu B'av applies also to yom Kippur. But you'll never hear a rav say to do it (pick up a date) on YK.
      And it only applies to one who doesn't have the looks or the money or the yichus.

      Shofar. Or chatzotzrot (?trumpets?). Or of course, sirens. Like meuzzin calls.

      Another custom -- deBeers early 20th century advertising campaign for diamond engagement rings. Chukot haAdvertisers. Probably Jewish.
      Chattan wearing a kittel is to remind of yom haDin.

  13. Lets not kid ourselves here. The traditional jewish way of commemorating tragedy is through kinnos/prayer and fasting. if you don't like tehilim at least do that. that's what we do on all fast days. no where is it mentioned in real halachik sources an idea of a moment of silence. its that simple.
    josh kahan

    1. לֹא מָצָאתִי לַגּוּף טוֹב אֶלָּא שְׁתִיקָה

    2. Do you need a real halachik source to do something thats considered respectable by millions and brings a sense of achdus? Where's the halachik source for eating cheese cake on shavuot. Not everything needs a halachik source. After all there is no halachik source for people to dress yeshivish and wear a black hat yet thousands do (even when they go hiking, camping, and exercising).

    3. Black is a symbol of humility and modesty. I heard a story, perhaps legendary, that Rav Wasserman hy"d attributed yeshivish black to שבט יששכר. (I have my doubts, in Rav Wasserman's era, Yeshiva guys were more colorful. I can still recall when blue & grey, stripes and bright characterful ties were yet fashionable in the בית מדרש. It's only in the past twenty years that it's exclusively black with stodgy muted under-saturated ties.)

      Cheesecake is more problematic since it probably originated at the ancient Olympic Games which definitely were idolatrous in nature.

  14. An interesting factoid: if we were to stand 1 minute for each of the 6 million, we'd be standing for 11.41 YEARS.


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