"Their Elijah HaNavi"

I was driving home from Jerusalem with the kids, and driving through Talpiot R noted that the lights around town looked like Xmas lights (I am guessing they were "chanukah" lights, though given that we are between Western and Eastern Christmas, they may have been...).  The kids actually realized that Christmas has passed (Western, that is -- I haven't gone into the schism with them yet), but then M said that "On Christmas, their Elijah HaNavi comes and visits everyone.  Oh what was his name again?   Oh I remember -- Santa Claus!"

Gotta love it!
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    amused amused

Aviner on Mitzvot on the Moon

This came through one of the email lists I am on (Rav Shlomo Aviner), and for some reason I thought of mabfan ... ;-)

The original is available at:

Man on the moon
Q: Is one obligated to observe the mitzvot on the moon?

A: This question is discussed in the book "Man on the Moon" by Ha-Rav Menachem Kasher (pp. 51-55). It is clear that a person is obligated to perform the mitzvot on the moon. The Torah preceded the world, and not only are we obligated to observe it in Eretz Yisrael and everywhere in the world, but everywhere in the Universe as well. If there were plants of the moon they would obviously not obligated in Terumot and Ma'asrot. It is outside of the Land, but one is obligated in the mitzvot there. How to calculate the times on the moon is a serious question. The halachic authorities have already discussed this issue regarding the North and South Poles, and solved it by using extrapolation, i.e. we can calculate the times there by using the times from place where we do know the times. B ut the moon is outside of time. The Rabbis therefore rule that a person should continue to follow the time from the place from which he departed. Based on this, it is possible that different people in a space station or on the moon who came from different places will be observing different times. This question has also already been discussed regarding the international date-line. As is known, during World War Two, the students of the Mir Yeshiva escaped and went to Shanghai. There was a dispute when Shabbat should be observed: Saturday, Sunday (because it was over the date-line) or on both days because of the doubt (Ha-Griz of Brisk and the Chazon Ish ruled it should be observed on Sunday and Rav Tikochinsky said that it should be on Saturday). The dispute is whether the International Date-Line is 180 or 90 degrees east of Eretz Yisrael. It is thus possible that different people on the moon are observing different times whether for Shabbat or for day and night.

Rav Kasher also writes that one loses performing the mitzvah of Kiddush Levana on the moon. How can one recite it if he is standing on the moon? Ha-Rav Menasheh Klein in Shut Mishneh Halachot (6:259) was asked: Is it permissible to recite Kiddush Levana when people are standing on the moon since it may appear as if you are saying a blessing to them? He answered: Yes, there is no difference (but he writes that it is forbidden to travel to the moon since there is no suitable air and it is dangerous). And it is written in Nefesh Ha-Rav (p. 79 note #7) that one Rabbi said that after man landed on the moon the words "I dance before you [the moon] but cannot touch it" in Kiddush Levana should be changed, but Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik said that the intention is that one cannot touch it during th e recitation of the blessing since one is on the earth and it certainly should not be changed. Rav Kasher was also asked: Is it even permissible to step on the moon since we say Kiddush Levana and the moon is thus used for a mitzvah (Tashmishei Mitzvah) and it is forbidden to denigrate an item used for a mitzvah? He answers that the moon was not only created for the sake of saying Kiddush Levana. It has an independent value. One can also ask: Is it permissible to step on Eretz Yisrael, since it is a mitzvah to live in Eretz Yisrael and it is thus used for a mitzvah? I see people walking on the Land of Israel since that is also part of the mitzvah, as it says: Anyone who walks four amah (6 feet) in the Land of Israel is ensured on life in the World to Come (Ketubot 111a).

Shabbat Shalom!

An Old-Fashioned Kiddush Ha-chodesh

This evening R's school had a wonderful event celebrating "kiddush hachodesh," or the sanctification of the new month.

Background:  In the time of the Temple, the calendar was not fixed, and the first day of a new month was determined by witnesses seeing the new moon, and then reporting this to a Bet Din (court) in Jerusalem, who would interrogate the witnesses, and if two witnesses' testimony was validated, a new month would be declared, and signal fires would be lit to notify the country of the new month.

At the event at her school, students from the 3rd grade put on presentations acting out scenarios described in the Mishna about the process.  (My favorite was the skit illustrating those people whose testimony was automatically invalidated -- gamblers, loan sharks, pigeon racers, etc.). 

We then went to a lookout point (her school is located on a hill in Rosh Tzurim), where we looked westward over the beautiful Judean valley (looking just south of Beitar), and everyone looked out for the first showing of the new moon.  After the sighting, there was another presentation, modelling the Bet Din interviewing witneses, and then declaring a new month.  One of the teachers then waved a signal-fire torch (it was dark by now), and we all saw someone on the next hill see the torch, and wave his signal torch back.  Then, of course, food was served (a good meal was actually part of the enticement for witnesses in Temple times).

R (along with most of her first-grade cohort) was admittedly a little tired and may not have fully appreciated the event (it was after 9 by the time food was served, and we left promptly so I could bring her home to bed), but for the older kids (and the parents!), this seemed an instance of experiential learning at its best.   It was especially moving realizing that the hill we were on could very well have been a signal hill for relaying the news of the new month, way back when.
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    happy happy

It felt like Disneyland®!

Today we went to the US consulate to apply for those new baby things -- report of birth abroad, passport, social security number.  The way they handled lines and kept it hidden that there was more waiting to come was quite impressive (and thus the reference to Disneyland):

1) First, we had to book an appointment on-line, at least several weeks in advance.
2) When we got there, outside there was a line to wait in to get a number from a clerk behind a window.
3) Still outside, once we got the number we had to wait before they let us in (one group at a time) to the security check (where we had to go through a metal detector, and check in our cell-phones)
4) After the security check, we had to wait in a waiting room, where they called groups in one at a time, through a second security check!  (this one they X-rayed bags)
5) Yet another waiting room, where we had to wait to check-in (at "window 5").  At check-in, they looked at the forms to ensure we filled them out completely and had all the necessary backup documentation (e.g. birth certificates, marriage certificates, proof of citizenship, etc.)
6) After we checked in, we had to wait (same waiting room) for them to call us by name.  When called up (to "window 3"), I was given a bill, and told to go to the cashier to pay and to go "upstairs and to the right" to get the courier's envelope.  I was told I should come back to window 3 with the receipt and envelope from the courier.
7) Line to pay at cashier ("window 1")
8) Line to pay at courier's station ("upstairs and to the right")
9) Wait for window 3 cashier to be free, so I can give her the envelope and the receipt that I had paid.
10) Now wait to be called by the Consular agent ("Window 4"), who would actually approve the application.  For this step he actually needed to witness our signatures and see the baby. 

Total time with consular agent: about 1 minute.
Total time with any agent: about 3 minutes
Total time waiting: 2 hours

The whole time I was looking at the clock, since we needed to be home about 2 and a half hours after our appointment time to pick up kids from school (of course, the days our kids have "long days" at school are days where the consulate either isn't open or doesn't do reports of birth abroad).

Baruch Hashem, all came out well in the end, and we made it home with about 5 minutes to spare before our eldest came waltzing in off the bus.

P.S. I shudder to think what it must have been like before the on-line reservation system -- I gather many people would show up and wait for hours before being sent home unable to do what they needed.
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    relieved relieved

Bovine Daf

Someone (Alan Yaniger, to give full attribution) posted this on the Efrat Chat list, and I thought at least some of you would find this amusing:

Today's Daf Yomi contains the first Mishnah in Bava Kama which mentions cows ("an ox which gores a cow").

And it's daf 46.

And mem-vav [מו, the Hebrew representation of 46] in Hebrew spells "moo".

Belated Sukkot post

Oops. I though I had posted this during sukkot, and just discovered it in my draft folder. Here goes:

This year we learned a new minhag for Sukkot -- on the first night of Sukkot, the kids go "sukkah hopping" around the neighborhood and are given candy at the various sukkot they visit. (The givers are entitled to ask the children to produce something first: a dvar torah, a song, a factoid about sukkot, etc.).

Nobody told us about this minhag, so we had some disappointed visiting kids, but they were all good sports about it... Our kids, needless to say, were thrilled when they discovered what awaited them after some new friends invited them to "hop" with them!

As far as I can tell, this particular minhag is limited to Efrat -- in Bet Shemesh this did not happen, but our neighbors tell us it happens all over the city (and not just in our little neighborhood of "Lev Efrat").

Perhaps, though, we missed it before now because our kids have been too young -- have any of you seen this before?

It certainly fills the niche of Halloween. I must, though, admit I like the Purim way better -- kids go out and *give* away treats, instead of collecting them.

And have I mentioned how lovely Sukkot is in Israel? We can walk around our neighborhood, and virtually every house has a sukkah (or often more than one -- many multi-floor houses have an eating sukkah in the yard, and a "sleeping sukkah" on a balcony). Our kids slept several nights on our covered balcony, which wasn't technically a sukkah, but was close enough for their needs. (At some point when they are older I am sure they will start asking me to make it a real sukkah, but for now they were happy enough just to be outside...).

Moadim L'simchah!