Wining and Dining

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA  Arriving in my shul office one day, I check my schedule to see what the day’s activities will bring. The schedule notifies me that Leah Greenberg (not her real name) has an 11 o’clock appointment. I am curious what issues she plans to bring me today. Leah is highly intelligent and usually has interesting questions to discuss.

An 11:05 knock on my door announces her arrival. After she seats herself in my office, I ask her what has brought her this morning.

“As you know, I do not come from an observant background,” she begins. “Although I have been observant now for many years, I always feel that I am missing information in areas of halacha that I need to know. Instead of asking you these questions over the phone, I wanted to discuss all the questions I have on one subject matter in person at one time. – I thought that this way you could perhaps explain the halachos and the issues involved to me.”

It would be nice to spend a few moments doing what I enjoy most, teaching Torah. I encouraged Leah to read me her list.

“My first two questions have to do with kiddush Shabbos morning. I believe I was told years ago that I should make kiddush before I eat Shabbos morning. Recently, someone told me that this was not necessary. What should I do?”

“Many prominent poskim rule that a married woman does not need to recite kiddush until her husband has finished davening (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim 4:101:2). In their opinion, there is no requirement to recite kiddush until it is time to eat the Shabbos meal, which for a married woman is when her husband is also ready. Others contend that she should recite kiddush before she eats (Shu’t Minchas Yitzchok 4:28:3; Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasah 2:153).”

“Not questioning what you have told me, which is what I intend to do, I know very religious women who do not recite kiddush until the Shabbos meal. Some of them are not married, so the reason you told me above would not apply to them.”

There is a custom in some places that women did not recite kiddush Shabbos morning, and therefore you should not say anything to women who follow this practice (Daas Torah 289). But what you are doing is definitely preferable.”

“My next question has to do with a mistake I made last week. Last Shabbos morning, after I made kiddush and ate mezonos to fulfill the kiddush properly, I recited the after bracha on the cake, but forgot to include al hagafen for the wine I drank. I didn’t know whether I was supposed to recite the bracha acharonah again in order to say the al hagafen or whether I should do nothing.”

“What did you end up doing?” I inquired, curious to see how she had resolved the predicament.

“Well, I didn’t have anyone to ask, so I waited until my son came home from hashkamah minyan and made kiddush and then I had him be motzi me in the bracha acharonah.”

“That was a very clever approach. You actually did what is optimally the best thing to do, provided that you have not waited too long for the bracha acharonah. But let me ask you first. Why were you uncertain what to do after you had made kiddush?”

“Well, I know that after eating cake and drinking wine or grape juice we recite the long after bracha beginning and ending with both al hamichyah (for the food you have provided us) and al hagafen (for the vine and its fruits). I had recited this bracha, but I left out the parts referring to wine. So I was uncertain whether I had fulfilled the mitzvah with regard to the wine since I had only mentioned al hamichyah, which only refers to the cake.”

“Your analysis of the question is very accurate,” I responded. “But I am first going to answer a question with a question. What happens if you only drank wine, and ate nothing at all, and then afterwards recited al hamichyah and did not mention al hagafen at all? Or for that matter, what happens if you recited the full bensching after drinking wine. Did you fulfill your responsibility?”

“I would think that you did not fulfill the mitzvah since you did not recite al hagafen,” Leah responded. “But because of the way you asked the question, I guess I am wrong. I told you that I don’t have the strongest halacha background.”

What a beautiful neshamah! I found my mind wondering. Leah was always eager to learn more about Yiddishkeit and halacha, and she always felt humble. This is how we should always feel before the Almighty. In truth, she was usually far more knowledgeable than most people who take their Yiddishkeit for granted.

I returned to our conversation.

“I presented you with two cases. If someone bensched a full bircas hamazon after drinking wine but not eating anything, we paskin that he should not recite a new bracha acharonah since wine does provide satisfaction (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 208:17). However, many other foods, such as most fruit, are not satisfying enough that bensching would fulfill the responsibility. Therefore, the bracha of bensching is inappropriate for them, and one must recite the correct bracha acharonah.

“In the case of someone who recited al hamichyah instead of al hagafen, there is a dispute whether he must recite al hagafen or not. Most poskim contend that one has fulfilled the mitzvah and should not recite a new bracha” (Levush 208:17; Eliyahu Rabbah 208:26; cf., however, the Maadanei Yom Tov and Pri Megadim 208:16 in Mishbetzos Zahav who disagree and rule that one must recite al hagafen.)

“Then it would seem that I should not have recited al hagafen and I did not have to wait for my son to come home. Why did you say that I did what was optimally correct?”

“Actually, your case is a bit more complicated than the ones I just presented.”

“How so?”

“In the two cases I mentioned, reciting full bensching or al hamichyah after wine, one did not eat anything at all that would require bensching or al hamichyah, so the bracha can only have referred to the wine. The halachic question we deal with is whether this bracha can ever refer to wine or not. If the bracha can never refer to wine, then it has the status of a bracha li’vatalah, a bracha recited in vain.

“However, when you drank wine and ate cake you were required to include two different themes, one for the wine and the other for the cake, but you included only one. Here our question is whether one theme will fulfill both bracha requirements.”

“I find this rather confusing. Either the bracha al hamichyah works for wine or it does not. How can it sometimes work and sometimes not?”

“Let me give you a different example that will be more familiar. What happens if you recite the bracha of borei pri ha’adamah on an apple?”

“I have been told that one isn’t supposed to do this, but if you did one should not recite a new bracha.”

“That is exactly correct. Now let me ask you another question. What happens if you plan to eat an apple and a tomato, and you recited borei pri ha’adamah on the tomato? Do you now recite a borei pri ha’eitz on the apple or is it covered with the borei pri ha’adamah that you recited on the tomato.”

“I understand,” replied Leah. “One is not supposed to recite ha’adamah on an apple, but if one did, he fulfilled his requirement. However, if one is eating an apple and a tomato, and recited ha’adamah and then ate the tomato, he still must recite ha’eitz on the apple.”

“Precisely.”

“But why is this?”

“The ha’adamah does not usually apply to the apple which does not grow directly from the ground. However, when there is nothing else for the ha’adamah to refer to, it does apply to the apple since it grows on a tree which grows from the ground. Therefore when one recites ha’adamah on an apple, one does not recite a new bracha. But when one recited the ha’adamah on a tomato, the bracha does not include the apple.”

“Are there any other examples of this rule?”

“There are many. Here’s one. As you know the correct bracha after eating grapes is al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz (for the land and for the fruits of the land), not al hagafen ve’al pri hagafen (for the vine and for the fruits of the vine), which refers specifically to wine. However, if one recited al hagafen after eating grapes, one should not recite a new bracha since the literal wording of the bracha includes all fruits of the vine, which also includes grapes (Shulchan Aruch, 208:15). But what happens if someone finished a snack in which he ate grapes and drank wine?”

“I believe he is supposed to recite al hapeiros ve’al hagafen,” Leah interposed.

“Correct. But what happens if he recited just al hagafen and forgot to say al hapeiros. Must he now recite a bracha of al hapeiros because of the grapes or was he yotzei with the al hagafen that he recited?

“Based on the direction that you are leading me, it would seem that he must recite al hapeiros since the bracha of al hagafen referred only to the wine he drank, just like the ha’adamah referred only to the tomato and not to the apple (Shulchan Aruch, 208:14).”

“Excellent.”

“May I conclude that someone who recited al hamichyah on wine fulfilled his requirement if he only drank wine, but did not fulfill their requirement to recite a bracha acharonah on the wine if they also ate cake?”

“Some poskim reach exactly this conclusion (Shu’t Har Tzvi #105). However, others rule that one has fulfilled the requirement of a bracha acharonah on the wine also and should not recite al hagafen. They reason that al hamichyah includes any food that satisfies, even while eating another food (Kaf HaChayim 208:76). That is why I told you that having someone be motzi you in the bracha acharonah is the best option since it covers all bases.”

“This whole discussion is very fascinating, and I think it leads into the next question I want to ask. I know that the correct bracha after eating grapes is al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz but the correct bracha after eating most fruit is borei nefashos. What do you do if you eat both grapes and apples as a snack? Somehow it does not sound correct that you make two brachos.”

“You are absolutely correct. Although the bracha after eating an apple is borei nefashos, when one recites al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz anyway, that bracha also covers the apples or other fruit that one ate (Shulchan Aruch 208:13).”

“What happens if I ate an apple and drank some grape juice at the same time? Do I recite one bracha or two afterwards?”

“This a really good question – Rav Moshe Feinstein actually has a tshuvah devoted exactly to this question. But before presenting his discussion, we first need to discuss a different shaylah.” I paused for a few seconds before I continued.

“What is the closing of the bracha we recite after drinking wine?”

“All I know is what it says in the sidurim and benschers. There it says to recite “al ha’aretz ve’al pri hagafen.”

“We follow this version (Taz 208:14), but actually there is another text to the bracha that is also acceptable.”

“What is that?”

“Some poskim close with al ha’aretz ve’al hapeiros, meaning that the closing of the bracha on wine is the same as it is on grapes, dates, or olives. According to this opinion, the bracha after drinking wine begins with al ha’aretz ve’al pri hagafen and ends al ha’aretz ve’al hapeiros (Rambam). Although I have never seen this text printed in any benscher or siddur, poskim quote it as a perfectly acceptable version (Shulchan Aruch 208:11). However, according to both opinions one begins the bracha with the words al hagafen ve’al pri hagafen.”

“May I ask you something at this point,” Leah interjected. “You told me before that if someone ate grapes and apples he recites just one bracha al ha’eitz ve’al pri ha’eitz for both the grapes and the apples. Will this affect whether one can say the same bracha after wine and apples? Even according to the opinion that one concludes by mentioning fruit, he began by saying al hagafen ve’al pri hagafen and does not mention fruit until the end of the bracha. Does this affect whether one bracha suffices for both the wine and the apple?”

I must admit that I was astounded by the pure brilliancy of her analysis. Leah was unaware that she had just unraveled the core issue in Rav Moshe’s teshuvah (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Orach Chayim #72) on the subject, and that she had zeroed in on a dispute among the poskim whether this bracha that begins with a reference to grapes and ends with a bracha on fruits suffices to fulfill the bracha on another fruit.

“Now I can explain the shaylah you asked about someone who ate an apple and drank grape juice at the same time. Rav Moshe says that it depends what bracha he recites at the end of the bracha after drinking the grape juice. If he recites al ha’aretz ve’al pri hagafen then he should recite a borei nefashos afterwards because neither part of the bracha referred to fruit, only to grapes. However, if he concludes al ha’aretz ve’al hapeiros there is a dispute what to do and one should not recite a borei nefashos.

“May I ask one last question for the day if I might?”

“Feel free to ask as many as you like. My greatest pleasure in life is answering questions about Torah.”

“I know that when we eat fruit that grew in Eretz Yisroel we modify the end of the bracha acharonah to reflect this fact. Do we do the same thing if we drink wine produced in Eretz Yisroel?”

“After drinking wine or grape juice produced from grapes that grew in Eretz Yisroel one should recite al ha’aretz ve’al pri gafnah, for the land and for the fruit of its vine, or al ha’aretz ve’al peiroseha, for the land and for its fruit, thus praising Hashem for our benefiting from the produce of the special land He gave us.

“What bracha do we recite after eating cake or crackers made from flour that grew in Eretz Yisroel?”

“Some poskim contend that one should recite “al michyasah” on its produce after eating flour items that grew in Eretz Yisroel (Birkei Yosef 208:10; Shu’t Har Tzvi #108). However, the prevalent practice is to recite “al hamichyah” and not “al michyasah” after eating pastry or pasta items even if they are made from flour that grew in Eretz Yisroel (Birkei Yosef 208:10).”

“Why is there a difference between flour and wine?”

“When eating fruit and drinking wine, the different nature of the source country is very identifiable. Therefore its bracha should reflect a special praise of Eretz Yisroel. However, when one makes a product from flour, the source of the flour is not obvious in the finished product. Thus, praising Hashem for the special grain His land produces is inappropriate.”

“I have really enjoyed this conversation, and if possible would like to continue it at a different time with other questions.”

“It will be my pleasure.”

Leah left with a big smile on her face, having now mastered a new area of halacha. Although I was technically the teacher of the meeting, I learned a tremendous amount from her in terms of enthusiasm about mitzvos and humility in serving Hashem.

Pesukei Dezimra: Fulfilling Hashem’s Only Desire

Ron Goldstein, who is seeking to find his way into observant Judaism, is having a casual conversation with Yosel Schwartz, an Orthodox accountant who often invites him over often for Shabbos. As usual, Ron is peppering Yosel with questions:

“Recently, I began praying daily, and I have even begun to attend synagogue occasionally. I have many questions regarding both the prayers and the practices I see there.”

Of course, Yosel is more than happy to answer Ron’s questions.

“I would really appreciate it if you could provide me with background to some of the prayers. I see that there is a lot of structure and that various sections of the prayer are very dissimilar from one another. Some parts are consecutive blessings, others include extensive Biblical passages; some are praises, others are straightforward supplications. I have been told that the two most important parts of the morning and evening prayers are the Shma and the Shemoneh Esrei, and I have been reciting these parts for a few months now. But at this point I would like to understand some more about some of the other parts of our prayer. Could you help me?”

“Certainly; where would you like to start?”

“I am really curious to know more about the Psalms we read towards the beginning of the prayers. Psalms are really inspiring. But I also know that the Book of Psalms is fairly large. Why do we always recite the same ones every day; why not just read consecutive passages each day as an introduction to the prayer? This would familiarize people with the whole beautiful book.”

It is interesting that Ron noticed the beauty of the Psalms David Hamelech bequeathed to the Jewish people. Indeed, it seems that David Hamelech was aware of the tremendous responsibility Hashem placed upon him to provide a link between Man and Hashem. This is evidenced in the following verse: “For an eternal covenant He placed in me” (Shmuel II 23:5). Although most commentaries explaing that this verse refers to the eternity of his royal dynasty, which will soon return with Moshiach, it certainly also alludes to David’s unique role as the Psalmist of mankind.

Tehillim Each and Every Day, makes Certain we do not Stray

Yosel points out to Ron that the Psalms have indeed been organized into daily readings that enable one to complete them every week or month. Ron sounds interested in making this a regular practice, certainly a laudatory observance. Yosel points out that the purpose in reciting parts of Tehillim during davening is not to create familiarity with the entire book, but something else altogether. In Yosel’s own words:

“To answer your question, I need to provide you with some background to this part of the prayer, which is called Pesukei Dezimra, Verses of Song. Two Talmudic references provide the earliest basis for this part of our daily prayer.  One source teaches that reciting Psalm 145 every day guarantees one a share in olam haba, the World to Come (Berachos 4b).” (Yosel is aware that an alternate reading [girsa] of this Gemaraattributes the reward to someone who recites this psalm three times every day. This is why we recite Ashrei, which includes this Chapter of Tehillim, three times a day, twice in Shacharis and once during Mincha.Yosel did not want to sidetrack the conversation with this information.)

Hashem Provides for All, even those without Wherewithal.

“What is unique about this Psalm that its recital merits such a special reward?” Ron inquired.

“The Gemara explains that this Psalm includes the verse beginning with the words Posayach es yodecha, which praises G-d who opens His hands to provide for all creatures. One must make sure to recite this verse with much focus (Tur, Orach Chayim 51), as we thereby internalize the fact that Hashem supervises over all his creatures and provides all their needs.

“In addition, the alphabetical acrostic of this Psalm demonstrates that King David intended that it be easily memorized and utilized by all of mankind (Rav Hirsch, Tehillim 25:1).

“The verses of this chapter that follow Posayach es yodecha also include many basic tenets of Judaism. They note that Hashem’s deeds are also justified; and that He is close to all who seek him truthfully, fulfills their desires, and protects them. It is critical to recite these passages with full focus on their significance. One who recites the verse Posayach es yodecha without thinking about its meaning is required to read it again, since he has missed the message of the passage. Some authorities conclude that if he completed the Psalm, he should repeat from the words Posayach es yodecha to the end of the Psalm (Mishnah Berurah 51:16).”

Begin the Day with G-d’s Praise, so that we Merit the Sun’s Rays

Ron replied: “This is really a nice, meaningful passage, and it certainly sets the tone for devotion and interacting with G-d, which is one of the beauties of Judaism. However, according to my references, this is only one Psalm among several others that we read.”

Yosel continues his explanation: “True. In another Talmudic passage, the great scholar, Rabbi Yosi, mentions his yearning to receive the special reward granted to those who recite the Pesukei Dezimra daily (Shabbos 118b). Also, reciting these praises with the proper awareness guarantees that our subsequent prayer will be accepted (Abudraham).

“The early authorites dispute how many Psalms Rabbi Yosi included in his Pesukei Dezimra. While Rashi mentions only Psalm 148 and Psalm 150 (presumably in addition to 145), the Rambam includes all of the last six Psalms of Tehillim as the kernel of Pesukei Dezimra. Accepted halachah follows the Rambam (Tur, Orach Chayim 51), and therefore we recite all six Psalms, but in extenuating circumstances we follow Rashi’s opinion. For example, someone with insufficient time to recite the entire Pesukei Dezimra with the tremendous focus it deserves and still be ready to begin the Shemoneh Esrei together with the congregation may omit the three extra Psalms that the Rambam includes and rely on Rashi’s opinion. We actually rule that one may delete even more sections of Pesukei Dezimra to enable one to begin the Shemoneh Esrei together with the congregation.”

Together we shall Pray, and then look Forward to a Wonderful Day!

“Why is it so important to begin the prayer together with everyone else?”

“Unfortunately but realistically, we sometimes do not focus when we recite our prayers. In reality, prayers recited without proper thought should accomplish nothing and may even be harmful. Imagine someone who has the opportunity for an audience with a human king and arrives late, out of breath, and distracted. If his conversation is unfocused, he will probably be thrown into a dungeon for his disrespect! How much more so when talking to the King of kings!

“When our prayers fall short of what they should be, we deserve to have them rejected. There is one consolation, however. When a community prays together, G-d always accepts their prayers (Gemara Berachos 8a).”

Concentrate on Ashrei, and we will Focus while we Pray

“I now understand why Ashrei is an important prayer,” said Ron, “But I see in my Siddur that besides Psalm 145, that the Ashrei prayer also includes three other verses from Psalms, two before Psalm 145 and one after.”

“I see you’ve been paying a lot of attention to the prayers.”

“The Siddur I use notes the Biblical source of every prayer, so it does not really involve a lot of paying attention. Praying the way you are describing does require a lot of concentration. But I am eager to try. After all, for many years G-d meant little in my life – now that I understand how important He is to me, I am trying to pray daily with meaning. I truly enjoy these six Psalms because each one emphasizes a different aspect of G-d’s magnamity. But could you explain why we begin with the verse Ashrei, which is ‘borrowed’ from elsewhere in the book?”

“The Halachah recommends spending some time in quiet meditation prior to praying (Berachos 30b). This makes it easier to focus on the essence of prayer and what we are trying to accomplish.The source cited for this law is the verse Ashrei, usually translated as ‘Happy is he who dwells in Your house; he will continually be able to praise You.’ I would note that Rabbi Hirsch, a great Nineteenth Century scholar, explains the word Ashrei a bit differently. According to his explanation, the verse means: ‘He who dwells in Your house is constantly striving forward in his life; providing his life with more meaning.’ Either interpretation emphasizes the importance of not racing into our prayer, but spending time meditating over the smallness of man and the greatness of G-d before we approach Him with our daily requests.

Pesukei Dezimra Every Day and one’s Concerns will go away.

“My own experience is that involving oneself in Pesukei Dezimra not only helps one daven the entire tefilah on a completely different level, but also rouses one’s sense of bitachon. In David Hamelech’s own words “The G-d of Yisroel told me… the righteous will rule over man, he will prevail through his fear of Hashem” (Shmuel II 23:3).

“In modern Hebrew, bitachon means security or defense; and bituach means insurance. Both of these uses cloud the issue:

Yisrael Betach BaHashem, the Jewish people can trust only in Hashem. Only through arousing our sense of Hashem’s power and providence can we possibly find any comfort. In the words of the Chovos HaLevavos, ‘He who does not trust in Hashem, places his trust in something else.’”

“I certainly identify with this, perhaps more so, since I am so familiar with the way people live ‘out there.’ I find these Psalms extremely powerful.”

Baruch She’amar – A Song of Desire

Ron is ready with his next question: “I notice that while the Pesukei Dezimra contains only Biblical quotes, my Siddur notes no Biblical quotes in the introductory passage.”

“Because these passages are so important and comprise their own special mitzvah of praising G-d, we introduce and conclude with special blessings, just as we recite blessings before and after eating, and before performing mitzvos. The introductory prayer, which begins with the words Baruch She’amar, begins by blessing G-d ‘who said and made,’ a quality unique to Hashem. He both says and performs, whereas all else in the world either orders or acts (Avudraham). Baruch She’amar includes hints to all of Creation by alluding to the Ten Statements with which Hashem made the world. To quote the Tur (Orach Chayim 51): ‘One must recite Baruch She’amar with song and sweetness because it is a beautiful and desirous song.

The concluding blessing of Pesukei Dezimra begins with the word Yishtabach. In order to avoid any interruption between these berachos, one may not interrupt from the time one recites Baruch She’amar until the end of davening (Shulchan Aruch 51:4). The Medrash reports that when the verse speaks of someone ‘who is afraid because he has sinned’ it refers to a person who spoke during Pesukei Dezimra.”

Singing David’s Song will keep us from Steering Wrong

Ron notes that while Baruch She’amar states that we use the songs of David, Your servant, to praise Hashem, not all the verses in Pesukei Dezimra come from Psalms.

“Although a few passages in Pesukei Dezimra are from other authors, the vast majority were written by King David. Even the two sections taken from Divrei Hayamim (Chronicles) are actually quotes of King David that appear in those books.

“Among the notable exceptions is the very end of Pesukei Dezimra where we recite Az Yashir, the Song that the Jewish people sang after miraculously crossing the Red Sea. This epic is considered the song of praise of the Jewish people and therefore merits its special place in the daily Pesukei Dezimra. It is singled out as such a special praise, that halacha requires one to sing  it daily as if one personally  experienced this miraculous manifestation of G-d’s presence.

“Notwithstanding all its wondrous virtues, there is still somehalachic controversy whether it should be recited as part of Pesukei Dezimra or not.”

“How so?”

“The Rambam, perhaps the greatest scholar of the last thousand years, mentions the recital of Az Yashir after Yishtabach, not before. Apparently, since King David did not author Az Yashir, the Rambam feels that it should not be included between the two blessings; only passages that are authored by King David should be included. I am personally unaware of any community that currently follows this practice.”

Hodu – Before Baruch She’amar or After?

Ron is ready with his next question: “I have noticed that some congregations begin Pesukei Dezimra with Baruch She’amar, while others begin with a different passage. What is the rationale behind these two different approaches?”

“King David taught this song to be sung on the day that Aron, which held the Ten Commandments, was brought to the City of David, in the city of Jerusalem (Divrei Hayamim I 16). Later they were sung to accompany the daily offerings in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, until the Beis Hamikdash was built (Seder Olam, Chapter 14). Thus, they are praises that are directly associated with the offerings of the Jewish people and at the same time they are beautiful praises that reflect on the early history of the Jewish nation.

The question is whether we should recite them as part of the regular Pesukei Dezimra, albeit it placing them closer to the part of the prayer when we discuss the offerings, or whether they are said as a sequel to korbanos and prior to Pesukei Dezimra. Ashkenazic practice follows the first approach and Sefardic the latter – two old customs, both cited by early authoritative sources (Tur).”

Pesukei Dezimra: Fulfilling Hashem’s Only Desire

“Could you sum up in a few words what we have learned today?”

“Rather than my words, I will cite a great early scholar, the Ramban: ‘All that Hashem desires from this world are that man should thank Him for creating him, focus on His praise when he prays, and that the community pray together with concentration: Mankind should gather together and thank the Lord who created them, broadcasting: We are your creations!’” (Ramban, Shemos 13:16).

To this Ron replied : “You just mentioned that the community should recite the praises together. In my visits to different synagogues, I have noticed that in the Sefardic community the entire congregation recites these prayers in unison. In many other synagogues, someone begins and ends each passage aloud so that everyone can read from the same place. It seems from your description that this is the proper way one should recite these prayers.

“However, in some shuls that I frequent the prayers seem far more chaotic. Although these shuls are, thank G-d, very crowded and well attended, people arrive at different times and each person starts praying by himself. No one leads the services until after Pesukei Dezimra is complete, and they are certainly not said in unison. I must admit that I do not find this part of the services very attractive. It certainly does not fit the beautiful description you just gave me.”

Yosel shifted uncomfortably, realizing that Ron is absolutely correct. “It is embarrassing to admit that we are not doing what we should be,” he began. “Your criticism is extremely well founded. Would you be willing to come with me and speak to the Rabbi of our congregation about the problem? I admit that the problem has bothered me for a while, but I have not had the gumption to do anything about it. Perhaps you can help me?”

Ron realized that he had turned the tables. He had come as an outsider sharing something that bothered him. He had expected to receive an answer that he would not foresee; similar to Yosel’s other brilliant answers. He did not expect to be the person Yosel would appeal to for help in what appeared to be some type of crusade. But Yosel’s face indicated that he was sincere in his request. Not knowing the rabbi, Ron was uncertain what to expect, but at the meeting hefound the rabbi more than accomodating.

“I have wanted to introduce this in the shul for a long time,” the rabbi said after listening to their complaint. “The old minhag in all communities always included someone leading the services from the very beginning of Berachos. Why and when this practice changed is not for our discussion now, but I would like your help in changing the practice in our shul.”

In Conclusion, the Congregation’s Resolution

Ron became a very active member of the shul, although his attire initially looked fairly dissimilar from most other members. His input as an “outsider” was happily accepted. And as Ron morphed into Reuvein and learned how to use the Hebrew Siddur fluently, his unflagging enthusiasm for Pesukei Dezimra spurred major change not only in himself and in his good friend Yosel, but also to Congregation Bnei Torah. Ultimately, his enthusiasm and initiative spiritually permeated the entire world.