Friday, April 27, 2007

Shoshanat Yaaqov

I am proud to present a new compendium entitled "Shoshanat Yaaqov: A Guide to the Jewish Wedding and Laws of Family Purity in Light of the Fundamentals of Jewish Thought."

Shoshanat Yaaqov includes practical halachic guidelines on an introductory level, as well as a philosophical perspective on the meaning and significance of these laws.

As it has not yet fully been edited and is still a work in progress, I would very much appreciate your feedback and constructive criticism.

You can download Shoshanat Yaaqov here.

Shabbat Shalom!


Ariella said...

Very nice presentation. Two questions: 1. no mention of hoshata miyad leyad in harchqot. Is that exclusively Ashkenazi?
2. How come nekiyim is spelled with a K?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

1 - It is in there, #8.

2 - You're right! I originally wrote this 7 years ago for an Ashkenazi couple. During the updating process I failed to change all of the spellings. I'll have to go back and fix it.

My wife also wants me to rewrite the haircovering part. I dashed it off too quickly.

Matt said...

First of all, I really like the idea of a "a halakhic guide in light of the fundamentals of Jewish thought," especially in an area of halakha which might easily be perceived as nothing more than restrictive technicalities.

I intended to read the entire guide over Shabbos, but I only got a chance to read the first few pages. So far, I don't have any content-related critiques. I did, however, find two instances of subject-verb disagreement. The first is in the third paragraph of page 3: “Via this process that PERSON (singular) would become as ‘close to God’ as THEY (plural) could possibly be.” The second is in the first full paragraph on page 5: “Furthermore, the degree to which a PERSON (singular) evaluates . . . will effect the levels of efficiency and success THEY (plural) attain.”

Also, in the foregoing sentence, I believe the word “effect” should really be “affect.” Here is the entry from Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style:” “Effect: as a noun, means ‘result’; as a verb, means ‘to bring about,’ ‘to accomplish’ (not to be confused with AFFECT, which means ‘to influence’).”

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Thanks Matt. As I stated, I originally wrote this paper about 7 years ago and haven't revised it much since then. So I appreciate your feedback.

I actually prepared this work for a totally secular Jewish couple who had asked me to be mesader qiddushin for them. The two individuals in question had almost no Jewish education whatsoever, and were not observant in the least.

So I thought that offering them literature to read - in particular, literature that presented Torah and halacha in contemporary language and in a rational framework - would take the edge off of the necessarily uncomfortable discussions we'd have to have regarding family purity, etc.

First and foremost, I wanted them to develop an intellectual appreciation of the fact that the system of halacha - including family laws - has a purpose and makes sense.

Once the groundwork was established, I was able to inform them of the "bottom line" from a practical perspective, and I didn't have to worry about any resistance or opposition on their part.

There are some additional changes I already plan to make, related to both content and style; I will post a revised version as soon as possible.

Based on your paper (which I enjoyed reading but I need to return to in order to absorb all the details) and your comments, I can tell that you are quite a detail-oriented fellow!

Ariella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ariella said...

Thakns for the clarification, Rabbi Maroof!

Whoah, Matt outranks me! I don't think I could cite Strunk and White chapter and verse, though, of course, I do own a copy. It is technically an error of lack of agreement of subject and pronoun, but many do lapse into using "they" for the third person singular in order to keep it gender neutral once they realize that it is no longer acceptable to use "he" as the standard pronoun even when no male. Personally, I use s/he or write "him or her" or shift the subject to a plural version to match the "they" or "them." But in a conversational setting, you would rarely hear such exacting usage.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Ariella, I should mention that there is one additional point on which Sephardim and Ashkenazim differ: Ashkenazi posqim generally don't allow throwing either, whereas Sephardic posqim hold that since there is no concern of actual physical contact, throwing an object to your spouse is OK.

SephardiLady said...

Regarding your comment above: I thought that throwing up and catching on the way down was permitted, but direct throwing is ok? Am I mistaken?

I am still finishing the guide and will leave more comments later.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...


R' Ovadiah Yossef, in his work Taharat Habayit, makes no distinction between different forms of throwing. I was following his view in my presentation of harhaqot for Sephardim. Of course, there may be variant traditions across Sephardic communities.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Just to preempt all you detail-oriented reviewers:

I realized that there are two noteworthy omissions in the paper:

1- No mention of the Ashkenazi custom of waiting 5 days before starting 7 neqiim (Syrians wait 4 days).

2- No mention of moch dahuq

Both of these omissions were intentional at the time the paper was written, but now that I am revising it I ought to make reference to these concepts.

SephardiLady said...

Rabbi Maroof-

I really enjoyed this guide and especially enjoyed your more contemporary presentation of niddah and appreciated its unique format and ideas (and I've read plenty of guides). You seemed to strike a nice balance as you did not overemphasize any one point to the detriment of the others, especially in your presentation of the basics of niddah. The straightforward method that you write with is also very nice.

*You mentioned the mikveh attendant ensuring the beracha is said. It might be nice to expound on this more for Sephardim. My minhag is to say the beracha before immersion in the side room. I have heard that this practice is not universal. But considering most mikvaot are Ashkenazi run, it is best for the user to be educated in her own minhag.

*I noticed that you wrote birth control (bc) should not be used except under extenuating circumstances. Perhaps, you might want to expand on this area rather than leaving it so brief. What types of circumstances are extenuating? Or, perhaps, when is a couple required to use bc or when should a couple consider doing so? What is the heirarchy of preferred methods and what is absolutely assur (except perhaps when fertility issues occur)?

*Related to the above point, I noticed that in your introduction about the building of a home, you only mentioned children and passing on the tradition briefly. Maybe you could expand on the importance of having children and building the nation also.

EXCELLENT GUIDE. Thanks for sharing.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Sephardi Lady,

Thanks for your kind feedback.

You mentioned the mikveh attendant ensuring the beracha is said. It might be nice to expound on this more for Sephardim.

I noticed the ambiguity of this point as well. I will clarify it in my revision. Your custom is the typical one for Sephardim as far as I know.

In terms of Birth Control issues - here I purposely left matters vague. There are of course circumstances in which b.c. is either permitted, preferable or even necessary. This is a very complex and personal topic and each individual must consult with his or her own Rav to decide on these questions. Every case is different.

I will keep your recommendations in mind as I work through the updating process!

Ha-historion said...

Thnak you for all your work!

Ariella said...

My husband and I were just discussing your piece. He said you will probably have to expand it into a book, especially with all the questions you are getting. My suggested title is: Q & A on Jewish Marriage

I am not normally given to punning, but I couldn't resist.

You'll have to forgive me, for I will share with you the comment that Mother In Israel left on my post about your piece. She recommended it to a commentator on her blog whose wife did not want to keep TH. How's that for positive feedback?

Chaim B. said...

I like the way you present everything as a package that incorporates the philosophy with the halachos - sometimes obsessions with the do's and dont's obscures the larger picture. Unless I missed it, you did not include any reference to a pre-nup agreement - do you encourage couples to use one? I also didn't see anything on badekken (again, sorry if I missed it). Did the couple you wrote this for become interested in keeping these halachos, or was it a very hard "sell"? If you don't mind my asking, how do you handle situations where a couple wants a kosher wedding ceremony, but has no intention of committing to taharas hamishpacha?

SephardiLady said...

I concur with Chaim B. and Ariella. There are plenty of marriage and taharat hamishpacha books out there, but you have a unique perspective and could give needed guidance on establishing a Jewish home and maybe even looking for a spouse.

Chaim B-AFAIK, the badeken ceremony is not a Sephardi one, although it is often done at "mixed marriages." Maybe Rabbi Maroof can outline some other differences that were not covered such a no circling and the chatan taking the kallah under his reshut (the chuppah).

Now that I have been plugged into your blog, I hope you don't mind if we use some of your thoughts at our Shabbat table.

Chaim B. said...

Just noticed also that you write onah beinonit is 31 days. I'm at work and don't have seforim with me, but I thought the more 'popular' minhag (and I don't recall if this is ashkenaz specific) is to keep 30 days.
Just curious as to the makor that a pill which regulates the one's cycle can be kove'a the veset - I have seen different views on this.
Just a suggestion if you expand this to also include something on what to do if you miss bedikos so people don't confuse something like missing a hefesk tahara with missing a bedika on days 2-6.

Ariella said...

A quick check in Dr. Zimmerman's book shows no mention of 31 days, only of 30 days, as well as the interval number of days and Hachodesh. She does mention the practice some have of observing a 24 hour period for the beynonis but not anything about day 31, as far as I can see in that section. (The book does not have an index.)

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

My thanks to everyone for all of the positive feedback. It means a lot. I regret having waited so long to post this guide!

To tell you the truth, I considered the possibility of trying to publish the guide as a separate book. I asked R' Gil Student, and his response was that there are already several such works on the market and it is unlikely to sell. I argued my case for the uniqueness and "kiruv appeal" of the book, but he wasn't impressed. Maybe you can set him straight!

As to R' Chaim's questions,

Unless I missed it, you did not include any reference to a pre-nup agreement - do you encourage couples to use one?

Typically I would, but in the case in question I did not - it was a relative, and a complex situation at that! As I revise the guide, I'll mention it.

I also didn't see anything on badekken (again, sorry if I missed it).

Not a Sephardic custom (although frequently done anyway due to Ashkenazic influence), that's the reason I omitted it, but I should definitely add it, together with the other differences mentioned by Sephardi Lady.

Did the couple you wrote this for become interested in keeping these halachos, or was it a very hard "sell"?

It was the wedding of a secular Jew to a self-professed atheist...At least I convinced them to comply with the halachot for the wedding. Much later, I heard from reliable sources that they expressed newfound respect for Judaism and its philosophy after the experience. So there was a Qiddush Hashem of some sort.

If you don't mind my asking, how do you handle situations where a couple wants a kosher wedding ceremony, but has no intention of committing to taharas hamishpacha?

They must at least learn the halachot and comply with them up to the wedding - i.e., no Huppat Niddah. I can't control what they will do afterwards.

Just noticed also that you write onah beinonit is 31 days. I'm at work and don't have seforim with me, but I thought the more 'popular' minhag (and I don't recall if this is ashkenaz specific) is to keep 30 days.

Rabbi Chait's position is 31, and I learned Hilchot Niddah before my wedding from one of his talmidim, so that's what I've always followed. I believe it's the Havot Daat's shitta. Perhaps I will include both views in the final draft.

Just curious as to the makor that a pill which regulates the one's cycle can be kove'a the veset - I have seen different views on this.

R' Ovadiah Yossef.

Just a suggestion if you expand this to also include something on what to do if you miss bedikos so people don't confuse something like missing a hefesk tahara with missing a bedika on days 2-6.

Another excellent suggestion. I also omitted moch, as I mentioned in a previous comment.

Again, thank you to all commenters. Your feedback has helped me tremendously as I embark on my revision process, and I appreciate your encouragement and thoughtfulness as well.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Ariella, see my answer to R' Chaim above.

SephardiLady said...

What about trying to publish this through the Sephardic Traditions Foundation? I know this isn't their concentration, but it might be an excellent place to start.

I would recommend adding an appendix with a comparative table where dominant Sephardi custom is place side-by-side on a chart with the dominant Ashkenazi custom. This would be a fantastic reference for couples (esp Mixed Couples), for Ashkenazi Rabbis, for Mikvah Ladies, kallah teachers, etc.

I've only seen two Taharat HaMishpacha guides for Sephardim. One has a gray cover and was published by a Sephardi Publishing house. I don't own a copy and wish I could remember the name. I saw it on Ave. S in NY once.

The other Sefer is Shoshana HaEmek. I'm sure you are familiar with it (published by Feldheim). What is your opinion on this guide? I have it on my bookshelf, have red through many sections, but do wonder if everything presented therein is generally practiced.

SephardiLady said...

Pardon my spelling in the last post. While I have used Shoshanat HaEmek as a guide, it sometimes seems unnecessarily strict. One stringency that I noted was no nursing in the same room as the husband? I've never seen such in any other English guide.

I think there is room in the market for a well designed guide and one that focuses on the basics.

(BTW, I've always heard onah benonit as 30 and 31 as a chumra that is fairly universal.)

Chaim B. said...

>>>To tell you the truth, I considered the possibility of trying to publish the guide as a separate book.

Perhaps it might be worthwhile to speak to the editor of who I think may be working on a book on jewish wedding planning - maybe it could be incorporated into a larger work like that. (Of course, I am noge'a b'davar : )

I did find 31 in the Chavos Da'as, and when I double checked last night I found the idea of holding both days mentioned as a chumra by later sources like the Badei haShulchan, Shiurei Sheveit haLevi, and mentioned as a footnote in Taharas Bas Yisrael. The Bais Yosef I think holds of 30, so I assume leaving aside R' Chait's opinion, that would be the baseline Sefardic psak?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

R' Chaim, I thought your wife was the editor...?

Yes, 30 would seemingly be the standard pesaq for Sephardim.

Chaim B. said...

>>>R' Chaim, I thought your wife was the editor...?

She is... I was being facetious. She is thinking of a book (and I have been pushing her to write one), though the planning and details are still in the early stages. I don't know if she wants to get into discussing halachos, but I couldn't help thinking that your guide would make a nice section to include.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I was asking because I noticed that your email was "editor@kallamagazine".

I would be very excited about collaborating with you on a project like that. Let's go for it!

Ariella said...

"The Qol Kallah Guide"?
We can certainly discuss it. While there are oodles of marriage and taharas hamispacha on the market, a lot of them fall into a particular type of mold, so there could be room for a different type of presentation.

BTW I bestowed the email address DivreiChaim At my website for Chaim to have his own.

Anonymous said...

on page 10, you say that when a woman enters into marriage, she "has now obligated herself to devote a great deal of her time and energy to a partnership with her husband, and can no longer focus exlucively on her own priorities."

You then say that a man never had that option. Could you please clarify that?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

A man is halachically obligated to get married and have children. A woman is not, although most women want to anyway!

Anonymous said...

I am truly sorry to be so critical, but I'm the odd one out here. I thought the guide was overly apologetic, and makes dubious claims in the service of apologetics. I found sections condescending and patronizing to women. I don't think you should publish it without heavy editing, and except for the early section on a rational approach to Judaism generally, I agree with Gil that it duplicates work already on the market.

Some examples (I am skipping over sections that are purely halachic and concentrating on the thematic ones):

"Judaism maintains...the female species was blessed with an affinity for applying ideas to practical life"

"Judaism" doesn't maintain this; there are threads like this in kabbalistic writings.

This idea is then built on in the kiddushin section, where the man who is an abstract thinker has difficulty translating ideas into practical life and, nebach, the poor absent minded professors are dependent on women. I challenge you to come up with a single source in chazal for this idea. Einstein's second wife ("I don't understand his physics but I understand him" is not Judaism).

The section on the need for the laws of nidah presents in my view an overly negative view; it is heavily influenced by Rambam's denigrating attitude to sexuality...suddenly we see no sign of the kabbalistic outlook on which the whole purpose of marriage was up till now based!. (I am referring to the introductory sections, the later sections are not as negative)

The section on the status of nidah in which you discuss why nidah is not unclean or a taboo only deals with prohibition on sexual intercourse, but the idea that nidah = unclean comes from the laws of tumah v'tahara. I don't think tumat nidah is a taboo, either, but for this section to work, it either has to avoid references to uncleanliness or deal with the issue more forthrightly.

In section on sheilat chacham it would be preferable to outline acceptable/unacceptable colors and then refer to asking rabbis. As it is you are heavy on emphasis on why no one should be embarrassed to show maarehs to rabbis, but light on actual information. It is also in my experience relatively uncommon to show undergarments (as opposed to bedikas themselves) though it's a staple of skeptical jokes/digs. I think this section could be written a bit more clinically and should either provide more, or a tad less, information.

The way you deal with chupat nidah is odd. Ashkenazim accept chupat nidah (the couple may wish to avoid them, but they certainly happen). I thought sefardim did too, though they may be more reluctant to hold them(?). I imagine that in dealing with an otherwise unobservant couple, it might be most practical to avoid chupat nidah to ensure the couple behaves halachically at least up to and immediately after the wedding (you stated something like this in a comment), but it is misleading to write as though the wedding cannot halachically be held when the bride is a nida. (You soften it towards the end of the paragraph, but the whole section is a bit unfortunate. Not all brides will be OK with - or medical candidates for - going on the pill, and I think it is wrong to write as though it were some kind of imperative that she "take care" of not being nida. The wedding is scheduled, and she makes the best calculation she can, and that's it - that's how it was done for thousands of years, and a bride can nowadays go on the pill if she wants, that's her perogative. (Actually, some rabbis counsel against it as they are opposed to taking on even low-level medical risk.) I don't understand how you can toss this out as a requirement.

In any case, this sentence ""brides are preferably expected to have completed their state of nida" and even worse, "a bride should attempt to have her period begin.." could only have been written by a man! You make it sound as though you think menstrual cycles are under the woman's control, and the bride should just do what she needs to do to do as expected....I am sure this is unwitting, but it comes across as though women's cycles are something they should just "manage" on demand.
Writing about hargasha making women nida can be confusing - you will want to elaborate (most women today do not seem to have hargasha)
there doesn't seem to be a consistent pattern to when you provide detail and when you don't, e.g. suddenly a woman is consulted to explain what a hefsek tahara is. If a competent woman can describe it orally, why can't the professional rabbis who pasken on maarehs describe it in writing?

You state several times that mikveh can only be done at night, and though that is the general rule, it should be stated more precisely as there are exceptions, particularly for brides.

In the final note, you write that "in ancient times" women bled from the uterus as a result of intercourse - what do you think was different in ancient times than today? (It seems that after the first sentence, you can skip the rest of the first paragraph here entirely and move to the next.)

In the section on haircovering, I thought the bit on brides not being the center of attention and not dressing to attract attention, was overly much. Brides dressing up is every bit as much a jewish custom as a gentile one, and while it's true the laws of modesty are not foregone, it's not true that the bride is meant to 'downplay' her sexuality on this occasion; if anything, it's one time other men are permitted to look at a woman to praise her to the chatan. A wedding is not a time to downplay attractiveness - if a bride says that she feels the wedding is a spiritual occasion to (as you put it) "Transcend the superficial and materialistic" and doesn't care much how she looks, you should be very worried! It is natural for her to want to look desirable to her chatan and not only is there nothing wrong with that, we encourage that. That is how ancient customs of giving jewelry etc to brides evolved. I realize that you are focusing on sultriness and sexuality and whatnot, but you sound overly concerned with other men and the kallah, when the wedding is the time to focus on being mechavev the kallah to the chatan, including his seeing her as attractive.

I am also not clear on why hair covering gets mentioned and not other laws, such as lighting shabbat candles (is the assumption that they have been lighting them until now?)

The themes I took away:
1. the goal of Judaism is to develop wisdom (philosophical rishonim)
2. women are not abstract thinkers, and their role is to help men who pursue wisdom with the practicalities of life (kabbalists)
3. sex is a distraction from the pursuit of wisdom - a human need, but one that should be minimized (rambam etc)
4. in addition to helping the abstract thinking men deal with the practical drudgery, women should be modest, and brides should not look too alluring. (oz vehadar levusha)

I hope this is not really your view of things!

Though it probably sounds otherwise, I am something of a fan of yours from XGH's blog and think you are doing a great and patient job there! I also may not be familiar with the audience for whom this is intended (i don't think it will work well for skeptical/more feminist oriented types). But if I would launch a general criticism, it's that you give what seem to be rationales for things that are divorced from the textual sources and are a bit overinclined to abstractions that don't fit the sources tightly.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...


Thank you very much for your well-thought-out feedback. I appreciate your candor. Believe it or not, much of what you say dovetails with my own view of the paper.

As I mentioned in earlier comments, this compendium was written 7 years ago to deal with a very specific circumstance. To a great extent, the unevenness of the treatment of various topics is a result of this fact - I emphasized and elaborated upon issues that I believed were particularly relevant to the couple in question. I had them in mind as I composed it. I fully agree that this is a defect of the presentation that must be corrected.

Furthermore, because Shoshanat Yaaqov was written 7 years ago, it represents my thinking at an earlier stage of personal development. There are many formulations that I would now wish to refine or even drastically change.

Reading your comments, I thought one point you made really hit the nail on the head - the tone of much of the paper is unduly apologetic and can sound condescending at times. This is perhaps the aspect of Shoshanat Yaaqov that bothers me the most and that needs to be fundamentally reworked. It is probably a reflection of my youthful overzealousness. Thank you for formulating this so crisply.

In terms of some of your specific critiques:

The concept that men and women have different strengths is certainly present in Judaism. Men and women are not identical. Eshet Hayil is a prooftext for much of my approach, although there are many, many statements in Hazal that support it as well.

At the same time, based on your impressions, maybe I failed to clarify that both men and women have the ultimate objective of knowledge, love and fear of God. They complement one another in this quest by pooling their unique talents, but the goal is the same. I did not mean to imply that women are there to serve men and allow their husbands to learn. This is not my philosophy at all.

In fact, I am very, very far from subscribing to that view, so much so that I considered removing the part about differences between men and women altogether. The lines of demarcation no longer seem as clear cut to me.

You are not the first person to critique the "negative attitude" toward sexuality that the paper seems to evince. My brother-in-law made comments to me to that effect via a private email communication.

I believe this element in the paper was largely the result of "overcorrection" on my part; I was trying to communicate the transcendent values of Judaism to a secular couple who did not need much encouragement to express their sexuality.

At the same time, I have never hidden the fact that I am a Maimonidean in outlook. My view of sexuality is that it is a wonderful part of life, something that should be enjoyed without any shame, but certainly not the ultimate goal of our existence. I don't see any spiritual symbolism in sexual union as per Qabbala. But I agree that I should emphasize the positive dimensions of sexuality more in the revised version of the paper, and I already have specific ideas of how to accomplish that.

Keep in mind that, since it was initially conceived as an informal composition, being explicitly rooted in textual sources was not one of my goals when I wrote the paper. Be that as it may, I believe that Shoshanat Yaaqov is well grounded in Jewish philosophical and halachic literature throughout.

Many of the other issues you raise, such as the concept of using Birth Control to regulate, the inadmissibility of Huppat Niddah, etc., are related to the case of the couple to whom Shoshanat Yaaqov was originally addressed. I agree that they should be corrected and/or deleted from the text, as need be.

I hear your points about certain turns of phrase that seem inappropriate, inconsistent or off-base. I will take them into account as I edit the work.

Finally, regarding haircovering and alluring brides:

I added the haircovering piece because it is a mitsvah that begins upon marriage, and is essentially tied to marriage according to most authorities.

I have already acknowledged that the entire concluding section about modesty must be rewritten. But as a Rabbi who has officiated and attended many weddings, I think that a distinction must be made between a bride looking beautiful and desirable and a bride advertising her sexuality.

The definition of modesty is not drawing attention to oneself for attention's sake. This applies both to men and women. Haircovering is just a particular application of this general principle.

There are times when it is appropriate to attract attention, but even then there are limits. Men leering at a scantily clad bride is not within the bounds of halacha.

Again, let me thank you for your candid and forthright critique. I will do my best to take your insights into account as I revise Shoshanat Yaaqov.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever update this like suggested in the comments? If so where could I find your most recent edition?

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

I revised it in 2008, I believe that revision incorporated many of the points raised here, but I would need to revisit it and check...the link should lead to the revised version.

Rabbi Joshua Maroof said...

Please do let me know if you find that some necessary corrections were overlooked!