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Ask the Rabbi - 260

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Ask the Rabbi

25 December 1999; Issue #260

Words From The Heart


Carol Conaway wrote via the Internet:

Dear Rabbi,

While on a plane from Boston to Philadelphia two weeks ago, I happened to look at the cover of the book the man seated next to me was reading. On the back cover of the book, the following quotation appeared: "Words written from the heart, enter the heart." As a scholar and professor, I was very moved by the quotation and wrote it down for my own keeping. The quote was attributed to "The Sages."

I would like to ask: Where do these words appear in the vast writings of The Sages? I would be very grateful if you could find the time to provide me with an exact reference so that I might consult the entire text and see in what context the statement was made.

Dear Dr. Carol B. Conaway,

"Words which emanate from the heart, enter the heart" is sometimes quoted in the name of "the Sages," meaning that it is from the Mishnah, Talmud or Midrash. But the truth is that the source for this phrase is a bit of a mystery! Although it has indeed become an accepted Jewish teaching, it does not seem to appear in any of the above mentioned sources!

I've seen it advanced that "Words which emanate from the heart, enter the heart" is a paraphrase of the statement in the Talmud that "Anyone who has fear of Heaven, his words will be heard and accepted." I personally don't see this as being the correct source, as it doesn't speak about the sincerity of the words which "emanate from the heart."

I would like to propose that the phrase is an application of the principle taught by King Solomon in Proverbs: "As water [reflecting] the face is to the face, so a man's heart is to [his fellow] man." Meaning that the human heart intuits the emotions of others, and thus if one speaks with an open heart, the heart of the listener will be open as well.

In the late 1800's Poland issued a ban against shechita (ritual slaughter of animals). It is told that Rabbi Yisrael Meyer Kagan, the Chafetz Chaim, came before the Polish officials to plead for the rescinding of this decree which would cause tremendous hardship for Poland's Jews. The Chafetz Chaim pleaded passionately, in Yiddish. When he'd finished and the translator began translating into Polish, the official said, "Stop. You don't need to translate." He was so moved by the Chafetz Chaim's words, even though he hadn't understood them, that he agreed to do all he could to help rescind the decree.


  • Tractate Berachot 6b
  • Proverbs 27:19, see Metzudot David

Going Up?


Suzanne from Arizona wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Can you tell me what it means to "make aliyah"?

Dear Suzanne,

"Making aliyah" means "going to the Land of Israel." In the Talmud and the Bible, travel to the Land of Israel is always referred to as "going up" since it is a holier place. In today's speech, "making aliyah" has come to mean actually moving to the Land and becoming a citizen here.

Hence in Modern Hebrew "going down" refers to someone who leaves Israel to live elsewhere.

The story is told of an Israeli in difficult financial straits who thinks he might do better in the US. When he announces his plans to go to Los Angeles, all his friends ask, "Are you ‘going down?'" "No! No!" he replies, "I'm just going there to make some money. Then I'll come back to Israel."

In LA he gets a job as an elevator operator. The first day on the job, he rides the elevator up to the tenth floor, opens the door, and a bunch of people cram in. "Going down?" he asks. "No! No!" they reply, "We're just here to make some money. Then we'll go back to Israel."

Yiddle Riddle


Last week we asked: With everyone focused on the "Year 2000" computer bug, not much attention is being given to the "Year 2100" Prayer Book bug. The year 2100 marks a change which will make almost every current English siddur (Jewish Prayer Book) outdated, and require that they be changed. What is the "Year 2100" Prayer Book bug?

Answer: In the silent amidah prayer, the words "give dew and rain for a blessing" are added during the winter. The people outside Israel begin saying these words on December 4th, and once every four years they begin a day later, on December 5th. These dates are based on the Talmudic calculation of "winter" as beginning a specified period of time after the fall equinox, and are corrected every four years by adding a day — just as the civil calendar adds an extra day every four years. (This correction is necessary due to the length of the solar year being approximately 365 ¼ days. After 4 years, the extra ¼ of a day adds up to a full day).

However, the civil calendar "skips" one leap year at the turn of every century (Y2K happens to be one of the exceptions to this). So, in the year 2100, the civil calendar will "skip" a leap year, but the Jewish calculation of the onset of winter will not change. Hence, the current prayer books which say to add "give dew and rain for a blessing" starting the 4th (or 5th) of December would in that year need to be changed to say the 5th (or 6th) of December.

The above is theoretical, as it could be affected by various factors, such as the reinstitution of the Sanhedrin (Supreme Torah Court). Anyone who has any doubts regarding actual practice should email us 100 years from now.

  • See "Festivals in Halacha," Rabbi S.Y. Zevin, Vol. II "Hashe'elah" p.42

The Public Domain
Comments, quibbles, and reactions concerning previous "Ask-the-Rabbi" features.


Re: Czechs in the Mail:

Greetings from the Czech Republic. I read every week Ohr Somayach's Ask the Rabbi issue and always share it with my friends. It helps me a lot in studies, answers my questions clearly. Thank you very much!

(Marketa Rubesova, Czech Republic)

Re: Talking Turkey (Ask the Rabbi #255):

Regarding the reader's comment: "How can Jews celebrate a non-Jewish holiday (Thanksgiving)." Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Its purpose is to thank whomever every American chooses to thank for having a country such as America. A country where Jews can live free from daily fear of persecution. A country where the constitution protects us with freedom of speech, press and religion. The safest country, except for Israel, for Jews to reside in. It is not perfect here but it is better than most other countries on the globe. To anyone who does not believe in thanking Hashem for this country my response is: "Leave. Go live in any country in Europe your forebears came from and see how difficult it can be without the security of America."

I take Thanksgiving very seriously. Without this country most of us would not be alive today.

(Elana Heitlinger, Ridgefield Park, NJ)

Regarding the Jews eating Turkey on Thanksgiving: Many of Columbus' crew were Jewish "Marranos." Among them was his translator, who was conversant in a number of languages. When Columbus landed in North America, many on the crew actually thought he had successfully reached India. Among the items discovered was a turkey, indigenous to North America but unknown in Europe. The translator assumed that the turkey was a native chicken of India and hence referred to it as "tarnagol Hodu," the "chicken of India." The name stuck.

Re: Midnight Rabbi:

I'm so glad to be on your mailing list. And that I can really ask the Rabbi. It's nice to be able to ask questions even if it's two o'clock in the morning. What again is the email address for "Ask the Rabbi," so I can put it in my address book? Again thanks for being here. Sincerely,

Dear Deborah,

Thanks for your nice message! Ohr Somayach's "Ask the Rabbi" address is

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