See the picture above. This was Dad’s tefillin bag in an era when they looked like this. Because we share initials, I have begun using it for now. 

On the recent Chol Hamo’ed, I davened in a local Brooklyn shul that davens Nusach Aschkenaz (Artscroll) and the Baal Tefilla wars Tefillin. I spent most of Davening counting the percentage of Tefillin wearers ad it stood at about 20%. The majority of the Mispalelim were bochurim home for Yom Tov. 

I assume many of them had grandparents who did not wear Tefillin on Chol HaMoed, coming from parts of Eastern Europe where Chasidic custom was prevalent. I certainly hope that they didn’t drop the minhag themselves. (In Israel basically, the whole country sheds Tefillin on Chol HaMoed- so it could happen there.) A friend directed me to the introduction to the work dedicated to this subject written by Rabbi Binyomin Hamburger in Bnei Brak. His brother in Toronto, who encouraged him to write the sefer noticed a trend of young people dropping Tefillin on Chol HaMoed. (See here -, pg


So maybe this does go on.

Elsewhere-  I wrote about our local minhag for keeping the Sefiras Haomer according to the “second” minhag (beginning in Iyar) – with the notable exception that we do not observe the Sefira on any day that has no Tachanun. So we don’t seemingly hit the 33 days proscribed in the Poskim. See there at length.

I only want to add some meaningful context to this.

The Breuer’s Kehilla is reliably faithful to the rules of festive vs. Mournful days. Let me explain.

KAJ does not allow an Avel to the Omud on any day that has Tachanun waived. In other Shuls, this is a forgotten and stepped-upon idea. Yes, Mishna Berurah opens the door for this by quoting a Pri Megadim in Hilchos Chanukah that suggests not sending an Avel to the Amud on the first night of Chanukah since there is a Bracha of Shehecheyanu. The Pri Megadim also mentions that he refrained on other times as well when he felt the mood was especially festive. (Pri Megadim was incidentally, an 18th-century Rav of Frankfurt, and is buried there. He is also one of the most prolific and revered commentaries on Shulchan Aruch.)  Be that as it may, we follow the Minag to preclude private mourning on festive days- even very minor holidays.

Accordingly, the Kehilla has been careful not to allow Hespedim on such days. For example, at my mother’s Lavaya, Rav Gelley came to the podium and announced the Talmudic passage that t is a good omen for a person to die without a eulogy. H then called for the reciting of some Tehillim and that ended the event. 

At the same time, the kehilla is very mindful of mourning periods that require reverence. This includes the Minhag observing Bahab after Sukkos in a way that it will concur with Kristallnacht, and Bahab after Pesach in a way that it will overlap with the end of Iyar, a time of mourning in the Rhineland for the 12th-century crusades.

In the world around us, the Sefira is sometimes ignored in favor of Yom Ha-‘azma’ut celebrations, and more recently for the Yahrzeit of Rabi Shayala of Kastir. (R’ Shayale was a most beloved Tzadik and leader for Hungarian Jewry and he shares the Yahrzeit of our Rav – 3rd of Iyar. I have the greatest respect for people who faithfully mark his Yahrzeit with candles or pilgrimages-. But through the recent popularity of this Yahrzeit via internet campaigns etc. the adoption of festivities including live music is antinomian for anyone that is not Chasidic! Seek LOR!) 

Finally: I grew up watching movies. We all did. It was – as I remember it- a hard and fast rule that in the Sefira we refrained. Today, I do not engage in this pastime (with rare exceptions, at home, and something with educational value.) That said, I rarely find someone who watches movies – today- that is aware of this stringency. A quick Google search will lead you to a blog post by Gil Student- where he quotes two opinions among leaders of Modern Orthodoxy. My point is this: If you engage in something that you have not been brought up on, you may not have direction in how to engage in it. I.e. People who grew up in communities that shunned movies, have no “Hilchos Movies” to follow. This is a minor point – but it has many applications. Specifically in our global little village of Orthodox Jews- where people borrow from other communities- without direction. 

Also, a word on Rav Breuer’s Yahrzeit. I probably wrote this elsewhere, but my uncle- the Reverend A. Asher Hirsch z’l, had a shul in the Bronx. His members were not the most learned. They wanted an Eruv. Reverend Hirsch asked Rav Breuer zt’l and the Rav explained why this is not possible in New York City. My uncle suggested that some people may carry anyway- so what could be the harm? The Rav answered: “You must bring the people up to the religion, and not bring the religion down to the people!” 

When Uncle Asher made Aliyah, the Rav’s parting words to him were: “Ur’ei beTOOV Yerushalayim!” (May you see the good of Jerusalem!”   (Rav Breuer had never been to Israel, incidentally.) Several months later the Rav was Niftar. Uncle Asher passed away on the Rav’s Yahrzeit, 27 years later. 

Tefillin, Sefira, and the Rav’s Yahrzeit

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