Sunday, December 24, 2006


Excerpt from the Breslov Customs and Practices:

In the Ukraine and in Eretz Yisrael, nittel was observed in January. However, it is not clear if this applies to countries in which the prevailing practice is to observe nittel in December. Therefore, today’s Breslover Chassidim follow different customs on this issue.


At December 24, 2006 at 11:17:00 PM EST, Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Eastern Ukrainians and Russians belong to the Orthodox Church which celebrates Christmas in January.

At December 25, 2006 at 2:03:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so which are you doing ASJ?

At December 25, 2006 at 3:38:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Seems to me that "observing" Nittel just gives more koach to the Sitra Achra, not the reverse! Especially here in Artzeinu HaKedosha, why do we have to be concerned with this????

At December 25, 2006 at 7:30:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

"Observing" Nittel is a minhag from the old country that I don't keep. [and for the record, I learned Torah last night].

Personally, I think it was meant for that time and place when the church was the main advesary. Today, it is certainly clear that Yishmael has taken this role [with the exception of the current struggle for the kever of David HaMelech on Mt. Zion].

If I "observed" Nittel in January most similarily to how they did it in my family's shtetl, I would be doing it in January - yet, by doing such, that would make absolutely no sense in the United States where the date is in December.

There are many precious minhagim from the old country that are important to keep. My contention is that this is not one of them.

Yitz: I agree with you.

At December 25, 2006 at 10:53:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Seems to me that "observing" Nittel just gives more koach to the Sitra Achra,
> not the reverse! Especially here in Artzeinu HaKedosha, why do we have to be
> concerned with this????

Don't jump to conclusions where you can't judge correctly. Don't forget where the klipo of the oysoy ish started. Most chasidim who know about this issue are careful about it even in Eretz Yisroel.

At December 25, 2006 at 10:56:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nittul shouldn't be just thrown out with yesterdays garbage. I advise that people not simply disregard things that they may not understand - the better route would be to seek direction from those who are really knowledgeable.
The langauge that many Chassidic Rebbes used about people who learn during nittul is VERY strong.

At December 25, 2006 at 11:00:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> that would make absolutely no sense in the United States where the date is in December

Not so simple. Nittl in itself is also connected with the tkufo. And it has fixed times according to solar cycle. Tkufo is a bad time as is known al pi Kabolo (zman hisgabrus haklipoys). Bney Yisoschor speaks more about klipas oyreyv ("the klipo of the raven") connected with the nittl. See in his sforim for more details. This subject is not as simple as it seems.

At December 25, 2006 at 11:02:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with Chabakuk Elisha.

At December 25, 2006 at 11:58:00 AM EST, Blogger Akiva said...

Chabad chassidim also follow this custom. It's unclear to me whether Chabad hails from areas that were Russian Orthodox (which would focus them on the January date), however in chutz l'aaretz they follow the December date. (It would be an interesting query to the current Chabad chassidim in Russia to determine which they follow, maybe I'll see if I can get an email address and ask.)

Nowadays in Eretz Yisroel, I did not see this custom being practiced among the Chabad nor the Tzanz chassidim. Not only was it not being practiced, but they were pretty much unaware of either the custom or the non-Jewish event-dates. (The latter probably being the reason for the former.)

At December 25, 2006 at 12:24:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the way this works is that the key issue is tekufas teves (mazal Eisav (=edom=christianity), din, etc), and that the day that the enemies of Klal Yisroel established is the day that is kept. So, in regions that the dominant denominations of christianity keep Dec 25, we keep Nittul on that day - and in countried that keep a different day, then Nittul would be kept then.
And like many things, there are both practical and spiritual reasons for this.
I do not know, but it is possible that in prodemenantly non-christian counries it would not apply in the same way - but I would certainly check with knowledgeable authorities first.
I am surprised that Akiva said Lubavitchers in Israel are not familiar with this minhag - Lubavitcher Rabbeim took nittul VERY seriously, and there are a number of quotes about it.

At December 25, 2006 at 12:32:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your parenthetic suggestion is probably themost likely explanation. There is a known photograph of Lubavitch rebaim playing chess together, which used to be the standard Chabad occupation on Nittel.

As to *why* today's Israeli Chabadniks are unaware/unobservant of all this, someone else will need to explain - it was a familiar subject in my times in Kfar Chabad.

At December 25, 2006 at 2:20:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha and A Yid: I am not so closed-minded as to claim that I am always correct about things. Perhaps I am even 100% on this.

My challenge to you is to provide source texts in English that support your claim that this has relevance to us in the 21st century and how ignoring "nittel" is not the correct approach to take.

I will take a look and if I am wrong I will say in unequivocally in a posting on this blog.

At December 25, 2006 at 2:24:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

I meant "Perhaps I am even 100% WRONG on this."

At December 25, 2006 at 2:34:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

IY"H I will get you a list; I just need to make the time to do the research.

However, this minhag - shared by all Chassidim - is indisputable. So, I would think that the burden off proof should be placed on those who feel that this minhag isn't relevant anymore... Is there any basis for that claim?

There was once a priest who asked a certain Rebbe (for some reason I think it was the Noam Elimelech, but I really don’t remember for sure which Tzaddik it was), that since Jews claim that the word only exists in the merit of Torah study, than shouldn’t the world end on nittul if Jews don’t learn?
The Tzaddik replied: “Minhag Yisroel Torah Hi (A Jewish custom IS Torah), so it is only by keeping the minhag of not learning on nittul that the world is sustained through the night…

At December 25, 2006 at 2:41:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

My claim is this ...I will accept the contention that it IS relevant if someone can educate me with sources rather than simple statments that everyone still does it.

I saying that I am uneducated on this topic and want more real information before I do anything differently than I am doing now.

Doesn't that make sense?

At December 25, 2006 at 3:02:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, this is the problem:

In cases where the origin of some practice is questionable, then I can relate to your position. However, we must always have a basis to discontinue something that we know has legitimate origins. Otherwise, it’s sheer chaos with everyone picking and choosing whatever they want.
I know a woman who decided that she will not keep the second day of Yom Tov, because it’s no longer relevant. This attitude is a problem.

I would feel fine with someone who seeks to establish if this needs to be continued. However, until it's confirmed as no longer necessary, I seriously think that that person should continue to keep it. Would it make sense to open the door on a plane in flight because we think it's fine, without first making sure that it's ok?

At December 25, 2006 at 3:10:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

avakesh said...
In Square they observe both Nittels.

I highly doubt that in Square that comes from the Ukraine where the church was Russian Orthodox and they have a very strong emphasis on preserving minhogim they should observe any thing but the Russian Orthodox Nittel

At December 25, 2006 at 3:17:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Chabakuk Elisha: I am sort of a tinok shenishba when it comes to nittel. I have never observed it, so one cannot claim that I have thrown this practice away.

I was just taking a look through the books on my bookshelf and I could not find any information on it.

Can you blame me for treating it in such a fashion if I have no information about? Can I expected to have your appreciation for its significance?

Also, do you hold it by the December or the Janurary dates? (and the follow-up question....why?)

At December 25, 2006 at 3:19:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ASJ: I see no need to PROVE that a certain established minhog HAS TO BE practiced. If someone has complaints, that it is against halocho, and is incorrect - he is to prove his statement. Statements about "irrelevant" can't be made by just anyone. Maskilim used to do it. If you claim its irrelevant, you'll have to prove that the reason behind it is over. How are you going to do it? As of the reasons for this minhog, I said before - they are connected with klipas oyreyv. I doubt there are English sources about it.

At December 25, 2006 at 3:27:00 PM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

A Yid: I am not asking you to prove that it needs to be practiced, I am asking you to "prove" the importance of this minhag amongst Chassidim by providing quotes from Chassidic rebbes on its importance (preferably translated into English for the benefit of the readers).

I have great confidence that you and Chabakuk Elisha know what you are talking about, but like I said in the comment above, I have NO information on it and hence can't be expected to change my thinking until I am shown otherwise.

At December 25, 2006 at 11:48:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The Komarno Rebbe has something about it, if I remember correctly. Not sure where to look. Maybe Bnei Yissaschar, too. But there should be some scholarly articles with marei mekomos in B'Ohr HaChassidus or a similar journal that would give you something in "black and white."

The Chasam Sofer takes a more rationalist position, explaining that going to the Beis Medrash and even staying up and learning at home by candle-light was to take one's life in one's hands, and that's how the minhag got started. One might be discovered as not following the "god of love," and therefore suffer dire consequences!

However, others relate the minhag to the klippah of tekufas Teves, as "A Yid" mentioned above.

At December 26, 2006 at 3:25:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

Smashed Hat wrote: The Chasam Sofer takes a more rationalist position, explaining that going to the Beis Medrash and even staying up and learning at home by candle-light was to take one's life in one's hands, and that's how the minhag got started. One might be discovered as not following the "god of love," and therefore suffer dire consequences!
This is the reason for my comment above. The rational reason for this minhag is not very applicable in our times, except perhaps in parts of Russia, and maybe somewhere else. As to the mystical, I'm with ASJ - if I don't have this b'mesora, why do I have to start now? So far, no one here has convinced ASJ or myself to keep this custom. That said, I am not telling others to "throw it away" either.

At December 26, 2006 at 9:30:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I poked around a little last night, but unfortunately I don’t have the right sefer to do this properly (Nittei Gavriel discusses this at length – but neither I, my shul, or my friends, have it). Most of the places that I found that touch on the issue don’t speak about Nittul directly (from the Latin NATAL – birthday – BTW), and I suspect that were censors and the Church to consider.
When explaining this custom I see that the explanations are guarded and vague, as if the Tzaddikim do not wish to discuss them openly altogether. Furthermore, I don’t know if it will be even possible to find much in English, for obvious reasons.

But, I did find the minhag discussed in a couple places [paraphrasing]:

Sefer “Minhag Yisroel Torah Hi” compiled by R’ Yosef Lowey (a Satmarer Chossid and rov (with haskomos from Satmar, Rav Wosner, and R’ Arye Freund) Vol 1 page 261:

He notes that among Ashkenazim the date that Nittul is kept is Dec 25 (based on the Julian calendar), while in Poland the chassidim kept the (more accurate birthday) Jan 7th date (Gregorian calendar).

The minhag is an old one and it is cited in Trumas Hadeshen (Siman 195). In sefer Otzar Yad haChaim (ois # 88) he writes that he saw the minhag mentioned in an old manuscript.

Sefer Taamei Minhagim states the minhag and gives the practical reason for it – because of the danger of Anti-Semitic attacks there was a gezeira enacted to forbid learning at this time.

The Chasam Sofer takes a different approach and he writes: I did not receive an explanation for this matter, but because the nations pray and involve themselves in religious service on this evening, there is judgment against Klal Yosroel, therefore we decreed that Jews go to bed early and arise at midnight to study while the nations pray. This adds to the merits of the Jewish people and reverses the judgments that are created by the prayers of those who oppose Klal Yisroel.

The Arugos Habosem (Parshas Shemos) quotes the Shinover Rov who says “Eis laasos Hashem heifiru Torasecha” is the numerical equivalent to “Zu sheah shetekufas Teves nofeles bo” (isn’t that neat?!)

In sefer Mishmeres Shalom (Koidinov) (27:3) he writes that should Nittul fall on Shabbos it is permitted to study, but most authorities disagree (see sefer Hadras Kodesh P. 47)

In sefer “Siach Sarfei Kodesh (#522) the story (that I mentioned earlier) of the priest who questioned the Rabbi is found. The story was with R’ Yonason Eibishitz.

Minchas Elazar’s sefer “Darkei Chaim V’Shalom” (P. 326, # 824 & 825):

The Minchas Elazar takes the position that Nittul should be kept on the date that the Orthodox Church takes since it is more accurate (Jan 7, not Dec 25), and that on that day one should not study until midnight. The Darkei Teshuva would not take kvitlach or give brochos at this time, but after midnight he would do so for hours.
He also cites sefer “Zecher Tzaddik Livrocha” regarding the concern that husbands and wives should sleep separately on that night, at east until after midnight.

Then the Minchas Elazar quotes his grandfather the Bnei Yisaschar (of Dinov):

Yeshu (spelled Yud, Shin, Vav) is the klippa of the raven (Eyin Vav Reish Veis), and his name are the first letters of the verse “Venahu Shem Hashem (He uses the name of G-d)” we combine the letters for a total of Shaa”r Pa”ch (588) which is the Hound (see sefer Yalkut Reuvaini, Beraishis). And, the Bnei Yisaschar continues, I heard from “Maggidei Emes” about episodes regarding dogs on this day, and of dogs breaking into homes. This custom not to learn on this night is a minhag Yisroel and is therefore Torah (Minhag Yisroel Torah Hi).

The Minchas Elazar goes on to say, I heard from my master (I assume the Darkei Tshuva) about a certain Tzaddik who lived in the Bnei Yisaschar’s generation, and who’s works we learn today, that one he was studying with great deveikus and ended up learning once on Nittul in his way, when a dog entered his house. From that point on he was very careful about this custom, and out of respect for G-d’s honor this matter is hidden.

There is also more discussion to be found about the month of Teves and Dogs, ravens and klippos, but it has little direct connection to Nittul per-se.

And he touches on this matter in sefer “Divrei Torah” as well (P. 209 – Sec 2 #45).

Chodesh Teves is the month when the chitzonim are misgaber and klippos are empowered (Teves & Shvat parallel Tammuz & Av that are similarly “high risk” times of the year) and it is important to be extra cautious during this time… Even if one doesn’t see this, his “Mazal” does… At this time the klippos attach themselves and gain sustenance…

He gives the night of Nittul the status of a pagan holiday, and as the most significant day in the year for the descendants of Eisav – Edom (Amalek) – who are the predominant rulers of the countries we find ourselves. (Obviously in nations that are not from Eisav and thus not christian conutries this kluppa is not a danger.)

In Lubavitcher seforim, Otzar Minhagim Vehoaraos, (Yoreh Deach, P. 58) & Shaarei Halacha Uminhag (Yorei Deah #64-67) I see that:

1. According to other authorities (not the Minchas Elazar above) Nittul depends on the day that the dominant denomination in the region celebrates. The old Satmar Rav also applied this status to Halloween, and for this reason they do not let children out on Halloween night (to which the Lubavitcher Rebbe agreed with him, but mentioned that since Halloween did not exist in Russia they have no inherited custom).

2. In non-christian countries (such as Israel) there is no Nittul – just as the halacha is that if you live in place where the majority does not practice Avoda Zara we need not worry about many halachos pertaining to idol worship (me: perhaps a case could be made that in the USA where we have separation of church & state it might not be the same as other Christian countries?), but just like we are obligated maintain the halachos of yayin nesech when it is not as relevant today, so too we should keep this custom of Nittul for this one night a year until midnight.

3. As to the question of how we can decree against learning Torah, and how can Torah have negative consequences, we can understand this based on the negative consequences that exist for someone who learns Torah on Tisha B’Av or while in mourning, etc…
Also see Hilchos Talmud Torah Chapter 4, Sif 3.

At December 26, 2006 at 1:34:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

CE: Thanks. I saw that before about klipas oyreyv from Bney Yissoschor, but I couldn't find the exact place.


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