Sunday, January 08, 2006

Jerusalem Compass and the Rambam

A little while ago a new product was introduced to the world The Incredible Jerusalem Compass. This amazing product seems to "defy nature" and always point to Jerusalem so you can find your way home. How cute.

This device, however, is a farce. You can't defy the laws of nature. I have this mental image of Rambam rolling over in his grave, going to the local Seforim Store, buying a copy of
Sefer Mada and smacking some one on the backside of their head. It is products like this and people who believe that this could work that allows Karl Marx to assert that "religion is the opiate of the masses".

Let it not be said that one does not need to face Jerusalem to daven. I once asked a student why we face Jerusalem, she replied "because our prayers need to go there before they can be heard by HaShem". This same student believed that we use Hebrew because G-d only understood Hebrew; needless to say these errors were rectified immediately.


Anonymous said...

What is your problem. You yourself said that it "seems" to defy the laws of nature. Of course "defying" the laws of nature is ad copy, to bring attention to the fact that this product is unusual.
As far as which way to face when praying, you may wish to look into the shulchan Aruch, Mishnah Brurah, Siman 94. These are the sources we observant Jews use today in order to learn halachah.
Most probably the holy Ramabam would have been just as pleased as the great Rabbis who personally saw this new device, and understood how it would help the Jewish nation to fulfill the mitzvah of prayer in a better way.To pray in "any" direction is only done when we don't have the means to know the proper direction. This is what is taught in the Shulchan Aruch.

Natan said...

I understand the chiyuv to face Eretz-Yisrael when davening. But this product does not help one when attempting to daven. It only works on the East Coast of the US. In most of Europe it should point East South East but it does not; it points East.

Why? Because it's a normal compass marketed to Jews who believe that such a device could work. That you could sprinkle holy water on an object and it could magically tell you which way to daven. If it worked the way it's marketed it should point exactly to Beit Kodshi HaKodshim (as the mechaber calls Har Habayit in the SA - yes I read it too).

A better invention would be to get a GPS watch and program in Yerushalyim's coordinates and then it will actually tell you the direction to daven.

My point about the "Let it not be said that one does not need to face Jerusalem to daven" as more about the story that followed: that your prayers do not travel to Jerusalem before they reach Hashem.

Anonymous said...

Dear Natan,

I see that you obviously do not, nor have you ever seen this compass.
It points to Jerusalem from anywhere in the world. It does not point East.This means that if in Australia, it points somewhat North-West.
I can't understand how someone can comment on something they personally have never seen. Haven't you read the other blogs. People have already purchased it, and admitted that it works.

When one daven's, the prayers travel from the diaspora, to Israel, to jerusalem, the the place of the Mikdash, to the Holy of holies, to the paroches, and then from there, everyones prayers go up

You should be very careful not to comment on things that you do not understand, including Halachah

Natan said...

I have seen the compass and it does not even point towards Yerushalyim. It works off a normal compass and pointed to what is magnetic East.
This was my experience with the compass, and as far as I can tell it could not work anywhere else. If you've got a non-biased source, please post.

It seems from normative practice that one does not need to face Mizrach if its inconvenient. Such as shuls that were not built to be shuls, etc. A Rav this past shabbos said that even in Europe where they knew which way Yerushalyim was they were still supposed to face Mizrach.

When one daven's, the prayers travel from the diaspora, to Israel, to jerusalem, the the place of the Mikdash, to the Holy of holies, to the paroches, and then from there, everyones prayers go up

Please provide a source for this. That was never my understanding of the way berachot work.

This is my blog, you do not have to read it. We are all students and we all are continuously learning - such is the purpose of my blog. If you've got an issue, I will not take you very seriously as "annonymous" - so choose a name and we'll talk.

avi said...

Dear Natan,

I agree with you that we are all students, and here to learn, so therefore I will continue to write, and also give you my name.
Firstly, that which I mentioned that all of the prayers go to, Israel, and then Jerusalem, and then to the Makom Hamikdash, etc, and only then, do they go up , is brought down by a Rishon in the sefer Shaare Orah. The Shlah Hakodesh, and also the B'nai Yissachar quote this from the Shaare Orah. The vilna Gaon said that everyone should learn this sefer.
The Shaare Orah himself brings this down from Melachim, in the name of Shlomo Hamelech. He says, that when Am Yisroel is in the diaspora, because of the U'mote Ha'olam, and the influence of the U'mote Ha"olam, the teffilot can not go up from there, etc.They must come to Israel, Jerusalem, the makome hamikdash etc.
Secondly, I think that maybe you misunderstood this Rav that you heard speaking about Europe, Maybe what he meant was that when everyone together is facing in the "wrong" direction, because the shul was built that way, they should continue to face together, (i.e. their bodies) towards the Ark, but if we continue in the halacha, we will see that all of the Acharonim agree, (as stated in Mishnah Brurah), that we should turn our heads, (not bodies) towards Jerusalem. We are not permitted to argue with these Acharonim.
Lastly, I have a friend who used this compass in China, and the needle did turn North-West (not East) towards Jerusalem.
wishing you success.

Natan said...

Thank you for posting your name. I'm sorry if I came across a little harsh in the previous response - it was not intentional.

My gripe is not so much with the chiyuv to face Yerushalyim (or even if tefillot go there - thanks for the sources, I'll check it out) but whether this device actually works.

I've been doing some research, and according to the research that other bloggers have done it seems to me that this "novelty" item can be configured to work anywhere.

Check them out, they include some ideas that may be of interest. The fact that one needs to configure the item compells me to believe that this is not "defying the laws of nature" as the ad states but rather some sort of normal magnetized compass.

If it were more than that they would not be marketing a $25 novelty item instead they'd be selling it for millions to the military or some other outlet. That is, if it works as described.

Avi said...

I also saw what I think is all of the blogs on this topic.
In one of them, Josh Waxman told many that they should only understand that "defies nature" to be advertising. But, anyway, I saw in the blog , "at the back of the hill" he couldn't take it anymore, and finally bought one in order to report back to everyone else.
He said in the end he actually found it to be handsome, well built,and that he could see some usage to it. In the end he said," I am going to keep it". You can look there at

Natan, I hope your prayers are answered, regardless of the direction you choose to face.