Volume 11 Number 39
                       Produced: Mon Jan 24 22:06:08 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Authorship of Zohar
         [Michael Frankel]
Discovery Seminars
         [Ben Waldman]
Final letters in Hebrew alphabet
         [Henry Edinger]
How many sons did Haman have?
         [Goldberg Moshe]
Kiddush Clubs
         [Lawrence J. Teitelman ]
Mormonism, Avodah Zarah, and Software
         [Mike Gerver]
Zachor and Bar Mitzvah
         [Benjamin Svetitsky]


From: <FRANKEL@...> (Michael Frankel)
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 1994 13:05:33 EST
Subject: Authorship of Zohar

David Kaufmann (Vol 11#35) asked for sources of recent scholarship which
may help in verifying the traditional perspective on the authorship of
the Zohar.

I do not know of any recent activity which would come close to doing
that, and absent discovery in a Dead Sea cave of an ms of the Zohar with
R. Shimon B.  Yohai's fingerprints and accompanying voice print and
retinal scan as verified by his FBI file, I wouldn't anticipate that
happening.  However, recent seminal work by Moshe Idel has been
developing alternatives to the majesterial and widely dominant academic
legacy of the late Gershom Scholem (who held Kabbala to be a later
Jewish outgrowth in Provence from essentially alien Gnostic and
philosophical circles). Idel (Kabbala, New Perspctives, Yale U. Press,
1988, pp. 30-34 and references therein) has been developing the theme
that Kabbalistic motifs and themes are in fact quite ancient, and that
the recognized connection of Kabbala to Gnosticism actually worked in
reverse - it was the very early Jewish Kabbala which in fact infiltrated
and influenced Gnostic circles - 180 degrees from Scholem's perception.
(He also finds fault with the Scholem school's neglect of the practical,
experiential component of kabbala). Thus Idel's new approach is in fact
much closer to traditionalists in that it assumes that Kabbala is a
genuine, ancient tradition - exactly as the kabbalists themselves have
always claimed. Thus the Zohar may well reflect kabbalistic traditions
contemporaneous with R. Shimon B.  Yohai, but this is very far from
assuming that the compilation of the Zohar itself is similarly ancient,
at least from a modern scholar's perspective.

Incidentally, David refers to the traditional view of the Zohar's
authorship.  It should be pointed out there have always been
"traditional" jews who questioned the Zohar's antiquity. e.g. R. Yaacov
Emden, amongst others, was quite emphatic in his view that the Zohar was
a forgery, albeit based on some authentic, ancient foundations. Even
some of the early kabbalists themselves questioned the Zohar's
authenticity (see Scholem). Thus disagreement on this point should not
immediately consign one to the apikorus department of your local U.

Mechy Frankel                                   H: (301) 593-3949
<frankel@...>                             W:(703) 325-1277


From: <Ben_Waldman_at_NYPubFinance@...> (Ben Waldman)
Date: Sun, 23 Jan 94 20:32:43 EST
Subject: Discovery Seminars

I would like to respond to those arguing against the use of the codes
presentations in the Discovery seminars.

While I don't feel qualified to discuss the religious implications of
such a presentation, I do have a background in math and statistics, and
since my wife and I attended the Discovery seminar (and the codes
presentation), I can tell you that representations were never made to
the effect that the codes were proof of anything.  Rather, there was a
thorough discussion of the methodology of the codes and then a
discussion on the findings of the authors.  The seminar I attended was
conducted by an National Security Agency mathemetician, not a rabbi, and
the content was extremely scientific.

Now as to the question of how appropriate such a seminar is when
speaking to Jews who don't have a traditional background, I would use
the analogy of how a restaurant attracts customers.

First a restaurant entices customers with advertising showing and
describing delicious and reasonably priced food.  When the prospective
customer walks by the establishment he is further interested by the
pleasant aromas wafting out of the kitchen.  Once he walks into the
restaurant, the Captain welcomes him in with a flourish and a smile and
escorts him to the table which has been attractively set with fine china
and silver.  The waiter then describes the many mouth-watering
delicacies from which the customer can choose.  By the time the food
arrives at the table (prepared and garnished to perfection) the customer
can hardly contain his appetite as he eats his dinner.

So too is the process with introducing some Jews to Judaism.  It is not
enough to say that the codes are not "real" Judaism.  Codes can be the
aroma, the decor, the china and silver, the garnish, the anticipation.
The actual flavor and nutrition of Judaism will come later.  But first,
you have to get the customer in the door.

Ben Waldman


From: Henry Edinger <edinger@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 94 14:09:48 -0500
Subject: Final letters in Hebrew alphabet

A recent posting asked about the origins of the "final" letters in the
There is a discussion of the development of the alphabet in the Encyclopedia
Judaica but the question of the final letters kaph, mem, nun, pe, zadi is
addressed specifically in the Jewish Encyclopedia. The interesting point that
emerges is that the final letters are closer to the older forms of the script
than their counterparts that appear in the middle or beginning of words.
According to the article, there is a tendency in the development of the
Hebrew characters to give the letters such forms that whole words would be
written with as few breaks as possible. The original forms of the letters
kaph, mem, nun, pe and zadi had perpendicular lines and these lines were bent
to the left in the middle of words so as to tie them to the next letter. When
these letters stand at the end of words this bending was unnecessary. The
final letters, therefore, retained the original downward stroke. With time
the downward stroke in the final letters (lengthened considerably in the
kaph, nun, pe and zadi).

Henry Edinger
(with the assistance of Zecharia Edinger)


From: <vamosh@...> (Goldberg Moshe)
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 94 17:23:52 -0500
Subject: How many sons did Haman have?

> From: Sam Saal <SSAAL@...>    Volume 11 Number 20 
> How many sons did Haman have?
> Between 11 and 19. In the Megilla we learn that 10 were hung. In Maoz Tzur 
> we sing that "rov banav", i.e., most of them were hung. That means that 10 
> is most of, but not all of, Haman's sons.

Getting into the Purim spirit, I would say, "close, but no cigar!"
Seriously, I remember learning that the older meaning of "rov" (till a
few hundred years ago) was the equivalent of what we now mean when we
say "harbei," that is "many."  Only recently was the meaning of "rov"
changed to mean "most."

This explains the phrase in the Shabbat prayer "yishtabach" -- mehullal
berov tishbachot [exalted with many praises]. Translating the word rov
as "most" implies that for some reason there are some praises that we
don't use, which is hard to explain.

Thus, "rov banav" would mean "his many children," and is consistent with
Haman having ten sons and not more.

Sorry I don't have a source for this, it sounds like something I may
have heard from Avshalom Koor.  Can anybody help?

   Moshe Goldberg -- <vamosh@...>


From: Lawrence J. Teitelman  <csljt@...>
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 94 15:05:50 EST
Subject: Kiddush Clubs

Shlomo Katz writes 

> Regarding "Kiddush Clubs," one of the (at least) ten explanations given
> for the name "Haftarah" is that it comes from "L'hipater"-"to take 
> leave" of the morning service. Although we still have Musaf left, the
> morning service is in a sense over because whereas one cannot recite
> "Kiddush" before the Torah reading, one can do so after the Torah
> reading.  As for whether any Halachah is being violated, these people
> are at the very least missing the Haftarah reading. Most authorities
> agree that every person is obligated to hear, or even read, the Haftarah

Regarding the issue of saying kiddush before mussaf but not before Torah
reading and haftara, on the one hand, the prohibition of "lo tokhlu al
ha-dam" -- don't eat before you pray for your "blood" -- should
presumably end after shacharit as it does on every other day, and on the
other hand, in terms of the possible prohibition to eat before a
pressing religious obligation, is there a reason to distinguish between
Torah reading and mussaf? (Cf. TB Berakhot 8 and Tosafot)

What would be if the shul *officially* scheduled its kiddush before or
after laining? (This is actually done in some frum camps.) Would this
necessarily be worse than the common practice of having an early Friday
night meal (during the summer months) so that Shema at its proper time
often gets delayed until *after* the meal. (Cf. TB, Shabbat 10) In fact,
for those people who don't eat before davening, the additional wait for
laining, a derasha/speech/shiur, and mussaf is generally longer than the
wait for nightfall during most weeks of the year, and this may also
alleviate the problem of people "fasting" until chatzot on Shabbat day.
(Unlike the individual cited by the Shibbolei ha-Leket and the Agur who
experienced relief by fasting on Shabbat -- see the postings regarding
10 Tevet, many others don't.)

Some "food for thought".

Larry Teitelman


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Sun, 16 Jan 1994 3:09:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Mormonism, Avodah Zarah, and Software

Sigrid Peterson, in v10n99, asks how to determine if Mormonism is avodah zarah,
and says

> --I assume that would be the she'ela

regarding the use of their genealogy software. But I'm pretty sure that is
not the she'ela. I don't know the reasoning used by the rabbi whom I asked
about purchasing software from the Mormons (due to the narrow bandwidth of
the channel over which I got his reply -- a friend on the net who was within
a local phone call of him took a message from his wife and relayed it to me).
But I'm pretty sure that he would have assumed that Mormonism is avodah zarah.
The real question is whether software can be avodah zara, in the same sense
that a tree or a statue can. I.e. given the fact that the Mormons use the
software for avodah zarah, does that mean we can't buy it from them? Or would
that prohibition only apply, say, to a particular floppy disk that they used
for avodah zarah? Or maybe the issue is whether what the Mormons are using
the software for is directly avodah zarah. But I don't think the question
hinges on whether the Mormon religion in general is avodah zarah.

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: Benjamin Svetitsky <bqs@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 94 00:45:11 -0500
Subject: Zachor and Bar Mitzvah

Last year my synagogue in Rehovot had a bar mitzvah on Shabbat Zachor.
Rav Kook, the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, issued an interesting ruling.  A
boy reaches adulthood when physical signs (i.e., two hairs of the
"lower beard") appear after the age of 13 is reached.  Usually if a boy
is over 13 we assume that physical maturity has been reached and don't
require a physical examination.  In the case of Parashat Zachor,
however, there is an issue of whether the boy can fulfill the mitzvah
de-oraita for others by reading for them.  Noting that safek de-oraita
le-humra, Rav Kook ruled that an adult (the usual ba'al k'ria) should
read Zachor.

Two questions occur to me.  (1) Has anyone heard of this safek (i.e.,
the doubtful maturity of a 13-year-old) arising in any other context?
(2) At what age does the safek evaporate?

I heard of the ruling in a shiur and the Rav there couldn't answer these
questions; I didn't have a chance to ask Rav Kook for myself.

Ben Svetitsky         <bqs@...>


End of Volume 11 Issue 39