Volume 12 Number 59
                       Produced: Fri Apr 15  8:34:53 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Electricity & Poskim
         [Yitzchok Adlerstein]
Electricity and Heat
         [Janice Gelb]
Paul and Three "Shelo Asani Berachot"
         [Rabbi Freundel]
Shabbosdik and Electricity on Yom tov
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
Three Shelo Asani Berachos
         [Israel Botnick]


From: Yitzchok Adlerstein <ny000594@...>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 94 21:56:01 -0800
Subject: Electricity & Poskim

Many of the points in Fred Dweck's letter concern points so basic
to our understanding of the halachic process (especially at the
end), that my initial feeling was that no response was needed  for
a users' group that shared an acceptance of halacha, and usually a
non-negligle background in Torah halacha and hashkafa.  However,
the chance that he may be related to my dear talmid Joey Dweck of
LA caused me to consider whether the points that trouble Fred might
bother others as well.  Because some of these are very basic,
albeit crucially important issues, responding adequately would
require more patience than I have to peck away at a keyboard.  I
will have to make do with very brief responses, but am more than
happy to continue the conversation by voice.  ( 310-553-4478 x 276)

>...Ovadiah Yosef Shlit"a (vol 1 Question 32) brought many others
>who permit the lighting of lights on Yom Tov. Among them are:
>Shu"t "Even Yekarah", Harav Aharon Ben Shimon the chief justice of
>Egypt in Shu"t "Mizur Devash", the former Rishon Le Zion Harav
>Uziel in "Mishpete Uziel", Shu"t "Perahe Kehunah" as well as Harav
>Zvi Pesah Frank Z'l, former cheif Rabbi of Jerusalem.

Would it only be that halacha was as simple as counting heads!  OK,
there are others, besides the Aruch Hashulchan who saw arguments
for permitting electricity on Yom Tov.  I will concede that I wrote
my response from memory, rather than doing homework.  But my
conclusion holds nonetheless.  A few generations of poskim have
rejected all these arguments, so a mainstream psak is in place, at
least for those who are interested in the opinion of the majority.

<<<Rav Chaim Ozer claimed that the Aruch HaShulchan failed to
comprehend the nature of electricity.  To demonstrate this, he made
a point of making havdalah with a light bulb to publicize that he
(Rav Chaim Ozer) held that an incandescent bulb should be seen as
aish [fire] on the d'orayso [Torah] level. How come he saw fit to
do this against Rov Poskim, who hold that one is not "yosei" in
using an electric light bulb for havdalah. >>>

Simple: Rav Chaim Ozer occupied a room at the top of the halachic
pyramid.  (The Chofetz Chaim called him the Gadol Hador!)  At that
level, you can disagree.  This doesn't mean that all will follow.

<<<Besides, can anyone explain why electricity should not be
considered "Aish me aish" (fire from fire) since the one wire is
always "hot" and moving the switch only connects another wire to
the hot one,>>>

...Because halacha deals with the real, visible, significant and
palpable.  The potential energy of the "hot" wire (which is just a
name, not a measure of heat, at least not till you touch it and fry
yourself by allowing current flow) is just not seen by halacha as
an actual flame. 

<<< according to physics (which I believe is Jewish too!) light
(fire) is a part of the electro-magnetic spectrum, and therefore,
both electricity and light (the way Hashem created it) should come
under the same halachic principles. >>>

Nope! Non-sequitur, as per above.

<<<I completely agree that a light bulb is considered aish [fire]
on the d'orayta [Torah] level. >>>

That's comforting, but on what basis? Instinct?  Pure reason? 
That's not the way halacha is done!  We need proof - the kind that
a posek who knew Shas thoroughly in his TEENS like Rav Chaim Ozer
could indeed adduce to his position.

<<<However, aish me aish *is* permitted on yom tov. >>>

1)  This was precisely the point of the Aruch HaShulchan that is
rejected as a misunderstanding of electricity.  The way halacha
looks at things, there is the creation of some new commodity. 
Electricity is not merely "transfered" across a bridge.  (The idea
of creating something new in halacha often includes merely a
significant change in the way something is used or functions, not
the "creation" of new matter.  See the beginning of Beitza for some
2)  All this is irrelevant IF other prohibitions are involved in
the use of electricity, other than aish.  My original point was
that there are, at least lechatchila.  And some of these do not
become permissible on Yom Tov

<<<If I'm not mistaken, the issur of Boneh only applies when it is
"temidi" (Built to be permanent)>>>

Not true.  If I build something that can be permanent, and then
tear it down, I do not violate NO prohibitions - I violate TWO:
boneh and soser.  And even non-permanent building is prohibited
miderrabbanan.  And do you really think the Chazon Ish would miss
something as elementary as this?  He in fact considers whether
circuitry is comparable to collapsible furniture, etc., and rejects
the comparison!  (As stated in previous postings, others, such as
Rav Shlomo Zalman, disagree.)

<<<Besides, we may have a safek sefekah here, which is permitted
"lechatehilah". Safek boneh (since many poskim disagree) and safek
isur biur (prohibition of lighting a fire) (on yom tov) since it
might be considered aish me aish.>>>

No way.  Even if we were to count the second line of reasoning as
a legitimate safek (which I don't think we could, seeing its near
universal rejection by the poskim), we wouldn't have a sfek sfeka,
because a negative answer to the first safek ends the argument. 
(Or, to the cognoscenti, the sfek sfeka isn't nishapech.  See
Shach, Yoreh Deah, 101:13.  We would be well advised following the
dictum of the Shach, ibid. 101:36 not to author sfek sfekos that
are not found in the literature, owing to the complexity of the
laws governing their proper generation.)

<<<This only highlights the sad state of the Rabbinate, where
politics and fear dictate what "Klal Yisrael" are allowed (or not
allowed) to do.>>>

Wholesale calumnies against gedolei Torah need not be answered. 
Needless to say, the way people will understand or misunderstand a
psak; the preexistence of a firm custom in the community, are
factors that the gemara itself demands be taken into account by the
responsible posek.

<<<... may change with a rabbinate more well informed and better
versed in science>>>

To believe this, chas veshalom, is to destroy all confidence in
halacha.  What poskim do not know in areas outside their fields -
they ask expert opinion about, much as we ordinary people hopefully
do the same.

<<< It is also a major principle of halacha that "Ein gozrim
gezerot hadashot" (from the close of the Talmud one may not issue
new decrees); but very few rabbis seem to know THAT halacha! A very
self serving omission I would think.>>>

Self-serving?  Do you think rabbonim win friends by prohibiting
things?  Don't lenient judgments win them far more popularity?  And
do you really think you have discovered principles of the Torah
that they overlooked?

<<< Every little kid knows that there are differences between yom
tov and Shabbat, especially as concerns light.>>>

But not concerning makeh be'patish.  Or boneh (except according to
Tosfos Shabbos that it becomes a derabbanan).  Or even possibly

<<< Unfortunately, incorrect halachic rulings, based on ignorance
of the subject, or on emotion are all too common today.>>>

Correct!  But they are not coming from out gedolei haPoskim!

<<<Hashem yair eneynu be'torato" (May Hashem illuminate our eyes in
His Torah).>>>

Finally, I can agree!!!


From: <Janice.Gelb@...> (Janice Gelb)
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 19:58:38 -0400
Subject: Re: Electricity and Heat

In mail.jewish Vol. 12 #45 Digest, Jeremy Nussbaum says: 
> > From: <leah@...> (Leah S. Reingold)
> > It is a thermodynamic impossibility that electricity could be used
> > without heat production in any household machine.  [...]  Any
> > energy conversion necessarily produces heat in the form of losses, such
> > as those from friction.
> While in a strict sense heat is produced, in a halakhic sense it is
> not relevant until the temeperature is sufficiently hot.  In general,
> there is no prohibition against causing the raising the temperature of
> an object in an otherwise permitted matter until some threshold.
> Otherwise anything that causes friction (and that include all actions)
> would be prohibited.
> For certain classes of objects, the threshold is the cooking threshold.
> I don't know what other thresholds there are.

I have heard this heat threshold used in regard to a question about
being able to enter hotel rooms on Shabbat that use an electronic card
to gain access. The explanation was that the little LEDs used do not
generate sufficient heat/light to be a problem on Shabbat. This is
second-hand, though, so I'm afraid I can't provide a source.

Janice Gelb                  | (415) 336-7075     
<janiceg@...>   | "A silly message but mine own" (not Sun's!) 


From: <dialectic@...> (Rabbi Freundel)
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 94 18:01:01 EDT
Subject: Re: Paul and Three "Shelo Asani Berachot"

Freda Birnbaum writes

> In V12N47, Rabbi Freundel suggests the possibility that the three "shelo
> asani berachot" are a challenge to the statement by Paul that in
> Christianity "there is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and
> freeman, man and woman".
> It's quite possible that he's right, but that statement has always had
> the "look and feel" to me of something Paul said to directly contradict
> and contrast Christianity to Judaism, in his opinion to the detriment of
> Judaism.  I've heard enough Christians proudly use it that way.  It
> seems to me (and I don't have the scholarship to prove it) that the
> structure of the brachos was already there and Paul is being --"in our
> face" by deliberately contrasting his allegedly superior  viewpoint.

Sorry Freda but your chronology and description of Paul's polemical
objective are off. The berachot do not appear until the middle to end of
the 2nd century (see Menahot 43b) when R. Meir required that they be
said. Paul was long gone by this time (he died c. 67 c.e.). Paul's
polemic was directed against various Greek philosophers such as Socrates
who would stress these distinctions (e.g. Greek- Barbarian, slave-
freeman, man-woman) in their writings and teachings. The fact that Paul
used this polemic against the Greco -Roman world and that the Rabbis
probably knew of both the Hellenistic and Pauline usage strengthens my
suggestion that the berachot are polemical and anti-Christian not
anti-woman. Christian "superiority" in this regard is opportunistic and
inapropriate, both because of the chronology and because Paul was trying
to deny gender (and sexuality) not support women who he saw as the root
of temptation.


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 19:42:09 -0400
Subject: Shabbosdik and Electricity on Yom tov

In MJ 11:45 Fred Dwek cites the Poskim that Rav Ovadia brings down that
allowed the use of electricity on Yom Tov, but neglects to say that Rav
Ovadia Yosef himself solidly rejects their position as incorrect.

He mentions that the majority of Poskim do not allow the use of
incandascent light for Havdala. So far as I know, the opposite is true.

Finally, Mr. Dwek mentions that the concept of "Shabbosdik" is
emotional, and, hence non halachic. So far as I know, oneg Shabbos and
Simchas Yom Tov are some very Halachic emotional issues. Furthermore,
the Chazon Ish, in a chapter I've previously cited on MJ concerning
umbrellas, says that the leaders of every generation are charged with
maintaining the public sanctity and spirit of Shabbos.


From: <icb@...> (Israel Botnick)
Date: Wed, 13 Apr 94 14:25:43 EDT
Subject: Three Shelo Asani Berachos

I have a question on the theory quoted by Rabbi Freundel, that the
3 shelo asani berachos are a challenge to paul's statement
that "there is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, 
man and woman".
The source of these 3 berachos is the tosefta to masechet berachos 
chapter 6. The tosefta says that when originally instituted, the 3
berachos were shelo asani goy[gentile] shelo asani bor[ignoramus] and
shelo asani isha[woman]. In menachos 43b the gemara explains that 
shelo asani bor was deemed innapropriate (rashi there gives 2 reasons) 
so it was changed to shelo asani aved[slave]. Now if these berachos were
composed in response to paul's statement, then the original formulation
should have been shelo asani aved (corresponding to "slave and freeman"). 
The fact that it was originally shelo asani bor (and was only changed later
because it was deemed innapropriate), seems to show that these berachos were 
composed with a different motivation.

while on the topic:
Rav Yoshe Ber Soloveitchik ZT'L in his shiurim on tefilla offered an 
explanation on what these 3 berachos are about. His 2 main questions were
why the negative formulation is used, and why these 3 berachos, which were
composed much later than the other morning blessings, were put in as 
numbers 2 3 and 4 right after the bracha of hanosein lasechvi vina 
lehavchin bein yom uvein loyla [who gives the heart understanding to 
distinguish between day and night].

He explained (this is a very short synopsis of a very long shiur) that 
a major theme of the morning blessings is that of 
havdala[separation/distinction]. The beracha of hanosein lasechvi vina 
is a bracha of thanksgiving for our sense of discrimination. Specifically
for the ability to distinguish between day and night, but also for the 
ability to distinguish between good and evil, sacred and profane etc.
The 3 shelo asani berachos follow on this theme and therefore use the 
negative formulation to emphasize the contrast. And since they share the 
same theme with hanosein lasechvi vina, they were placed where they were.

Why is havdala so important? The basis of all of our decisions
is the ability to see the difference between right and wrong, good and
evil etc. We know what happens when these differences become unclear. 
Even within holy objects there is a hierarchy (the beis hamikdash is more
holy than Jerusalem, Jerusalem is more holy than the rest of eretz yisroel).
The first morning blessings thank HKBH for our senses of discrimination in
all areas and for the ability to maintain these distinctions.

Israel Botnick


End of Volume 12 Issue 59