Volume 13 Number 19
                       Produced: Fri May 20 16:59:34 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gun Control and Halakha (2)
         [Reuven Cohn, Lorri Lewis]
Haftarah from Parchment
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]
Haftorah from a Klaf
         ["Mitchell J. Schoen"]
Rambam on Astonomy
         [Alan Cooper and Tamar Frank]
Retroactive Prayer
         [Sam Juni]
Witnesses sought
         [Norman Miller]


From: Reuven Cohn <ReuvenC@...>
Date: Fri, 20 May 1994 11:37:51 -0400
Subject: Re: Gun Control and Halakha

Frank Silbermann's post about gun control in which he states that the
Torah seems to support the anti-gun control position deserves further
comment.  I have a general comment, a suggested source, and a very
specific comment.

1. General comment-I think that we need to think twice before finding in
our ancient sources proof that one particular side of a current
political debate is the correct one.  While doing so may help us cope
better with the struggles that are part of our daily lives, the method
at the same time contains within it an implicit statement that those who
espouse the opposite political view are wrong religiously.  That is a
high price to pay for a little inner security.

2. Source- a discussion of Jewish attitudes to gun control should
probably consider the gemarah in Shabbat about wearing weapons as
ornaments on Shabbat which makes reference to the passage in Isaiah
about beating swords into ploughshares.

3. Specific comment- I don't know quite how to express my reaction to
the part of the posting that makes reference to the Holocaust and to gun
control laws- purporting to find a link between the passing of gun
control laws and genocide.  Is the point that if only there had been a
good solid NRA in Poland, then I would have grown up having those
grandparents, those uncles and aunts, those cousins?  Certainly
references to the meaning and the lessons of the Holocaust have a place
in thoughtful discussion, but presumably there are some intuitive, if
not explicit, ground rules from which the discussion proceeds.

Reuven Cohn                                            

From: <lorrin@...> (Lorri Lewis)
Date: Fri, 20 May 1994 02:31:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Gun Control and Halakha

I would like to disagree with Frank Silberman.  The right to bear arms
in both Torah and the US Constitution do not refer to semi-automatic
weapons and consealable handguns.  Swords and shields and single shot
muskets are not the weapons that are threatening modern society.

Let us ban modern weapons of mass murder and allow people to arm
themselves with the weapons of the Bible and those known to the writers
of the Constitution.

Lorri Grashin Lewis
Palo Alto, California


From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Sun, 15 May 1994 12:29:57 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Haftarah from Parchment

>Now let's turn to halacha. Which is better, (1) the maftir who makes
>the brochos ACTUALLY READS the haftarah, or (2) the haftarah is read
>from a parchment?  
>David Sherman

The sociological consideration of allowing more men to participate in
the service because the haftarah is read from paper *is* apparently
influencing the halakha.  I think that without this consideration, more
synagogues would tend to follow the Mishna Berurah and Aruch ha-Shulkhan
who say the klaf is preferable.  (If their boards would allocate the

A local shul rabbi informs me that he would love to have a haftarah-klaf
written *with* the vowelization and trop (cantillation marks).  This
would solve the question. (Guess he's afraid to ask the board for the

I have another question.  What's preferable, to read the haftarah from a
klaf which has each haftarah written rather than entire books (e.g.
Joshua, Judges, etc.), or to read from paper which has the entire books?
The gemara (gitten 60) only allows the piecemeal approach because it was
expensive to write out the whole books.  (No discussion of paper there;
it's all parchment.)  The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 242?) cites Beit
Yosef (who cites Terumat ha-deshen) that "today we read haftarah from
kuntresim [i.e. paper books]" as his pesak as well.  (It's not clear to
me, and may just be ambiguous, whether a kuntres is an entire book, e.g.
Jeremiah, or contained individual haftarot.)  However Magen Avraham's
opinion is that because paper books are inexpensive (since the wonderful
invention of printing), one should read from *whole* books, not
individual haftarot.  I suspect that due to lack of information as to
what was the halachic reasoning behind the switch to paper in the first
place (no similar switch was done for Torah reading) the answer to this
question will remain ambiguous.

In sum, I'd just like to point out that in this seemingly dry halakhic
issue arise considerations of technological advances (printing),
economic considerations (the gemara's leniency, and the Mishnah
Berurah's suggestion that today we can afford parchment for haftarah),
and sociological considerations (allowing more men to participate).
Pretty interesting.

Aliza Berger 


From: "Mitchell J. Schoen" <72277.715@...>
Date: Fri, 13 May 1994 19:19:57 -0400
Subject: Haftorah from a Klaf

Several people have commented upon the practice of some minyanim to read
the Haftorah from a klaf, thus "limiting" the number of kibudim, I
suppose, as the potential number of Haftorah readers would thereby be
decreased, or "reducing" the person called as "maftir" to "just"
reciting the brachot before and after the Haftorah reading, while a
regular, practiced, ba'al koreh reads from the klaf.

I'm not sure I accept the premises here.  First, in no wise do we
consider that those who get aliyot are "reduced" by having a ba'al
koreh.  In fact, it is my understanding that since the institution of
the ba'al koreh (because of the loss of the ability of the average
person to read from the klaf), it was considered a further shame to the
kahal for one who CAN read who is called to his aliyah to read his own
aliyah when no one else can, rather, he should let the ba'al koreh read.
(I don't recall where I read this, unfortunately, but it was one of
those likutim of dinei kriat ha-Torah, perhaps one printed in one of the
various editions of the Tikkun?).  So reading from the klaf therefore,
may not be the standard for garnering respect.  Certainly the common
practice isn't to withhold a "ye'asher kochacha" from one who "merely"
got an aliyah!

But on the to issue of reading the Haftorah from the klaf.  First, the
caveat is that I daven in a "standard" community minyah, with no special
chumrot in respect to reading either the Torah or the Haftorah.

In some yeshivishe minyanim, the prevailing standard of practice is NOT
to let the Bar Mitzvah boy read Torah from the klaf.  Why?  Because
he'll be likely to MEMORIZE, and thus it won't be a kosher reading.  And
yet I submit that this is a common practice for many b'nei mitzvah
vis-a-vis their Haftarot as well--they're memorized.  Furthermore, I'm
not aware of a din that says a Haftorah cannot be memorized as there is
for the Torah.  So in fact there ought to be a sufficient number of
Haftorah readers if the congregation is large enough.  Thus, in practice
most shuls ought to already have enough Haftorah readers--most men
probably have their "Bar Mitzvah Haftorah" memorized even if at the time
of the Bar Mitzvah they in fact read it from a book!  What no shul will
have is a large pool of willing Haftorah readers for any given Haftorah,
and there may be gaps which would have to be filled by someone prepared
to sit down and study the Haftorah.

Actually, I think the biggest "tirchah" for a shul/minyan willing to
convert to klaf-haftorahs would be the expense of the klaf itself.


From: Alan Cooper and Tamar Frank <Alan.Cooper@...>
Date: Fri, 20 May 1994 14:56:58 -0400
Subject: Re: Rambam on Astonomy

A propos of the authority of traditional science, Ezra Dabbah notes that
in the Middle Ages, one could get into a whole lot of trouble for
challenging the standard view of planetary motion.  I have no quibble
with that generalization, except that Ezra associates it with the
authority of Rambam, whose (erroneous) views on astronomy were taken to
be authoritative.  Yet it is not at all clear that Rambam intended them
to be so.  See the provocative discussion of this issue by Menachem
Kellner in _AJS Review_ 18/2 (1993).  With great learning and subtlety,
Professor Kellner shows that Rambam did not intend his view of
astronomical science to be "the final, immutable statement of physical
reality as it actually is."  The presentation of astronomy in Hilkhot
yesodei ha-torah represents the best science of Rambam's time, and not
an authoritative teaching for all time.

With good wishes,  Alan Cooper


From: Sam Juni <JUNI@...>
Date: Fri, 20 May 1994 13:49:02 -0400
Subject: Retroactive Prayer

[I have combined three posts from Sam on this topic into one post. The
"edges" are therefor a bit "rough". Mod.]

     Recent posting about retroactive prayer assume that such requests
involve asking for a miracle or a change in nature.

   This is not true. If my prayer for a past event is successful, then
the event will "have occurred" in accordance with my request. If the
prayer is not accepted, then the event will "have occurred" differently.
It is a misconceptualization the think that at the present time the
reality of the event has "already been established", so that any prayer
is either already irrelevant or involves a request for "a change." A
prayer for a past event involves no implicit "change" any more than a
prayer for a future event.

    It might be useful to think about this issue in context of man's
subservience to the directionality of time, in contrast to G-d. We feel
that we have already lived the past but not the future. We therefore feel
that the past is fixed while the future is open. G-d is not bound by time
at all. One might say that G-d lives in the past, present, and future at
the same time (an oxymoron, but instructive). Insisting that G-d is re-
stricted in dealing with the past time period while the options are open
for the future time period is egocentric and logically incorrect.

    What we tend to refer to as a miracle is when we observe a deviation
from object permanence. In other words, we are accustommed to expect that
objects will continue to exist consistently as time goes by. When see a
sudden change (unexplained by science), we call it a miracle. Thus, a
prayer requesting, for example, that a fetus which is male be trasformed
from THIS POINT IN TIME on into a female is in fact requesting a miracle.
Retroactive requests do not fall into this category.

Rick Dinitz (5/13/94) equates the possibility of G-d changing the past
with time running backwards. He also states, quite tautologically, that
we have not experienced any changes in the "past".

It seems to me that any changes in the past are retroactive by
definition.  Of course, you would not observe any changes! Also, time
running backwards is a phrase one uses if one is mortal and stuck in a
particular flow of time direction. It is irrelevant to G-d who is above

     I was asked for specific citation re "Mikan U'Lehabuh L'Mafreah" in
a posting to me from an MJ Reader; unfortunately, I lost the person's
reply information. Excuse me for responding through MJ -- I know the
references are technical.

     A possible reference to the notion that halachic events are
retroactive only insofar as future events are concerned (while not
affecting past events) is the Talmud Yerushalmi Nedarim, quoted in the
Rosh in Nedarim 52:2. The Yerushalmi begins with the notion that an
object prohibited via a vow is not considered a "revocable prohibition"
despite the fact that the vow can be annulled, since annullment results
in a retroactive deletion of the vow altogether. (Revocable
prohibitions, it is implied, only refer to cases where an object is
prohibited for a specific time and then becomes permissible.) The
Yerushalmi, however, concludes that a prohibition via a vow is
considered revocable, since annullment only occurs from the present. The
latter point is vexing to commentators, since annullment is clearly
retroactive. The Rosh gives an explanation which sounds like the
"Partial retroactivitiy" idea, but his wording is not clear. In fact,
some commentators openly state that they do not understand the

    R. Chaim Brisker (Rambam, Ishus #1), in reference to the annulment
option which a minor holds (when married off by her family) clearly
presents the "partial retroactivity" concept. The minor is considered
never to have been married insofar as future transactions are concerned,
but all contracts effected during the marriage as part of the marital
obligations remain valid.

    I cited R. Shimon Shkop as originating the hybrid Hebrew Term "Mikan
U'Lehabuh - Limafreah" to refer to the concept. I confirmed this origin
with R. Hershel Schachter, but I have not located the exact citation
yet. Rav Schachter also mentioned that R. Velvel Brisker uses the concept
as well, but "goes out of his way not to use the term Mikan U'Lehabuh -

Dr. Sam Juni               fax (718) 338-6774
N.Y.U.    239 Greene Street
New York, N.Y.   10003


From: Norman Miller <nmiller@...>
Date: Fri, 20 May 94 14:13:20 EDT
Subject: Witnesses sought

[Marvin Herzog has asked me to forward this to mail.jewish.  Please
direct all replies to him.  nm]

"We seek as witnesses former residents of the  Landkreis Marburg-Biedenk
Germany, from places that include Marburg, Biedenkopf, Stadtallendorf.
The people in question would  have been children or young people in the
area, survivors, emigrants, displaced persons who were in the area at an
time between 1930 and 1950. Also sought are written reports or records,
documents, etc., peratining to their lives in the area, discrimination a
persecution suffered, etc. The search is being conducted by the teachers
in the  Hessisches Institut fuer Lehrerfortbildung, Marburg"

I will be pleased to forward messages in response to this notice.

Mikhl Herzog


End of Volume 13 Issue 19