Volume 13 Number 52
                       Produced: Fri Jun 10 13:08:04 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

"New Knowledge"
         [Shmuel Weidberg]
Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic  (Fred Dweck)
         [Fred Dweck]
Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic Pronunciation in Davening
         [Joseph M. Winiarz]
         [Gedalyah Berger]
Lashon Hara
         [Freda B. Birnbaum]
Religion in Public Life
         [Barry Freundel]
Siyum stories
         [Aryeh Blaut]
Wine and Drugs
         [Barry Freundel]


From: <shmuel@...> (Shmuel Weidberg)
Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 00:41:42 -0400
Subject: "New Knowledge"

>It is no insult to say that Talmudic scholars of any generation are in
>line with their contemporary scientists in terms of scientific
>knowledge.  To say otherwise would be absurd. I am certain that the view
>of the "flat world" was common knowledge amongst all scholars before it
>was rejected by the scientific community. To go out on a limb ( I like
>it out there), one can hypothesize that even Neviim (prophets) worked
>within the knowledge base of their contemporaries.  Do you think that
>Ezra or even Moshe Rabbeinu knew of microorganisms or that the earth was

Perhaps the Sages of previous generations did not know most of the
things we have found out today, but it would be insulting them to say
that they believed every notion believed by the general populace of
their times.  One of the main requirements of being a Talmudic scholar
is to not assume that something is true just because everybody thinks it
is, without proof.

This would mean that any genuine Talmudic scholar would not avow that
there were no microorganisms or that the world was flat. He would at
least say that he did not know. In the case of the world being round
though it was known ages ago as the Gemara says that a statue of a man
holding a ball in his hand is an avoda zorah because it symbolizes a god
who holds the world in his hand.

As an aside: I was in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (in NY) and noticed
all the statues without noses. The standard explanation given for this
is that noses are delicate and over time they are the most likely part
to break off. It occurred to me that perhaps all these statues were
avodah zorahs and the noses were broken off to nullify them. This would
fit in even better with the Roman statues as it is well known that there
was a period of time when it was very popular for Romans to convert to
Judaism. As a result before they converted they broke all their idols.
What do you think?



From: Fred Dweck <71214.3575@...>
Date: Sun, 5 Jun 1994 01:55:52 -0400
Subject: Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic  (Fred Dweck)

In response to Eliyahu Juni's response to my posting. I think that
Eliyahu has made some very good points. There are some, however, that I
feel the need to either respond to or clarify.

First of all, I would like to make very clear that my posting was
intended to open discussion on the subject, and was in no way a demand,
just a suggestion.  Eliyahu writes:

<<<I agree that any poster quoting a halacha which is not universally
accepted should detail the limits of that halacha.  Such a halachic
boundary can be one of individual authorities, community differences
such as Sephardi/Ashkenazi/Teimani or ideological differences within the
Orthodox community, such as Chassidic vs.  non.  I also think that the
same rule should apply to any custom, opinion, guidance or
recommendation.  But in effect, this requires every poster to have an
immensely wide base in Torah, but of its practical permutations in all
the Orthodox communities in the world, to an extent that I doubt there
is anyone alive who would qualify.  Who knows *every* minhag of the all
different communities of Ashkenazim or Sephardim, let alone both?>>>

1) I was talking about halacha, and not mihagim, chumrot, etc. I
understand, very well, that no one knows it all. My point was, in
effect, that the poster of a halacha should know and acknowledge his
limitations (and that includes rabbis) and should not say something like
"the halacha is..." unless he is sure that it applies to all. I would
rather see something like "so & so writes...." or "so & so said..."
Unfortunately, it seems that when someone reads or hears a halacha, they
think that that is the only pesak. When something is a minhag, or
chumra, then it should be stated as such. In any case I totally agree
with Eliyahu's suggestions, that we should ALL be responsible in
clearing up any mistakes and/or misunderstandings, and request that
posters provide as much of this knowledge as they have, (and possibly to
add this request to the note which is sent to new list members,).

On the subject of pronunciation and transliteration, Eliyahu writes:

<<<There is no denying that secular Zionism has had elements of
anti-religious-Judaism in its history.  Whether we see Zionism as the
core of Torah, a part of Torah, irrelevant to Torah, or antithetical to
Torah, whether we advocate cooperating with secular Zionists in matters
of mutual interest, ignoring them, or hampering them, we should never
help secular Zionism's efforts to stifle Judaism.>>>

He continues with this line of thinking further. However, I don't think
that I need to copy his entire monologue in order to respond. It may be
found in M-J 13:46. I must admit, though, that it was an education.

I feel that the main purpose of language is for communication. It does
not matter to me how a language or pronunciation began. If it fits the
needs of those who are communicating, then so much the better. In Torah,
we have a principle of "Ma`alim Bakodesh" (we raise things up to
holiness). I think that this is a perfect example of raising something
up,(which may have been done by anti-Torah Zionists for anti-Torah
purposes), to being used for Torah purposes.  It is the same thing as
taking a church and making it into a shul. If this were not so, then
what will we do with the Dome of the Rock, when we take it back.  Will
we say that we can't use it for the Beit Hamikdash because it was used
for unholy purposes? If Israeli pronunciation is the most universally
understood pronunciation, then by all means, let's use it for kedusha!!
I would like to make it very clear that I am NOT advocating that anyone
switch their pronunciation when doing tephila, etc., (although there may
be some good arguments in favor) only when the audience is mixed and we
are discussing things that we would like *everyone* to understand.

<<<Because of the Israeli standardization of Sephardi pronunciation, most
Ashkenazim have at least heard it here and there, but not everyone can
pick up a form of speech from infrequent clips.  Even those who know
enough of it to understand it may not know enough to convert their own
Hebrew into Sephardic pronunciation (the differences between kamatz
katan and gadol are especially confusing.)  Add to this limited
familiarity the vagaries of transliteration, even within a specific
pattern of pronunciation, and the difficulties which you describe with
Ashkenazi pronunciation appear in the reverse case too.  For example, I
am sometimes confused by some of those who use Sephardi pronunciation on
this list and transliterate both the letter heh and the letter ches
(het) as 'h;' often the context will demonstrate which is meant, but
when it doesn't, I too can find reading a post to be a laborious task.>>>

My point precisely! Therefore, it would be a good idea to standardize
the transliteration, so that ANYONE using any pronunciation can
understand it. It would be the same as reading Torah, or Talmud, etc. It
does not matter what pronunciation one uses, we can ALL read it! Of
course this assumes a knowledge of how things are spelled in Hebrew. Our
good friend Lon Eisenberg, in the same issue of M-J as my posting,
suggested a transliteration protocol. I suggest that we adopt it, or
something like it. It can be printed at the head of *EVERY* M-J issue,
to let all know; a) how to read the transliterations, and b) how to
respond. I do not think that it would take very long for everyone to get
used to it, especially if they have a copy of it at the head of every
issue. I had never heard of it before, and in my personal communications
with Lon Eisenberg, it became real easy (almost second nature) very

<<<If I leave out a halacha which applies to Sephardim, or mistakenly describe
an exclusively Ashkenazi practice as universal, I do so because of my limited

At that point, it behooves *everyone* to, openly, say,(admit) "I'm not
sure if this applies to everyone", or some other statement to that
effect. Chaza"l tell us that one of the most severe transgressions is
"Mor'e shelo ca-halacha" (teaching, not according to halacha). We should
all be very careful about this, and not expound, confidently, on things
we do not KNOW very well! The most respected scholar (rabbi, teacher) is
the one who can say; "I DON'T KNOW!"

Fred E. Dweck 


From: Joseph M. Winiarz <100274.1301@...>
Date: 05 Jun 94 14:59:25 EDT
Subject: Ashkenazic vs. Sephardic Pronunciation in Davening

Re Eliyahu Juni's comments in m-j 13:46 on the switch from Ashkenazic to
Sefardic pronunciation being an attempt of certain elements to distance
themselves from Torah---In the same vein but in a different context
mail-jewish readers may be interested in seeing Shealot Uteshuvot
Heichal Yitchak (Orach Chaim; siman 3).  In the case discussed there,
the late Chief Rabbi Herzog z"tl reccomended not switching from
Ashkenazic to Sephardic pronunciation in davening because, among other
reasons, "in the eyes of the masses it will be as if you are imitating
the Reform (movement)" which introduced Sephardic pronunciation in
davening for unholy reasons.

Rabbi Herzog reaches this conclusion despite the fact that he maintains
that switching is permissable m'ikar hadin (according to the letter of
the law).  Rabbi Avraham Kook z"tl, however, maintained [in his book
Orach Mishpat(Orach Chaim siman 17)] that switching was forbidden and
see his reasoning in the responsum.  Rabbi Herzog relates directly to
Rabbi Kooks reasoning as well.

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein pointed out these teshuvos to me many years ago.

Yossi Winiarz  972-2-932705
Allon Shevut


From: Gedalyah Berger <gberger@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 15:10:23 -0400
Subject: Circuits

In #45, a number of people pointed out that household power is AC and
that therefore electrons do not move very far in the circuits, because
they oscillate due to the changing voltage.

As I answered a couple of them privately, I believe that most halachic
shailos (practical questions) about electricity arise not about
inserting a plug into a wall socket but about flipping a switch on an
appliance.  Just about every electric device has a rectifier at its
input which changes the voltage from AC to DC, on which the device
actually runs.  So, when you flip a switch on such an appliance, you are
closing a circuit in which electrons indeed move cyclically around macro

Gedalyah Berger


From: Freda B. Birnbaum <FBBIRNBAUM@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Jun 1994 11:56:23 -0400
Subject: Lashon Hara

In V13N33, Joshua Sharf says, re lashon hara:

>In both cases, one must be absolutely certain of the information, with
>no doubts at all.   The discussion must be a serious one, devoid of
>additional catty remarks or *unjustified* slights.  And it must be
>limited to the relevent information.  The person being advised may not
>be pressed to come to a particular decision.  The informer must be
>willing to take "Oh, but he's changed, he's a different man now" for
>an answer and drop the matter as if nothing had hppened.

Is the informer not entitled to at least one try at "Are you SURE you
have checked this out thoroughly?"  "Oh, but he's changed, he's a
different man now" is a classic denial statement... If I knew somebody
who was about to marry a known AIDS carrier or wife-beater or
suchlike, I'd think that the duty to warn would overrule some of the
scruples about lashon hara.

Freda Birnbaum,


From: <Dialectic@...> (Barry Freundel)
Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 15:10:08 -0400
Subject: Religion in Public Life

There is also a national CHANUKAH menorah and as long as there is equal
access I'm for more religion in public life. I believe that its removal
has caused many of the social problems we now face


From: Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...>
Date: Sun, 5 Jun 1994 02:13:15 -0400
Subject: Siyum stories

My fourth grade class will be celebrating their completion of the
Breishis/Breishit/Genesis this week.  We will be having a siyum
(conclution).  Does anyone have any good stories for such an occation?



From: <Dialectic@...> (Barry Freundel)
Date: Tue, 31 May 1994 17:51:46 -0400
Subject: Wine and Drugs

I can see that in this case the same ought to hold true for many people
regarding alcohol, even wine. (semi-rhetorically) Is it?
in response to this question 2 points
1. wine is required halachikally at times, these drugs are not
2.There is no alcohol culture comparable to the drug culture. No one things
it gives one a new and better perspective on reality to get drunk. Everyone
understands that someone who needs a drink to get comfortable every time he
goes to a party has a problem. Substitute joint for drink and some people
think its cool.


End of Volume 13 Issue 52