Volume 13 Number 88
                       Produced: Mon Jul  4 21:56:26 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

American Religious Holidays and Jews
         [Sam Juni]
Blue Laws in the US
         [David Charlap]
Christian America (2)
         [Frank Silbermann, Jules Reichel]
         [Aaron Seidman]
Question about Bar Mitzvah: A Few Days Before 13?
         [Robert Rubinoff]
Religous significance of months
         [David Curwin]


From: Sam Juni <JUNI@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Jun 1994 13:47:55 -0400
Subject: American Religious Holidays and Jews

     My objection to Christmas as a national holiday drew posting which
ranged from questions for elaborations, barbs, doomsday warnings, and
requests for caution.  I would like to elaborate, and duck the other
issues for the time being.

    I, for one, am very happy to get any days off from work, regardless
of the reason.  There are, however, some implications in the reasons
which should give one cause for pause and concern.

     Christmas is not my holiday.  Rosh Hashana (and others) are.  It
bothers me to get off on the former rather than the latter.  (Make no
mistake, I'd personally opt for taking the former vs. none at all, but
maybe that is only because I prefer to take off rather than to sacrifice
my free time to make a point.)

     It bugs me to no end to have Christmas interpreted as a National or
a Cultural Holiday. It bugs me almost to the point of my considering
coming in to the office just to make my statement. (Of course, I would
think about it, but expedience wins out.)

     My ideal would be to have days off for all Religious Holidays of any
denomination, because I like days off.  Conceptually (and realistically)
I would like to see options devised for the various denominations.

     So (to respond to one barb) -- No, I love having Shabbos off. But it
would sure bother me to have to work on Friday (or take a vacation day)
if I were Moslem.

    In fact, if I could design my own calendar, I might prefer to have
Friday's off instead of Sunday.  I don't think the business structure of
our society would buy this. (I also have grown addicted to a free day
of Sunday, rather than do the Israeli Pre-Shabbos Fridays which fizzles
quickly as a day off.)

    I am not the spokesperson for others.  But if I were the spokes-
person for atheists, I might find a day off for Religious Observence
bothersome, since it implies a value judgement.  I probably would then
settle for a  labeling adjustment, where days are designated as "personal
time", to be used for religious or other purposes.

To those posters who feel that Christmas Vacation is the watershed of
the maintenance of religion in America -- I just cannot buy that.

     Dr. Sam Juni                  Fax (212) 995-3474
     New York University           Tel (212) 998-5548
     400 East
     New York, N.Y.  10003


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 94 14:18:39 -0400
Subject: Blue Laws in the US

Sam Juni <JUNI@...> writes:
>...I have been reminded that the Blue Laws extant in many states
>(especially regarding liquor sales) also show a clear listing toward
>the benign assumption of the legitimacy of Christian Holiday
>designation.  It would seem that the Blue Laws prejudice

They are definitely prejudiced against non-Christians.  But they are
worded in a secular way, so they pass.

Bergen County, NJ has had "blue laws" since I can remember.  A few years
ago, they were challenged, and declared unconstitutional.  At the next
election, they were re-worded so that the reason was purely secular
(something to do with reducing traffic so roads can be repaired), and
they passed.

What galls me is that Bergen County has a very large Jewish popuplation,
and the Jews vote the blue laws in every year.  (They're always being
challenged and put on the ballot, and every time, the citizens vote them
back in again.)  Don't ask me why - I'd go out of my mind if I couldn't
go out shopping on a Sunday.


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 1994 10:11:12 -0400
Subject: Christian America

Paraphrasing Barry Freundel in V13 #62:

> MOST politically active evangelists say Jews will convert at the 2nd
> Coming.  I can live with that; I consider the 2nd Coming of Jesus to
> be most unlikely.  Despite prayer in public schools, which many
> important rabbis have endorsed, I'd rather side with the Christian
> right.  The Left is at odds with Halachah and Jewish interests in a
> variety of ways, e.g.:

> 1) far more anti-Israel sentiment and anti-semitism
> 2) anti-family attitudes and legislation.
> 3) quotas
> 4) Politically correct censorship

The Religious Right also advocates saving one's life by killing the
Rodef (pursuer who threatens murder).  In contrast, much of the Left
(and also many moderates) would outlaw the carrying of any tool which
facilitates the fulfillment of this holy positive mitzvah.

Most Jews support arming Israeli citizens against political criminals.
I find it incongruous that, wrt American citizens whose lives are threatened
by those seeking money or sex, so many of us take the opposite stance.

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA

From: <JPREICHEL@...> (Jules Reichel)
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 1994 15:32:33 -0400
Subject: Re: Christian America

I thought that Barry Freundel's list of the many ways in which
conservative Protestantism is supportive of Jewish interests was exactly
on target. In addition, it could be pointed out that we are too few in
number to implement these policies in a democratic system. They are not.
They lack moral authority which I believe most Americans think that we
have. What a marriage.  The way he sees and the way......The problem is
that no leader has arisen who made this alignment of interests visible
in a good way. When most Americans think about Jewish interests they
mean the Jewish left. It's fine that there is a Jewish left. It's not so
good that Barry Freundel's list is invisible to anyone who is not a
member of this list.  


From: Aaron Seidman <seidman@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 1994 13:54:55 -0400
Subject: Overgeneralization

In V13 N62, Barry Freundel wrote that we have less to fear from the
Christian right than from the left.  This contrasts a specific conservative
group with a generalized group to which a variety of agendas are ascribed.
It would be more accurate to say that there are conservative and liberal
political elements of the American population that pose no immediate threat
to Jews qua Jews, and there are political activists on both ends of the
spectrum that are dangerous.  We need to distinguish between those with whom
we personally disagree politically and those whose programs would harm us
because of our being Jews.  Our experiences as Jews obviously shape our
outlook, but even there, we may have had very different experiences.  Thus,
when Barry says

	> anti-semitism its not even close as to who is worse

I agree with the statement, but disagree with what (from the context) I
assume is his conclusion.  Some of this grows out of first hand experience 
with right-wing (and not even extreme right-wing) anti-semitism.  I can also
vouch for the fact that the pc issue has been with us for a long time; the
only change is whose politics is taken to be correct.

We are usually sensitive to differences among those whose views are close to
our own, but it is easy to lump those with whom we disagree on some issues
with all those with whom we disagree on any issue.  One thing Jews ought to
be good at is making precise distinctions.  (In this sense, let me make it
clear that this is not meant as an attack on Barry's positions--I recognize
them as legitimate ones to hold although I disagree with some of them--
but as a request for finer analysis and less broad generalization.)



From: <Robert_Rubinoff@...> (Robert Rubinoff)
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 1994 14:19:31 -0400
Subject: Re: Question about Bar Mitzvah: A Few Days Before 13?

> Date: Sun, 5 Jun 94 23:41:21 PDT
> From: <markb@...> (Mark Bell)
> Subject: Question about Bar Mitzvah: A Few Days Before 13?
> I have been told that one wants a son to become Bar Mitzvah as soon as
> possible after the 13th birthday, as reckoned on the Jewish calendar.
> Can anyone speak to the halachic basis for this?  Specifically, what
> provision might be made for a boy who wants to become Bar Mitzvah on the
> Shabbat five days before his 13th birthday?  Is the custom of exactly 13
> years, and no less, a recent one?  What about a boy whose grasp of his
> religion is advanced for his years?

A boy becomes a bar mitzvah on his 13th birthday (by the Jewish
calendar).  There is no ceremony required, just as there is no ceremony
required to become a legal adult in the US.

*Celebrating* a bar mitzvah publically is another matter.  As it
happens, the usual approach to this is to give the boy the maftir aliyah
and have him read the haftarah.  Ironically, these honors are not ones
that are restricted to bnai mitzvah (except in a few cases); it is
generally perfectly acceptable for an 11-year-old (for example) to have
these honors if he is capable of them.  So there is no halachic problem
with having a bar mitvah celebration before the boy's 13th birthday.
(It seems a little peculiar to me, but that's just my own personal
reaction; and I guess it's no more peculiar than having a birthday party
a few days before the actual birthday, which is not that unusual.)

If the boy is going to do more than just the maftir/haftarah, then it
depends on what exactly he wants to do.  Basically, any part of the
service that can be carried out by a minor is okay; I personally don't
have much knowledge of precisely what that includes.


From: <6524dcurw@...> (David Curwin)
Date: Sun, 26 Jun 1994 16:29:17 -0400
Subject: Religous significance of months

Regarding the religous significance of the months: the Ramban, Shmot 12:2, 
discusses this. He says:
	The reason for "this month shall be for you the head of the
months" is so that Israel will count this as the as the first month, and
from it count all the other months - first, second, third - until all
the twelve months are counted. This is so the great miracle (the exodus
from Egypt which happened in the first month) will be remembered. For
each time we mention the months, the miracle will also be remembered.
Because of this, there are no names for months in the Tora, rather it is
said "the third month", "in the second year in the second month the
cloud rose", "the first day of the second month" and so on. So just as
we remember the Shabat by calling the days of the week the "first day of
shabat, the second day of shabat", we also remember the Exodus from
Egypt by calling the months "the first month of our redemption, the
second month of our redemption"...And the Rabbis already mentioned this
issue when they said "The names of the months came up with us from
Bavel."  Because at the beginning the our months did not have names,
because we counted them in memory of the Exodus. But when we went up
from Bavel, the verse "Assuredly, a time is coming - declares the Lord -
when it shall no longer be said, 'As the Lord lives who brought the
Israelites out of the land of Egypt,' but rather 'As the Lord lives who
brought the Israelites out of the northland, and out of all the lands to
which he has banished them.'  (Yirmiyahu 16:14-5). From then on we
called the months as they were called in Bavel, to remember that there
we stayed, and from there God brought us up."

	Although Rabbi Chavel in his commentary disagrees with this, the
Sefer HaIkkarim (3:16) interprets the Ramban (who he quotes earlier) in
the following way:
	And it appears from this (that the months were called by the
Babylonian names and not the numerical ones, as in the Tora) that they
(the Rabbis) understood that the commandment to count the months (from
Nisan) was temporary, in other words, as long as that redemption
endured. After they were exiled a second time (from Bavel) and redeemed
from there, they were commanded by Yirmiyahu "And you shall no longer
say...". They stopped counting the months in memory of the Exodus, and
began counting again from Tishrei, and used the Babylonian names as a
memory of the second redemption.  For they understood that the
commandment was temporary, and not eternal, even though there is no
mention of time (in the Tora, as to how long to observe this

	Interestingly, earlier in the chapter, Albo says that Ezra did
two things to commemorate the redemption from Bavel. One was to change
the months, the other was to change the script from Ivri to Ashuri. So
this applies to the other line of discussion as well.  In any case, it
is evident that the months were given their new names for a purpose, and
not arbitrarily.


End of Volume 13 Issue 88