Volume 14 Number 13
                       Produced: Tue Jul 12  8:43:16 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chumrot vs. Torah
         [Jonathan Katz]
Church and State
         [Janice Gelb]
Lying (2)
         [Yitz Kurtz, Ari Shapiro]
Proliferation and Cost of Yeshivot
         [Aryeh Blaut]
Transliteration (2)
         [Gedalyah Berger, David Charlap]


From: Jonathan Katz <frisch1@...>
Date: Sun, 10 Jul 94 23:17:45 EDT
Subject: Chumrot vs. Torah

This is in response to a recent posting by Fred Dweck.  He writes: "To
me, EVERY chumrah, as opposed to "seyag" suggests that the mahmir knows
better than Hashem..."  It is difficult to disagree with this statement
onthe face of it. However, to me it seems as though, really, there ARE
no "chumrot" only different "Siyag"'s. For instance, I was always under
the impression that the eating of glatt kosher meat was a siyag rather
than a chumrah (correct me if I'm wrong). Now, for any other supposed
siyag that comes up, one should ask: "how did this law arise?" It seems
to me that any chumrah probably arose as a siyag that one individual
found necessary to apply to HIMSELF. Then, perhaps, his children etc.
picked it up, and if he were an influential person, perhaps the
community would pick it up without questioning its necessity. However,
it is important to realize that in the end it is a siyag to an already
existing mitzva, and not a completely new mitzva.

He then goes into a discussion about the prohibition against adding laws
to the Torah. This prohibition is often misunderstood (and, I must
confess, I do not understand it fully, either). It most definitely does
NOT mean that "no new law can ever be added" - the laws of Purim,
Channukah, and Tisha B'Av are proof of this. An explanation which I
heard was as follows: the prohibition is against adding (extra things)
to an already existing mitzva, the best example of which would be if
someone wanted to have 5 minim (instead of 4) for Succot. The
differences are subtle, to be sure, but they are there.

Jonathan Katz
410 Memorial Drive, Room 251B
Cambridge, MA 02139


From: <Janice.Gelb@...> (Janice Gelb)
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 1994 12:37:44 +0800
Subject: Church and State

Michael Lipkin writes:

> The U.S. government is not forcing Sam to observe Christmas. [...]  
> Let's be practical here, the overwhelming
> majority (more than 90%?) of the U.S. is Christian.  Suppose they gave a
> work day and nobody came?  That's basically what would happen if the
> federal government was open on Christmas.  Sure there may originally
> have been religious roots and/or overtones to there being a federal
> Christmas holiday, but it is eminently practical.

If the federal government wants to close these offices because the vast
majority of employees will take the holiday off for religious reasons,
that is their decision: it means I can't go to work because my office is
closed.  However, I think it only fair that orthodox Jews (and
practitioners of other religions) get an equivalent day off for a
religious holiday of our choice (ditto those companies that are closed
for Good Friday) since if the office was open, we would cheerfully go to
work on their religious holiday.

> I went to public high school in suburban New Jersey.  School was closed
> on the first day of Rosh Hashana and on Yom Kippur.  Less than a
> majority of the students were Jewish, but enough of the students and
> faculty were, that it would have been impractical to keep the school
> open.

I went to public high school in Miami Beach, Florida: out of over 500
students in my elementary school, only 6 were not Jewish. School was
deserted on the first day of Rosh Hashana and on Yom Kippur, but it was
held anyway. Ditto my junior high and high school, although they were
probably more like 70% Jewish than 95%. (We also learned Xmas carols
including, in an example of an extreme absurdity, "Frosty the Snowman"
and cutting out snowflakes!) There was virtually no accommodation of the
population of the school and, more to the point of your message, no
recognition of the absurdity of holding classes when the vast majority
of students (and some teachers) would not be present and so nothing of
substance could be taught.

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


From: Yitz Kurtz <hmrcelec@...>
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 1994 14:07:16 -0400
Subject: Lying

Sam Juni presented an hypothesis that halakha does not forbid lying per
se but only the harm caused by lying is forbidden.

The Sefer Yereim formulates the mitzvah of "midvar sheker tirhak" as a
prohibition against lying in such a way that it will be harmful to
people. This would appear to support Sam Juni's hypothesis.

The halakhic rule "mutar leshanot bidvar hashalom (it is permissible to
lie for peace)" (Yevamot 65b) does not necessarily support this
hypothesis since one could interpret this as a case of a clash between
the halakhic obligation of havaat shalom and the halakhic prohibition
against lying. Havaat shalom takes precedence but that doesn't mean
there was nothing wrong with the lie. In fact the statement "mutar
leshanot... " implies that otherwise it would be assur leshanot.

On the surface it would appear that the famous argument between Beit
Shammai and Beit Hillel (Ketubot 17a) whether it is appropriate to
praise a bride for her beauty even she is not beautiful is precisely
about this question.

Beit Shammai forbids this practice because of "midvar sheker tirhak"
(distance yourself from falsehood) and Beit Hillel permits (requires
(see Tosafot ibid s.v. "yeshabhenu)) the practice citing "leolam tehai
daato shel adam meurevet im habriot" (be polite?) and ignoring the
prohibition of "midvar sheker tirhak". (see tosfot rid ibid "perush-
lomar davar hamitkabel af al pi shehu sheker"). Beit Hillel would appear
to support Sam Juni's hypothesis.

The braita in Kallah Rabati, however, states that Beit Hillel only
permitted lying in this case because the description of beauty that was
used ie. "naah vehasuda" is ambiguous in that it could be referring to
good deeds and not physical beauty. An unambiguous lie, on the other
hand, would be forbidden even according to Beit Hillel. This formulation
is supported by some rishonim on Ketubot (see shita mekubetzet) and is
the opinion of Prisha and Beit Shmuel Even Haezer 65.

Like so many good hypotheses, when it comes to halakha lemaaseh, this
one bites the dust.

Yitz Kurtz

From: <m-as4153@...> (Ari Shapiro)
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 94 16:58:48 -0400
Subject: Lying

Sam Juni writes
<my hypothesis is that according to strict Torah Law, there is no
<prohibition on deceiving or lying at all.  All of the seeming
<prohibitions re falsifying information actually concern the intent of
<the lying.

Actually this is a Machlokes (dispute) Rishonim.  R' Yerucham Perlow
in his commentary on the Sefer Hamitzvos L'Rav Saadya Gaon (mitvah 23)
claims that there is no prhobition on lying.  He says all the p'sukim
that prohibit lying are talking about witnesses or bet din.  He says
that it is not even prohibited rabinically.  It is however, a bad middah.
On the other hand the Sefer Chareidim says that it is a
a torah prohibition to say any lie.  In the middle is the opinion of the
Sefer Y'reim (mitvah 235) who says that lying is prohibited if it will
cause damage.
Ari Shapiro


From: Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...>
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 1994 08:42:03 -0400
Subject: Proliferation and Cost of Yeshivot

>From: <dlm@...> (David Lee Makowsky)

>	A couple of years ago I read somewhere that donations to Zedaka
>were going down.  One reason for this was the increased bite out of the
>family budget being taken by increased tuition and fees for both schools
>and camps.
>	Logically it can be assumed that the reason schools are charging
>more is because their costs are up.  I don't have the figures in front
>of me, but I would bet that even if it were not for such things as
>providing a free education to Soviet emmigres the costs would still be
>going higher.

The costs of running a school are increasing not only because of the
Soviets but because overhead in general is going up on a regular basis.
Forget the fact that teachers/Rabbinim need a minimum of cost of living
increases.  The cost of books, teaching supplies, inservice material,
etc. are all on the rise as well.  Many non-Soviets also are in need of
tuition scholarships (keep in mind that no school, to my knowledge, is
able to run only on tuition money.  Tuition pays only a fraction of the
operating costs of a school.

>	I believe that the one reason for this increase in costs has to
>do with an increase on the number of schools.  Each school must have a
>certain fixed overhead, so an additional number of schools means

(See my note above about overhead.  There is no such thing as fixed

>additional overhead to be funded.  That, plus the fact that each new
>school draws students away from existing schools, means that there are
>fewer students at each school to amoratize (sp?) the costs over.
>	Now, if a community needs more schools because the exisitng
>schools cannot handle the demand then I am all for building more
>schools.  However, some schools get built simply because one "sect" does
>not trust/like/respect/etc. another sect, so they just build themselves
>another school.
>	This is leades to the increased costs that forces each family to
>come up with more and more money.  I consider that nothing less then
>gneiva (theft), pure and simple.  Not just from the families but also
>from Tzedaka and all those whom are served by Tzedaka.  Also, I am sure
>that some families who might have been able to pay their own way are now
>forced to accept Tzedaka just to educate their children.

These are very strong words.  If a group of parents want a more or less
religious or more or less general studies program - what should they do
if the school is not willing to offer their needs?  At the school in
which I teach at, there is always a struggle for a balance in all areas.
As a parent in the school, I'd like to see many things different than I
presently find them.  Depending on the route the school takes I have to
choose to stay or not (it is one of the reasons that I left my previous

I don't think that any posek would agree with you that it would be
gneiva to start another school.

Aryeh Blaut


From: Gedalyah Berger <gberger@...>
Date: Fri, 8 Jul 1994 01:59:43 -0400
Subject: Transliteration

Just want to add myself to the list of people opposed to a fixed
transliteration scheme.  I don't think I ever had a problem deciphering
a word until I started seeing dollar signs.  Also, Michael Lipkin
recently pointed out, and this is something that is very true but I
hadn't thought of, that the way that a person transliterates gives the
reader a better feel for who the writer is and where he is coming from;
it adds an important personal dimension that is otherwise missing on a
computer screen.

Gedalyah Berger

[Let me just clarify one thing: there will be no enforced single
transliteration scheme, even should every member of the list agree on a
single transliteration scheme (which would probably be a sign that
Moshiach is right around the corner), because the only mechanism I know
of enforcing such a scheme is for me to check and either correct or
return all articles. I am unwilling to accept that burden. Mod.]

From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Wed, 6 Jul 94 14:19:37 -0400
Subject: Transliteration

Mitchel Berger <aishdas@...> writes:
>I have another suggestion. How many of us have 8-bit clean mail readers.
>Could we standardize on Latin-8 (iso8859-8) - an ISO standard extended
>ASCII with Hebrew support? Hebrew quotes tend to be short. Manually
>typing left-to-right - a worst-case scenerio - isn't as painful as the

I think my system could handle it, and I've got two iso8859-8 fonts
installed.  But I think there are many users (such as those on PCs)
without an approrpriate font installed, and there's no guarantee that
hi-bit characters will survive every e-mail gateway that the message
may pass through.  Plus, I don't know how to key in hi-bit characters
on Unix boxes.

[From a second message two days later. Mod]

Unfortunately, after running a few tests, this is impossible.  Even if
all our readers have a proper font installed, e-mail systems will strip
the high-bit from all messages.  I sent myself a simple "shalom"
message, and it came back as "mely".  (This string is in Hebrew if
viewed with an 8859-8 font.  If anyone receiving the mail can actually
see Hebrew there, let me know.)

There is an ISO standard for encoding foreign characters in normal
e-mail streams, but this may require most of us to get extra software
(in addition to an 8859-8 font).

-- David


End of Volume 14 Issue 13