Volume 15 Number 45
                       Produced: Mon Oct  3  0:24:32 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Jonathan Traum]
Frum Dating
         [Eli Turkel]
Leap seconds and the molad
         [Yaakov Menken]
         [Rena Whiteson]
Racism (in 15#36)
         [Binyomin Segal]
Western values and Torah
         [Constance Stillinger]


From: <traum@...> (Jonathan Traum)
Date: Fri, 30 Sep 1994 13:54:23 -0400
Subject: Eruvim

Janice Gelb wrote in MJ Vol. 15 #31:
>I wish I had Nosson's original post, because I don't really understand
>this logic. Seems to me there are only three possibilities if there's
>an eruv in your neighborhood:
>1) You don't believe eruvim should be used at all
>2) You believe eruvim can be used but your particular eruv isn't 
>   legally acceptable
>3) You believe eruvim can be used and your particular eruv *is* 
>   legally acceptable
> [much deleted]

Janice, your conclusions based on these three possibilities are perfectly
logical. However, there is one possibility you left out:

4) You believe eruvim can be used and your particular eruv *is* 
legally acceptable. However, you are reluctant to become overly
dependent on it, since you are afraid you might find yourself in a town
without an eruv (or your local eruv might be down, as was the eruv here in
Boston/Brookline/Newton on Shabbat Chol Hamoed), and then come to
violate Shabbat because you are accustomed to carrying. Or, perhaps you have
children whom you are trying to educate in the laws of Shabbat.

These are very real concerns. I was with a cousin of mine who has lived on
Long Island all his life while we were visiting relatives in a town without
an eruv. We set out for shul on Shabbat afternoon, and since it was rather
warm, he was about to carry his suit jacket instead of wearing it. His aunt
and I noticed just in time to prevent him from being m'challel Shabbat. I
have also heard of a case of a religious Israeli who had never even heard
that carrying on Shabbat is wrong, since in Israel, every town has an eruv.

I haven't seen or talked to Nosson since I left Chicago in 1989, but I
suspect that his reasoning is something along those lines.

Jonathan Traum


From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Sun, 2 Oct 94 15:57:45 +0200
Subject: Frum Dating

     I wish to point that one problem with the present shidduch practice
is those people who fall between the cracks. Because everything is
discussed before the couple meet people with some "minor" problem never
get beyond first base. Some concrete examples:

    A woman who donated a kidney for her sister had a difficult time
getting married because no one wanted to date someone with one
kidney. Whether that would affect her chances of getting pregnant was
almost irrelevant. The possible problems prevent getting started. In
other societies this problem would be identified (hopefully before
marriage) after the couple knew each other and would be willing to find
methods to overcome the challenge.

   An eligible man/woman who has a mongoloid sibling has greater
difficulties getting married. There have been several cases reported of
mongoloid babies who were abandoned on the street because the parents
feared it would affect the chances of older siblings getting
married. Many rabbis have condemned this but it still goes on because of
the pressures of the shidduch system.

   Especialy for a woman her individual characteristics are relatively
unimortant. The shidduch begins with yichus (importance of the family),
money and other such considerations. Only after these are settled do the
prospective couple meet. Hence, a very talented woman but from an
average family without money has little chance of marrying an equally
talented man.  For the boy if the Rosh Yeshiva says he is very bright it
helps his chances if the head of a seminary says that a woman is very
bright it usually doesn't help. I even remember one rabbi suggesting
that a man should not marry a woman who is brighter than him as that
would lessen the respect of the woman for the man.

    A divorced man/woman even after several weeks and through no fault
of their own has almost a nil chance of remarrying except to another
person previously married.



From: Yaakov Menken <ny000548@...>
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 94 13:25:43 -0400
Subject: Re: Leap seconds and the molad

>         [Mike Gerver]
>The fixed Hebrew calendar established by
>Hillel Sheni assumes that the synodic month is 29 days, 12 hours, 44
>minutes, and 1 chelek (1/18 of a minute, or 3 1/3 seconds), a value
>obtained by the Greek astronomer Hipparchus. 
>(See W. H. Feldman, Rabbinic Mathematics and Astronomy, third
>edition, Hermon Press, 1978, p. 136)

I'm not certain from where W.H. Feldman acquired this information, but 
the Talmud and Maimonides strongly contradict this claim that data on 
the lunar month was obtained from the Greeks.

First of all, the information pre-dated Hillel Sheni, as found in the 
Talmud Rosh HaShana 25a:  "Once the heavens were covered with clouds and 
the likeness of the moon was seen on the twenty-ninth of the month...  
Rabban Gamliel said to them:  I have it on the authority of the house of 
my father's father that the renewal of the moon takes place after not 
less than 29.5 days, 2/3 of an hour and 73 chalakim."

When the prophet Yechezkel declared that "they shall not share the 
secret of My people, (13:9)" Rabbi Elezar said that this refers to the
secret of calculating full vs. short months [sod ha-ibur], in Kesubos 112.
On Deuteronomy 4:6 "Guard and do [these rules] because it is your wisdum 
and understanding in the eyes of the nations," the Midrash Yalkut 
Shemoni and the Talmud Shabbos 75a both say "What is [this] wisdom and 
understanding?  We say that this refers to the calculations of the seasons 
and months."

W. Feldman would have the Talmud not merely claiming credit for something 
taken from a Greek astronomer, but saying that _this_ is the thing the 
gentiles will recognize as distinctly Jewish wisdom??  The truth is that 
H.Y. Bernstein in "Calculations of Solar and Lunar Years" shows figures 
by Ptolomy and Albironi which are significantly less accurate than that 
used by Hillel Sheni.

Maimonides himself says in the laws of Sanctifying the Moon 11:5-6 that 
the measures used are approximate, but without practical consequence.
"In this way we were able to avoid long and complicated calculations which
are of no practial value for the determination of the visibility of the 
new moon, and may only lead to the confusion and bewilderment of the 
layman..."  Note that this approximation is 6 millionths of a day (per
month) longer than NASA's calculations.

All of this, btw, is neatly packaged into the guidebooks published by
Arachim and the Aish HaTorah Discovery program - don't think the above
represents my own scholarship!  But having checked their sources, I think
we should not allow W. Feldman to give away Chochmas Torah SheBa'al Peh
[the wisdom of the Oral Torah] to a Greek astronomer!

Yaakov Menken


From: <rena@...> (Rena Whiteson)
Date: Fri, 30 Sep 94 14:41:37 MDT
Subject: Racism

> >From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
>      I find the whole discussion on racism quite distasteful and
> disturbing, mainly for the reason that most of the participants take
> the modern liberal value that "racism is bad" as the axiomatic starting
> point and use it as their yardstick to judge the Torah and their fellow
> Jews. It is a sad commentary on us that we are submitting to foreign
> value systems, instead of using the Torah itself as the starting point
> for all our morality.

Shaul Wallach writes a thoughtful response to some of the comments
accusing Judaism and orthodox Jews of racism.  It is pointless, IMHO, to
continue this discussion without an agreement on a definition.  The word
racism is often used very, very loosely.  Someone on this list, I
believe, even called people who dislike New Yorkers, racists!

The American Heritage Dictionary:

racism: 1. The notion that that one's own ethnic stock is
2. Discrimination or prejudice based on racism.

Definition 2 is very narrow, and I think (and hope) that we all agree
not only that it is a bad quality, but that it has no place in Torah.
As David points out ...

>Thus we are commanded to pursue all
>courses of action which lead to the sanctification of the Name in this
>world and to the good name of the Jewish people. And we must do all this
>without worrying whether Jews are superior to non-Jews or not. That is
>not our business - we are the Chosen People only by virtue of having
>chosen to accept the 613 commandments as opposed to the 7 commandments
>of the Sons of Noah, not because we are either superior or inferior to

Rena Whiteson

From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 1994 23:52:14 -0600
Subject: RE: Racism (in 15#36)

Im very happy to see that this racism thread finally seems to be getting
somewhere. First...

Shaul Wallach writes:
>     I find the whole discussion on racism quite distasteful and
>disturbing, mainly for the reason that most of the participants take
>the modern liberal value that "racism is bad" as the axiomatic starting
>point and use it as their yardstick to judge the Torah and their fellow
>Jews. It is a sad commentary on us that we are submitting to foreign
>value systems, instead of using the Torah itself as the starting point
>for all our morality.

YEY!!! Someone finally said it! He goes on to point out that what we think
& what we do/say can and should be independent. Of course the Torah demands
that we act kindly towards non-jews, regardless if they are better or

then David Charlap writes (in response to me and Mike Grynberg):

>So, so answer your question, I will say that a Jew who lives up to his
>(very great) responsibility is better than a non-Jew who lives up to
>his responsibility.  But I'll add that there are very few Jews alive
>today who do manage to completely live up to the Jewish
>responsibility, and I don't think those Jews are any better than other

Though I might say it slightly different, this is nonetheless well said. In
fact, the Nefesh Hachaim (Rav Chaim Volozhin the Vilna Gaon's student)
writes that a jew who fulfills his responsibilities is higher even than an
angel while one that fails is lower than an animal.

The reason we _might_ differentiate between two people who are failing
their responsibilities is the difference in potential. For example, we
would spend more effort trying to help a jew's spirituality because the
potential gain is greater. Also, the jew who fails is more of a waste then
the non-jew, because of that greater potential.



From: Constance Stillinger <cas@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Sep 1994 13:14:19 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Western values and Torah

> >From: Marc Shapiro <mshapiro@...>
> For those who don't agree with what I wrote re. Western values making 
> people more sensitive, how to explain the following, which I believe to 
> be indisputable. Before modern times there seems to have been no moral 
> problems with the killing of all men women and children as described in 
> the Bible. At least I am unaware of more than one or two sources which 
> seemed bothered by it. Even today, in traditional commentaries and 
> Hasidic commentaries the attitude is simply God said to kill them and 
> tha't all.

As recorded in Tanakh, Hashem directly commanded the extirmation of
certain communities.  However, Hashem hasn't issued a similar command
since that time.  The lesson that I take is that we have no moral
authority to commit such acts without a *direct* command from Hashem.

Thus the "traditional" commentaries lend a greater moral force than
our faulty sensitivities and decision-making capacities, whether
cultivated by Western values or not.

> It is only people who have imbibed Western values who struggle 
> with these texts and dwell upon them. I have been told by a former rebbe 
> of mine, who agrees completely with this analysis, that this itself shows 
> that Western values are dangerous since they create problems which Torah 
> does not have.

Western values would have us do a cost-benefit analysis each time we
ponder the possibility of killing some people we don't like.  Torah does
not have this problem to the same extent.

Shabbat shalom,
Dr. Constance A. (Chana) Stillinger    <cas@...>
Research Coordinator, Education Program for Gifted Youth
Stanford University


End of Volume 15 Issue 45