Volume 15 Number 48
                       Produced: Mon Oct  3 22:54:45 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Breishit Questions
         [Barak Moore]
Doctors and Shabbat
         [Jack Abraham]
Judaism and Vegetarianism
         [Shlomo Engelson]
Magnetic and Electric Hotel Door Cards
         [Yehuda Harper]
Meaning of the Hebrew Word "nes"
Ona'ah: questions
         [Seth Weissman]
Shabbat and fridge light, response
         [Sam S. Lightstone]


From: <SZN2758@...> (Barak Moore)
Date: Sun, 02 Oct 1994 22:25:37 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Breishit Questions

What do the words "shamayim" and "rakia" mean in the opening of
Breishit? It seems difficult to reconcile any precise definitions with
every example.

Also, what is the "mayim" above the "rakia?"


From: <JacAbraham@...> (Jack Abraham)
Date: Mon, 03 Oct 94 01:40:58 EDT
Subject: Re: Doctors and Shabbat

One more note about what doctors should and should not do on Shabbat. I
have personally witnessed otherwise frum medical professionals clearly
abuse the "p'kuach nefesh" doctrine, simply out of laziness and neglect.
I'm sure we all know many doctors who wear their beepers on Shabbat.
Personally, I have no problem with that. However, I have seen doctors
respond to a beep by calling their office, or the hospital, taking care
problem with that. I would suggest, that, no matter what heterim one
accepts or rejects, every medical professional should take it upon
him/herself to use said heterim most judiciously, very carefully and
sparingly, and by all means to watch one's conduct lest it stray well
beyond the pale of "p'kuach nefesh".
    One might think such a warning ought to go without saying. But my
own eyes tell me that's not the case.


From: <engelson@...> (Shlomo Engelson)
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 1994 09:16:11 +0300
Subject: Re: Judaism and Vegetarianism

  >From: Yechezkel Schatz
  I tend to agree with Warren.  It is a fact that the Torah expects us to
  eat meat from time to time (at least once a year, for Korban Pesach, the
  passover sacrifice, may we be zoche to bring it bimherah b'yameinu!).
  Furthermore, I'm inclined to think that the fact that the Torah so
  naturally commands us to eat meat under certain circumstances, may show
  that eating meat is not quite as hazardous to our health as contemporary
  health fads make it seem.

The fact that the Torah mandates eating meat occasionally is not at
all in conflict with modern thought on nutrition.  Current medical
opinion has it that meat (and dairy, to a lesser extent) should be
consumed rarely (say, a small portion once or twice a week), if at
all.  Also, that not eating meat is not at all unhealthy (as was once
thought).  However, also note that the Gemara records that there were
physicians dedicated to the care of the Kohanim in the Temple, who
evidently had a greater than normal share of health problems, in all
likelihood due to eating large quantities of roasted meat.



From: Yehuda Harper <jrh@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 1994 18:25:42 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Magnetic and Electric Hotel Door Cards

> I would be interested in any sources for responsa on this issue. Also,
> how can you tell the difference bvetween a key which is only magnetic
> and one which is electric? Thanks!

I would be interested also.  It seems to me that any kind of magnetic
card reader would be tied to an electrical circuit.  Besides, the 
laws of physics tell us that moving a magnet near any kind of metal 
will generate an electric current in the metal...



From: Bill_Budnitz <wbudnitz@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 1994 09:23:07 -0400 (edt)
Subject: Meaning of the Hebrew Word "nes"

In response to Jonathan's question as to the origin of the word "nes",
he is correct in finding that the biblical context where the word is
used is not miracle, as we use it today. In fact it is used to mean
"banner", as in v'so nes lekabetz. The word for test, "nesoyon", also
shares the same root.  It may be said that the central concept is one
where that which is hidden is brought to the surface. Hence, a test is
that which brings a person to realize his hidden potential. A miracle
reveals G-d's hidden influence, and a banner displays openly what would
otherwise not be seen.



From: <SWeissman_at_BC-Faculty@...> (Seth Weissman)
Date: Sun, 02 Oct 94 10:07:39 EDT
Subject: Ona'ah: questions

I'm a new subscriber to mail jewish and want to begin by saying 'hello.'
I am writing an article about ona'ah (usually translated as overcharging
and/or fraud) and want to test the waters by seeing how others would
respond to the issues that I hope to address in my paper.

First, I want to give a simple explanation of ona'ah.  Simply put, in
conducting a transaction, one may not take advantage of the other
party's lack of knowledge concerning the 'true value' of the object
being sold (or purchased) and overcharge (or underpay) by 1/6 or more.
Ona'ah prohibits profiting from another's lack of knowledge.

1.  Is one allowed to overcharge a non-jew?  I have heard that while one
may not take advantage of a non-jew's lack of information (i.e.;
overcharge), one is not required to correct their misinformation (tell
them the true value).  This is confusing because it leads to the
following situation:

A non-jew wishes to buy something that a jew wishes to sell.  This opens
up the opportunity for a mutually beneficial transaction (economists
call this a Pareto Effecient transaction).  We run into a problem,
however, when the non-jew overestimates the value of the object he/she
wishes to buy (and is therefore willing to pay above market value for
it).  The jew is simultaneously prohibited from taking advantage of the
non-jew's lack of knowledge, and has no responsibility to correct the
problem (by telling the non-jew the true value, and then selling the
object for that value.)  This may act as a barrier to transactions and
prevent both the non-jew AND THE JEW from benefiting from the
potentially mutually beneficial transaction (which is conceptually very
similar to suffering a loss.)

Can anybody help shed some light on this issue?

2.  Why are interest and ona'ah treated so differently in halachah?

The paradigm of the interest prohibition concerns a case where the
borrower experiences either illiquidity or poverty and needs capital or
money to avert some loss.  The introduction to interest (Lev. 25:35)
begins with the phrase 'ki yomuch achichah,' or when your friend is in
need.  While the prohibition of interest extends to many other cases
(including commercial loans), the basic prototype of loan is a personal
loan for someone suffering some sort of hardship.

Any sort of interest is prohibited, and this may again be related to the
prototype loan.  To avoid loansharking and excessive interest rates, the
Torah prohibits any sort of interest.  This is necessary because the
borrower presumably wants to borrow the money, and will accept a high
one and lie, protecting the loan shark, claiming the rate was a
reasonable one, or the loan was commercial in nature (and thus
permissible.)  To avoid this situation, NO interest can be charged on
ANY loan (notwithstanding heter iska).  The purpose here is to prevent
the lender, from taking advantage of a superior bargaining/negotiating

However, one is permitted to overcharge by more than a sixth if
a) the overcharged individual KNOWS he/she is being overcharged, and
b) the amount of the overcharge is known as well (in other
words, there is full revelation of information).

So, compare these two scenarios:

A) Miriam needs to borrow $100 to pay for her child's medical bills.
Shimon offers to lend her the money for one week at a 100% rate of
interest (In other words, she must pay him back $200 in one week).
Shimon's Rabbi will tell them the transaction violates the prohibition
of interest.

B) Again, our Miriam needs $100 dollars.  This time, however, Shimon has
learned from his mistake nad offers her $100 for her $200 wedding band.
He says "I'll offer you $100 for that $200 ring."  The value exchanging
hands is the same, but this time the Rabbi agrees that this transaction
does not violate ona'ah because Miriam knows the value of what she is

Does this seem odd to anyone out there?


From: <light@...> (Sam S. Lightstone)
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 94 10:45:04 EDT
Subject: Shabbat and fridge light, response

There was a post on mail-jewish (I recieved today), asking if
there is still a signal being sent to an unscrewed lightbulb
in a fridge, and if such a single remains problematic when
opening the fridge on Shabbat.

I know more about the electrical issues than the Halchik ones.
In any case, here's at least part of the answer:

In a sense there *MAY* be a signal that gets sent to the light bulb.
This would occur if and only if the door switch precedes the
lightbulb in the circuit. Here's my long winded explanation:

When the bulb is screwed in, and the door switch is closed (when
fridge is open), the switch-bulb-power mechanisms form an electrical
circuit (a loop around which electrons may freely flow). The voltage
for this circuit is maximal near the power supply source, and minimal
at the point where the electrons leave the light bulb (on the way back
to the other end of the power supply). When the door switch is open
(fridge door closed) the circuit is broken, and electrons can not
make the journey all the way around the loop. They stop at the open
switch. Likewise, if the switch is closed, but the light bulb is
unscrewed, the the electrons will stop at the  bulb. Consider the case
where the light bulb is unscrewed, and the door switch is working
normally (open when door is closed, closed when door is open).
Prior to opening the door, the voltage level at the switch terminal
is non-zero ( i.e. there is power connected), but no power gets across
the switch, so the voltage on the other side is 0. When you
open the fridge door, the switch closes, and suddenly there is
voltage on both sides of the switch, *and* at one terminal of the
bulb. However, since the bulb is unscrewed, no current (electrons)
can flow across the ligh bulb socket, hence no circuit, and no light.

So, by opening the door, the state of the lightbulb circuit has changed!
While the door was closed, there was no voltage at all at either
terminal of the bulb. Once the door is open, one terminal of the
bulb will have voltage.

However, does the creation of voltage at the light bulb terminal
mean that some melacha has been performed? I suspect not, for
the follwing reasons:

1) The circuit has not been closed, so no "final hammer blow" has been
swung. That is: you have not rendered the circuit usable.

2) No light emanates from the bulb, so no problem vis a vis
creation of fire.

3) Although it is clear that no current flows in the circuit,
(from one power terminal to the other ), it may be a quantum mechanical
debate to assert if electrons have flowed between the switch and the
bulb terminal. Mathematically they have not. The presence of
voltage at the light bulb terminal means only that the electrons at
that terminal have become "energized". They need not have travelled from
the light to the door switch terminal. Rather the energy from the switch
terminal electrons may propagates to the electrons at the bulb terminal
through transfer of kinetic energy between the particles themselves.
I suspect there is some flow however, since the density of states
(of electrons) must be higher when the voltage is higher. Hence
electrons must have travelled to the terminal (or been liberated
from the outer shell of atoms nearby).
However, even if electrons do flow between the switch and the
bulb terminal, this flow i) is transient, until the terminal
reaches the same voltage level as the switch, after which there is
no flow whatsoever, ii) occurs within millionths of a second, and
iii) is not what we normally consider current, since it contains no
steady state component (although I'm unclear on the halachik
implications of the time variant qualities of current). As far as I
am aware, this would not constitute any melacha (but what do I know?).

However, if the light bulb comes before the switch in the
circuit, then there is no voltage on either side of the switch
when the bulb is unscrewed and opening or closing the fridge door will
make no difference at all. I suspect it is completely arbitrary whether
a given fridge has the switch before the bulb or the bulb before the
switch, and manufactures may vary.

Sam S. Lightstone


End of Volume 15 Issue 48