Volume 16 Number 99
                       Produced: Wed Nov 30 23:42:50 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Army Service
         [Isaac Balbin]
Bishul Akom in a Factory
         [Michael Broyde]
Feasibility of a Siyum
         [Andy Goldfinger]
Kashrus Organizations
         [David Steinberg]
Origin of the mehitzah
         [Marlene Rifkin]
Pronunciation of qamatz (v16n93)
         [Mark Steiner]
Talmud and Science
         [M. Shamah]


From: Isaac Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Dec 1994 11:33:45 +1100
Subject: Re: Army Service

Esther Posen relates that the Army can have, and is likely to have an adverse
influence on Yeshiva Bochurim. As such, she does not see room for compromise
measures such as Hesder, and understands the willingness of certain groups
to not serve in the Army.
My difficulty with her reasoning is that she has not demonstrated that the
Army is more conducive to a propensity to compromise one's values than life
itself. There is much evidence for people who do business and are termed
Chareidim. I include both women and men here. Yet, is it that the Army is
a worse influence than life itself? Is it that money takes precedence over
an obligation to protect life? I do not believe such value judgements
and sociological commentaries can serve to decide the argument *either way*.
If one is totally cut off from non-frum people then there is a point to 
be made about that person having to come into contact with non-frum influences.
On the other hand, if one does/will encounter life outside of a frum vacuum
flask, then I posit that two approaches are required:
	(1) To have the Army better consider the needs of such people when 
            they do their service
	(2) To council those people *whilst* they are doing their service. This
	    councel is best achieved through Torah itself and hence the 
            excellent device called Hesder.
The Gemora in Brochos tells us that *Harbe* Osu K'Rashbi V'lo Olso Beyoddom
[many did like Rashbi and only learnt Torah and were not successful.]
The Vilna Gaon stresses the word Harbe [many]. The philosophy itself is
not `wrong'. Rather, it is not the philosophy of Harbe---the population
at large. For them, the approach of Rav Yishmoel is the approach of choice,
viz combining Torah with [non-Torah] work/activities.

I am writing from a theoretical perspective, outside of Israel. Of course,
I am in absolutely no position to be prescriptive to Israelis---they are
the ones who are faced with the realities---not the theory.


From: Michael Broyde <RELMB@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 94 22:12:13 EST
Subject: Re: Bishul Akom in a Factory

One of the letter writers expresses surprise concerning the OU policy
on bishul akom in a factory.  The whole area of halacha is uncertain,
as there are some kashruth organizations that mantain that
there is no problem of bishul akum in factories.  For example,
OU's kashruth journal (Mesorah), a teshuva eas published by Rav
Moshe Feinstein, as dictated to Rav Nata Greenblatt in which Rav Moshe
stated that there is no problem of bishul akum generally in a factory
in which the people (Gentiles) who make the food ship it elsewhere for
consumption and never see the people who eat it.  (I do not have the
teshuva in front of me now, I appologize.)  In short, I suspect that
the policies that one sees concerning factories is effected by the
fact that major halachic authorties assert that no Jewish invovlement
in the cooking is needed at all.


From: Andy Goldfinger <andy_goldfinger@...>
Date: 30 Nov 1994 11:37:43 U
Subject: Feasibility of a Siyum

A friend of ours was niftar (victim of a violent crime) a few months
ago.  His yarhzeit (yom hazikaron) will be in about six months.  I would
like opinions on the feasibilty of making a mail-jewish siyum on the
mishnah in his memory.  My concept is the following: members would agree
to learn tractates of mishnah.  Before the siyum, each member would send
me an e-mail message telling who he is, where he lives, and describing
what he had learned (perhaps including a dvar torah on the subject.)  I
would gather these messages and present them, as a surprise, to his
brother on the day of his first yahrzeit.  I know that this would mean a
lot to him.  Of course, I could also e-mail the entire package to anyone
else who was interested.

Is this feasible?  If you are interested in taking part, please let me
know via e-mail (and perhaps indicate which mesechto(s) you would be
interested in learning.  I will try to see if there are enough people,
and also try to partition the mesechtos as fairly as I can.

If it is not feasible, perhaps a more limited set of learning goals
could be arrived at?


From: David Steinberg <dave@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Nov 1994 01:38:38 +0000
Subject: Kashrus Organizations

If Avi doesn't object, I'd like to propose a project for mj.  There are
literally dozens of kashrus organizations that place their symbols on
products we buy or don't buy.  With the exception of the major national
organizations and a few significant regional organizations its hard to
find out about the organizations behind the symbols and therefore to
make informed decisions about whether or not to use a product on the
basis of the hechsher.

While Kashrus Magazine publishes lists of organizations, the information 
provided falls far short of what would be necessary to determine whether 
one should rely on that organization.  In private communication on this 
subject I have been told to consult my LOR.  My objection to that as an 
approach is that I question whether the LOR has any better information.

One approach is to rely on a Chezkas Kashrus - the presumption that all 
jews are trustworthy unless proven otherwise.  That Chazaka falls down, 
however, with the knowledge that there are large sums of money involved 
and that, anecdotally at least, from a price you can get a hashgocho on 

Is there any way for us to pull together a database with enough
information to support decision making?  Ideally, as a first step we
would develop a uniform questionnaire to describe the standards of the
organization and the affiliations of the Rav HaMachshir and key

 Any suggestions?

[No objections from me to the task in principle. My only question is how
to turn this into something practical? You cannot have a database that
says group A is acceptable and group B is not, because for starters I
doubt that there are too many hechshers out there that all 1300+ mj'ers
would agree is acceptable, and we would probably leave ourselves open to
legal action from any hechsher we say is unacceptable. So what neutral
information could one collect in such a database to allow one to make an
informed decision based on it? That gets back to your last paragraph
above. I would be very happy if we can actually do something like
that. Mod]


From: <rifkin@...> (Marlene Rifkin)
Date: Wed, 30 Nov 94 19:47:28 PST
Subject: Origin of the mehitzah

Letty Cottin Pogrebin, in her book "Deborah, Golda, and Me" quotes Cynthia
Ozick as follows:  These defenders of the barrier that pens women in and
away from the liturgical action argue that it's the "assimilationists" who
want to remove it, when the fact is that the mehitzah was first introduced
by assimilationists who wanted to be like the majority culture, which was

This statement astonished me, and has prompted me to ask for enlightenment
regarding the origin of the mehitzah, and the establishment of the women's
section of the synagogue.

[I'm sure that there are those of you out there with more solid
information, but my vague memory is that the earliest sources is a
Gemorah somewhere about the crowds in the Beit Hamikdash during the
three festivals, and they "stretched a cord" to prevent the men and
women from mingling. OK so now someone can find the correct citation and
quote in full. Mod.]

I apologize if I am asking a question which has already been answered, but
I am new to mail-jewish (this is the first question I've asked!)

[Welcome! and I hope you enjoy the active, if sometimes heated,
discussions here. Mod]

Thank you,

		Marlene Rifkin


From: Mark Steiner <MARKSA@...>
Date: Wed,  30 Nov 94 22:44 +0200
Subject: Re: Pronunciation of qamatz (v16n93)

     Let's begin by distinguishing between the Massorah and "dikduk."
The system of vowel symbols, degeshim, etc., was instituted so that the
traditional pronunciation of Hebrew would not be forgotten.  This system
can be considered as a recording of Hebrew as it was received and
transmitted by the Baalei Massorah of Tiberias.  Let's also distinguish
between vowels and vowel signs.  The vowel *signs* record the
traditional pronunciation, much as music notation was devised to record
singing tradition.  Any distinction in sound would have been captured in
the Massoretic symbols; otherwise, the Baalei Massorah didn't do their

     Dikduk is not Massorah, but a theory of Massorah, a grammar.  It
can therefore be stated unequivocally that any dikduk that gives two
sound values (qualities) to the symbol qamatz is anti-Massoretic, just
as any scientific theory that makes wrong predictions should be revised
or thrown out.

     The myth of "kamatz katan" derives from the idea that there are
*inherently* long and inherently short vowels (patax short, kamatz
long).  Short and long vowels are supposed to be correlated with closed
(unstressed) and open syllables (I won't go into details).  Since the
theory doesn't work for kamatz, which we find in both open and closed
(unstressed) syllables "dikduk" postulates that there are two kematzim!
The appropriate reponse is, of course, to reject the imaginary
distinction, for which there is not the slightest evidence in the
Massoretic vowel symbol system, between *intrinsically* long vowels and
*intrinsically* short vowels.

     The Massorah certainly distinguishes between open and closed
SYLLABLES.  A dagesh is used to double a letter and hence close a
syllable.  Furthermore, in Hebrew and many languages, a vowel in a
closed (unstressed) syllable is "naturally" shorter than an open
syllable (try it out).  Notice the direction of causation: closing (and
unstressing) the syllable shortens it or any vowel; it does not
otherwise change the pronunciation.  (My brother, Professor Richard
Steiner, was slightly misquoted in a previous posting on this issue.)

     The vowel shift from holam to qamatz (e.g. the two forms of the
word for "all" kol/kawl) certainly occurs in the Massorah, but does not
prove that that qamatz should be pronounced like a xolam, as in the
Sefardic tradition (which is non-Massoretic but ancient).  One might as
well argue that because, in the word *yizdaqen* "he will age" the daleth
replaces the tav, one should pronounce a daleth like a tav!  (Even the
Sefardic tradition has trouble with the first qamatz of the word
qawdawshim, which they vocalize like a patax even though it is obviously
"derived" in some sense from the xolam of qodesh.)  We can find xiriq
alternating with tseireh (yawsimu/tawsaimnaw), xolam with shuruq
(yawmuthu/tawmothnaw)--we would end up with only one vowel in Hebrew,
should we take seriously the idea that vowels derived from one another
are pronounced identically.

     The "dikduk" now taught in schools is unlearnable, because it is
based on theories which contradict the Massorah and therefore confuse
the student.  Not long ago, there were learned discussions about the
shva on mail-jewish, particularly concerning the so- called "shva
meraxef."  This is is an imaginary shva introduced to prop up "dikduk"
wherever the shva na`/shva nax distinction fails to jibe with the
long/short vowel distinction, similar to the epicycles introduced to
prop up the geocentric theory.

     To repeat, an attack on "dikduk" is not an attack, but rather a
defense, of the Massorah.  It is merely to point out that the
grammatical theories of the Sefardim in the Middle Ages are an attempt
to reconcile the (perfectly respectable) Sefardic pronunciation with an
incompatible vowel *symbol* system, the Massorah of Tiberias.
Mail-jewish readers should know that the greatest of them all, the
Radaq, in his magnum opus, the Mikhlol, not only distinguishes long from
short qamatz, but also long from short patax!


From: <MShamah@...>   (M. Shamah)
Date: Tue, 29 Nov 1994 12:32:57 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Talmud and Science

In MJ V16#84, Binyomin Segal comments on the Talmudic controversy
between the sages of Israel and those of the nations regarding the
sun-earth relationship: 

>>...Rabbi Meiselman (btw has a phD in math from I believe mit with
>undergrad degree from yale) told me that the rabbis description (as
>understood by the rishonim) has _not_ been proven false. In fact he
>said the difference between a geocentric theory and a heliocentric
>theory is merely how complicated the math is. You can assume the
>earth stands still and compute the sun & planets motion, or assume
>the sun stands still and compute. 

Mathematics can do wonderful things but can not help us here.  The
Talmudic passsage under discussion - in which the wise men of Israel
said the wise men of the nations appear more correct - was not referring
to the yearly sun-earth cycle but to the 24 hour cycle of each day.
Decisive proof that day and night result from neither the earth rotating
around the sun nor the sun rotating around the earth can simply be
brought from the astronauts' observations and our space cameras.  Thus,
both theories of that passage are disproved.

Yaacov Haber asked which rosh yeshiva believes that the sun rises at
night.  Shalom Carmy in MJ16#90 cited some contemporary published
sources.  The statements I heard - from prominent personages - date to
the 1960's and 70's, so I will not cite them here as perhaps the parties
changed their minds.

I suspect some authorities still hold the sun rises at night because of
a statement specifically addressing this issue made by one of the
greatest aharonim - one who has a large academic following in the
yeshiva world and who lived in relatively modern times - Rav Akiva Eger.
In Gilyon Hashas on Pesahim 94b (published in the 1830's) he cites
Rabenu Tam that when the Gemara states the sages of the nations appear
correct it was only in the realm of "evidence" but the truth of the
matter is with the sages of Israel, and that is the meaning of the
prayer phrase "ubokeah halone rakiah and brings the sun forth from its


End of Volume 16 Issue 99