Volume 17 Number 6
                       Produced: Mon Dec  5 11:24:14 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Age of the Earth
         [Stan Tenen]
Candles for Shabbos Chanuka
         [Akiva Miller]
Etymology of "pitriah" (mushroom)
         [Stan Tenen]
Mattan Torah
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
         [Yechezkel Schatz]
Shahak's Book
         [Yisrael Medad]
Western values, etc.
         [Zvi Weiss]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 1994 19:45:34 -0800
Subject: Age of the Earth

In m-j 87 Moishe Kimelman says: "Why would Hashem use the word "yom"
(day) to mean eons, when he could have used a less misleading word such
as "et" (time), "onah" (period) or "zman" (time), or he could have
coined a totally new word?"

This seems a bit strange to me.  I thought that Elokim did "coin a new 
word".  The new word is "yom."  It occurs before there are any people.  
Who but Elokim could have coined this word and how much newer than 
creation could it be?

We, later when humans appeared, co-opted the original new word, yom, and 
we chose to identify it with the simple night/day cycle that we 
experience.  We chose to take Elokim's new word and make it mean what we 
could easily understand.  This is what I mean when I say that an 
exclusively literal translation can be misleading.

Yom means day _now_.  When Elokim coined it, it simply indicated the 
idea of the circulation/cycling/phasing/alternation of consciousness 
(Yod) and the expanse of the world (Mem final) around the archetypal 
"pin", "spine" (or axis) Vov. 

Happy Hanukah,


From: <Keeves@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Sun, 4 Dec 1994 11:53:17 -0500
Subject: Candles for Shabbos Chanuka

What I did this year was take regular Shabbos candles, cut them in half so
they'd still last a good two hours, and then melt their bottoms a bit so they
would stick onto the regular menoras. (I and my oldest son lit oil, but my
other children and three guests used those Shabbos candles.)

What happened was that every candle melted down and was out about 30-40
minutes after being lit, which is far too short a time to be yotzay (fulfill
the mitzvah). It is apparent to me that because a Shabbos candle gives a
reasonably large flame, and the candles were only an inch or so apart, the
concentrated heat melted them and the poor things never had a chance to last l
ong enough.

I would like to know other peoples experiences, so that I can conduct a few
experiments to learn how far apart they need to be in order to avoid melting.
This has happened to me in years past, but I keep forgetting to plan ahead,
so this time I want to really make sure I get it right for next year. Please
contact me either by direct e-mail (to <Keeves@...>) or through MailJewish.


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 1994 19:46:12 -0800
Subject: Etymology of "pitriah" (mushroom)

I would like to thank Mike Gerver for his comments on the etymology of
pitriah.  His posting expanded on and pretty much agreed with what I
have been told previously.

However, there is one point I would like to add.  Current etymologies 
are based almost entirely on literal descriptive meanings.  But there 
are other possible associations that may not be immediately apparent to 
linguists.  An example:  I suspect that there may be a relationship 
between pater and Peter, not because they are equal descriptively, but 
rather because they may have an equivalent position spiritually.  (But 
Peter is not a Jewish issue and I don't really want to start a thread on 
this subject on m-j.)

Thanks again for the information.
Happy Hanukah,


From: <sbechhof@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Sat, 3 Dec 1994 21:19:02 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Mattan Torah

> From Meylekh Viswanath:
> However, just as I don't see how science can _prove_ anything, I 
> don't see how I can believe as a 'fact' that is necessarily true 
> on logical/rational grounds alone, that God gave us the Torah on 
> Mt. Sinai. I feel compelled to treat is as a matter of faith, 
> which is what it is, for me. 
> Is this point of view really rejected out of hand in Orthodoxy? Or 
> am I misunderstanding Yosef Bechhofer? 

I certainly would not call it rejected "out of hand," indeed, many
Chassidic approaches, perhaps most typified by R. Nachman of Breslov,
the Rambam's great antagonist, stressed "Emuna Peshuta" - simple, pure
faith, the very type of faith that the Rambam derides - as PRIMARY in

The Misnagdic scools of thought - beginning with the Rambam (Yesodei
HaTorah 8:1-3, Letter to the Wise Men of Marseilles, and other places)
and continuing on throughout the ages (Alter from Kelm, Chochmo u'Mussar
v2 p76), stressed, however, that the mitzva of Emuna cannot be fully
fulfilled except with firm rational grounding.

An excellent work on these issues is R. Moshe Yechiel Tsuriel (Weiss)'s
"Beis Yechezkel" vol. 2., Sha'ar HaEmunah.

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer


From: Yechezkel Schatz <lpschatz@...>
Date: 4 Dec 1994 11:43:00 +0200
Subject: Nikud

Re Mark Steiner's posting in mj vol.16,#99. Mark writes: 
>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.

- There are other notations that have dual purposes, depending on where
they are situated.  We are assumed to know how to tell the difference
between them.  One example is the dagesh/mappik - we are assumed to know
that when that "dot" appears in a Heh, then it is a mappik.  We are also
assumed to know when a patach is actually a patach g'nuva.  In the same
way, we are expected to know that for a closed, unstressed syllable, a
kamatz must be katan.

>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.

- This is true.  In various conjugations of verbs and nouns we have
rules for changes in nikud, which need not necessarily sound the same:
from cholam to kubutz, from tseire to chirik etc.  We start out with the
original word, modify the nikud, add letters, attach suffixes etc., to
give rise to a NEW word.  This happens also in s'michut, but not always.
When a word is in the singular form and ends with a "closed" syllable,
it need not undergo any changes, other than the removal of the accent
(or stress, as Mike called it), and shortening of the last vowel:
Yishmor versus Yishmor-lo (=not s'michut, a word simply attached);
Shulchan   versus   Shulchan-HaPanim
I'm claiming that I would expect the word to sound the same with or without
the accent.

>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!

- This phenomenon has nothing to do with the question at hand.

>The "dikduk" now taught in schools is unlearnable, because it is based on
>theories which contradict the Massorah and therefore confuse the student.

- Grammar is a tough subject in any language.  Some kids are better at
it, some not as good.  Hebrew grammar is especially hard, and we
therefore need teachers who can do justice to the subject, and show kids
the beauty in it.  We must also remember that the rules of dikduk are
not scientific theories, and, by definition, there may be exceptions to
these rules.

>the so- called "shva meraxef. "This 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.

- It sounds like you don't care for the concept of sh'va na`. Could you


From: MEDAD%<ILNCRD@...> (Yisrael Medad)
Date: Sun, 4 Dec 94 09:05 IST
Subject: Shahak's Book

I do not know how many have seen it or are aware of it, but Israel
Shahak, the bane of religion here in Israel as well as any expression
of Jewish nationalism, has published a book entitled "Jewish History,
Jewish Religion" with a forward by Gore Vidal.  The publisher is Pluto
Press, Boulder, CO.  It is softcover, about 130 pgs.

In it he rips into Orthodoxy and zeros in on the Rambam, saving the life
of a non-Jew on the Shabbat and all the other problematic areas of
Jewish-gentile relationships.

I recently caught him out in a baldfaced lie regarding Mandate history
(my specialty) and the Season persecution of dissident underground
fighters by the official Hagana & Palmach but I am sure there are many
more qualified to deal with this volume by Shahak.

Has the book made a splash yet?  Was it reviewed and dealt with?

Any info, please let me (and the list) know as I presume it will be
used as a major weapon.

Yisrael Medad


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 1994 14:10:35 -0500
Subject: Western values, etc.

 My primary objection to the thesis advanced by David Philips is that he
appears to imply that *based upon Western values* we can somehow
"improve" upon the morality contained within the Torah.
 My thesis has been that the Torah is "self-contained" as far as
morality is concerned and that our moral values need not depend upon
Western mores.  The particular example is that of Slavery.  The Torah
clearly permits slavery and -- in fact -- there is a mitzva of "L'olam
Bahem Ta'vodu" -- which PROHIBITS one under most conditions from ever
freeing a slave.  To state that our Western values of slavery are
superior to those of the Torah seems to me a bit arrogant... If the
Torah does not ban slavery and the Chachamim do not ban slavery, then
what basis do WE have to assert that the Torah is soemhow (G-d Forbid)

As far as the examples that David Philips cites:
1. A Ben-No'ach [non-Jew] is STILL allowed to marry 2 sisters.  Ya'akov had
  the technical status of a Ben-No'ach.  Why he chose to violate this par-
  ticular mitzva (since the Avot did -- in general -- keep the Torah prior to
  Matan Torah) is a matter discussed by the Classical commentaries and is
  probably beyond the scope of this thread.
2. Not every Capital Crime is described by the terms of "V;chol Ha'am yishm'u
  v'yira'u".  Only certian ones are so captioned and the Gemara, in fact,
  determines that such crimes require the public notification that so-and-so
  was executed for such-and-such.  However, the gemara does not treat this
  verse as a basis for "encouraging" executions, per se.  Actually, the idea
  of the death penalty being a deterrent is discussed in the Mishna in 
  Sanhedrin where one Tanna states that had he been on the Sanhedrin, he
  would have used "legal loopholes" to ensure that nobody was ever executed.
  Another Tanna responded that this would have led to a proliferation of
  murderers in the land.  Actually, the reluctance to execute (under most
  circumstances -- note that in exceptional conditions, CHAZAL did not oppose
  executions -- e.g., the case of Shimon ben Shetach who killed many people
  ["witches"] on the same day which the Chazal state was due to an exceptional
  situation) is based upon several Torah concepts: (1) the requirement of
  D'risha [that the matter be thoroughly checked to ensure the truthfulness of
  the witnesses], (2) the verse of "V;Hitzily Ha'eda" which is understood to
  mean that the "Edah" [in this case the court] must make a vigorous attempt
  to avoid carrying out executions, (3) the verse of "V'naki V'Tzaddik Al
  Taharog" [which is understood to further limit the court in how it can pro-
  cedurally carry out executions].. In this case, too, we see that it is not
  that Torah values changed -- rather there are "conflicting" Torah values
  given and it is up to CHAZAL to determine for us how to apply these values
  in a harmonious fashion.
3. As has been mentioned elsewhere, there is an opinion that the Rambam in that
  section of the Moreh was writing as an apologist.  However, when it came
  down to halachic "brass tacks", the RAMBAM followed the Torah values in
  describing the Korbanot of the 3rd Temple.
4. I do not know what opinion is cited to claim that the Torah was "radically
  pro-woman".  However, I did not see such an opinion among the classical
  commentaries who explain the verses relating to Divorce.  I do not know that
  this citation has any relevance to the discussion.  However, as far as the
  "inherent wrong" in the man "having all of the power", I would suggest that
  Mr. Philips read some of the works of Isaac Breuer as he discusses this
  matter at length.  As the Breuer citation has been discussed in the past, I
  am only alluding to it here.
5. The objection that I have is that it is all too easily to APPEAR to be 
  using halachic methodology but actually be perverting halacha because of
  our own subjectivity.  I know that throughout Torah, the Netziv alludes to 
  the fact that the temptaiton facing a Talmid chacham is so awesome because
  there is alwasy the possibility of using one's knowledge to pervert halacha.
  In that light, it may be easier to understand my great discomfort with the
  notion there is nothing wrong with viewing halacha through the prism of
  Western thought and values.  Obviously, we have to observe the halacha in the
  context of the society in which we live -- however, that does not mean that
  our halachaic interpretations should be colored by that society.



End of Volume 17 Issue 6