Volume 17 Number 35
                       Produced: Mon Dec 19 22:23:50 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chanukah Exp't.--Dont try this at home!
         [Sam Goldish]
Different Halachic Practices
         [Richard Friedman]
Kashrus Questionnaire Update
         [David Steinberg]
Kashrut Organizations
         [Seth A Gordon]
Meylekh Viswanath's comments on my work
         [Stan Tenen]
         [Joseph Steinberg]
SJM seeks hashkafa and rav
         [Seth A Gordon]


From: Sam Goldish <0005891269@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Dec 94 11:57 EST
Subject: Chanukah Exp't.--Dont try this at home!

Mike Gerver's subject posting, in M-J 17-34, brought to mind a story 
about an earlier experimenter with Chanukah menorahs.

HaRav Shlomo Yosef Zevin, z't'l, in his book, "Sipurei Chasidim" ("A 
Treasury of Chassidic Tales"), relates the story of Reb Shlomo of 
Karlin, who preferred to burn wax candles on Chanukah in lieu of 
olive oil, even though the oil was more reminiscent of the "pach 
shemen zayis" of the first Chanukah.  The reason Reb Shlomo m'Karlin 
preferred burning wax candles is because they left a "mark" that 
reminded him of Chanukah long after the chag had ended.  (I presume
that he meant the wax drippings deposited by the burning candles).

One Chanukah, however, R. Shlomo decided to burn olive oil, but the 
intensity of the heat scorched a portion of the wall near which he 
had placed his menorah.  Rather than complain, Reb Shlomo was elated.
He now had a mark to remind him of Chanukah the year around!

Kol Tuv.

Sam Goldish 
Tulsa, Oklahoma


From: Richard Friedman <RF@...>
Date: 19 Dec 1994 13:11:13 GMT
Subject: Different Halachic Practices

Re: "What rule do we follow when we disagree about what rule we should

     I am concerned with how the rabbinic tradition (from tannaim through
today) deals with the set of problems that occur when two or more
individuals, or communities, have to cooperate in some area where they
follow different halachic practices.  This might be phrased as the problem
of "What rule do we follow when we disagree about what rule we should

     A possible example: Family F, or Congregation C, does not insist on
halav yisrael, but an invited guest at a (milchig) simha does.  Must F (C)
arrange for halav yisrael for that guest?  Must it serve halav yisrael for
all guests so as not to draw unnecessary attention to the one guest?  Or,
on the contrary, should it not serve halav yisrael to all guests, so as to
avoid implicitly deligitimizing a practice that is halachically valid?

     A second possible example: Guests and hosts at Friday night dinner
have different practices regarding standing or sitting for kiddush, or
regarding whether each family should have a separate recitation of kiddush.
What rule applies for standing or sitting:  each one follows his/her own
practice? majority rule? host's practice governs? guests' practice governs?
or does one of these practices have some intrinsic entitlement to
deference?  How do we decide about separate or unified kiddush:  host's
rule? guests' rule? majority rule? is one practice inherently superior?

     I am interested in citations to halachic (or aggadic or philosophical)
sources that deal with this set of problems.  Typically, this sort of
problem will arise where both practices are halachically valid.  However,
it can arise when one person/group does _not_ accept the halachic validity
of the other's practice -- are there nevertheless situations of this sort
where this person/group can, should, accommodate the other practice in any

     Let me make two things clear:  First, I am not interested in citations
(or, even more so, debates) that go essentially to the propriety of any
particular practice, but rather in citations or thoughts regarding how two
differing practices should be reconciled or accommodated.  Second, I am not
trying to raise the issue of which practices are not halachically valid.  I
even hesitate to raise the issue of accommodating a practice whose validity
one rejects, since I assume that there are innumerable instances where a
halachic authority rejects some particular such accommodation.  Such
rejections would be of interest _only_ if they draw some reasoned and
principled distinction between situations where one should, and where one
should not, accommodate.


From: David Steinberg <dave@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 1994 21:32:23 +0000
Subject: Kashrus Questionnaire Update

I appreciate the feedback I've gotten on the Kashrus Questionnaire.  I 
again stress that the Questionnaire should be something that is objective 
and that would aid in decision making - with consultation with a LOR, as 

If anyone has any other ideas about fields that would aid in 
differentiating between Hashgochos they would find acceptable and a 
Hashgocho they would reject, I'd appreciate e-mail on it.  Cholov 
Yisrael, Pas Akum and Yoshon are examples of such fields.  
Non-religious-Supervised Grape Juice is such a litmus test.  Any other 

Based on the feedback I've received, I propose several additional fields 
for the questionnaire:

Number of Companies Supervised
 - Number of Products 
Number of Mashgichim Involved

Number of Retail Establishments Supervised
Number of Mashgichim Involved

How Are Mashgichim Compensated?

Nature of Kashrus Inspections
 -- Scheduled
 -- Unscheduled
 -- How is Inspection Frequency Determined



From: Seth A Gordon <sethg@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 1994 18:35:05 EST
Subject: Kashrut Organizations

It might be useful to indicate which kashrut organizations
automatically accepts the hekhsher of which other organizations--e.g.,
if I trust the hekhsher of the Va'ad haRabonim of Massachusetts, can I
safely trust anything with an O-U hekhsher?

Such a cross-reference guide would not, I think, run into any
liability problems, as long as it makes clear that "group A doesn't
automatically accept group B's heksher" != "group A thinks everything
with group B's heksher is treyf".

--Seth Gordon <sethg@...> standard disclaimer


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 1994 13:33:25 -0800
Subject: Re: Meylekh Viswanath's comments on my work

   On m-j 17,27 Meylekh Viswanath says: "However, I don't think that the
haskomes that Stan produces would convince many mj people to drop their
regular gemore/torah studies and study tefillin hand shapes.  (Again,
this is my opinion, and btw, this is also why I would not, at this
juncture, spend time investigating Stan's work actively.)"
   Meylekh may misunderstand my purposes.  As I originally posted, I do
not believe that ideas should be judged by endorsements.  The reason I
posted Rabbi Fleer's letter was because the issue of whether my work was
"kosher" or not was raised. (Rabbi Fleer is currently staying with
us. Anyone who wishes to discuss my work with him can do so via this
conference while he is here.) I chose to post Rabbi Fleer's comments
because he is a robust person fully capable of speaking for himself and
defending his opinions.  (We also have similar letters from rabbis who
are somewhat more retiring than Rabbi Fleer who, on occasion, have been
hurt by criticism of themselves for their support of my work.)  So, I am
not asking anyone to believe what I say just because I or anyone else
says it is so, but I am asking that my work be understood as fully
kosher and I am asking that my commitment to Torah, Talmud, Halacha and
Mitzvot be understood as genuine regardless of my lack of traditional
Torah learning.
   Also, I am certainly _not_ asking anyone to "drop their regular
gemore/torah studies."  I am asking that those who do not have the time
or interest to investigate my work for themselves give the benefit of
the doubt of its (ultimate) value to those who have found the time and
made the effort to do so.  This time should no more be taken from Talmud
study than it should be taken from time with one's family or time spent
in charitable assistance to others. The Meru work rightly belongs
somewhat down on the queue.  But it does deserve some consideration - if
only for the potential impact of this work IF its seemly overly bold
claims may have merit.  My work does not only involve "tefillin shapes."
There is one particularly shaped (-how it is bound on the hand-)
Tefillin strap that appears to generate all of the Hebrew letter shapes,
but that is not the majority of this work.  To the extent that it does
however, I am surprised that that is not a part of traditional interest
and study.  There are, after all, whole books written on Tefillin.
(R. Aryeh Kaplan's thin volume is one example.)
   I am, however, grateful for Meylekh's careful and generous statement
that this is his opinion.  He, and others, are certainly entitled to
their opinions and to use their own judgment as to what is most
important for them to study.  It would be a miracle well beyond any
reasonable expectation if everyone who heard about this work understood
and appreciated it at first glance.  Any really good idea needs to
emerge slowly.  Slow acceptance often presages long duration.
Flash-in-the-pan and the usual run of new-age, hippy-dippy kabbalah (or
other self- proclaimed "wonders") is here today and gone tomorrow - and
sometimes not even worth that much time in the spotlight.  But who is to
say which is which?  Only time will tell.  The more adventurous (and
persons with more free time) will look first and if what they find seems
to have merit, then others will look.  If not, not.  This is fair and
  Good Shabbos,


From: Joseph Steinberg <steinber@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 1994 12:23:56 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Shechita

This is true -- but VERY ironic. If I am not mistaken, one of the
conditions for the lifting of the various cherumim placed on Hassidim by
the Rabbanuts in Vilna, Brodie, etc. was that the Chassidim would admit 
that their shechita was NOT better than anyone elses. In fact -- although 
the GRA banned Chassidic meat for political reasons (i.e., the cherem) he 
held that it was Kosher. The Rabbis in Brodie -- if I remember correctly 
-- held that it was NOT KOSHER. Oc course, as Rabbi Reiner in YU used to 
say (and probably still does) -- it does not matter who was right -- 
Chasidim or Mitnagdim -- the Chasidim won...

This is all being written from memory of a Jewish History class taken at 
YU a number of years ago so it may not be 100% accurate (but it is 
probably very close to correct at worst).

:You're right that the difference is in how the knife is sharpened, etc.
:And I'm right that this is a "higher tolerance" of kashrut.  Chassidic
:shechita is not unacceptible to non-Chassidim, but not vice versa.
:This seems to me a clear case of "more strict".  Their shechita is
:acceptible to all of Judaism, but the shechita that most of orthodoy
:considers OK is not acceptible to them.
     _                      _
    | | ___  ___  ___ _ __ | |__      Joseph Steinberg
 _  | |/ _ \/ __|/ _ \ '_ \| '_ \     <steinber@...>
| |_| | (_) \__ \  __/ |_) | | | |    http://iia.org/~steinbj/steinber.html
 \___/ \___/|___/\___| .__/|_| |_|    +1-201-833-9674


From: Seth A Gordon <sethg@...>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 1994 18:27:22 EST
Subject: SJM seeks hashkafa and rav

Over the past year, I've become more and more interested in following
halakha.  Unfortunately, there are a vast number of competing schools
of thought, among rabbis who call themselves "Orthodox" and
"Conservative"[*], about exactly what halakha does and does not
require me to do.  Proponents of these various schools write all kinds
of polemics to discredit their opponents, but most of the polemics
that I have read and heard fail to convince me.

Those who defend Orthodox Judaism against the Conservative variety, or
the more traditional Orthodox against the "Modern" or "centrist"
folks, assert that Torah is eternal and unchanging, and accuse their
more liberal opponents of modifying the unchangeable Law.  However,
it's obvious that *some* things have changed in Jewish practice over
the last three thousand years.  The traditionalists obviously do not
consider these changes significant--i.e., they are legitimate
accommodations of the eternal Torah and the Jewish community's
legislative power to changing conditions, but the Torah itself doesn't

On the other hand, those who defend Conservative Judaism or the more
liberal varieties of Orthodoxy point to the numerous changes in Jewish
practice over the centuries, and say, Judaism has changed in the past,
it can change now if the proper authorities believe the change is
necessary and promulgate the change in the right way, and to *refuse*
to change is a violation of tradition.  However, it's obvious that in
spite of all the historical changes, *some* things have remained
constant; a group of Jews who decide (c"v) that there is more than one
deity has obviously chosen to follow a religion other than Judaism,
regardless of the size of that group or the identity of its leaders.

So, where is the line to be drawn between impermissible changes and
permissible changes (or actions that only *appear* to be changes on
the surface) in halakha?  The book _Rabbinic Authority and Personal
Autonomy_ (ed. Sokol), which has been mentioned before on this list,
has some excellent, in-depth essays that touch on some (Modern?)
Orthodox opinions on this issue.  Can any of y'all point me to other
useful writtings by contemporary rabbis in this vein?

(I am aware that there are hashkafic differences among rabbis other
than "how machmir should I be," and I'm interested in learning about
those too ... this just seems to be the issue that generates the most
heat these days.)

I'm also interested in finding a rav in my community with a hashkafa
consistent with mine (inasmuch as I have one, so far...).  Some
friends and e-correspondents who I trust have recommended some people
to me, and I would like to discuss these matters with them and then
pick one rabbi to be my posek.  What questions should I ask these
rabbis--including, but not limited to, questions about hashkafa--to
decide which one to choose?

[*]I have heard that some Reform rabbis are setting up an Institute of
   Liberal Halakha, but as I understand the Reform conception of halakha,
   it is very far from any normative system that I want to adopt as a

--Seth Gordon <sethg@...> standard disclaimer


End of Volume 17 Issue 35