Volume 22 Number 18
                       Produced: Fri Nov 24 14:37:53 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer]
         [Akiva Miller]
Celebrating Thanksgiving?
         [Jay Novetsky]
Children of non-Cohanim during Bircas Cohanim
         [Chaim Wasserman]
Kitchen Halacha
         [Diane M. Sandoval]
         [Ed Ehrlich]
Smoking is forbidden by written and oral Torah
Women and Halacha - in the kitchen and out
         [Akiva Miller]


From: <sbechhof@...> (Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer)
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 1995 09:51:11 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Abarbanel

> From: Lawrence Feldman <larryf@...>
> Along these lines, in his preface to the excellent Maharal Haggadah
> (Feldheim Books, Horev Publishers, Jerusalem, 1993), which he edited and
> translated, Shlomo Mallin notes that the Maharal waged "a cultural
> battle" against "fellow Jews who had become steeped in philosophical
> traditional. Outstanding among them was Don Yizhak Abarbanel." Jews like
> the Abarbanel, Mallin states, who lived in highly assimilated
> communities, mastered "Scripture and Aristotelian philosophy, but not
> the Rabbinic writings" and therefore rarely quoted Rabbinic sources, but
> instead typically expounded Scripture directly and proceeded to "attempt
> to impose his own ideas upon it, in much the same way that Aristotle
> tried to impose his own ideas of how motion should behave in the real
> world." The Abarbanel often questioned Rabbinic teachings when citing
> them, because, Mallin proposes, the Abarbanel's "ideological vantage
> point" was essentially Aristotelian.

I appreciate this enlightening quote very much. If this, is indeed the
case, why is the Abarbanel lent credence in traditional Jewish exegesis?
My hunch is that either: a) his stellar reputation as an individual
outweighed the hesitation over his work; b) his originality and insight
made him to formidable to ignore.

> From: <Chaimwass@...> (Chaim Wasserman)

> Why would this be any less shocking than what RaMBaM writes in Hilchos
> Kiddush haChodesh 17:24 wherein he indicates that all of the
> mathematical calculations which he wrote about in the preceeding
> chapters are all imported from the book of Greek philosophers for this
> same information was lost in all of the genuinely Jewish traditions.
> Clearly, mathematics and theology are two entirely different realms.
> Nonetheless, how could a RaMBaM even give credit to the ancient Greeks
> in a halachic context?! That is similarly rather shocking.

I, personally, was aware of that Rambam, and find it not shocking at
all, whereas I find the Abarbanel very shocking. Mathematical
calculations are either true or are not - they are observable "fact" (it
should be noted, however, for the record, that the Rambam does state
that this knowledge was originally that of Shevet Yissaschar, thus
making it authentically Jewish).  The nature of prophecy, at the time of
tha Abarbanel, could not be independently observed or verified, rather
only deduced from text and tradition. To say the least, Christian
interpretation of prophecy would include basis on heretical texts and
phenomena we reject. How could the Abarbanel use their ideas as
prooftext for the nature of prophecy?!

As Rabbi Wasserman, and Mechy Frankel in an earlier post noted, it would be
interesting to see a discussion of this topic develop here, as there are some
very competent Tanach and Jewish Philosophical Scholars on line here...

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer


From: <Keeves@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 1995 17:23:35 -0500
Subject: Anchovies

There is a law/custome/practice not to eat fish and meat at the same
time.  There was some discussion a few months back about the fact that
A1 Steak Sauce - and others - contains anchovies. Some felt that a
minute (less than 1/60) amount of fish in a non-meat product becomes
nullified, rendering is ok to use that product with meat. Others feel
that it is not nullified. This post is adressed to those who fell that
it is *not* nullified.

You should be aware that anchovies are often used in salad dressing,
especially Russian dressing. I have in front of me a bottle of Pfeiffer
brand Fat Free California French Style Dressing, with a plain OU (not
ou-fish). It lists anchovies as the second-to-last ingredient. It has
less anchovies than preservative. Less anchovies than artificial
coloring. But it does contain anchovies. Just thought you'd like to

By the way, are there any professional taste-testers in our membership?
I would really like to know if anyone can really taste the presence of
such a small amount of flavoring. Thanx.


From: <JNOVETSKY@...> (Jay Novetsky)
Date: Wed, 22 Nov 1995 15:57:17 -0500
Subject: Celebrating Thanksgiving?

Several years ago when Rav Riskin was in Teaneck,N.J. over the Thanksgiving
holiday I asked him my shaila on this "yom tov".  I was bothered by the
custom of eating a large "shabbosdik" seudah on a Thursday evening which for
many of us detracted from the gustatory anticipation of Shabbat. That is, we
just weren't in the mood to eat a large seudah the next night.  He replied,
that in his home in Efrat, his children chided him for continuing to
celebrate Thanksgiving  "with all the trimmings" just as he had in America.
 He told them that there is never a problem with making a special meal (even
the night before Shabbat) with the intention of focusing our thoughts on
"Hodu LaShem KiTov, Ki L'olam Chasdoh".  With that in mind, to all MJ
members, Chag Sameach V'Shabbat Shalom!!

Jay Novetsky


From: <Chaimwass@...> (Chaim Wasserman)
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 1995 11:54:42 -0500
Subject: Re: Children of non-Cohanim during Bircas Cohanim

>I am wondering if anyone out there is aware of a source for the custom
>of children of non-Cohanim standing under their father's tallis during
>Bircas Cohanim (the priestly blessing).
>-- Carl Sherer

This minhag of children of non-Cohanim standing under their father's
talis is IMHO not qualified to be termed a minhag. The practice probably
derives from the notion that if one looks at the hands of Cohen during
Birkat Kohanim that one stands the chance of going blind. Not too many
fathers would take the chance and allow their children to "look".

The problem that I have with this strongly held practice is that
children by the untold thousands have in fact looked and they somehow
have an abiding fear even in adulthood that one day their vision will be
impaired for life.  Moreover, this practice is based on a distortion of
the sources. In the Bet haMikdash the hands of the Cohen were exposed
while today the most common practice is for the Cohen to use his tallit
to cover his head, face, and - yes- his hands. So if one cannot see the
hands of the Cohen why worry?

The ultimate "insult" to the Cohanim and to their b'rachot, however,
recorded in several works of acharonim is when those who do not want to
chance becoming vision impaired turn their backs to the Cohanim and at
the same time turn the heards and bodies around of their little
ones. This, then, becomes a life-long practice (donj't dare use the word
minhag!) which can very rarely be broken notwithstanding its halachic,
moral and esthetic offensiveness.  (Imagine! You are at a Melave Malka
and the speaker at the dais is beseeching G-d on your behalf that you
have wealth, good fortune, health and well-being for you and your loved
ones. As the speaker does this you turn around and face the other
way. And this everyone sees. Ugh!)

Carl's inquiry is not trivial. In my estimation he is on to a very "big"

chaim wasserman


From: Diane M. Sandoval <74454.321@...>
Date: 23 Nov 95 15:41:38 EST
Subject: Kitchen Halacha

At the end of Akiva Miller's question of how kitchen halacha was
transmitted by women unversed in textual study (Vol 22, No 12), he says:

"/If/ the wife has not sweated over the gemara et al, how will she be
sensitive to the issues, and how will she know when to ask a question?"

Ellen Krischer (Vol 22, No 12) points out that there has always been
variability of educational background among women, with some women being
almost completely unschooled and others, through whatever means
available, very learned.  Part of the answer to Akiva's question may lie
additionally within two aspects of the traditional community of women:
(1) Regarding "kitchen halachot," the approach has been very practical,
so that the astute woman would be sensitive to new aspects of preparing
foods to which the halachot she has learned may or may not be applied.
This would trigger a question to a posek.  (2) Additionally, women who
have less knowledge have always consulted women who had more
knowledge--this continues today (who hasn't fielded a frantic question
from a baalat tshuva half an hour before Shabbat?).  These
considerations apply only to a community in which there was a halachic
(as opposed to a traditional) bent and in which the women had a communal
cohesion.  Learning gemara, as many women do today, adds to the
knowledge upon which one may draw, but should not be a requisite for the

This brings up an other point about a subject which has been on my mind
and was briefly alluded to in a discussion of obligations for inviting
baalei tshuvot for Shabbat meals.  It is this: many baalei tshuvot and,
certainly, gerim don't experience practical halacha and do not have
minhagim.  Today, with so many of them, most of their education is
within the classroom and the shul.  It seems to me that sharing the
Shabbat table of various families is educational to a degree and
certainly speaks well of the invitors, but it does not provide these
essential aspects of a full Jewish life.

In the past ("the good old days"?), when there were not so many people
seeking to learn and become more observant, a person who was becoming
baal tshuvah or exploring conversion became essentially ben or bat bayit
in a suitable home.  This home would not necessarily be that of the Rav
with whom he or she was studying, but would have the same broad halachic
approach.  In the end, the baal tshuvah or ger would adopt the minhagim
of that family or of the Rav's, and would also get invaluable lessons in
practical halaka.

 From my observations, this is not always happening now.  Why not?  Is
there an obligation to the baalei tshuvot and gerim to provide a more
one-on-one education?

Just a few thoughts.

Diane Sandoval


From: <eehrlich@...> (Ed Ehrlich)
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 1995 14:51:26 +0200
Subject: Orthodox/Fundamentalist

1) The actual meaning of the word "orthodox" meaning someone who
believes in an established doctrine.  Since so much of Judaism is based
on what a person is supposed to do and not what to think, it's not a
particulary good term to use, in my opinion.  I think the term
"observant" or in Hebrew "shomeir mitzvot" is more appropriate.  By the
way someone has coined the term "Orthoprax" to refer to someone who
continues to live according to Halachah even though he no longer
believes in Torah from Sinai.

2) A fundamentalist refers to (at least in a religious context) a person
who believes that the Bible - particulary the beginning of Breshit - is
literally true.  In other words the days are actual 24 hour periods and
not to be interperted allegorically.  In Jewish terminilogy we would say
that a fundamentalist believes that the entire Bible must be interperted
as "pshat".

Ed Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>


From: <KAISER@...>
Date: Tue, 26 Sep 1995 22:10:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Smoking is forbidden by written and oral Torah

[An old posting that I have excavated from my mbox, but one that I think
is still relevant. Mod.]

Shana Tova,

  My name is Robert Kaiser, and I am a new subscriber to this list.
Recently someone asked if there were any sources for the prohibition of
smoking.  The answer is emphatically - Yes!  No responsa or teshuvah is
necessary to address the manner, and any which attempt to allow Jews to
smoke are invalid, as they directly violate both the Oral andWritten

 In the Fall 1994 issue of "Jewish Action" (vol. 55, #1), there is an
article by Rabbbi Abraham Twershi,M.D.  He points out that first and
foremost,the Torah states:

  "Be extremely protective ofyour lives"  Devarim 4:16
  "Guard yourlife"  Devarim 4:9

  In his"Mishneh Torah",the Rambam devotes the entire Chapter 11 (of the
laws pertaining to muder and protection of life) to the fact that a
person may -not- subject himself to danger, NOR do anything that is
harmful to his health.  Rabbi Twerski correctly points out that this is
clear and binding Torah law, and says "I cannot understand, I really
cannot, how people who claim to be observant of Torah ; who will not
drink milk that is not supervised...can allow themselves to smoke
cigarettes when it has been established beyoond a shadow of a doubt that
cigarettes are poisonous."

  Fact: More Jews have killed themselves thrun smoking than the PLO has
EVER done.

  Rabbi Twerski closes his article by saying :

  Cigarette smoking cvauses disease and death. "THOSE WHO HAVE THE
FOR ITS CONSEQUENCES".  These are harsh words, but they are not mine.
They are the words of the Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 54b.

[Note:  Highlighting was the Author's emphasis, not my own]

  Since we are starting a new year, this seems like a good time to
commit ourselves to observing more direct Torah mitzvot- including the
mitzvot in Devarim which command us to guard our lives.

Robert Kaiser


From: <Keeves@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 1995 01:48:43 -0500
Subject: Women and Halacha - in the kitchen and out

I think some people may have misunderstood my post. I am well aware of
the fine education being provided to Jewish women today. I also realize
that there are men who receive only a basic edulation, or less. My
question refers to the several thousand years of Jewish history *prior*
to the current educational system, when Jewish women were specifically
excluded from formal Torah education, and learned only what their
mothers taught them.

My understanding is that the Jewish woman of one, two, or three thousand
years ago knew little or nothing more than what her mother taught her,
while her husband was busy learning all sorts of details and situations,
most of which his wife never heard of, simply because her mother never
encountered them. When the husband returns home from learning, he *may*
share some of his newfound learning with his wife, but it will certainly
be a very small portion.

In a nutshell: A thousand years ago, the rabbis spent long stretches of
time on a very fine point in halacha, concerning two situations which
are very similar to each other. The conclusion was that in the majority
of cases, the halacha goes one way. But if several specific factors are
present, then the halacha goes the other way. (And anyone who ever
learned any amount of halacha knows that this happens all the time.) My
question is: When and how did the women learn about the exceptional
case? The rabbi will give them the correct answer, but what will drive
them to ask the question, unless they realize that these factors might
be cause for an exception to the general rule?


End of Volume 22 Issue 18