Volume 22 Number 27
                       Produced: Mon Dec  4  7:03:36 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

D'var Torah -- Toldot
         [Steve White]
Ketubot and Kashrut
         [Debra Fran Baker]
Smoking (2)
         [Stan Tenen, Zvi Weiss]
Smoking & Shabat
         [Yeshaya Halevi]
Walking Down at Weddings
         [Carl Sherer]


From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steve White)
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 1995 00:33:34 -0500
Subject: D'var Torah -- Toldot

The following is a dvar Torah that was shared with the Hashkama Minyan
of Congregation Ahavas Achim, Highland Park, NJ by Dr. Ira Krumholtz
last Shabbat.

In this week's parsha, we read concerning Yitzhak: And Yitzhak was old,
and lost his sight (27:1).  So what's so unusual about that?  Said he,
"Old people lose their sight all the time; I see it all the time."
[Laughter, as Dr. Krumholtz is an optometrist.]

But Rashi, he pointed out, didn't accept that at all.  Why not?  He
doesn't say, but perhaps he reasoned this way.  Avraham never gave his
blessing to Yitzhak, the way Yitzhak does in this chapter, and the way
that Yaakov does at the end of Bereshit.  Why?  He saw that Yitzhak was
destined to father both Yaakov and Esav.  He decided that he would not
like to chance giving Yitzhak a blessing that would then pass to Esav.
Thus, he passed the responsibility of blessing Yitzhak directly back to
the KB''H.
 And so He did bless Yitzhak.  But if He blessed Yitzhak, then how is it
that He could have allowed Yitzhak to go blind?  What kind of blessing
is that?  There must therefore have been a specific reason for Yitzhak
to go blind.

Rashi brings down three reasons for this, in fact.  But usually if Rashi
brings down more than one reason for something, it's because there is
something wrong with each of his reasons.  So let's look at this.

The first reason was "because of the incense smoke" of the Avoda Zara of
Esav's wives.  (This was alluded to in the immediately preceding
section.)  But the problem with that is that if the smoke of idolatrous
incense causes blindness, why are we not warned about it specifically
anywhere else in the Torah?

The second reason was the classic Midrash about the angels' tears
falling into Yitzhak's eyes at the Akeda.  But the problem with that was
that it didn't seem to blind Yitzhak right away, or at least it was
certainly not mentioned at the time of the Akeda.  And besides which:
This is Midrash, but Rashi normally is looking for p'shat (plain
meaning), not drash (interpretation).

The third reason was to allow Yaakov to take the blessing without
Yitzhak's being entirely aware of what was going on -- which is the
subject of the remainder of this perek (chapter).  But the problem with
that was that the KB''H could easily simply have told Yitzhak, "OK,
Yitzhak, that Esav: He's a rasha (evil man).  He may not have the
blessing; Yaakov must receive it."  So why, instead of making Yitzhak
spend the last 53 years of his life blind, did the KB''H not do that?

The reason, says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ztz''l, is that Esav, wicked as
he was, continued to have the din (legal status) of a Jew, and the Torah
did not want to come out and say explicitly that a Jew was a rasha.  It
was better that Yitzhak Avinu, our righteous progenitor, be blind for 53
years than for the Torah to call a Jew a rasha.

Thus we should be extremely careful about the language that we use to
describe our fellow Jews, and should go to great lengths not to impugn
them.  In this way may we merit the arrival of Mashiach, speedily and in
our days.

Steve White


From: Debra Fran Baker <dfbaker@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 1995 20:25:39 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Ketubot and Kashrut

I have two questions which are completely unrelated to each other.

The first regards ketubot.  I just sent my ketubah in to be framed
properly and I'll get it back in two weeks.  This is okay because on our
wedding day they filled out two of them - the pretty one we bought AND a
not-so-pretty one provided by the caterer.  I still have the caterer's in
my possession.  

If it isn't standard practice for the caterer to provide an extra (we were
actually surprised by this), it struck me that all a couple would have to 
do is photocopy their own before the wedding day and have that copy also 
filled out and witnessed, as we did with our extra.  This led me to this 
thought - would a photocopy of the filled out and witnessed ketubah, made 
*after* the wedding, be legal?  For example, could the couple use such a 
copy to travel with or as proof of marriage in front of a beis din?  Or 
perhaps make a reduced copy for the woman to carry in her wallet (I used 
to have a minature version of my college diploma which I used on several 
occasions to prove I was a college graduate.   I got funny looks but 
employers accepted it.)

The second question regards kashrut and smooth-top cooktops.  These are 
electric stoves with the elements under a smooth glass surface.  Can such 
stoves be kashered?  I know there are problems with electric stoves in 
general, but part of that is that pots are directly on the elements, 
which is not the case here.  My mother, who does not keep kosher, has 
such a cooktop, and I'm wondering if her rather heroic efforts to provide 
us with a kosher Thanksgiving (she bought all-new pots, for example, and 
is keeping them just for us) was sabotaged.  For that matter, how does a 
non-kosher stove treif things? 

Debra Fran Baker                                      <dfbaker@...>


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 1995 10:36:29 -0800
Subject: Smoking

It seems to me that there are at least two health aspects to smoking.
One is obvious: taking smoke into one's lungs is clearly dangerous when
done over long periods of time.  Even without modern medical research,
there should be no question about this.  There is a definite, perhaps
nearly calculable, risk.  Smoke is not healthy to breathe. Period.

But, medicine _and Judaism_ are not concerned ONLY with the physical.
We are emotional creatures and our emotional (which includes our
spiritual) health is just as important - if not ultimately more
important - than our physical health.

These days many persons take many substances into their bodies in order
to improve their state of emotional health.  I don't know how it breaks
down in terms of usage, but there are several different sources for
medications: prescriptions of drugs from drug companies, natural drugs
from "herbal" and other traditional sources, over-the-counter drugs from
drug companies, and self-prescribed drugs, both legal and illegal, from
whatever sources.

Of course, a person in our society who cannot afford medical care, such
as many persons I know, cannot afford to purchase most patent medicines
these days. (Is this halachically acceptable?)  If such a person has
glaucoma, for example, and if they wish to prevent damage to their eyes,
they must prescribe for themselves (always risky, but here unavoidable)
and they must purchase marijuana illegally in order to save their
vision.  Besides the legal problems, this also (usually) entails taking
smoke into the lungs, but it saves vision.  Too much alcohol obviously
is not healthy, but a small amount may be both physically and
emotionally healthy.  - So, there are always trade-offs to be made, and
usually, no one but each of us, ourselves, is responsible for whatever
choices we make.

Some examples: Drug company drugs, approved of and supplied by medical 
professionals, are certainly valid medicines.  But they are not always 
available.  Also, we do not always consult medical professionals before 
making decisions that primarily effect our feelings (as opposed to 
effecting our bodies.)  Further, no drug, whether legal or illegal, 
whether prescribed by medical professionals or not, is without risks.  
Some medically prescribed drugs are very risky, and/or have very narrow 
tolerance ranges.  (As I recall too little Lithium Carbonate is 
ineffective, too much is dangerous, and the effective range is hardly 
more than 2:1 or 3:1 between effective and dangerous.)

IF and when a normally mature person - in their own good judgment and in 
their life experience - feels that they can make good emotional use of 
nicotine (or just of the pacifying effect of a cigarette in their 
mouth), for example, then (in my opinion) they should consider using it.  
(That does not mean that they may impose it on others, however.)  I do 
not think that any person should default on the management of their own 
health by relying on the judgment of others - even (or perhaps 
especially - <smile>) doctors.  (My experience with most nonspecialists 
is that I need to tell them what is wrong.  If I don't partly diagnose 
myself and bring the medical literature to them, all that I get is 
normative treatment (a polite term) administered in a condescending way.  
Maybe others have fared better.)  

....So, I can understand how a sensible, mature, healthy person might 
choose to smoke a cigarette and risk injuring their lungs, or drink an 
extra cup of coffee (which might turn out to be a heart risk factor) 
rather than endure the economic pressure needed to earn the extra income 
and make allowances for the extra time taken from their already busy 
lives (either of which also can be unhealthy if overdone) in order to 
afford an AMA-sanctioned doctor. <big smile>

So, if nicotine (or chicken soup with lots of cholesterol, or mashed
potatoes, or prozac, or caffeine, or moderate alcohol, or even marijuana
or _some_ psychedelics) enables me to function better, to get through
the day with more energy or with a brighter outlook, AND IF (and only
if) I use these sorts of substances in moderation and with attention to
any immediate and/or cumulative deleterious effects, then I likely
should do so - and, I believe (please correct me if this is wrong) this
is halachically acceptable.  After all, when I am emotionally healthy, I
am more productive and I have more time and energy for work, for my
family and for Torah study.

In general, I think one of the most serious mistakes we can make in any 
situation - nearly a form of idolatry in some cases - is to count only 
what we can see physically with our eyes.  This is the essence of 
materialism.  Physically, we can see (over long periods) that nicotine 
and cigarette smoke are (usually) dangerous and sometimes fatal.  But 
our emotional health cannot be "seen" in the same way, and yet it is 
more important than our physical health.  When we make decisions, 
especially decisions for others (like rules about smoking), we can 
necessarily judge only the physical effects that we can see.  Only the 
smoker (or user of whatever) can tell if their substance use is 
emotionally beneficial to them.  Therefore, only the smoker can judge 
whether they should smoke.  (BTW, I am not trying to defend or justify 
extreme cases of addiction or denial, misuse by immature persons, or of 
acute unhealthy behavior that can result from the use of some 


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 1995 18:05:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Smoking

 One point that I have never seen addressed (esp. by those who permit
existing smokers to continue to smoke (presumably because of the
addictive nature)) is that an "impossible" message is being sent to our
 On the one hand, we tell people Do Not Smoke (it is dangerous,
expensive, unhealthy, etc.) and we direct these messages to the
young... On the other hand, these same people see their Rebbeim, Poskim
(in some cases), and others all puff away -- even when others may find
it objectionable.
 Well, what sort of message do you think that this sends?  When a Rosh
Yeshiva permits smoking on Yom Tov (saying that smoking is considered
something that is "Shava l'khol nefesh" [a "pleasure indulged in by a
wide class of people"]) what sort of impression does that make when a
Yeshiva boy considers lighting up?
 Are people aware that in at least one case, a "good bochur" from the
States could not go to the Yeshiva of his choice in Israel (where he
WOULD have been accepted) because he is allergic (seriously so) to smoke
and the Yeshiva can make no "concessions" in this area for his benefit?
What does THAT tell us about hwo we value Talmud Torah -- if defending
smoking appears to be of greater import?
 The fact is that all too often it appears that people HIDE behind R.
Moshe's Responsa to justify some utterly obnoxious behaviour.  R. Moshe
was CLEAR that while he could not PROHIBIT smoking (in his opinion)
because of the danger involved, it was NOT a habit to be encouraged by
any means.  It is nothing less than shameful that people take this
responsa (and possibly others) out of context as a justification for
their OWN self-indulgence.  Is this the way of Torah?



From: <CHIHAL@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 1995 17:12:13 -0500
Subject: Smoking & Shabat

Shalom, All:
         Back in the bad old days, when I was a teenaged Telshe Yeshiva
and HTC smoker, I remember us smokers sucking in our last burst of
addictive nicotine as close to shkia (sunset) as we could get on a
Friday right before Shabat began.  And I remember many smokers, myself
included, getting very antsy right before Shabat ended, eager for that
first post-Shabat puff.
          Some questions for my fellow mj-ers:
          Despite the pre and post Shabat antics we smokers engaged in,
for most of Shabat itself I felt little or no nicotine withdrawal
symptoms.  Was this because I had "only" been smoking for five years?
Or is there a psychological mechanism at work here which should be
studied by scientists eager for clues to the nature of addictions?
           What about current Shomer Shabat smokers? Is your addiction
pattern as I remember mine?
            Finally, this thought.  Since smoking literally causes many
people to wish Shabat would be over just so they can smoke again, is
this not a violation of the spirit of Shabat?
  <Chihal@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)


From: <adina@...> (Carl Sherer)
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 95 21:07:05 IST
Subject: Walking Down at Weddings

Simmy Fleischer writes:

> In a recent conversation with a friend who is getting married soon he
> told us that post Bat-Mitzvah unmarried women do not walk down the aisle
> before the chuppah because of tzniut reasons. Has anyone else heard
> this? Someone said this is just a Chicago thing. I must say that I find
> the "tzniut" reason a bit shaky, b/c the girl in question will be
> standing in front next to the chuppah so people will still see her and
> even so its not like these young women will not be dressed tzanua-ly. So
> wahts the problem?

My wife tells an interesting story regarding this one.  When her eldest
brother (a member of this list) got married, her married sister walked
down the aisle at the wedding.  At the time, her brother-in-law insisted
that her sister wear a scarf and *not* a wig on her head so that it
would be clear to all that she was already married.

Makes sense to me....

-- Carl Sherer
	Adina and Carl Sherer
		You can reach us both at:


End of Volume 22 Issue 27