Volume 22 Number 39
                       Produced: Mon Dec 18  0:02:34 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Birchas Kohanim: Custom
         [Yosey Goldstein]
Birchat Cohanim Minhag
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Nefesh Conference
         [Andy Goldfinger]
Oven Use on Shabbos
         [Binyomin Segal]
         [Josh Backon]
         [Robert Montgomery]


From: Yosey Goldstein <JOE-G@...>
Date: Fri, 8 Dec 1995 00:07:19 -0500
Subject: Birchas Kohanim: Custom

In a previous posting I wrote:
>(Once we are on this subject another poster mentioned in the name of a
>respected Rov, I do not remember who it was, that one was permitted to
>"peek" at the Kohain's hands but not take a "long" look. IMHO it would
>seem that either peeking or looking would be prohibted based on these

  A fellow M-Jer wrote me and informed me that this respected Rov was
Rav Hillel Davis from New York. Tonight I was at a wedding in Baltimore
and as soon as I walked in I saw this fellow M-Jer talking to Rabbi
Hillel David about my post. I would like to share part of our
conversation with the group.

(Talk about Hasgocha Protis, "Providence"(Good definition?))

   Rabbi David said the source of being able to "Peek" at the Kohain
Duchaning was based on the RAN in Megillah. For a full explanation see
the RAN in Meggilah 24b. But the synopsis is because the mishna uses the
term MISTAKLIN They look carefully, which is not the same as ROIN They
see, which would indicate a quick "peek". I am grateful to correct
myself in public.

    Rabbi David then asked was he quoted 100% accurately, and was the
psak of the Mishna Berura mentioned? Since neither on of us thought it
was he said, "Even though what the Ran said is true The Mishan Berura
says clearly that one should NOT EVEN PEEK at the Kohain when he goes up
to bless the congregation"

   I hope this clears up this issue of whether one is or not allowed to
look at the Kohanim during their Blessing of the congregation.

(NOTE: The previous poster mentioned that Rabbi David said he himself
did peek, If my memory serves me correctly, And I apologize I forgot to
ask Rabbi David to confirm or deny this.)

    One last point, Carl Sherer asked where the Minhag to cover oneself
with a TAllis during the Birchas Kohanim comes from. I just would like
to point out that this Minhag is mentioned by the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch
in "Simon" 100.

A Guten Shabbos


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 1995 09:37:43 -0500
Subject: Re: Birchat Cohanim Minhag

I have suggested in my original posting that at first (Mishnah & Tosefta
time) it was customary to look at the cohanim while blessing, but that
it was changed later (Yerushalmi time), a position which I believe to be

I further stated "Rashi & Bartenura interpret the Mishnah according to
their understanding of the Gemara Bavli & Yerushalmi, which were written
at a time when it was already the custom not to look at the cohanim
while blessing."

To that Joe Goldstein replied (MJ22#37):
>I am sorry, but Rashi did not use preconceived notions when
>explaining the Gemmorah! Rashi knew the gemmorah in Chagigah and
>Yerushalmi at least as well as you and I do. 

and also:

>The comment made by Mr. Gevaryhu that " Rashi was not a historian of the
>halachic process, and correctly writes the end interpretation of his
>time; I'm discussing the stages of the halachic development." is
>disrespectful at the very least. At most is shows an ignorance and a
>lack of appreciation for who RASHI was! The greatest commentators of
>Torah Trembled before opposing Rashi's opinion on ANYTHING!

The difficulty here can be cleared up by understanding Rashi's
methodology.  "In Rashi's view, the only acceptable explanation of the
Mishnah is that given by the Gemara (See B.M. 33a and b et al.), with
the result that he does not give an independent explanation of the
Mishnah. Rashi did not write commentaries to those tractates that have
no Babylonian Talmud" (Prof. Israel Ta-Shma, EJ, Vol. 13, p 1564). This,
to the best of my knowledge, is the generally acceptable view of Rashi's
methodology. Thus, if I argue for a view that a change of a minhag occur
between the Mishnah and Gemara time, Rashi's commentary to the Mishnah
cannot be used as an argument. He interpret the Mishanh ONLY from the
Gemara perspective.  [The terms "ignorance" et al have no room in

With the destruction of the Temple, the ONLY avoda which was left for
the Cohanim, as a group, was Birkat Cohanim. I think that as a result of
the destruction, and the cessation of Korbanot, Birkat Cohanim became
relatively more important.

Joe Goldstein further suggests that one cannot logically hold the
position that the custom not to look at the Kohanim while blessing, was
restricted to Beit Ha'Mikdash. However, the Meiri brought and refuted
this very argument in the name of several mefarshim (Megila 23).

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Andy Goldfinger <andy_goldfinger@...>
Date: 13 Dec 1995 10:55:50 -0400
Subject: Nefesh Conference

I just returned from the first annual (im yirtzah Hashem) Nefesh
conference in Miami.  Nefesh is a newly forming society for Orthodox
Jewish Mental Health Professionals.  Most of the antendees, myself
included, were so deeply affected by the conference that we feel it to
have been a major turning point in the life of the Torah community.

There were over 300 antendees: psychiatrists, psychologists, social
workers, educators and rebbeim.  Among the Rebbeim present were Rabbi
Dr. Avraham Twerski, Rabbi David Cohen, Rabbi Feuer and Rabbi Taub
(previously with NCSY).  The lecturers were very honest -- they did not
hesitate to discuss some of the painful problems that they have seen in
the Orthodox community.  Frankly, I was shocked to hear of family
violence, sexual abuse, drug and alcohol problems, compulsive gambling,
and other social problems within the black hat community.  No one could
quote statistics, i.e. it was not clear how the incidence of the
problems compares with the world at large, but all present agreed that
the numbers are large enough to be disturbing.  For example:

There is a "safe house" in Baltimore for abused Orthodox women.
There is a support group in Brooklyn for Chassidic women who are HIV positive
(most of whom caught it from their husbands).
According to one speaker, "most" of our mosdos (learning institutions) have
encountered problems with marijuana.
There is a yiddish language AIDS hotline in New York City.
There have been serious cases of sexual abuse of children by rebbeim in
yeshivas and seminaries.
There are numerous bochurim who "do not fit the mold" of being masmidim
b'torah (dedicated to constant study) and experience deep depression.  There
have been cases of suicide and rejection of Judaism by some of them.

To most of the antendees, none of this was news.  Just about all of
those therapists who were present work with observant clients or
patients.  The Rebbeim who were present were very honest and "savy"
about the extent of the problems.  Just about all of those present
highly valued the opportunity to get together with other workers in the
field and search for mutual support.  There were real attempts to
develop solutions.  For example:

 (1) The encouragement of yeshiva mashgichim (approximate translation:
counselors) to present pre-marital education and counseling to students.
 (2) The treatment of struggling religious homosexual men with empathy:
while making it clear the the homosexual _act_ is ossur (forbidden),
there should be recognition that many of these men are engaged in a
desparate struggle to deal with very strong taivahs (desires).
 (3) The provision of alternate education paths to students who are not
able to learn gemara all day.
 (4) Realistic assessment and intervention regarding alcoholism in the
 (5) Drug education.
 (6) Dealing with the stigma of therapy -- although this is not as big a
problem as one may think.  I asked one therapist (a woman) who worked in
the Satmar community if there was a problem with Chassidic men feeling
comfortable discussing intimate matters with a woman.  She said no.
When people are in pain, they are more than willing to seek any help
they can get.

It was pointed out (by Rabbi David Cohen) that mental health and
psychotherapy are "uncharted areas" in halacha.  It is vital that
therapists work closely with poskim (experts in Jewish law) to deal with
problems that arise.  For example:

Yichud (private contact between men and women) issues.
Sexual behavior and therapy issues -- what is permitted?
Issues arising in therapy (for example: one approach to therapy for
stuttering requires the patient to avoid all speech for a lengthy period of
time.  What about the mitzvah of krias shma (saying the Shma)?)
What about patients/clients who are engaged in activities that are ossur
What about confidentiality issues (for example, suppose a therapist knows
that a client is homosexual but that his kallah (fiancee) is not aware of
this.  What should he/she do?)
What about contacts between therapists and clients at social events?

At the end of the conference, an organizational structure was
established.  There are plans to hold conferences annually, and to
establish regional branches.  There will also be a Web site and a
mailing list.  Rabbi Dr.  Twerski and Rabbi David Cohen will serve as
the Rabbinic advisors.  I would like to stress that this a very commited
group.  I was very impressed by the concern and dedication of the people
who were there.  There was a deep level of sharing and mutual respect.
The physical appearances of the attendees ranged from kippah srugah
(knitted yarmulka) to shtreimal (fur hat), but everyone there was deeply
"frum."  The unity was just wonderful.

Most of the sessions of the conference (except, of course, those on
Shabbos) were recorded and the tapes are available from Nefesh.  I don't
have the address at this time, but I will (bli neder) post it when I get
a hold of it.

-- Andy Goldfinger


From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 1995 19:59:38 -0600
Subject: Oven Use on Shabbos

Though this was a while ago, I believe its important. I apologize for
the delay but I was doing some research.

I believe Reb Shlomo Grafstein erred when he said that fully cooked cold
dry food could be placed in an oven on Shabbos:

 * If the food is completely cooked and it is dry i.e. there is no liquids
 * then there is a method of returning food to an oven on the day of
 * Shabbat. ... The
 * problem of returning cooked food is to an oven is "meich'zay
 * k'mi'vash'el" it appears like you are cooking.  ...
 *  The leniency is when you put the food in the oven in a special way that
 * one does not cook in this fashion.  I believe that the Mishneh B'rurah
 * (I haven't seen one in this city) says that if you placed the vessel
 * with the food in upside down, then it is permitted, because no one cooks
 * this way.

There are two issues I have.

First, any "return" of food to a heat source on Shabbos requires that
the source be "garoof ukatoom" (referring to the requirement with a
flame of either covering the coal with ash, or brushing it out. in
modern practice this translates to the need for a blech ie a metal sheet
seperating between the flame and the pot). Now this barrier is not
insurmountable in regard to an oven - Rav Eider quotes Rav Moshe
Feinstein ztzl that a metal box insert in the oven (like some use for
pesach) would fulfill this requirement. but i see no way around this

The second issue is that though I think Reb Shlomos thoughts re a plate
or pot lid in an oven have merit in sevara (thought?) I can not find
anyplace in the mishna brura where he says it (which dont mean it aint
there - just that i cant find it). There is a similar idea - that is
said explicitly in the shulchan aruch - in regard to a stove top. that
is that you may place your plate (ore evn pot) of turkey (or whatever -
cooked and dry) on top of a pot that is already there. (that is - i can
put the cold turkey on top of my chulent pot shabbos morning so that by
shabbos lunch the turkey is warm) did i miss the mishna brura?

any thoughts



From: <BACKON@...> (Josh Backon)
Date: Mon,  11 Dec 95 15:37 +0200
Subject: Re: Smoking

In 1986 the head of our hospital's lipid unit published an intriguing
study in the Intl J Cardiology on the very low relative risk of coronary
artery disease in the Charedi community in Jerusalem as compared to the
DATI and secular communities even though the Charedim violate every rule
in the book: they eat junk, zero exercise (no, shuckling isn't exercise
:-) ) chain smoke, and are type A (nervous) behavior. Their risk for CAD
was one- third to one-fourth of that of the others and the research team
couldn't figure out why.

I suggested in the journal that perhaps the daily ritual immersion in a
hot Mikva may be beneficial as head-out-water-immersion is known to
drastically lower hormonal levels of vasopressin with its inimical
effect on the cardiovascular system and its effect on free
radicals. Sure enough, we also found that there was a major decrease in
glaucoma and cataract as well in Charedim who did go daily to the Mikva
(predominantly Chassidic) rather than Litvishe).

Now with the very recent finding of 30% polyphenols by weight in tea
bags the rest of the variance gets explained. At least in Jerusalem,
Charedim drink *lots* of tea.

MUSAR HASKEL: although they chain smoke, most Charedim are healthier
than you or I. Although I wouldn't *encourage* someone to smoke, there
are ways to avoid the side effects of smoking.

Josh Backon


From: Robert Montgomery <st94zwy9@...>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 21:55:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Smoking/Tobacco

Although I am not very knowledgeable with reference to halachic
decisions regarding tobacco usage, I do have one question: at what point
does a negative reaction outweigh the positive ones? With people writing
in that several yeshivas have banned smoking in and around their
premises, stressing other persons' reactions to smokers ("second hand
smoking"), etc., what are some other enjoyable things that people do
that should no longer be continued?  Drinking? Many pages could be
written on the effects of alcoholism and its effects on peoples'
families, along with drunk driving, heart, liver, and kidney disease?
(actions similar to what is happening now regarding to smoking were
taken during the 1910's in America.  This led to Prohibition in 1920's
and early 30's.  As far as I know, alcohol is a natural product without
many positive effects (similar to tobacco).

The point I am trying to get to is where do the people who are against
smoking _ultimately_ wish to go with this issue?  I would like to see
the answer to this.



End of Volume 22 Issue 39