Volume 22 Number 60
                       Produced: Wed Dec 27 21:44:42 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Family Customs
         [Chana Luntz]
Israeli Supreme Court Decision
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
More on the unnamed rabbi.
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Revoking Smicha
         [Adina B. Sherer]
Tehillim 51:7 (2)
         [Zvi Weiss, Steven Scharf]
Yosef & Binyameen
         [Yeshaya Halevi]


From: Chana Luntz <heather@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 20:27:22 GMT
Subject: Family Customs

While on the subject of family minhagim:

a) does somebody have any references to halachic works where adopting
the husband/wife's minhagim are discussed;

b) mostly this discussion has been about food, which tends to be a
shared activity - what is the general situation about more individual

- for example, does an ashkenazi woman who marries a sephardi man stop
saying brachos over the lulav - and does she generally change the way
she davens/benches from ashkenazi to sephardi (I know couples who seem
to have taken both approaches - either the woman has changed over, or
she kept her own way, but there must be some sort of halachic rather
than anecdotal material on the subject). The davening/benching question
in many ways seems to me to be the most problematic, far more than
kitniyos - because on the one hand it would seem to be very difficult to
learn to daven/bench in what is really a very different nusach (I just
can't imagine changing over, the couple of times I have picked up a
sephardi siddur, it has really looked quite foreign). On the other hand,
if the children are going to daven/bench the way the father does, then
if the mother doesn't switch over, she is not going to be in a position
to teach them which effectively means not transmiting one's own feeling
for them (and the concept of say, myself benching lulav while my
(hypothetical) daughters didn't seems really weird).

So I would be really interested to hear:

a) whether there is psak on the issue; and

b) individual stories about how people in this situation (particularly
women) feel/felt about either giving up minhagim or ending up having
different minhagim in one household.

 Because even just thinking about the issue, I find the whole thought
really - almost distressing in a way I can't articulate - and it is not
Pesach, which after all is only about food that generates this reaction
(I might find rice on Pesach a bit strange, but I eat rice the rest of
the year, so I am sure I would get used to it - unlike say if I married
a Temani, and was faced with locust) - but the tampering with the words
that one uses to communicate with G-d that seems so difficult to




From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 22:25:54 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Israeli Supreme Court Decision

Breaking a string of decisions which the Orthodox found inimical to
Jewish values and observance, the Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday
(December 26) ruled that a rabbi cannot be forced to conduct a wedding
in a hall which does not have a valid rabbinic Kashrut certificate.
(The hall in question was under the supervision of the Va'ad Leshomrei
Masoret - the Committee for those who Observe Tradition - an
organization run by a gentlemen who used to be an ultra-Orthodox Kashrut
supervisor and then decided to stop being religious. It gives its
Kashrut endorsements, for example, to restaurants that keep open on the
Sabbath and that take payment on the Sabbath for the meals they serve.)

We have to remember that by Israeli law Jews can only be married by a
rabbi, and in the case of non-religious couples the local religious
council is required to send a rabbi to conduct a wedding when requested
to do so.

The court reasoned that it was "rudeness and a lack of consideration"
for a couple to expect a rabbi to come to such a hall, "when it is clear
that this demand will cause difficulties for him and perhaps even cause
him to be despised in others' eyes."

The judges weighed the petitioners' right to freedom FROM religion (in
being married in a hall without a valid rabbinic Kashrut certificate) as
opposed to the rabbis' right to the same, "since their demand would
force him to do something which conflicts with his religious beliefs."

Finally, the court noted that there was nothing stopping a couple from
being married in neutral territory, and to then adjourn to a different
hall for the reception.

           Shmuel Himelstein


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 14:13:37 -0500
Subject: More on the unnamed rabbi.

We recently discussed the topic of whether a certain rabbi H. is still
an Orthodox rabbi. It was argued by Mordechai Perlman that he made
certain statements in Toronto about the authenticity of the oral law.

This same rabbi is being quoted this week.  This is based on a reporter's
quotation.   I do not view Amos Elon or the New York Review as being honest
journalists which can be trusted to transmit rabbi H.'s statements correctly
and the context of these statements is not known.  Seemingly minor changes
can dramatically distort the picture. Therefore, what I have written below
should be considered as correct only if the statements quoted were indeed
said by this rabbi and in the proper context.

"These texts the killer [Yigal Amir] absorbed [in Orthodox Yeshivot]
became his identity.  They encouraged hate and destruction. Amir was no
aberration. He was wholly within the normative tradition that has
survived frozen through the ages to our own times. I am shocked at the
irresponsibility of halacha teachers who afterward said: We used this
language but we never thought people are going to act on it. They should
have known better."  Amos Elon, "Israel's Demons" The New York Review,
December 21, 1995 pp.42-46 ."

With a statement like that I can see why Orthodox people have problems
with this rabbi.  An Orthodox rabbi who refers to halacha as "survived
frozen through the ages ". I don't believe that halacha survived
frozen. Either rabbi H. does not know the halacha, its development and
its ability to adapt to new realities, or he is a demagogue.  Thousands
of Shu"t [i.e., Responsa literature] throughout the centuries suggest
that it is anything but frozen.  Similar arguments were aired by Zunz,
Geiger, Frankel and others of the early German Reformers.

Maybe what rabbi H. is trying to articulate is that people in the
yehsiva community, both national and haredi, have emphasized aspects of
a "frozen tradition", rather than the dynamic aspecs of halacha. From my
understanding of H.'s other writings (a limited knowledge), he does
emphasizes the dynamic nature of halacha, and criticizes much of
contemporary Orthodoxy for emphasizing reliance on the pure text, rather
than on the meaning and dynamic nature of the text.  He argues against
viewing halacha as a frozen system.

His concluding sentence is: "There is a deep disease in Orthodoxy that
wasn't there in the past". Orthodoxy today is different than prior
generations in many ways, just as anything else in society is
different. But to label the very best of the Jewry today as having a
deep disease suggests a sickness of the author.

I understand that he is an eminent scholar in Judaic studies, and
produced several impressive volumes, and I'll use them under the
doctrine of caveat emptor. I also use the Jastrow Aramaic dictionary,
although the author was a Reform rabbi.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: <adina@...> (Adina B. Sherer)
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 95 8:05:09 IST
Subject: Revoking Smicha

R. Shmuel Himelstein writes:
> Although I never saw it while I was in the Baltimore Yeshiva (Ner
> Israel), rumor had it that the Yeshiva insisted on students about to
> receive Semicha signing a form that their Semicha would be revoked if
> they accepted a pulpit in a Conservative or Reform temple. I know at our
> Hag Hasemichah (Ordination ceremony)in 1966 no such form was required of
> us. Maybe the form was reserved for special students ...

I actually heard something well beyond this which is why I asked the
question in the first place.  A number of years ago a certain Rabbi, I
will call him Rabbi A. wrote a book which was considered by a number of
Rabbanim to contain apikorses.  The book was taken to the Rav who gave
Rabbi A. his smicha, I'll call him Rav B.  Rav B. wrote a letter saying
that Rabbi A's smicha "ought to be revoked" because of what he had
written in this book.  In the end the smicha was never revoked and I was
told that the reason it wasn't revoked was that Rav B. was niftar before
he had the chance to revoke it.  I have never understood this
explanation and I remember seeing the letter that Rav B. wrote so I know
it exists.  Could Rav B. have revoked the smicha on his own? Would he
have needed a Beis Din to do so (in which case his failure to do so
would make more sense in light of the letter he wrote).  Or can smicha
only be revoked if there is a condition of the type which R. Himelstein
mentions, or which another poster mentioned as being in vogue at
Hildesheimer in the 1930's?

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


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 09:30:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Tehillim 51:7

> From: Shlomo Katz <YEHUDA@...>
>  Re: The meaning of Tehilim 51:7, see Yoma 69b which says that when the
> Sages " killed" the "yetzer hara" (desire) for adultery, chickens
> stopped laying eggs.  Thus one sees that there is some measure of sinful
> desire necessary for ordinary procreation.  This is what King David
> referred to.  (This is not my thought, but I forget where I saw it.
> Sorry.)

==> Actually, this may actually be G-d's way of showing the Sages that
their view of "desire" was flawed -- that it is a NECESARY part of
nature and is NOT intrinsically "sinful" (and this is part of the idea
that we see in Sh'ma when we are told to serve G-d with *both* the "Good
Inclination" and the "Evil Inclination".  An alternative to this can be
found in a book "The Antidote -- The Torah view on Sexuality" (I *think*
that is the title -- I have the book but not in front of me at this
moment) where the author relates the "yetzer" to *imagination*.  Also,
the Talmud states that Yishai -- the father of David was one of those
who perished only as a result of "Adam's sin" -- i.e., the necessity of
death in this world.  Based upon that, the She'arim HaMetzyunim
Bahalacha actually states that it is NOT inherently sinful to have
pleasure during the physical act of procreation....


From: <StevenS667@...> (Steven Scharf)
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 19:47:33 -0500
Subject: Re: Tehillim 51:7

There has been much discussion as to whether the pasuk (verse) "Behold,
I was shaped in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me," lends
support to the Christian doctrine of original sin.  It always helps to
understand the context of the verse.  Psalm 51 is an outpouring of the
heart on the part of David HaMelech after he was visited by Natan the
Prophet and castigated for his vile deeds vis-a-vis Batsheva.  As may be
recalled, the king did instant Teshuva for his sins and was told by the
prophet "G-d has already forgiven you."  This psalm can be understood as
the outpouring of the great heart of the truely penitent king.  David
HaMelech falls on the ground and asks HaSHem to forgive him: "Against
thee, thee alone, have I sinned ... "(51:6).  This probably should not
be taken as a theological statement about original sin but rather as the
outpouring of a grief stricken man, grief stricken at his own sin, who
considers himself worthless.  Incidentally, it is a measure of the
greatness of David HaMelech that the Psalm ends with a prayer not for
David himself, but for his nation. "Do good in thy favour to Tziyon,
build the walls of Yerushalayim."
 The concept of original sin is foreign to Judaism.  Forgiveness through
true teshuvah is part and parcel of our world view.  This psalm is a
wonderful illustration of the possibilities of man.  
Chazak ve'Amatz
 Steven Scharf


From: <CHIHAL@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)
Date: Wed, 27 Dec 1995 11:28:38 -0500
Subject: Re: Yosef & Binyameen

Shalom, All:
           Arthur Roth (<rotha@...>) asks for a rationale
as to why Yosef's brothers would believe that Yosef would think that the
person they presented as Binyameen really was Binyameen and not an
           The easy answer is that Yosef kept Shimon as a hostage until
they brought Binyameen.  Thus, Shimon, could be used/tricked to pick
Binyameen out of a lineup, al la time-honored police practice.
           Another answer is that Egypt was rife with the practice of
magic.  Any Egyptian -- and this is what they believed Yosef to be --
would have had confidence that a royal magician would be able to verify
the identity of a man's brother.
            As for the question << In fact, he might not have known the
difference anyway, because just as the brothers did not recognize Yosef
in Egypt due to his young age at the time they sold him, Yosef would
surely not have recognized Binyomin (who was even younger at the time
they were separated) for the same reason.>>, again I'll go with a combo
answer: (a) Yosef counted on the family resemblance because they shared
a father and mother, and Yosef knew what he himself looked like when he
was younger; and/or (b) Yosef was counting on ruah hakodesh, the Divine
     <Chihal@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)


End of Volume 22 Issue 60