Volume 22 Number 91
                       Produced: Tue Jan 23 23:52:59 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Change in Halacha and Change in Times
         [Michael J Broyde]
Definition of death
         [Arielle Cazaubon]
How Large should Kollel be?
         [Steve White]
Jews before Matan Torah
         [Ari Shapiro]
Medical question
         [Y. Adlerstein]
Problem with a Mitzvah
         [Andy Goldfinger]
Rambam and Support for Torah Scholars
         [Elozor Preil]
Wife Abuse
         [Miriam Rabinowitz]


From: Michael J Broyde <relmb@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 09:49:21 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Change in Halacha and Change in Times

There has been some recent exchanges concerning change in times leading
to changes in halacha.  I would propose that a certain amount of
categorization is needed to have this discussion; this formulation is
based on my thoughts on technology and halacha.

	1] There are cases where the halachic principle remains
absolutely constant, and the visable result changes.  That occurs, for
example, when halacha mandates "not wearing women's clothing for a man"
and the reverse, but recognizes that society determines what is women's
and men's clothing.  We are all comfortable with accepting that
currently halacha prohibits men from wearing skirts, and that we could
imagine a fully observant society where men could ONLY wear skirts to
comply with halacha.

	2] There are cases where society has moved so far away from
chazals model of a society that one could argue that the rules mandated
by Chazal were not intended to apply to our society.  Thus, for example,
one will find poskim who accept that the rabbinic decree of meneket
chavero prohibiting one from marrying a women who is nursing a child
other than one's own, was not intended to apply to our current society
where infant formula abounds, there is no nutrition shortage, and the
fear of the Sages that a nursing child would be deprived of nutrition is
very unlikely.  These tyes of arguments are always disputable, and lead
to disputes amoung the poskim.

	3] There are cases where a significant posek will be mechadish a
principle or rule, and torah society will be so impressed with that
analysis that this new rule (or old rule thought incorrect) will become
accepted.  This is a form of inovation of analysis that says that the
previous accepted way of doing things is not correct.  An example of
that is the Noda Beyehuda chidush on shaving on chol hamoad (and many
other examples could be cited).

	4] Finally, there are technological changes that are
precidentless, which lead to inovative halachic analyis of profoundly
new issues.  An example of this is whether halacha recognizes as "aish"
(fire) a source of light without heat such as a light bulb.

Each category, I think, has to be treated differently, and is subject to
different rules.  Some are much less controversal than others.

Michael Broyde


From: <tarac@...> (Arielle Cazaubon)
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 1996 15:16:49 -0800
Subject: Definition of death

Shmuel Himelstein writes:
A very clear source on the question of accepting current medical opinion
(albeit in a different context) is a seminal article by Rav Chaim
Zimmerman, which appeared in *Intercom*, the journal of the Association
of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, in January 1970. There, Rav Zimmerman
examines the definition of what is considered to be death.  Rav
Zimmerman states that, given the medical techniques available IN THAT
GENERATION, if a person can be revived, the person is considered alive,
whereas if, given the present techniques available, the person could not
be revived, that person is considered dead. Thus (and I quote from Rav
Zimmerman), "it follows that the status of *R'tzicha* (i.e., murder -
SH) and the application of *Pikuach Nefesh* (i.e., danger to human life
- SH) *change from generation to generation*" (emphasis in the

I read an article several months ago in Moment Magazine discussing this
very problem, the definition of death.  Rav Zimmerman describes death as
being "physically unrevivable."  The Moment Magazine article detailed
the debate over corporeal death (lack of heartbeat/respiration)
vs. brain death, and which was an acceptable definition of death.  I for
one would not want to be kept alive on a respirator as a brain-dead
vegetable.  What is the current status of this debate in Israel and
Orthodox circles?



From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steve White)
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 17:00:23 -0500
Subject: How Large should Kollel be?

In #83, Shmuel Himelstein wrote a fairly comprehensive posting on
reasons behind Charedi poverty.  One of his points was this one:

>a) The fact that many males are engaged in Torah study exclusively until
>a relatively advanced age, where the amount they receive in any given
>Kollel cannot possibly be commensurate with what a person in similar
>circumstances would earn on the open market.

I would like to think that if we really value Limud Torah, we actually
ought to be able to support appropriate students in Kollel at a
sufficient rate of compensation that they really could continue to learn
without having to worry about supporting their families.  I wonder if
part of the problem is that "too many people" are trying to be in Kollel
right now.

I understand that in many respects our primary occupation should be
Torah, and all other things should be secondary.  And for someone to
want this is, at some level, good.  But it seems these days that
_anyone_ who wants to learn in Kollel is allowed to, and the Roshei
Kollel work hard to get these people stipends.  The difficult part is
that there are people, especially in the haredi world, who might
actually not be such good students, and would like not to go to Kollel,
but face an enormous amount of peer pressure to do so.

Historically, roshei yeshiva have always found that they could scrape up
support for the most deserving, qualified students, and this should
never change, please G-d.  But I think that our communities were much
more realistic about the number of people whom they could really afford
to support in full-time learning, and that they reserved that honor for
a few truly outstanding students.

I'm for spreading learning as widely as we can reasonably make it.  But
I'm also for realism in determining that.  Once this happens, it will
not be as hard for the community as a whole to support those students
who really should be learning.

Steve White


From: <m-as4153@...> (Ari Shapiro)
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 96 10:24:36 EST
Subject: Jews before Matan Torah

>      Er and Onan were, as were all of the Jewish people until the
>revelation at Sinai, "Bnei Noach", children of Noach.  The law of 12/13
>and of puberty as a determinant of majority did not exist.  I believe
>the consensus of those who discuss the matter is that it depends on
>their understanding i.e.  if they know that what they are doing is wrong
>they can be tried in a Noachide court. 

Actually this is not so simple. The first essay in the Parashas Derachim
(written by the author of the Mishne Lamelech on the Rambam) discusses
this exact point and he shows that this is actually a dispute among the
Rishonim. The Ramban in Parshas Emor by the Megadef says that from the
time Avraham came into the Bris (covenant) with God he and his
descendents had the status of Jews. Other Rishonim argue for example
Tosafos in Bava Basra (141) assumes that Yitzchak did not have the
status of a Jew. See the essay in the Parshas Derachim for many many
more proofs both ways.

Ari Shapiro


From: Y. Adlerstein <yadler@...>
Date: Fri, 19 Jan 1996 08:42:42 -0800
Subject: Medical question

A colleague, a respected moreh hora-ah, is investigating a halachic
question regarding vasectomy.  Having exhausted the expertise of some of
the local contacts, he is looking for information regarding two aspects
of reversal of vasectomy, both of which are apparently not supported by
a rich data base as of yet.

He requests data about 1) flow rate in the vas after reversal, and data
about success in attempted impregnation after the procedure.

You may reply directly to me.  Thank you.


From: Andy Goldfinger <andy_goldfinger@...>
Date: 22 Jan 1996 13:32:26 -0400
Subject: Problem with a Mitzvah

     I never though that I would write in a public forum about this
problem, but it has reached the point at which I am desparate.  This is
hard for me to say, but here it is -- my tzitzis unravel.  Whew!  I'm
glad I finally got that out.  For years I have had this problem.  No
matter how tightly I tie them, no matter how careful I am with them,
when I look down they are coming all undone.  Oh -- I know -- I really
should have sought help sooner, but it was just to embarassing.  After
all, everyone else's tzitzis seem to be doing just fine.  And so I have
been suffering in silence, afraid to admit that I had a problem.  But
now, I have hit rock bottom (last week I tied THREE tzitzis on one
begged, and they are now all unraveling) and recognize my need for help.

   I know that the world is a dangerous place for unsuspecting tzitizis
(how many of us, for example, have had unfortunate encounters with car
seat belt retractors), but my problem seems to be endogenous.  And so --
finally getting the courage to go public with my problem -- I beg for
you help and understanding.  Are there any other people out there who
are in recovery from this problem?  Can they give me help or advice?

Shamefully -- Andy Goldfinger


From: <EMPreil@...> (Elozor Preil)
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 1996 12:51:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Rambam and Support for Torah Scholars

Shlomo Pick writes:

>  So if there are torah scholars out there who live off public
>funds or charity etc., "yeish al mee lismoch"- they have upon whom to
>rely.  It is clear that from the ramoh, that the Maimonidean
>understanding is preferable

Not any more.  Here is a translation of a teshuva (responsum) of Rav
Moshe Feinstein zt"l written in 1964 (Yoreh Deah, vol. 2, ch. 116): "In
the matter of Torah scholars who wish to engage in and grow in their
knowledge of Torah and benefit financially through receipt of a Kollel
stipend... are they acting correctly, or perhaps they should be
concerned and it should be considered a midas chasidus (meritorious act
beyond the legal requirement) not to take the stipend ...THEY ARE
DEFINITELY ACTING PROPERLY (by taking the stipend)... and even if the
halacha is like the Rambam, the scholars of many generations all agree
to allow the taking of money because...otherwise Torah would be
forgotten from the Jewish people....One should not refrain from
accepting such funds even as a midas chasidus....AND I SAY that those
who act righteously based upon the Rambam and stop their full-time
learning to get a job are following the counsel of the Yetzer Hara (evil
inclination)."  I urge all who are capable of looking in the Igros Moshe
personally to see how strongly Rav Moshe expresses his thoughts on this
issue.  Let's put a stop to kollel-bashing.


From: <miriam@...> (Miriam Rabinowitz)
Date: 18 Jan 1996  20:12 EST
Subject: Wife Abuse

Linda Levi raises 4 issues of concern regarding the involvement of
Mikvah Ladies with domestic violence.  She also indicates that she may
end up getting angry responses.  Well, I have no intention of flaming.
I do want to address her concerns, though.  Let's take them one at a

1) Mikvah Ladies are not there for counseling purposes.  And some
   women (though they themselves are not victims of this problem) might
   feel uncomfortable if they thought that the Mikvah Ladies were
   looking for these types of bruises.

It's important to understand what these training seminars are all about.
The idea isn't to inspect people for bruises.  The idea is to be aware
of what abuse looks like so that if one should see it, one will
recognize it.  I guess it's similar to educating teachers in school to
recognize signs of child abuse.  They don't scrutinize each child for
it.  They are simply educated to "know it when and if they see it."

2) Regarding those women who are being abused, they may be discouraged from
   going to the mikvah, particularly if they thought they would be asked
   about their bruises.

Again, we need to understand the seminars.  The women who attend are
trained to handle the issue with tremendous sensitivity and care.  And,
by the way, the women who head these organizations and teach these
seminars deal with abused women constantly.  They are well aware of the
needs of the victims.  They know how embarrased these women feel about
what's happening to them.  The last thing they want to do is put these
women through further torment.  All of this is taken into consideration
when training the Mikvah Ladies to deal with this problem.

And, by the way, you'd be surprised to know just how many of these
victims would be relieved to know that someone cares about them and that
they are not the only ones who are experiencing this horror.  Many would
not be discouraged from going to the mikvah if they were approached by
the Mikvah Lady.  If approached properly, many will accept the help
being offered to them.

3)  "...the goal of taharas hamishpacha laws is to unite a couple in
    kedusha- not to keep them apart. The mikveh is about the most pure and
    sacred aspects of a marriage- and should not be a place where marital
    friction should be brought up..."

Oy!  How true!  Woe to our generation that this is what has become of
us!  Indeed, it is horrible that this place of kedushah ends up being a
place where we have to deal with the reality that husbands are beating
their wives.

But think of it this way.  The mikvah is supposed to unite the couple in
kedushah.  If the husband is beating his wife, the union is anything but
kadosh.  However, if the problem is addressed when the the victim goes
to the mikvah, and she subsequently obtains the help that she and her
husband so desperately need, it can lead to a more healthy relationship
where the husband is no longer abusing his wife.  And, thus, the mikvah
will have achieved its goal of truly uniting the couple in kedushah.

4)  "I would hope these 'Shalom' groups will carefully seek rabbinical
    approval before they act."

They have, indeed.  Nechama Wolfson of the Shalom Task Force read a
whole list of names to me, many of which I easily recognized.  It's been
several months since then, so I don't want to list them here for fear of
misquoting.  However, if you want the list, please contact me directly
and I'll obtain it for you.

Miriam Rabinowitz


End of Volume 22 Issue 91