Volume 23 Number 88
                       Produced: Mon May  6 23:27:48 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

An Insight for Slit Skirts
         [Warren Burstein]
Covering Eyes
         [Stan Tenen]
Dealing with the Nonfrum
         [George Max Saiger]
         [Simmy Fleischer]
Standing in place after Shmoneh Esrei
         [Josh Wise]
TZNIUTH: What is Good Halachah really about--Revision
         [Russell Hendel]


From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Thu, 2 May 1996 20:55:42 GMT
Subject: Re: An Insight for Slit Skirts

While we can certainly learn much about family life from the lives of
our Avot and Imahot, I'm not convinced that any of them represent a
model that we should wish to emulate every facet of.


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 07:41:22 -0700
Subject: Covering Eyes

The Sh'ma is concerned with Tefillin, among other matters.  Tefillin 
includes "binding" on the hand(s) and binding the arm, the hand, the 
heart, the mind and the soul together. 

If we would like to take what the Sh'ma says literally, then we should 
look for what these have to do with each other.  In some traditions, the 
arms (and hands) are understood as extensions of the heart (chakra) 
because they are associated with the same vertebrae.  

In humans, the cortex that normally controls hand movements in primates 
also controls speech.  Clinical studies have demonstrated that hearing 
impaired children use the same neural structures and processes to 
produce hand-gesture language as hearing children use to produce 
phonetic language.

My studies have uncovered a geometric interpretation of the relationship 
of HaShem "and" Elokim as Unity (as the Sh'ma proclaims) that 
mathematically defines a particular shape for the Tefillin strap.  When 
bound on the hand, the Tefillin strap models the shape of the hand - it 
is a model human hand.

When we place this hand-shaped Tefillin strap on our hand, we can see 
its shape (in all orientations) spontaneously in our mind's eye, because 
we can always see our hand and what is in it in our mind's eye.

Thus, the Sh'ma itself could be said to be the narrative, phonetic, 
descriptive equivalent of a hand.  Holding our hand over our eyes or 
adjacent to our forehead while we say the opening line of the Sh'ma is a 
symbol intended to aid our memory of what Tefillin and the Sh'ma are all 
about:  Binding ourselves together, to our hand (our personal will) and 
to HaShem's "Hand" (as a projection of His Will.)   

-Our hand is our means of projecting our will into the world.  
-Our hand is our means of taking shapes into our mind's eye.  
-Our hand links our experience of our consciousness to our experience of 
the outside world. 
-Our hand shows our mind's eye the words we are reading.
-Our hand reminds us of the dependence of our will on HaShem's "Hand" 
(His Will.)

My research demonstrates that the 3-dimensional model hand-shaped 
Tefillin strap geometrically defined by the Sh'ma also produces 2-
dimensional outlines that look like all of the Hebrew letters.  Each 
letter is a different hand gesture - a different articulation of our 
will, reflecting a different aspect of the inner and outer world - as 
HaShem "Hands" it to us.



From: George Max Saiger <gmsaiger@...>
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 07:41:22 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Dealing with the Nonfrum

The recent discussion involving Yeshaya HaLevi, Akiva Miller and the
shade of Rav Moshe z"l, seems to me to have dealt too much in
practicalities. A serious overarching issue is the damage done by
seperatism.  Withdrawing too much from exposure to people outside our
own camp, be they Reform Jews, Presbyterians, or African-Americans,
leaves us vulnerable to xenophobia, racism, and cruelty to other human
beings.  Thus, I would caution a later poster to be less sad that JD
EIsentein begat a Reconstructionist Rabbi.  He should try to find a way
to enter into a dialogue with the grandson about the grandfather; he
might be enriched by the experience.  He will surely be impoverished by
avoiding it.


From: <simmy.fleischer@...> (Simmy Fleischer)
Date: Wed,  1 May 1996 09:52:45 GMT
Subject: Shidduchim"

In V23 Number 80 Harry Maryles decries the situation where "yeshiva
bochurim" will only marry a girl whose father will support them because
kids are taught that unless you sit and learn all day you're not doing
the right thing. I agree that this is a ridiculous situation and that
these boys (I use the term purposefully) are acting improperly. I would
like to also remind everyone out there that the opposite is true
ie. that many girls out there won't even consider going out with a guy
unless he plans on sitting in Kollel and learning for the rest of his
life. Now I'm not talking about guys who never learn at all, I am
talking about guys who know their limitations and abilities and its
simply not in them to sit and learn all day but, they are koveh there
itim (set aside time for learning torah) every day. So why should these
fine young men who work for a living, and are koveh itim be "deprived"
of the chance of to go out with these girls. I can tell you all that
this is a problem that effects me (I have the additionl "problem" of
finding a girl who wants to make aliyah but thats a whole different
discussion) and a "yeshivesh" friend of mine.



From: Josh Wise <jdwise@...>
Date: Sun, 05 May 1996 14:52:58 EDT
Subject: Standing in place after Shmoneh Esrei

Eric Mack asked:
>>Why is it proper to not move from one's makom [place] after the "silent"
>>amida until the ba'al t'fila [prayer leader] is finished with Kedusha?

Shemoneh Esrei (Amida) is basically a conversation between an individual
and Hashem. Just as one conducts himself with a Torah Scholar, or King
etc., one should conduct himself before Hashem. After speaking to a
King, one would bow towards him, and slowly step backwards away from
him. This is why we take three steps backwards after shemoneh esrei,
accompanied by bowing.  Finally, since it would be improper to "run
away" from a King, or one's Rabbi, after speaking with him we remain in
place after our "conversation" with Hashem.
	There is an additional discussion regarding how much time one is
required to wait after completing the Shemoneh Esrei.  When one is
praying alone, or is the chazan, it is only necessary to wait 'hiluch
daled amot' (The time required to walk 4 cubits (approx. 6-8
feet)). However, when one is praying with a minyan, one must remain in
place until the chazan reaches kedushah, and then take three steps
forward. Or at the very least, until he begins the repetition of the

Source: Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Siman 123:2. Mishna Brura: 6-9. 

Josh Wise


From: Russell Hendel <RHendel@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Apr 1996 09:22:55 -0500
Subject: TZNIUTH: What is Good Halachah really about--Revision 

Although this note will address specific comments about modesty(tzniuth)
I think it opens up a broader question about the PURPOSE of halachic
discussion.  Details will be given below.

I am responding to [Kestenbaum V23 72] who asserts that most people
don't care about tzniuth to the extent it has been discussed, that we
are hiding our sexual passions behind halacha and there is no point to
the discussions. Similar remarks with a different approach were made by

In the first place I refer to the eloquent statements by [Schwartz] and
[Freedenburg] in the same issue.  Clearly, there ARE women who care
about tzniuth, who think it makes them better people, and who are
willing to share their ideas with other people.  So my first comment to
Kestenbaum and Miller is perhaps they should change their circle of

On a deeper level I would like to examine why it is important to discuss
such minutae in tzniuth.  To rephrase the query, what consitutes a
valid, good, or beneficial question.

A first approach might suggest that halachic discussion is valid if the
halacha has relevance and/or applicability.

 However the laws of the rebellious son (Ben sorair and morair) (Deut Ki
Tasay) have no applicability---there never was a ben sorair and morair.
The question of why we should study the ben sorair and morair was raised
and answered in a beautiful and eloquent essay by Rabbi Samson Raphael
Hirsch with deep meaning to halahchic relevance.

Suppose, says Rabbi Hirsch, by way of example, that one parent was soft
and one was harsh in their treatment of children. According to the
halachah a ben sorair and morair with such an upbringing (one parent
harsh and one soft) is not to be stoned.  The reason for this is as
follows: The whole purpose of stoning the ben sorair and morair
according to the talmud was because of what the ben sorair and morair
was going to become (if he is rebelling at 13 he will probably become a
criminal so he should be stoned now). Hence, argues Rabbi Hirsch, if his
present behavior can be blamed, not on his personality, but on his
upbringing, then we don't stone him because we are not sure how he will
turn out.  Since in this case the parents have contradictory approaches
of upbringing the son might learn to manipulate them and he is not

Rav Hirsch concludes that proper parental upbringing would require a
unified approach of both parents.  Rab Hirsch explicitly notes
     *that from these non relevant rebellious son laws that never took place
     *we can nevertheless learn important principles of upbringing.
The method for doing this is simple: Every stoning requirement in the
rebellious son laws should be interpreted as focusing on the good upbringing
of the son (and therefore he rebelled because of HIS personality---since he is
bad now he will turn out bad and should be stoned).

Returning to our original discussion on what is a good halachic
discussion, we can see that immediate relevance is not the only
requirement.  A discussion on non relevant halachas that however allows
us to infer proper principles of behavior is also a "good" halachic

Another illustration of this duality in halachah---relevance vs
principles--can be obtained from the neighbor laws in the Rambam. The
Rambam points out that although most people feel comfortable with
planting a tree on their own property nevertheless if the tree grows and
a branch overshoots a fence and starts growing towards a neighbors
window then the neighbor can cut down the branch (depending on its

There are many people who do not plant trees and hence this halahcah has
no immediate relevance.  But the halachah focuses on principles of
social human interaction and caring for other people.  The Talmud in its
discussion of this law compares the growing branch to "an arrow shot by
the planter".  In other words, when I plant a tree I am probably NOT
thinking of my neighbor.  I am doing my own thing on my own property.
Halacha teaches us to look at my planting from my neighbor's point of
view---how will he feel about it if a branch starts growing towards a

As a final example the Rambam in monetary damage laws, chapter 13
relates how the original chasidim would totally destroy their broken
glass (instead of discarding it in the garbage) so as to avoid harming
their neighbor (in other words, the broken glass should not be perceived
as garbage but rather as a potential "pit"---the archetype name given to
the a certain class of damages)

These last two examples: The branch that is halachically perceived as an
arrow or the broken glass that is perceived as a damaging pit clearly
demonstate principles of good halachic discussion relevant to tzniuth:
      A halachic discussion is "good" even if the halacha is not immediately
      relevant if the discussion leads to insights and principles about proper
      behavior.  More specifically, many halachoth---such as the planting and
      glass example--- have as their goal that we should not only think of 
      ourselves when doing something but also think about how our neighbors
      perceive things.  To put it still another way, an irrelevant halachah may
      disencourage selfishness and have us think of our fellow man.

By way of illustrating the application of this principle of halachic
relevance to tzniuth let us examine the"slit skirt" question. A woman
puts on a dress with a slit skirt. She is only thinking of herself, it
makes her feel good.  Halacha would turn around and tell her to think of
her neighbor, the man.  The man says, she is hurting me by exposing me
to a sexual tension.  Now halachah turns to the man and asks the man to
think of this neighbor, the woman: Halachah says to the man, "Do you
really think she is trying to tease you; maybe she is doing it because
she can't walk in a non slit dress and the slit facilitates her
movement.  Is it the slit or the intention that bothers you? She is not
intending to tease you just to facilitate her movement"

As this example shows, true halachic discussion is suppose to lead to
deep moral concern and social empathy with other people.  Yes, halachah
is picky, but its pickiness has as its goal the development of multiple
perspectives on acts from different people's points of views.

In this spirit, I would like to encourage more solicitations from people
on slit dresses and Tzniuth.  To derive maximum benefit the various
discussions should focus on how the SAME act can be perceived in SEVERAL
ways by different people.  The goal of the halachah is to make us aware
of these multiple perspectives and to adjudicate.

Russell Hendel Ph.d. ASA
Dept of Math and Comp Science
Drexel Univ, Phil Pa


End of Volume 23 Issue 88