Volume 24 Number 20
                       Produced: Tue May 28  6:29:58 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

613 Mitzvot?
         [Jonathan Katz]
Converts and their Parents
         [Gad Frenkel]
Converts' relationships with family-of-origin
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
In Praise
         [Joy Mendleson]
Is Cheating On Tests OK If Other People do It
         [Perry Zamek]
Layning and troupe
         [Israel Pickholtz]
Legitimate Pesak and Conservative Practice
         [Michael J Broyde]
Not Practicing Customs because of similarity to Christian practice
         [Yeshaya Halevi]
Not Yet Frum Guests
         [Aaron Mandelbaum]


From: <frisch1@...> (Jonathan Katz)
Date: Mon, 27 May 96 21:00:33 EDT
Subject: 613 Mitzvot?

The question came up over Shavuos, but it is something which has
bothered me for a while...

What are the earliest sources which mention that the Torah contains 613

The simple answer, of course, would be that the number 613 isn't
"derived" from anywhere, but merely represents an actual count of the
mitzvot. This explanation, however, is lacking. Different rabbis have
come up with their own lists of the mitzvot in the Torah. Mitzvot
included by some are left out (i.e., not included in the count, not
counted as distinct from another mitzvah, etc.) by others. Yet, they all
make sure to come up with a final total of 613.

The question is: why?

There is certainly no source for this in the Torah, although there may
be weak hints to it. Is there a source to this from the Talmud?

Jonathan Katz
410 Memorial Drive, 233F
Cambridge, MA 02139


From: Gad Frenkel <0003921724@...>
Date: Mon, 27 May 96 14:50 EST
Subject: Converts and their Parents

Allie Berman asked:

>I have heard from several people that after a person converts to Judaism
>they are not supposed to have any more contact with their non-Jewish
>families.  I'm wondering if this is true since one the Ten Commandments
>states "honor thy father and thy mother."

When aperson converts he/she becomes an entirely new person.  Therefore
if a man and his mother were to both convert they could, according to
Torah law, then marry one another since the new people that they have
both become are no longer related to each other.  The Rabbis in the
Talmud however forbade such a marriage using the following reason:
Before conversion it was forbidden for this mother/son to marry one
another.  If they are allowed to marry after converting people will say
that they went from a higher position of holiness to a lower position of

My Rebbe, Rabbi B.C. Schloime Twerski Zt'zl of Denver, used the above
reasoning to rule that a convert has a Rabbinically ordained obligation
to honor their parents.  In the specific case he was addressing he
defined that obligation to mean visiting twice a year.  It is my sense
that the parameters of the obligation are defined by the natures of the
people involved and their relationships.  I know converts who have cut
off all contact with their parents and others who maintain close

There are two other points that I think this Rabbinic obligation
addresses.  First of all there is the principle of Hakoras Hatov,
gratitude.  Under normal circumstances (no abuse, etc.) one owes one's
parents a great deal for having raised and supported them until
adulthood.  Secondly, although a convert certainly becomes a new person
spiritually, and enters an entirely different world than their parents,
it is foolish to think that the psychological and emotional bonds will
somehow disappear.  Even more dangerous is the attempt to repress them.
Your parents will always be your parents.  This ruling then provides a
convert with framework within which to let his/her relationship with
his/her parents to continue to develop and adapt, as they continue to
develop and adapt in their own Jewishness.

Gad Frenkel


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 08:24:35 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Converts' relationships with family-of-origin

In v24n13 Allie Berman asks:

> I have heard from several people that after a person converts to Judaism
> they are not supposed to have any more contact with their non-Jewish
> families.  I'm wondering if this is true since one the Ten Commandments
> states "honor thy father and thy mother."

I would very much like to know who the "several people" were -- were
they poskim who were asked shailas?  Knowledgeable rabbis or laymen? or
people repeating bubbe-mayses?  Slight apologies for the vehement tone,
but I can't begin to tell you how much anguish this kind of attitude
causes converts.  (I'm not accusing the poster, I understand the
question is for information.)  The halachic basis of the question is the
idea that strictly speaking, since the convert is "new born", s/he has
no HALAKHIC ties to his/her parents, etc.  The general concept of
honoring one's parents would still apply; I hope that those with more
halakhic material at their fingertips will chime in here.

A convert with such issues should consult a COMPETENT HALAKHIC AUTHORITY
for advice and hashkafa.  (Just as an example of the attitude to
honoring parents, I know of several converts who have been encouraged by
their (thoroughly Orthodox) rabbis to say kaddish for their parents, and
permitted to be in churches at their funerals.)  The real halakha is
usually a good deal more sensible than the folk mind.  Not that the folk
mind doesn't often have some good sense too.  But whoever told you that
converts are supposed to completely cut themselves off from their
families of origin was wrong.

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


From: Joy Mendleson <ab522@...>
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 13:19:38 -0300
Subject: In Praise

Hello --

I just want to say a few words about Rabbi Shlomo Grafstein who has been
my friend, advisor, teacher and spiritual leader since he arrived here
in Halifax.  One of his truly major achievements was the installation of
the mechitza in the daily chapel.  Note that our building is nearly 40
years old!

I hope to hear someday soon that he has found a challenging position
where he can grow in Judaism as he has helped others to grow.  To that
end, if anyone would like a reference from us, by email, fax or phone,
we would be happy to provide one.  (My husband was shuel president when
R. Grafstein was hired.)  Thank you.

Thank you also to Avi and all the posters for a great list.  I have been 
lurking for nearly four years now!  

Joy Mendleson, Halifax, NS


From: <jerusalem@...> (Perry Zamek)
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 19:00:08 +0300
Subject: Is Cheating On Tests OK If Other People do It

Russell Hendel (in v24n14) asks:

>Can it be argued that this [small scale cheating - PZ] creates a societal
norm that legitimizes that >practice?

He then goes on to cite sources that, in the issue of commerce, exemplify
this principle.

His third source, however, seems to posit the opposite:

>(c) Measurement standards explicitly exclude any misrepresentation
>(even to the extent of measuring liquids by pouring from a height since
>the resulting bubbles confuse perception of the true volume) since the
>Torah prohibits any misrepresentation in measurement (Theft, 8, Rambam).

And he finally offers a fuller version of the question:
>So what about cheating on tests. Can a student legitimately argue that
>they are being hurt if they aren't allowed to cheat on 1-2 word answers
>or take 1-2 items from a neighbor since "everyone else does it", it is
>hard to stop that small a cheat, *and* they aren't really
>misrepresenting their broad knowledge structures.

My thoughts: I would argue that the role of testing, insofar as the general
public is concerned, is to "measure" the student's knowledge. Granted  that
a small bit of cheating may not be a misrepresentation of "broad knowledge
structures." However, since test results are expressed in sharp numeric
terms (grades, GPA etc.), and these, in turn are used to rank the students
(including for such purposes as scholarships/grants, etc.), it would seem
that the [small] cheating is, in fact, a transgression of the form of
"misrepresenting standard meausrements". [I am ignoring here the issue,
commonly discussed in teaching courses, of whether numeric measures are
meaningful -- the issue here is that they are *seen* to be meaningful].

I agree that some of the cheating is due to parental/classroom pressures --
I recall one instance where cheating raised my score on a test from 99
(which I knew I would get) to 100 (which got more public recognition). Was
it worth it? Probably not. I'm glad I didn't make a habit of it, though.

Perry Zamek   | A Jew should hold his head high. 
Peretz ben    | "Even in poverty a Hebrew is a prince... 
Avraham       |       Crowned with David's Crown" -- Jabotinsky


From: Israel Pickholtz <rotem@...>
Date: Thu, 16 May 1996 14:06:15 +0300
Subject: Layning and troupe

>From: Michael Perl <mikeperl@...>
>Ira Rabin rightly comments on the distortions in meaning that may occur
>due to incorrdetly singing the troupe. He comments that some baalei
>Koreh don't know the difference between a Pashta and a Kadma. When you
>say this, Ira, I presume you mean in the way it is sung. Did you mean
>anything other than that?

A pashta is disjunctive (a stop) while a kadma is conjunctive (NOT a
stop).  That's why we (I speak as an Aschkenazi only, of course) put a
"tail" - an additional downward note - on the pashta - to "force" the

>I am currently preparing a boy for his barmitzvah (IY"H) parshat
>Ki-Tavo.  I would like to hear some thoughts on whther it is
>permissible for him to layn Shishi, which contains the Tochahah
>(curses). One thing that comes to mind is that given what a boy his age
>openly reads today in newspapers and magazines, such layning would not
>be all that shocking.  On the other hand, it is usual for the baal
>koreh to be called for that aliyah and the barmitzvah intends on being
>called up for maftir.

Many places are noheg to call the rav.  At a bar-mitzva you can also get
away with calling the grandfather or another particularly prestigious

I know the custom that for the curses you don't CALL the person as such,
he just comes up. And you don't make a mi-shbeirach directly after
either.  But I know that is not the common custom.

Israel Pickholtz


From: Michael J Broyde <relmb@...>
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 21:37:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Legitimate Pesak and Conservative Practice

For an explicit example of a posek stating that a particular practice 
shoud not be permitted because the conservative rabbinate has stated 
that this is permitted, see the teshuva of Rav Yecheskail Abramsky, as 
quoted in full in the hakdama of volume four of the tzitz eliezer.
Michael Broyde


From: <CHIHAL@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)
Date: Mon, 27 May 1996 22:36:20 -0400
Subject: Not Practicing Customs because of similarity to Christian practice

Shalom, All:

       Hadassa Cooper <hershco@...> wrote that <<Even though
decorating the Shul with greenery on Shavuot is mentioned in the Yerushalmi,
the Vilna Gaon did not practise this custom because of Christian rituals
being associated with greenery.>>
       I'm puzzled by this.  Not only are individual Christian rituals taken
from Judaism -- the very core of Christianity (messiah etc.) is lifted from
Judaism.  Should we cease our beliefs and practices because Christianity is
associated with it?  
         They mutated mashiah into their belief of messiahdom; do we stop
waiting for mashiah?  They "borrowed" mikva and called it baptism; do we stop
that too?  
       I'd appreciate input on where and why the line is drawn.
    <Chihal@...> (Yeshaya Halevi)


From: <aaron.mandelbaum@...> (Aaron Mandelbaum)
Date: Mon, 27 May 96 21:01:00 -0003
Subject: Not Yet Frum Guests

I am responding to Allie Berman's question about a non-orthodox woman
lighting candles on Friday night.  For the past ten years I have been
involved in an outreach program called the Jewish Learning Experience of
Bergen County.  When we started, we asked Rav Herschell Schachter of
Yesiva University, what we can and can not do in relation to outreach.
His answer was that as long as you make it clear that you would like
the person to stay for all of Shabbot, it is not your problem if the
person goes home after supper.  Secondly, by inviting the person to come
for Shabbot you have the possibility of sparking an interest which will
later on influence them to be Shomer Mitzvot.

Now more specifically to your question.  There really is no question as
to whether or not you can offer this woman the opportunity to light
candles.  You are giving her the opportunity to do a mitzvah at its
proper time.  We never know what little thing just might light the
spark (possible pun intended) that brings this person back to a more
proper path.  This woman should be encouraged to listen to kiddush and
wash for motzie also.  Even if you know that she will do wrong things on
Shabbot at least she did these things right.

A quick story to illustrate a "little" thing that helped to bring
someone back.  A young woman once attended one of JLE's programs.  After
talking with her she said that she would like to see that "Priest
Thing".  After figuring out what she was talking about, I invited her
for the last days of Pesach.  She would only come for the last day.
She came to Shule with my wife in time for Berkat Kohanim (That
Priest Thing).  She came home for lunch but left before Yom Tov was
over.  This occured in 1988.  This woman is now living in Har Nof,
married to a frum man and has 3 children.  You never know what gets a
person started.

I hope this helps clear up your dilemma.
Aaron Mandelbaum


End of Volume 24 Issue 20