Volume 24 Number 45
                       Produced: Thu Jun 20 22:39:53 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

613 mitzvot
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Cost of being Jewish / observant
         [Paul Shaviv]
Employment references
         [Barry S. Bank]
         [Shimon Lebowitz]
         [Sam Saal]
         [Diane Sandoval]


From: <mshalom@...> (Saul Mashbaum)
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1996 08:18:50 EDT
Subject: 613 mitzvot


In Volume 24 Number 39, I responded to Eli Clark's remark (about a posting 
of mine and of Binyomin Segal) that

>"The discussion in Makkot 23b has not been presented properly by the
>various posters".

by writing

>In my opinion, this phraseology is too harsh. Eli Clark is certainly
>welcome describe the Talmudic discussion in greater detail than I did;
>he does not have to denigrate my summary in order to do so.

In Volume 24 Number 40 Eli Clark wrote
>I would like to publicly apologize for any offense my statement caused.

Eli Clark's apology is fully accepted. It's possible that my own
phraseology is too harsh, and "denigrate" is not the term I should have

The question of how much detail to include when quoting a Talmudic
source in response to a question is of course a knotty one; not always
is it crucial to include all details in order to answer the question. I
think that a less aggressive introductory remark like

"I would like to present more fully the discussion in Makkot 23b which
was quoted briefly, and only in part, by the various posters".

would have been more appropriate than the formulation quoted above which 
I objected to.

Regarding Shmot Rabbah 33:7, Eli writes

>...Thus... R. Simlai is credited with the gematriya.  But R.
>Simlai does not cite any pasuk (biblical verse) from which he derives
>this gematriya.  Thus, even according to Shemot Rabbah, there is no
>biblical source for R. Simlai's derashah (exposition).

On the contrary, readers who open Shmot Rabbah 33:7 will see immediately
that R. Simlai's statement that there are 613 commandments is related
directly to the introductory verse of the section "Torah tziva lanu
Moshe, etc." and that R. Simlai *is* relating to it in his exposition.

I do agree with Eli Clark's hypothesis that 

>the Shemot Rabbah paired a later version of the midrash -- one 
>focusing on gematriya -- with the name of R. Simlai which was 
>drawn from the Gemara in Makkot". 

This is most likely because the details of the derivation were not seen
as critical; this is precisely my point.

I think Eli and I agree that the number 613 is based on an oral
tradition, and the various derivations are attempts to find hints in the
Torah for something known only by this tradition.

Saul Mashbaum


From: <shaviv@...> (Paul Shaviv)
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 08:06:18 -0400
Subject: Cost of being Jewish / observant

Gad Frankel raises a crucial issue. Leave aside weddings. The everyday
cost of being an observant Jew (incl observant Jewish family) is so high
that it is in my view an active deterrent to many people in associating
with the Jewish community. The first cost is housing. Over the last
thirty years a very significant movement has taken place which
concentrates religious Jewish life into a small number of suburbs (in
some cities, streets), all of which tend to be the highest price suburbs
in town. Socially, every reader of this list is aware that someone who
lives outside the accepted frum areas has their religious credibility
immediately questioned. The spread of otherwise laudable standards in
food, arba minim etc has placed impossible financial burdens on ordinary
salaried people, many of whom vote with their feet and qietly move away
from Jewish life. Gad is absolutely correct --- the leadership should
come from community rabbis, roshei yeshiva etc. Where is it?

-- Paul Shaviv, Montreal <Shaviv@...>


From: <as106@...> (Barry S. Bank)
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 06:11:46 -0400
Subject: Employment references

As I am involved in faculty recruitment for my school, the recent
discussion on lashon ha-ra/shidduchim caught my interest as it might
relate to my own activities.

I recently called the principal of a congregational school to confirm a
glowing letter-of-recommendation she had written in behalf of a teacher
who was applying for a job.  This is something I do as s.o.p. because I
have found that when colleagues speak directly with each other they can
be more candid than they can when writing a letter to be seen by the

The colleague was never in when I called (not all that unusual), but
when she failed to return my several calls, some of which I made to her
home, I became suspicious.  So I called the rabbi of the congregation
who responded that the principal did not answer my call apparently
because she did not want to be "motzee shem ra."

Which raises 2 questions -- which may already of been dealt with in 
mail-jewish (and if so, please disregard this posting):

1.  What is the status of an honest but bad employment reference
(particularly in the area of education where the consequences of
employing a bad teacher are so potentially disastrous)? and

2.  What is the status of a letter-of-recommendation in which only good
qualities are mentioned with no reference to significant problems?
(G'nevat da'at?)

--Barry S. Bank


From: Shimon Lebowitz <lebowitz@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 11:31:47 +0300
Subject: Re: Raspberries

Brian A. Kleinberg <103231.1072@...> asked:

> I planted raspberry bushes in my backyard this week and would like to
> know if anyone can tell me whether bushes fall under the "orlah" law of
> not eating the berries the first three years. 

In volume two of 'The Halachos of Brochos' by rabbi yisroel pinchos
bodner, of lakewood (i recommend both volumes! haskamot by rav shlomo
zalman, zt"l, and rav chaim sheinberg shlita, among others) he writes
(p. 395): papaya and raspberry plants are botanical anomalies, whose
classifications are questionable. the brocho for these fruits is borei
[pri hoadomo]. (the last two words are missing in the book! but clearly
mentioned in the end of the footnote.)

footnote 7, part 4 'what to do lemaaseh', says: (my free translation
from the hebrew - the footnotes in this sefer are not in english).  i
heard from hagaon rav shlomo zalman shlit"a that by logic it is not
called a tree, not for a brocho, and not for orlah. however, lema'aseh,
since the poskim were in doubt, and many held that is a tree, and we
cannot decide definitively against them, therefore out of doubt we make
bore pri ha'adomo, and for orlah: outside of israel, where sofek-orlah
is permitted, one may be lenient, but in eretz yisrael, where
sofek-orlah is prohibited, further study is needed (tzorich iyun) and we
cannot decide neither leniently nor stringently.  and i heard from rabbi
chaim koppel who dealt with this matter several years to ask the great
rabbis and get their opinion on the matter of th ebrocho and of orlah,
and he heard from many of them to say borei pri hoadomo, and so decided
hagaon rav elyashiv shlit"a. but hagaon rav chaim scheinberg shlit"a
wrote to him a responsum where he decided in favor of borei pri ha'etz.
in view of all the above we wrote in the body of this book to say borei
pri hoadomo out of doubt (and even the mishne berura who wrote borei pri
ha'etz, perhaps was referring to a different species).  [end of

Brian also asked:
> Please send me the answer
> back to:
>  Brian Kleinberg, 103231,<1072@...>

please note that the compuserve.com host name makes
that in internet address, and as such a comma is illegal in 
it, and must be changed to a period (dot) in order to work. :-)

Shimon Lebowitz                   Bitnet:   LEBOWITZ@HUJIVMS
VM System Programmer              internet: <lebowitz@...>
Israel Police National HQ.        IBMMAIL:  I1060211
Jerusalem, Israel                 phone:    +972 2 309-877  fax: 309-308


From: Sam Saal <saal@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 1996 11:08:20 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: re: Shidduchim

In a recent issue of mail.jewish, Janice Gelb (<Janice.Gelb@...>)

>While the very large, frum communities do take an interest in this
>subject, smaller, more "modern" communities often do not.  This is
>especially true for singles beyond the age of finishing school and
>starting a job. And it is even more serious a problem for those who are
>not all the way over into the frum camp but are still pretty observant.

Here's a few thoughts on the subject. I hope our moderator considers
this relevant to the goals of this forum.

Singles' programs tend to be cyclical. As a "generation" of singles
that are involved in programming disbands (through marriage, hopefully,
or migration) the movers & shakers are no longer around and the program
dies out. After a while, another program may start, but it will be with
a different core group.

Running a singles program is hard work. I helped run one for 6 years in
Highland Park, NJ; our moderator and his wife also ran or helped run them
or others.

Burn out is not only possible, it is expected. Especially when it is
couples - rather than singles - who run the program. The benefit for
nonsingles is harder to quantify and appreicate while the hard work is
so obvious. We found that when singles are no longer interested in
working on the programs, there's really no point in running them. When
I worked on our Shabbatonim, they were reasonably successful (average
170 people for a Shabbat and a couple dozen marriages that I'm aware of
in the 6 years), yet after a while, they started to feel the same and
local singles, for whom, the program was initiated, stopped attending
or became less enthusiastic.

Highland Park has tried a few other avenues for getting singles together,
with various levels of success. If the organizers are doing it for their
own egos, participants sense it and the program does not succeed.
Unfortunately we have seen this in Highland Park's history.

And yet, a certain amount of ego is necessary to start, organize, and run
these programs. Finding the right ballance is very difficult.

>P.S. I should note that some sporadic attempts have been made in my 
>community but it definitely is not a community priority.

It is very difficult to quantify. Sometimes just getting started is the
hardest part.

I have written a comprehensive and probably exhausting - er -
exhaustive manual for running Shabbatonim in Highland Park. I believe
lessons we learned can be used in starting programs in other
communities. The manual gives directions, checklists, and a case study
and I would be interested in sharing this manuscript in return for
comments on improving it, so that I might publish it at some point.  If
anyone is interested in running a Shabbaton and would like to review
this manuscript, please contact me.

Sam Saal      <saal@...>
Vayiphtach HaShem et Pea haAtone


From: <Diansand@...> (Diane Sandoval)
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 1996 13:36:06 -0400
Subject: Weddings

I heartily concur with Gad Frenkel (Vol 24, No 43) that the cost and
extravagance associated with weddings is an issue which should be dealt
with in the orthodox community.  However, the extravagance is not only
in the size of a wedding (as perhaps implied in the wonderful story of
the Rebbi of Ger, which Gad relates), but also in an opulent setting.
These two elements should be dealt with separately.

In some ways, limiting the number of guests is the more difficult issue.
 Families who are heavily involved in the community want to share their
simcha with as many people as possible.  For yeshiva families, this may
mean inviting everyone associated with the yeshiva; yet, these are the
families who may least be able to afford large numbers of guests (and
particularly so if they are making a wedding each year for several
years).  Other families may also feel that they have "obligations" to a
large number of people.  And others are just so happy about the marriage
that they want to include "just everybody."

 The level of opulence is perhaps something which may be easier to deal
with, particularly if rabbis and other community leaders set an example
of what is acceptable.  Since many of the most opulent weddings appear
to be in the New York area, and the New York community sets the tone for
other communities in the United States, and increasingly in other
countries, new standards must be set in New York.  One difficulty is the
belief that there is a minimal level of extravagance, which is several
scales higher than in communities outside of New York and certainly, in
the non-frum world, that is acceptable in making a wedding.  Some
specific suggestions for scaling back are:

1.  End the full smorgasbord.  Despite some brave souls having tried to
eliminate it from time to time, the full smorgasbord is still
acceptable, whereas it should be regarded as the exception to the norm
(if at all).  For weddings at times when it is expected that the seudah
will be served much later than the previous meal of most guests, light
hors d'oeuvre or danish and beverages would be more than sufficient and
can be served attractively.

2.  Limit the number and/or size of floral arrangements.  This is
already being done by use of artifical arrangements rented from Jewish
organizations and use of live plants.  A scaling back of floral
arrangements actually lends to the simcha by allowing people to see past

3.  Reduce the size of the bands.  With the use of amplification, fewer
pieces are needed than are being used currently.  In fact (my pet
peeve), the noise level created at many simchas currently makes them
less enjoyable than they might be because conversation is impossible.

4.  Other elements of the food service can be cut back and still have a
more than acceptable seudah.  There is no need for the number of courses
still served at some weddings.  In addition, one or more courses could
be served buffet style; this is probably the most radical change, but
many bar and bat mitzvahs (including one I attended yesterday) are
buffet style and are very simchadik.

These are only a few suggestions for scaling back the opulence level of
weddings, none of which would impare the "simcha level" of the event but
might actually increase it.  I would be interested in hearing other
suggestions, and especially those for how to change the norm.

Diane Sandoval


End of Volume 24 Issue 45