Volume 25 Number 67
                      Produced: Wed Jan  1 23:23:21 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Angels on a pinhead
         [Carl Singer]
Bone marrow donations
         [Meir Shinner]
Bone Marrow Transplants
         [Michael & Bonnie Rogovin]
Garlic & Sugar at Pidyon HaBen
         [Kibi Hofmann]
Jewish Donors
         [Michael and Abby Pitkowsky]
Kohanim / corpses on El Al flights
         [Kenneth H. Ryesky]
Kohanim Flying to Eretz Yisrael
         [Carl Sherer]


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Jan 97 13:09:53 UT
Subject: Angels on a pinhead


I recently resumed looking into this mail group.  The discussion re:
Bone Marrow transplants although certainly relevant vis a vis Halacha is
nearly "Angels on a pinhead" re: the odds that you will be called.  At
that point you'll have decisions to make (or decisions made, to
implement) and I'm sure you'll avail yourself of access to fine Rabbinic
and medical poskim.

The discussion reminds me of similar ill-founded rap when, back in the
late 1970s my wife established a Red Cross blood donor program for the
various Torah institutions (Shuls & Schools) in West Philadelphia and
the Main Line.  First came the political arguments -- yes the "neutral"
Swiss and others can't seem to recognize the Red Magen Dovid as an
appropriate symbol.  Twenty years later, U.S. pressure still is
non-existent, etc.  Then came the Halachik issues of donating blood.  I
guess that was put to rest when the Philadelphia Rosh Yeshiva, Reb
Shmuel - he should be well - was first in the door with his sleeve
rolled up.  It was a Kiddish HaShem for the blue-blooded MainLine Red
Cross workers to see Yeshiva Bocherim ("Are they all going to be
Rabbis?") and balabatim donate.  Let me ask you all to ask yourself (I
don't want or need your answer) A - are your a registered Bone Marrow
Donor? and B - (if eligible) do you donate blood regularly?

Having recently moved to a new community my family ended up joining
three synagogues, one of them - and only one - reached out over
Thanksgiving and donated significant (several hundred) meals to the poor
in our community.  We did so rather quietly, as should be.  An open
question therefore: What has or what can you / your community
organizations do for the poor and hungry (Gentiles?) within your


From: <meir_shinnar@...> (Meir Shinner)
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 97 15:30:43 EST
Subject: Bone marrow donations

[Despite the level of "heat" in this posting, and the author
acknowledged it in an intro note to me, after careful reading of the
posting, I agree that this may be a case where some strong response is
acceptable. I'm not sure I agree with all that the poster says, and I
also know some of the previous posters on this subject, and know that
they too are sincere and caring people. But I think that the topic is
important, and the posting is more imformative/call for action than
flaming a person or group. Mod.]

I have followed with some interest the discussion about bone marrow
donors.  While others have cogently addressed many of the halakhic
issues, and have noted the hillul shem shamaim involved in the question,
there hasn't been expressed the level of moral outrage the very
question, and some of the reported answers, should arouse.

First, some more halakhic preliminaries.  There are several issues

With regard to our relations, the Rav Henkin, zt"l, has been quoted by
several people as saying that in America, all gentiles have the status
of "hasidei umot haolam"( righteous gentiles).  Today, we just do not
appreciate the intensity of anti semitism in Europe, as the basis of
many of the halakhot regarding our relations to gentiles, which do not
apply to "hasidei umot haolam" and therefore in America.

Second, several people have cited both darkhei shalom and eivah as the
basis for aiding gentiles.  Eivah even allows the suspension of
d'oraita, as on Shabbat.

It should be noted that eiva (creating hatred) is not an abstract fear.
During the pogrom in Brooklyn in 1991, one of the main rumors fanning
the pogrom was the (false) report that Hatzoloh refused to save a black
boy, and only saved the Jews.  A true report that Jews refuse to save
gentile lives would be even more deadly.  Therefore, the persons raising
the issue and the rabbis cited with inappropriate answers can be
considered to be those who endanger the entire Jewish community.

Independently of the self interest issues involved, however, there are
issues of moral sensitivity.  If the effect of a Torah education is that
if someone is asked to save a life of a stranger, without danger to
himself, he has to ask a question whether he is allowed(!!!!!) to do it,
clearly our education has failed.  The responses suggest that the person
asking a question is not an isolated failure.  This means that we are
raising moral eunuchs, without any moral sensitivity or feeling but just
willing to do what a rav says ( May I murder my neighbor? I have to ask
a shaila. Can I steal?  I will have to ask a shaila. Should I let a
stranger die? I have to ask a shaila).

While there is room for halakhic discussion on the nature of the
obligation and how far one has to go in order to perform it, to think
that there is room to discuss whether one should do it at all should be
beyond the pale.

The fact, cited in one poster, that most bone marrow registries are
'anti frum' because the "majority of frum Jews do not respond when they
are contacted for further testing" is a hillul shamaim befarhesia.  It
means that while our educational institutions do wonders in teaching
hilkhot shabbat and kashrut, they fail miserably in teaching true Torah.
That Rabbonim are cited as saying that if a gentile is saved, c'est la
vie, is in itself, if correct, an outrageous hillul shem shamaim
befarhesia, and is even further proof that the problem is systemic,
involving the leadership as well as the community.  Those in a position
of leadership, who know of the problem but are unwilling to condemn it
are also guilty (hocheach tochiach).

 Ultimately, we too have to publicly disassociate ourself and condemn as
morally reprehensible these attitudes. I was glad to see several posters
discuss the issue of hillul shamaim involved in this.  The issue of
whether we should just allow a stranger to die because he is not Jewish
is not equivalent to the issues of hilkhot gramma on shabbat.  If we
give public forum to such obscenitites, we also need to publicly condemn

Meir Shinnar


From: Michael & Bonnie Rogovin <rogovin@...>
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 1997 16:14:50 +0000
Subject: Re: Bone Marrow Transplants

Esther Posen writes:
> You will most likely save a jewish life and if you save a non-jewish
> life - cest la vi.  (this is not my bottom line.  this is the bottom
> line we heard from many rabbonim)

We are so far removed from "true idolatry", such as was found in ancient
Greece and the Middle East, that we are in danger of confusing
Christianity with idolatry.  As many others have already written, if we
have an obligation to violate Shabbat to save a life of a non-idolatrous
non-Jew, kal v'chomer to assume an inconvenience with little actual risk
to save such a life.  By saying "C'est la vie," these Rabbis suggest
that it is something that should otherwise be avoided if possible, but
if not, well, so be it.  All human life is precious to Hashem, and for
us to demean the value of others lives in this fashion reflects more
seriously on our values than of theirs.

Michael Rogovin


From: <ahofmann@...> (Kibi Hofmann)
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 1996 16:28:10 +0200
Subject: Garlic & Sugar at Pidyon HaBen

Yechezkal-Shimon Gutfreund wrote:

>I was at a Pidyon HaBen last night.
>The baby was brought out covered with gold chains. Garlic and Sugar 
>cubes were placed next to him.
>Afterwards the Garlic and Sugar cubes were given out to guests as a 
>Anyone know any of the meanings behind these minhagim?

I have seen this same minhag at the Pidyon haben of my nephew. The
ladies of the community (Gateshead, England) all brought along their
gold jewellery and draped it over the baby who was all in white. All the
kollelniks descended on the tray afterwards to get some sugar and garlic
(the gold was left behind :-)

As far as I could understand the gold is just to beautify the mitzva. 

There is a source (which of course I don't remember, maybe someone could
help me out) which says that eating from the seudas mitzva (celebratory
meal) of a pidyon Haben is 'worth' 82 (?) fasts. (I think it's 82 for
the gematria of 'peh-beis' for pidyon ben, in any case, some pretty
large number). I have a feeling that this simply stems from the fact
that a pidyon is a reasonably rare occurence (since it is only firstborn
males where neither grandfather is cohen/levi and if the birth was
fairly trouble free - not e.g. ceasarian).

Since not everyone can make it to a seudas mitzva (particularly families
of those attending) it is a nice idea to allow them all to eat some food
from it in order to get some of the zechus/segula (errrm..."benefit" I
guess). So people take home food from the seuda.

In this case, since the zechus is so great the minhag is to have some
food at the seuda with a very strong taste which can then spread through
a large amount of other food. So a garlic clove will be put in a
stew/cholent and everyone who eats the stew has "eaten from the seudas
mitzva". Similarly with sugar for people who don't like garlic.

Alternatively you could go for my initial thought on seeing this 
minhag, that the aim was to keep the vampires off (possibly an East 
European minhag..... :-) 

Kol Tuv


From: Michael and Abby Pitkowsky <pitab@...>
Date: Wed,  1 Jan 97 09:29:24 PST
Subject: Jewish Donors

> they recognize "frum" addresses and claim that the majority of frum
> people do not respond when they are contacted for further testing.
> Besides causing a chilul hashem, it also causes a tremendous expense for
> the frum community because these people are automatically removed from
> these registeries when they don't respond and bone marrow tests are
> expensive. 

A similar problem exists in Israel except that it is a problem with most
of the population.  The rate of people willing to donote any organ for
transplation is very low in Israel.  Whenever a family makes the
decision to donate a loved one's organs it makes the news because it is
so rare.  Israel is also a member of a European donor bank and it also
has the lowest rate of organs donated to the bank.  As a result Israelis
are now low on the priority list of people to get organs for transplant
b/c Israel donates such a small amount to the donor bank.  There have
been numerous attempts to heighten the public's awareness of the
importance of organ donations.  Even taking into consideration the
disagreement about brain death and heart transplants, there are numerous
organs which are less problematic to donate.  During the past year Rabbi
Yehuda Amital has tried to raise the awareness of the mitzvah of organ
donation and also work with ADI, the Israeli Organ Donor Association, in
order to work out some halakhic problems with their donor card as it is.
Most recently Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef has publicly said that it is
permissible to donate a number of organs and he said that he would
review again the issue of heart transplantation.

For two good articles to read on the subject see Fred Rosner's "Organ
Transplantation in Jewish Law" in _Jewish Bioethics_ ed. Rosner and
Bleich and "Organ Transplantation" in his _Modern Medicine and Jewish

Name: Michael Menahem and Abby Pitkowsky
E-mail: <pitab@...>


From: <KHRESQ@...> (Kenneth H. Ryesky)
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 1996 23:58:35 -0500
Subject: Kohanim / corpses on El Al flights 

The following article may be of help on the issues of a Kohen aboard an
airplane carrying a dead body:

Rabbi Alfred S. Cohen, "Tumeah of a Kohen: Theory and Practice", Journal
of Halacha & Contemporary Society, Number 15 (Pesach 5748/Spring 1988).

  -- Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq.   <khresq@...>


From: Carl Sherer <sherer@...>
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 1996 22:52:29 +0000
Subject: Kohanim Flying to Eretz Yisrael

Chaim Sukenik writes:

>  Rather then address Carl's question about current statistics or the
> logistics of dealing with ElAl, allow me to share part of a recent
> conversation I had with the head of a Yerushalayim Chevra Kaddishah
> (the Chevra Kaddishah Harashit Ve'haklalit, that of the "perushim",
> generally well regarded for its degree of religious care (dikduk
> be'mitzvot)):
>  I was told that a system has been developed with ElAl wherein a very
> precisely designed outer packing is placed around coffins and that
> this packing provides halachically acceptable isolation of the
> deceased in terms of transmission of tumah to any passengers. He
> confirmed that the percentage of flights transporting coffins was
> substantial but was adamant that this wrapping technique was a
> lechatchila (up front acceptable) solution to the probelem.

[Rest of reply deleted]

I'm not sure whether this solution would be acceptable to Rav Moshe
Feinstein zt"l.  In Iggros Moshe YD 2:164, Rav Moshe wrote (in my loose
translation), "It is forbidden for a Cohen to enter a plane in which a
dead person is being transported to Eretz Yisrael for burial because the
entire airplane, even though it is quite large, and has room below for
stowing luggage, which is where the dead person is also stowed, and
there is a buffer (chatzitza) between the dead person and the upper
compartment in which the passengers are sitting, it is all one vessel
and it is made out of metal which is capable of becoming tameh and
therefore it does not prevent the tumah from spreading, and the Cohen
would become tameh with tumas ohel (the impurity of being under the same
roof as a dead person) from a dead person, which violates both a
negative and a positive commandment."  [Rest of tshuva not translated].

If the problem according to Rav Moshe was the fact that the entire plane
is one vessel, and therefore the tuma spreads throughout the plane
regardless of any attempt to contain it (and that is how I understand
the tshuva, although I am no Rav and could be misunderstanding it), then
how does the solution Mr. Sukenik describes solve the problem? Answers
will be greatly appreciated.

-- Carl Sherer

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for our son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  
Thank you very much.

Carl and Adina Sherer


End of Volume 25 Issue 67