Volume 26 Number 06
                      Produced: Thu Feb 13 22:57:24 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Mark Steiner]
Lashon Hara about Tradesmen
         [Chaim Mehlman]
Shidduchim and Illness
Translation of the Sixth Commandment
         [Bernard Katz]


From: Mark Steiner <MARKSA@...>
Date: Thu,  13 Feb 97 17:09 +0200
Subject: Re: Cheese

	The reason many religious Jews do not eat foods containing
products derived from an unkosher source, even if the material was
rendered unfit for human or even canine consumption (rennet, gelatin,
etc.), is that there is a controversy over whether a prohibited
substance which was once unfit to eat, and then becomes fit to eat
later, reverts back to its original state of prohibition.  The late
R. Aharon Kotler z"l wrote a long responsum to support the strict view
in this matter; R. Hayim Ozer z"l was of the lenient opinion.  This is
the reason, by the way, that products in Israel under the supervision of
the rabbanut are permitted to contain gelatin.  This is also the reason
why products under the OU supervision do not contain gelatin.  I write
this both to warn American Jews who do not eat gelatin derived from a
trefa source to be careful what they eat in Israel; and also to warn all
Jews not to speak lashon hara against the Israeli rabbanut for "lax"
standards; R. Hayim Ozer did not have lax standards.
	By the way, I recommend learning the amazingly erudite teshuva
of R. Aharon Kotler in "Mishnas R. Aharon"--it will do more for the soul
than any cheese.


From: Chaim Mehlman <mehlman@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Jan 1997 19:20:42 +10
Subject: Lashon Hara about Tradesmen

Rafi Stern <rafistern@...> asks:

> I am aware that the laws of Lashon HaRa (defamatory speech) are 
> such that you are allowed or even obligated to tell relevant
> derogatory experiences about workmen to people who have a 
> specific need to know of these experiences (i.e. they are going 
> to hire the same guy). However I cannot go out into the street and 
> tell all the world about my experiences if there is no specific need to
> do so.
> My question is; where is the border? Can I/Should I spread the word
> amongst newcomers or old-timers in Bet Shemesh so that no-one will 
> have the same experiences we had and in order that maybe the 
> commercial culture in the city may change? If noone specifically 
> asks me the question am I allowed to do so, on the assumption that 
> everyone is in the same boat? 

It seems not to be a simple issue, and probably a competent Rav should
be consulted. As a starting point, it may be appropriate to quote from
the Chofetz Chaim, who discusses such matters minutely:

    Laws of Rechilut (Tale-bearing), Klal 9 (Free translation)

1.   If one sees his friend wishing to associate with someone in a
 certain matter, and judges that this will certainly bring him to some
 harm, he must tell his friend in order to save him from this harm. But
 five conditions are required:

2.   a.   One should be extremely careful not to decide hurriedly that the 
  wrong exists, but should investigate carefully whether the wrong is 
     b.   One should not exaggerate the wrong.
     c.   One's motive should be purely to achieve a good purpose, namely 
  to prevent the harm occurring, and not out of a dislike for the 
  opponent. Not only should one want a good purpose... 
  but one must appraise whether this purpose will actually be achieved,
  unlike what often occurs: one warns a person, but he doesn't listen,
  and goes ahead with the association. Then later if his partner angers
  him in some way, he will say, "So-and-so was right in telling me not
  to associate with you", etc. To such talebearers one has no halachic
  permission to speak, for one is placing "a stumbling-block before the
  blind" -- the absolute Torah prohibition of Rechilut.
    d.    If there is an alternative way of achieving the purpose without 
  having to reveal the wrong, one may not speak.
    e.  Speaking is permitted only if no real harm will come to the
  subject by speaking about him. That is, the person warned will not
  actually cause damage to the opponent, but only withhold the benefit
  he would have offered. Even though that in itself is bad for the
  opponent, it is still permitted. But if one's friend will do actual
  harm because of your report, it is forbidden to speak about the
  opponent ...Especially if one sees that the person warned will do
  great harm to the subject, more than Torah law allows, is it forbidden
  to speak ...

  End of Quote

I'm not sure if this really answers your question, but there's *lots*
more. Notice the provision in (c) not to act out of dislike for the
subject. It seems to me it would be extremely difficult to satisfy this
condition. If I've been this person's victim, how can I help disliking him,
and how can I be sure my motives are pure? Tricky.

Probably a good idea to study the whole of Rechilut Klal 9, as
well as Lashon HaRa Klal 10, which is closely related. 

Even then it would probably be wise to ask a Rav in any given case, i.e.
regarding each particular person you think people should be warned
about.  Obviously, your actions can seriously affect a person's
Parnasah, and that's not something to take on lightly -- see condition
(e). One is probably obligated to try all other ways of achieving the
purpose before being allowed to speak -- condition (d).


From: Anonymous
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 97 09:12:10 EST
Subject: Shidduchim and Illness

Chaim Shapiro commented on Shidduchim and illness:
>	I find it interesting that many young men and women spend
>incredible amounts of time uncovering minor, inconsequential evidence of
>illnesses in the past while overlooking the much more important and
>germaine aspects of who their perspective partner really is.  With rare
>exceptions, you are not marrying your partners childhood illness.

I could not agree more.  Similarly, you are generally not marrying your
prospective partner's family medical history.  A family history of
serious physical or mental illness may or may not identify a "genetic
taint."  Also, the fact that a particular illness runs in families does
NOT indicate that a particular individual, or his or her descendants,
are necessarily going to get it.  First of all, a condition that runs in
families may or may not be "genetic" in origin; second, not all
"genetic" conditions are fully penetrant.  That is, not all people who
carry the defective gene(s) get the disease.  Even if one marries
someone with a serious genetic condition, his or her descendants stand
only 50% chance of inheriting the disease gene, and are usually at
substantially less risk of manifesting the condition even if they have
the gene.

As a psychiatric researcher, I have spent most of my professional life
studying the way that mood, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders run
in families.  In that capacity I have run into more than a few
Torah-observant study participants whose personal or family histories
have made them give up hope of ever finding a suitable match.  Those who
have been set up with anybody have found the prospective mate to be him-
or herself so seriously deficient in the types of midot (character
attributes) that are far more critical than a medical checklist, that
they wanted no part of the situation.  In effect, they felt (accurately,
I think) that they were expected to "settle" for less-than- desirable
partners owing to a questionably valid perception by others of a
personal or familial "taint."

For me, too, the issue is more than academic, as a professional female
in her mid-30s with both a personal and a family medical history.  For
reasons similar to those of my study participants, I basically have
given up on finding a mate, and have actually told most people in my
social network who would set me up not to do so.  I have not, however,
given them a reason why.

Most men they seem to regard as suitable matches for me would most
likely run the other way the instant I disclosed to them the things
about my and my family's history that they are halachically required to
be told.  In my experience the ones who might not run the other way have
shortcomings of character, intellect, hashkafa, or other more critical
things than medical history, that make me regard _them_ as unsuitable.

Obviously, the point in the post which started this thread about the
primacy of producing children and all its implications for this issue
are well taken.  However, IMHO the dati world needs to become more
sensitive and humane in its approach to those of us in these
predicaments, including people who are infertile, those who must avoid
pregnancy for medical reasons, and those with other personal or family
medical issues.  Most of us are not misfits, and we ought not to be
excluded outright from the marriage market simply because of
circumstances beyond our control.  For example, there must be a way of
identifying men who have been married before, fulfilled their
obligations of pirya ve-rivya (procreation), and can accept the prospect
of not fathering more offspring with a new wife who has great midot but
also has health problems (assuming she is not too disabled to carry on
most other activities of daily living with reasonable accommodation).
Obviously, the issue of procreation does not have the same force for
women as for men, but there similarly ought to be ways of matching up
men who are infertile or have medical issues with intellectually and
characterologically suitable mates.

Comments, anyone?


From: Bernard Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Sun, 2 Feb 1997 13:50:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Translation of the Sixth Commandment

     A number of members of this list have urged that the Sixth
Commandment, "Lo tirtsach", should be translated into English as "Thou
shalt not murder" or "Do not murder". While this has certainly been a
common translation, it is problematic for several reasons.

     One difficulty is that the word "murder" in English means the
wrongful killing of a human with "malice aforethought". There are,
accordingly, at least two conditions that must be satisfied in
order to count some act of homicide as murder: it must be culpable
and it must have been done intentionally. The verb "ratsoach",
however, is used in various places in the Torah to designate an
action that pretty clearly does not satisfy one or other of these
two conditions and, so, cannot be construed as murder. In addition,
the noun "rotse'ach" is sometimes used to designate an individual
who, for similar reasons, cannot be taken as as a murderer.

     One striking example occurs in Devarim 4, 41-42, where we
learn that Moshe had set aside three Cities of Refuge east of the
Jordan. Verse 42 says that these are places of refuge for 

     rotse'ach asher yirtsach et re'ehu bivli-da'at v'hu lo sanei
     lo mitmol   ,

The standard translation of this passage, namely,

    the manslayer that slayeth his neighbour unawares and hated him
    not in the past   ,

does not take this occurrence of verb "yirtsach" in the sense of the
English word "murder". Nor would it make sense to do so, for then the
text would be taken as speaking of someone who murdered his neighbour
but did so unintentionally and did not hate him in the past. (It
would, of course, be a logical contradiction to suppose that someone
might murder a person--that is, kill him or her with malice aforethought
--but do so unintentionally and without premeditation.) 

     In Bamidbar 35, there are about thirteen occurrences of the
verb "ratsoach" or the noun "rotse'ach", and about seven of them
refer to actions or agents that clearly fall outside the category
of murder or murderer. For example, verse 11 speaks of a "rotse'ach
bishgaga"; but again there is no such thing as an accidental (or
inadvertent) murderer. 

     While most of the occurrences of this verb in Bamidbar 35 denote
actions that we might regard as either murder or manslaughter, there
is at least one occurrence that is a bit more problematic. Bamidbar
35, 30, says that if one person kills another,

     l'fi eidim yirtsach et harotse'ach   .

This is standardly translated as, "at the mouth of witnesses shall
the murderer be slain", rendering the verb "yirtsach" simply in the
sense of "slay". Certainly, it would make no sense to construe this
occurrence of "yirtsach" as meaning either murder or manslaughter, for
the Torah plainly does not regard a lawful execution as a culpable 

     There is a further problem with translating "Lo tirtsach" as
"Thou shalt not murder" (or "Do not murder"), which is that doing
so would make the commandment morally vacuous. Murder is, by
definition, morally wrong; that is, a necessary condition for correctly
labelling some action as a murder is that the action be morally wrong
(in the same way that a necessary condition for correctly calling some
geometric figure a triangle is that it have three sides). Since the
concept of murder already includes that of moral culpability, the rule
"Thou shalt not murder" understood as a moral rule would be
tautologous and, so, devoid of moral content. It would be rather like
saying, "It is morally wrong to do something that is morally wrong", a
statement that would be perfectly true but would convey no moral
information. (The same objection would also apply to taking "ratsoach"
as meaning  simply manslaughter, since manslaughter also involves the
notion of moral culpability.) 

     I note, finally, that in Sefer HaMitzvot, the Rambam
explicates the mitzvah "Lo tirtsach" in the following manner:

     (289)  sh'lo l'haroeg naki sh'ne'emar lo tirtsach

Thus, it seems that (here at least) the Rambam understands the
mitzvah of "Lo tirtsach" as one that enjoins us against killing an
innocent person.  As a moral injunction, this makes a lot more
sense than "Thou shalt not murder". 

     This suggests that the verb "ratsoach" might be taken as simply
meaning the killing of an innocent person, in which case "Lo
tirtsach" would be translated in the manner of "Thou shalt not take
the life of an innocent person" (or "Do not take an innocent life").
I think that this way of rendering the verb is certainly preferable to
the standard one (that is, as "murder"); in fact, except for the
complication introduced by Bamidbar 35, 30, it generally works rather

Bernard Katz


End of Volume 26 Issue 6