Volume 26 Number 29
                      Produced: Tue Apr 15  1:03:18 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Concentration in Prayer vs Learning
         [Russell Hendel]
Conversion Process and Sex Change Operation
         [Michael J Broyde]
Do we fear the "Man upstairs" or the man next door.
         [Carl Singer]
Drowning Fish & Common Sense
         [Binyomin Segal]
Like a Fish out of Water
         [Ken Miller]
Popular culture
         [Chaim Shapiro]
Torah & common sense
         [Gershon Dubin]


From: <rhendel@...> (Russell Hendel)
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 21:05:32 -0400
Subject: Concentration in Prayer vs Learning

The recent dialogue on how to treat an Alzheimer's patient who was
disruptive during services suggests that we focus on what the goals and
atmosphere of a prayer service are.

A well known Midrash on the 11 spice ingredients in the Frankinsence
(Exodus: Ki Tisah) notes that one of the 11 spices had a foul odor and
nevertheless was a necessary ingredient in the "sweet smelling
Frankinsence". 'From this law' continues the Talmud we learn that it is
proper to include evil doers in any prayer group on a fast day. I would
suggest by analogy that it is also proper or better to have Alzheimer's
patients in a prayer service. Allow me to explain:

Both Prayer and Learning require "concentration:"---but the
concentration required is totally different for each. Learning requires
a concentration atmosphere of "no distractions".  Compare for example
the law that you doN'T have to learn in a Succah during Succoth but can
go into your house if the Succah environment is distracting (because
otherwise learning can't take place)

But...Prayer requires "awareness of man, before G-d, of man's
helplessness". The reason we call this concentration is because normally
I don't think of G-d or of my helplessness. Maybe a better term is
"directing one's thought". But prayer does NOT require the same
concentration of learning---in one case we are only required to think of
specific items (G-d, helplessness) while in the other case we need a
"broad mind" that can learn/analyze/synthesize new material.

Using the above analysis we can now reformulate or "translate" the
question "Does hearing the disruptions of an Alzheimer's patient disturb
the prayer service" into "Does hearing the disruptions of an Alzheimer's
patient disturb my ability to be aware of man's helplessness and stand
before G-d".

I think we can clearly argue that the Alzheimer's patient helps me be
aware of my helplessness since one day I may be like him and therefore I
can come to G-d and truly ask for mercy.

I conclude with an observation by Rabbi Soloveitchick: The Christian
services use for music the mass with a focus on the emotions of
grandeur. By contrast traditional Jewish services use music to focus on
emotions of helplessness and petition.

I hope this helps people both to pray and be tolerant of those less
fortunate than ourselves.

Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d, ASA; rhendel @ mcs drexel edu


From: Michael J Broyde <mbroyde@...>
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 20:42:25 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Conversion Process and Sex Change Operation

A writer wrote in about the conversion process for one who is or has
undergone a sex change operation.  Putting aside the pastorial concerns,
this is a multi-sided dispute amoung the achronim about two different
issues: Is a sex change operation effective in halacha, and can a man
who lacks a penis convert to Judaism at all.

In regard to the first question, Tzitz Eliezer 10:25:26,6 avers that the
operation is effective, and halacha would now treat this person as a
woman.  A similar opinion seems to be found in Yosef Et Echav 3:5, by
Rabbi Palachi.  This seems to be directly contradictted by the remarkes
of Ibn Ezra on Lev 18:22, who quotes Rabbenu Channanel to the effect
that when a man has sexual relations with another man who has had his
sexual organs removed, and has had a woman's sexual organs fashioned in
their place, one violates the biblical prohibition of homosexuality.
Besamin Rosh 340 also addresses this issue (vehamavin yavin as to why it
is not generally cited).  Minchat Chinuch 203 and 181 both also comment
on this issue.

Although I am mere dust in these halachic disputes, in my opinion, the
approach of Rav Waldenberg shelita is extremely difficult to defend, in
that it accepts the halachic notion that gender can be changed al pe
din.  He has absolutely no proofs to that assertion, and the general
rule in halacha is that these types of status does not change in
halacha.  One can produce a number of rishonim who accept the rule of
Rabbenu Channanel cited above.  (It is logical to argue that the same
rule should apply to Noachides, although, I supose there could be a
distinction.)  One would have to bring firm proof to such a proposition.
See also Practical Medical Halacha page 44.

The Rosh and other rishonim disagree as to whether a man without a penis
can convert to Judaism, with the Rosh claiming that he can, and other
claiming that he can not.  Although I am not in the sugya now, and it is
not generally halacha lemaseh, I am relatively certain that the halacha
is like the Rosh, that a man without a penis can convert to Judaism
(although there are different theories as to why, with some famous
achronim arguing that he is o'nes (coerced), and others that he is "ee
efshar" (impossibility) Distinctios abound.).

Thus, I suspect that a man who undergoes a sex change operation is still
a man, and can be converted to Judaism.  It would be mispresentation, I
think, to imply that he is a "she" with regard to mitzvot generally;
"he" must put on tefellin every day, and so on. "He" cannot marry a man.

Michael Broyde


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 97 02:20:59 UT
Subject: Do we fear the "Man upstairs" or the man next door.

About 20 years ago when we first moved to Philadelphia, someone asked my
wife if she toyvelled her dishes.  My wife replied, "No."

A long time friend of mine (a day school Rebbe who along with wife have
"impeccable yechis" and are truly "shayneh Yiddin," ba'aly tzeduk,
wonderful midos, etc.) but who now has the misfortune of living in the
same community as me (I recently moved, he's not guilty of anything but
not fleeing quickly enough.) tells me that a few years ago he and his
wife bought a new stove right before Pesach.  Chol HaMoed came and
friends and neighbors stopped by, and they realized that people were
eyeing this unlined, uncovered stove suspiciously.  The wife finally put
a note on her new stove explaining that it was new, didn't need covers,
etc., etc.  (Morris Ayin?)

Gevalt!  (or in internet parlance GEVALT) -- I told him (and I'm quite
serious) that if I saw that his Pesach stove didn't have "covers" on it,
I would wish him a mazel tov on a new stove.  I'm not such a zadek or
that much brighter than his neighbors.  But I know him and I know
myself.  Why do we tolerate this negativism?

Time and again I see it.  I mentioned to someone that I leave for work
at 5:30 AM.  He quickly inquired, "how can you daven?"  [Should I let
him in on a "secret" that I have a private office, that I face East, and
I daven at work - yes, I'd rather resume davening with a minyan, but I
make up for it by working from home on Friday and not "sliding in" just
before licht benching.]  I had an urge to reply "with great kavoneh",
but choose instead to lower myself and explain that I daven at work, in
my office, after the appropriate earliest time for T&T has arrived.

This afternoon's "Pesach" shiur (you know, the annual cleaning,
preparing, etc.) from Rabbi Wasserman was filled with both the
scholarship and the warmth that I look forward to each Shabbos
afternoon.  He pointed out that certain things we do may be more because
we saw it in our own homes and it makes us feel good, although they are
not minhag.  It seems that some things it seems we do because our
neighbors might talk, not that we need to do them.  And again I ask, who
do we fear more, the Rebbono Shel Halom, or our neighbor (sometimes
pronounced nay-bore.)

If you've read this far, I should tell you that twenty years ago we only
had melmac (plastic) and didn't need to toyvel them.  And an answer with
a gratuitous explanation: "No, we only have melmac."  then, as now, is
inappropriate and unnecessary.

A zeesen pesach.


From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 20:19:31 -0500
Subject: Drowning Fish & Common Sense

A lot has already been said here, and though many have focused on the
percieved lack of common sense, I think there may be a bigger issue here
ultimately. i think the issue is one of ignorance of Halacha.

In a recent post someone pointed out how this is similar to the "falling
candlesticks" and indeed it is. But it is interesting that the Chofetz
Chaim did NOT feel that common sense was the needed agent for that
emergency, or ours.

In the Mishna Bruras intro to the laws of Shabbos he suggests that the laws
of shabbos are something everyone must know & know well. Why? Because
emergencies like loose animals and lit tablecloths (his examples!) can
easily be dealt with IF YOU KNOW THE LAWS WELL, but since you don't have
time to ask the sheila - and often can't even think clearly in the
emergency - they can often lead a person to violate a Torah command. The
answer then is to know the laws so well that the solution is obvious and

Again, the answer he suggests is NOT common sense, which may be sometimes
wrong and sometimes right. The answer he suggests is LEARN IT WELL before
the emergency. Be Prepared.



From: Ken Miller <kgmiller@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Apr 1997 17:53:49 -0500
Subject: Like a Fish out of Water

The recent thread about a fish which landed on the floor has touched a
raw nerve with quite a few MJ'ers, and has reached a point where I feel
a need to respond. A recent posting included several lines which bother
me very much:

<<< ... the Torah does not ascribe to us a cult-like state of existence
where we cannot function even for a minute without a P'sak or P'sak
giver... >>>

Where do you see that anyone "ceased to function"? An unusual situation
arose, involving several conflicting halachic principles, and there were
several courses of action available. The people in the story did the
best they could in trying to weigh all the opposing factors. If there is
any lesson to be learned from this, it is NOT that we have to let
"common sense" rule our lives, but that we must learn and review Torah
until "v'sheenantam l'vanecha", until the dictates of the Torah roll off
our tongues automatically, that we may never be caught unprepared.

<<< ... the Balabus whose flying fish landed on the floor should have
quickly returned it to the tank ... The Monday morning quarterbacking
could follow after the fish is safely returned. ... >>>

Among the ground rules for Mail Jewish is that we do not advocate
violations of halacha. This was not a human whose life was in danger, it
was a fish. Danger to animal life does NOT constitute a dispensation to
do whatever is needed, certainly not to the extent that a danger to
human life does. The quarterbacking canNOT wait for Monday. Here and
now, the question must be answered: can I put the fish back or not? If
the people present do not know the answer, they must find a rabbi, or do
the best they can under the circumstances. "Pain to animals" is
certainly a valid issue. But the rabbis do not use that as carte blanche
for milking cows on Shabbos, and it's not carte blanche here either.
Maybe it was okay to put the fish back, but don't anyone *dare*
criticize the person who is careful about halacha!


From: Chaim Shapiro <ucshapir@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Mar 1997 14:23:18 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Popular culture

	It is common for historians and socialogist alike to use popular
culture, i.e. music , books, movies, etc to understand a society or
period of history.  As undergraduate I took an upper level course based
on this assertion that used movies as historical documents.  Fascinating
really.  And, it left me with an interesting idea for a research
	There has been a major influx in the amount of jewish music
released over the last few years.  I have read some estimates that a
jewish album is realeased on an average of one per week.  Or, to put it
another way, one new cultural, historical document is realeased per
week.  A perfect oppurtunity to compare orthodox jewish culture to
American culture at large.
	My thesis is that a large percentage of jewish music released
over the last five years (and probably prior to that as well) deals with
marriage, weddings and the exaltation of family life.  A telling
statement as to the role that family life plays within the orthodox
	On the other hand I assume that a represenative sample of the
different genres of music from American culture deals with simialr
topics, but in a much more disfunctional, immoral and violent manner.
Women are trivalized, immoral sex and spousal abuse glorified, and the
prominence of disfunctional family structures clearly illustrated.  Ahh
something to do over summer vacation!
	An interesting subsequent study could compare these findings
with original pop culture music released in Israel.



From: <gershon.dubin@...> (Gershon Dubin)
Date: Sun, 13 Apr 1997 01:11:22 EDT
Subject: Torah & common sense

>However, the Torah does not ascribe to us a cult-like state of
>existence where we cannot function even for a minute without a P'sak or
>P'sak giver.

	I would like to redirect the discussion a bit by referring to
the introduction of the Chofetz Chaim to Hilchos Shabbos.  His basic
premise is that it is important that everyone become familiar with
Hilchos Shabbos so that if an emergency arises and there is no time to
ask, we may do the right thing because we learned the halachos well
previous to the emergency.  Thus the Torah does not want you either to
have a posek at your right elbow nor to depend on your "common sense"
whatever that is.  The Torah requires that you be the posek.



End of Volume 26 Issue 29