Volume 26 Number 99
                      Produced: Mon Aug 11  6:29:59 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

"Chereshim" in the Talmud and deaf people today
         [Seth Gordon]
Halakhic Methodology of History (2)
         [Bob Kosovsky, Idelle Rudman]
Idle Thoughts are the Devil's Playmate
         [David Riceman]
Kitchen Stringencies
         [Lon Eisenberg]
Marriage and Deaf-Mute
         [Chana Luntz]
Shoteh - Haim Shapiro's 2nd question
         [Moshe Hillson]
Sign Language
         [Abraham I.Lebowitz]


From: <sethg@...> (Seth Gordon)
Date: Wed, 06 Aug 97 18:35:48 -0500
Subject: "Chereshim" in the Talmud and deaf people today

I asked one rabbi about this issue.  (I don't want to mention his name
because I don't know if he'd want his opinion broadcast over
mail-jewish.  He's not a specialist in deaf issues, but he is an
Orthodox rabbi with years of experience.)  He said that the legal status
of deaf people in the Talmud is based on the assumption that a child
born deaf cannot be educated.  Today, we have techniques for educating
deaf children, and therefore deaf Jews can be held as accountable for
keeping mitzvot as hearing Jews.

Regarding the specific issue of deaf Jews marrying: 

As I understand it, the declaration "Harei at mekudeshet li..." is not a
magic incantation.  It's simply a statement that everyone agrees to be a
clear expression of the groom's wish to perform kiddushin by giving the
bride an object of value.  Then, her letting him put the ring on her
finger (rather than, say, her taking the ring and throwing it into the
ocean) is agreed to be a clear expression of consent to this act of

Therefore, if one holds that deaf people who cannot speak are still
competent to perform commercial transactions, I don't see any halakhic
problem with the groom performing the ceremony in sign language.  The
vocabulary and grammar of American Sign Language are certainly rich
enough to translate the ritual declaration accurately.

// seth gordon // <sethg@...> // bu deaf ed program // 


From: <rkosovsk@...> (Bob Kosovsky)
Date: Wed, 06 Aug 1997 14:37:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Halakhic Methodology of History

In mail-jewish Vol. 26 #97, Saul Newman <Saul.Z.Newman@...> asked:

> My question is to you historians out there: is there a specific way to
>Halachically do history?  Are artscroll-type biographies to be seen as
>inspirational, but not factual? in which case, should we then read the
>critical versions to find out what really happened?  Is there an issue
>halachically of sheker when deleting material facts? and when do the
>laws of lashon hara apply.. I was most disturbed by the idea that an
>editor would take out a reerence, even minor, if they disagree with the
>psak or the nature of the discussion--Especially when in afirst edition
>they appeared

I think it's very telling that the Hebrew word for history is "historia"
-- indicating the rather recent adoption of the word -- and the concept
-- of an objective recounting of factual material.

In one of the collections of speeches and articles by R. Shimon Schwab
there is a reference to the notion that *actual* history is of little
use to halachically-oriented Jews.  (I may be mis-remembering the words
but the concept is, I believe, in there.)

In the book "Zakhor," historian and historiographer Yosef Yerushalmi
discusses in depth about how the notion of objective history has just
not existed in Judaism, and that rather, Jewish "history" has tended to
form itself into a kind of continuation of Tanakh, that is, it has
preserved those parts which are instructive and has ignored those of
dubious value.

At least that is how it has been until recent time.  In my opinion, I
see these Art-Scroll and similar volumes as being "victims" of conflict
between traditional Jewish utilitarian "history" and the more modern
trends of historiography (which are rather recent - maybe 250 years old
or so).

The ArtScroll biography series is a very good case in point.  There have
been rumblings at some of the volumes for what they include (I believe
"My uncle, the Netziv" was a particular source of friction).  If you
look at them as a historian you will probably laugh because the
narratives are so sanitized and biased.  Yet, as a halachic Jew, their
function is to provide models for our people.  Having less-than-stellar
incidents from the lives of these gedolim would probably not enhance our
respect for them.

(It has always bothered me that the images one sees of the Chofetz
Chayim are drawings of a kindly old grandfather, and not reproductions
of the photograph from which all those images are taken.  This, too, is
an example of selecting what is useful and functional over what is

You posed the question as to whether it was halachically permissible to
delete portions from a historical account.  I think a better question
would be whether it is halachically permissible to include everything
known about a subject or biography.

Bob Kosovsky
Student, PhD Program in Music			Librarian
Graduate Center					Music Division
City University of New York			The New York Public Library
<rkosovsk@...>			bkosovsky@nypl.org

From: Idelle Rudman <rudmani@...>
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 1997 14:03:49 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Halakhic Methodology of History

History is a very subjective discipline, and there is no authoritative
voice that can tell everyone the definitive view of man's (his)story.
This can be seen by the disciplines of ethnic studies, revisionist
histories and studies in deconstructionisms.  In the Jewish world we are
no different, and this issue has been addressed a number of times.

HAMEVASER, the newspaper published by SOY of Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzkhak
Elkhanan, vol. 35 #1, Tishrei 5756 (October 1995) addressed just this
issue.  The title of the article is "White Lies?  Charedi Historical
Revisionism."  The Torah U-Madda Journal, published by Yeshiva
University, and edited by Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schachter, addressed the
same issue (vol 2, 1990). In an article written by Rabbi Schachter
"Haskalah, Secular Studies and the close of the Yeshiva in Volozhin in
1892," the same issues are discussed.

JEWISH ACTION (summer 5756/1996, vol. 56, no. 4), the magazine published
quarterly by the OU, had a book review essay by Rabbi Shelomoh Danziger
about the Hirschian legacy.  The following issue (Fall 5757/1996, vol.
57, no. 1) published a dialogue between Rabbi Danziger and Rabbi Joseph
Elias debating the current yeshiva view of Rabbi S. R. Hirsch's
philosophy and what the actuality was.  Dr. Leo Levi has commented on
this topic also in a recent issue of TRADITION.

The recent posting of the she'ur given by Rabbi Rakefet, with his
memories of gedolei ha-Torah in the 1950's is another case in point.  In
a recent publication, "The World That Was: Lithuania; A study of the
life and Torah consciousness of Jews in the towns and villages of
Lithuania and northeastern Poland," by Rabbi Yitzchak Kasnett, published
by The Living Memorial, c/o Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, there is a
direct refuation of his views.  Reb. Zlata Ginsburg, wife of the Mirrer
Yeshivah rosh yeshivah and daughter of the Mirrer mashgiach, describes
her wedding on p. 93.  "When the marriage ceremony was finished everyone
went back to the Rosh Yeshivah's house for the seuda (meal).  The MEN
has been redefined by hearsay, tunnel vision and anecdotal evidence.
This holds true for the left and the right.

The issue of truth in history is a very old one.  The Talmud discusses
the story of Dovid and Bat-Sheva in a number of places along with the
moral lapses of other Biblical figures.  In one place, Tractate Shabbos,
56a, it says "Whoever says that David sinned, can only be mistaken."
Abravanel takes issue with this and states that Dovid is a sinner.  The
Ma'HaRal disputes that, and says that Dovid is considered by the
Gemorrah as a sinner, since he had the intent to sin, but circumstances,
as elucidated by the Gemorrah, prevented him from actually sinning.

Rabbi Shimon Schwab is quoted by Rabbi Schachter in the above-mentioned
article.  "There is a vast difference between history and storytelling.
History must be truthful, otherwise it does not deserve its name...What
ethical purpose is served by preserving a realistic historic picture?
Nothing but the satisfaction of curiosity.  We should tell ourselves and
our children the good memories of the good people, their unshakable
faith, their staunch defense of tradition, their life of truth...their
great reverence for Torah and Torah sages.  What is gained by pointing
out their inadequacies and their contradictions?  We want to be inspired
by their example and learn from their experience."  (R. Shimon Shwab,
Selected Writings, Lakewood, 1988, pp. 233-34.)

 In overlooking the shortcomings of past leaders are we not in effect
distorting history?  That is a major question in the eyes of the
historian of today.  And that leads to another issue.  If the leaders of
the past were mistaken, such as those who argued against leaving Europe
for the trefah medinah, the U.S., prior to WWII, how accurate are the
political pronouncements of todays leaders?

The question goes back to Dovid ha-Melekh.  Was Dovid a sinner, as the
Abravanel says, or should he be viewed as a sinner, even though there
was no actual committed act of sin as viewed by the Ma-haRal.  Or should
we hold like the Malbim, that there is no question of any sin and that
Dovid cannot be considered a sinner in any circumstance?

These are questions to ponder.

Idelle Rudman, MA, MLS.


From: <dr@...> (David Riceman)
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 09:39:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Idle Thoughts are the Devil's Playmate

This question popped into my head this morning: My impression is that
Rabbi Soloveitchik Z.L. was very strict about darkei haemori [imitating
the Amorite], to the extent that he ruled certain practices Biblical
prohibitions because they were innovations adopted in imitation of
Christian practice.  I hasten to add that this is less strict than the
Vilna Gaon, who banned an ancient Jewish custom on the same grounds.
  Why didn't he rule that sermons in the synagogue on Saturday morning
are Biblically prohibited? They are clearly an innovation, and a clear
imitation of the church service?

David Riceman


From: Lon Eisenberg <eisenbrg@...>
Date: Wed, 06 Aug 97 07:59:00 EDT
Subject: RE: Kitchen Stringencies

Chana Luntz <heather@...> wrote:
> And I once had something of an argument
>with a guy I was dating (with smicha) - because he said that it wasn't
>necessary to have two dish drainers (ie where you put the dishes once
>hey are washed so that they can dry)- one would do nicely and there was
>no possible halachic risk.  And I said that he might have been right
>textually (he was the one with smicha, not me), but I didn't know
>anybody who had only one dish drainer - and I wasn't about to embark
>upon such a dubious practice in my kitchen.

I knew at least one Sephardic individual (born in Egypt) who pointed out   
how "they" (Sepharedim) use only one rack for drying dishes.  I think we   
Ashkenazim have a number of such kitchen-related stringencies (e.g., 2   
sets of glasses).  


From: Chana Luntz <heather@...>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 22:37:42 +0100
Subject: Marriage and Deaf-Mute

Daniel Israel <daniel@...> writes:
>Robert Book asks:
>> In a related vein, how could a cheresh get married?  A male needs to
>> say "Harei at ..." and a female needs to hear it and consent.
>In principle I see no reason this approach could not be used.  Does
>anyone know if it is done in practice?

I don't have time to go into this at the moment (work is a bit frenetic
right now, and it is rather late), but you know that permitting a
cheresh and/or a chereshes to marry was the subject of a special takana
of the Chachamim - see Even haEzer siman 44 si'if 1 - and Yevamos 112b
(and see eg the first Rashi on the Mishna there).



From: Moshe Hillson <xmjh@...>
Date: Tue, 05 Aug 97 17:36:42 
Subject: Re:  Shoteh - Haim Shapiro's 2nd question

On July 17,   Volume 26 Number 88, Haim Shapiro asked:

> And what of a shoteh that can be medicated?  Is that individual
> considered a shoteh when he is not medicated, and then bccome a
> "normal" person, fully obligated in halachick observance, n when he is,
> And if that is the case, does he revert back to a shoteh if he
> discontinues his medication?

I am not a TALMID CHACHAM and do not usually search responsa. All I
could find is GEMARA and the respective references in SHULHAN ARUCH

Ktuboth page 20a: Bar Shatya was sometimes sane sometimes insane. He
carried out a financial transaction, and 2 pairs of witnesses came - one
pair testified that he was sane when he sold the property, the other
pair testified that he was insane ......  From this we can infer that
the validity this person's transactions are dependent upon his current
state of sanity.


Rosh Hashana page 28 a: One who is sometimes sane sometimes insane: for
the duration of his sane period the person is considered sane concerning
all laws, and for the duration of his insanity, is considered insane
concerning all laws.

This BARAITHA brought concerning the law that a person doing MITZMOTH
while temporarily insane is as if he did not fulfill his obligations,
and must re-execute the MITZVA when he regains sanity.

This is what is POSKENED in SHULHAN ARUCH ORACH CHAIM 475/5 - one who
was possessed by a seizure while eating MATZAH at the SEDER must eat
MATZA again when he is not possessed by a seizure.

If the validity of a person's actions are based upon that person's
current state of cognition at the time of the action, I don't see why
mental states induced by medications should be any different.

E.G A schizophrenic who is in medication-induced remission should be
considered sane for the purpose of all the SHULHAN ARUCH, while
conversely, MITZVOTH and financial transacytions executed by someone in
the middle of an LSD "trip" (G-d forbid) should be void (like someone
who is "drunk like LOT" - see SHULHAN ARUCH laws of prayer chapter 99 -

Anyone who can point out to me a quotation from any responsa of any
AHARONIM will be appreciated.

Moshe Hillson, Israel Police <xmj@...>


From: Abraham I.Lebowitz <aileb@...>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 20:52:56 +0200
Subject: Sign Language

Sarah Watson wrote:
>Growing up, I spent many shabbatot at my rabbi's home, along with 
>one of his granddaughters, who is deaf and mute.  Sign language was 
>certainly not permitted between washing and motzi.  When I later 
>spent shabbatot on campus during college, I was very surprised to 
>see that the few students who knew sign used it to communicate 
>during that time (which can get pretty lengthy with 50 people and 2 

Whether one may speak between washing and hamotzi is not a clearcut
issue (see Shulchan Arukh Orach Chayyim 166).  However, the Mishnah
Brurah states unequivocally that all authorities permit speech related
to the necessities of the meal.  However, I have seen many people resort
to sign language (not standard signing) at that time by, for example,
making frantic sawing motions if they did not have a knife to cut the
challah.  Hannah Gershon has also pointed out the distinction between
speech relevant to the meal and that which is not.

Abe & Shelley Lebowitz (Har Nof -Jerusalem)    <aileb@...>


End of Volume 26 Issue 99