Volume 27 Number 02
                      Produced: Tue Sep 23  6:18:26 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dancing Women:Watching
         [Daniel Eidensohn]
Falshe Frumkeit and Chumras
         [Chana Luntz]
         [Eli Turkel]
Mixed seating
         [Chana Luntz]
Mixed Seating and Chumras
         [Elie Rosenfeld]
Shabbat morning sermons
         [Yehoshua Kahan]


From: Daniel Eidensohn <yadmoshe@...>
Date: Tue, 12 Aug 1997 22:23:15 -0700
Subject: Dancing Women:Watching

>Esther Posen <eposen@...> wrote:
>>Saying that some women feel uncomfortable dancing around men makes this
>>sound like a social rather than halachic issue.  Do only the "orthodox
>>right wing fanatics" believe that is it against halacha for men to watch
>>women dancing?

Lon Eisenberg commented:
>Please site your source for stating that it is against halakha for men
>to watch women dancing (assuming the women are properly dressed).  I
>believe this is a new stringency being passed off as normative halakha.

I found it difficult to understand on what basis someone might think
that staring at women might be permitted.  The basic halacha - which no
one disagrees with - is that it is prohibited to watch woman for the
sake of enjoyment. Mishna Berura #75 (7) "concerning the prohibition of
watching women - according to everyone - someone who stares at a woman -
even at her little finger - since he is looking at her for pleasure
transgresses the prohibition of "not turning after your eyes". And they
say that even if one has the accomplishments of Torah mastery and good
deeds - he will still not be free of the judgment of Hell. But a
transitory look without intent for pleasure is permitted except from the
aspect of piety. The sefer Minchas Shmuel states that an important
person should be careful in all cases....

There are many other sources - but this should suffice to demonstrate
that we are not dealing with a mere "social sensibility".

                                Daniel Eidensohn


From: Chana Luntz <heather@...>
Date: Sun, 17 Aug 1997 01:26:41 +0100
Subject: Falshe Frumkeit and Chumras

<Smchambre@...> (Susan Chambre) writes

>As I have watched the younger people in the community expand their
>commitment, including my own children (and myself, given that I am a
>BT), I ask: Why is the adoption of a mitzvah or the more consistent
>performance of it defined as a 'chumrah'?

I think that R' Dr Haym Soleveichik would answer (assuming I am reading
his article on Rupture and Reconstruction correctly), because this is
not the way it was historically done.

Historically yiddishkeit was about mesorah, ie about the personal
tradition that was handed down from parent to child. And children took
pride in their personal minhagim - ie that which they had from their
parents. For me to adopt your personal minhagim was considered a chumra
- even if your interpretation was a more consistent performance of the
mitzvah than the one I inherited.  For example, there is no question
that at times the Ashkenazi minhag is a less consistent reading of the
sources than the Sephardi one, or vice versa - and yet traditionally
each group stuck by its own.

And unlike the situation of a BT (as you put it), among the modern
orthodox there has not been a complete rupture of tradition.  The older
generation felt and feel very much that they were and are handing on the
chain - and yet it seems to me that so often it feels to them that their
children treat them as if they were not.

R' Dr Haym puts it very eloquently in his latest response to his article
(Torah Umada Journal, No7 p145):

"A new generation has emerged which find the past ways of its parents
and grandparents too unthinking, too ignorant, and yes, if the truth be
told, simply too lax and accomodative.  This is not a pleasant prospect
for the older generation to contemplate, especially as the young are
only too unaware how much this "lax" observance had cost their parents
in a different day, and how high the price they regularly paid for their
"minimal" Orthodoxy."

>In my mind, the adoption of so-called chumrahs by the young is both a
>reaction to much of the negativity in the secular society but also its
>impact on so-called 'Modern Orthodox' Jews who tolerate easily too many
>of the features of the secular society that have become easily accepted
>in our community.

Perhaps, perhaps - and yet. See, I am a part of this younger generation,
and I cannot escape the realities of our time.  But so often I think we
have lost something quite precious.  Because part of what it once meant
to be a Jew was that one accepted the yoke of the Torah as transmitted
by one's parents.  And it was understood that they were closer to Sinai
than we were.  But we in the younger generation - are we not really
seeking to subvert that.  Are we not seeking to circumvent our parents'
and grandparents' generation, and make our own direct and unmediated
contact with Sinai.  And with that is there not, too often, a certain
hubris, a certain arrogance, paradoxically a certain "throwing off of
the yoke", as if this direct and unmediated contact gives us the right
to cut them out of the equation.  And in a way, does not what we are
doing remind one more of the American concept of "adolescent rebellion",
the idea that children will seek to define their identity in contrast to
that of their parents, rather than of the Jewish notion of mesorah. 

One midrash on the actions of Nadav and Avihu, suggests that their sin
was that they were too anxious to lead, too anxious for their direct
connection, too anxious to push their parents out of the way. Is this
what we are doing?

And thus it seems to me that if it needs to be done, it so often isn't
being done the right way. That if it was being done correctly, there
would be pride in both directions, pride rather than pain, arrogance and

I don't think that such pride is an easy thing to create, and harder I
think for the children than for the parents. But isn't it something we
ought to be trying for?



From: <turkel@...> (Eli Turkel)
Date: Wed, 13 Aug 1997 10:58:47 -0400
Subject: Hatred

    I heard several derashot over Tisha-baav concerning "sinat chinam"
(unwarranted hatred). The rabbis stressed that the second Temple was
destroyed because of this hatred of one Jew to another. Furthermore, it
was the religious Jew of that time who was guilty of that sin, those who
avoided the sins of idolatory, murder and incest that caused the
destruction of the first Temple.
     It is a mitzva to treat each and every Jew with respect. Rabbi
Yochanan would make sure to greet the gentiles in the market place.  Rav
Krohn said that the Gemara mentions the marketplace because the meeting
there was in passing and even in this case Rabbi Yochanan was careful to
go out of his way to greet everyone.

    Given this background I find it hard to fathom that Jews still have
not learnt this lesson. Given the political situation in Israel one
would imagine that Jewish unity is a high priority. Instead, just on
Tisha Baav, I read the following in the news

    "Approximately 200 Conservative Jews, including women, gathered at
the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday to commemorate the Tisha b'Av
holiday, but were removed by the police after ultra-Orthodox Jews
surrounded and began to curse them, HA'ARETZ reported.
  Police had assigned the Conservative Jews a specific location in which
to pray, but religious authorities at the Western Wall asked police to
remove the group because men and women were praying together, considered
a violation of Western Wall tradition.
  Based on these religious arguments, the police decided to relocate the
Conservative Jews to the Dung Gate, defining the mingling of sexes at
the Western Wall "illegal." The Conservative Jews were pursued by the
Orthodox protesters, who were finally removed by the police."

    One of the rabbis over Tisha Ba-av stressed that we should impress
on the Torah leaders in Israel the need to condemn such actions and to
try and prevent such a hatred of other Jews. This of course does not
mean we should agree with the conservative viewpoint. However, there is
a basic difference between disagreement and violence and cursing.

     As an aside Rav Krohn mentioned a beautiful dvar Torah from Rav
Soloveitchik. In the brit milah ceremony we state "ha-katan ha-zeh gadol
ye-hiyeh", that this young one should turn into a older person.  Rav
Soloveitchik reinterpreted this based on the first time that the words
"katan" and "gadol" first appear in the Torah (based on Rav Zadok
haCohen).  In Genesis the Torah describes the moon as being the small
(katan) luminary and the sun as the large (gadol) luminary. The
difference between the moon and the sun is that the sun is its own power
while the moon merely reflects the sunlight. Our blessing to the newborn
is that now he is just capable of reflecting what he receives from his
parents. However, when he grows up he should radiate his own Torah as a
sun and not a moon.

    May we see the rebuilding of the Temple before the next Tisha Ba-av.


From: Chana Luntz <heather@...>
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 1997 21:33:01 +0100
Subject: Mixed seating

Moishe Kimelman <kimel@...> writes

>I am reminded of something I read after the passing of the Gerer Rebbe,
>Rabbi Pinchas Menachem Alter z"l, over a year ago. It seems that a group of
>non-religious professors met with the Rebbe to find out why there was an
>outcry after a mixed choir had sung at an army ceremony in the Kotel plaza.
>During the course of the discussion one of the professors remarked that when
>he hears women singing he is not affected at all, yet it seems that
>religious Jews become "excited". (The implication being that the separation
>of the sexes is the very cause of licentious thoughts.) The Rebbe replied
>that Bedouins walk barefoot over sharp stones with no discomfort, while if
>any of the professors were to feel a small piece of gravel in his shoe, he
>could not continue walking before removing the gravel. "Yet," continued the
>Rebbe, "we all agree that the professors are more refined than Bedouins."

Today, of course, your average anthropology professor would be outraged
at the suggestion that professors are more refined than Bedouin, but be
that as it may.  Rabbi Rakefet's point is, I believe, somewhat
different: for a Bedouin used to walking barefoot - to wear shoes for a
wedding, that ain't no simcha.





From: Elie Rosenfeld <erosenfe@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 10:59:34 -0400
Subject: Mixed Seating and Chumras

I'd like to bring up a couple of points that will hopefully throw a
little bit of new light on this discussion.

Several people have related incidents where they or other guests at
exclusively separate-seating weddings had felt very uncomfortable -
e.g., having to sit at a table with strangers.  It seems, then, that one
of the issues at stake is simply the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim, of
making ones guests feel comfortable and happy.  This may sound like a
trivial concern, but as we have just made it through the "three weeks",
it is well worth remembering the story of Kamza and Bar Kamza, where Bar
Kamza's being made to feel uncomfortable at a party led directly to the
destruction of the Bais Hamikdash.  It seems that we are meant to learn
from this that we must be extra careful in such matters.  In practice,
having both mixed and separate seating, allowing your different types of
guests to choose based on their comfort level, seems to be the best of
both worlds.  I'm not sure I see any drawback to this method.

All this leads to my second point.  Those who support exclusively
separate seating do so because they feel it is important to keep this
chumra [stricture].  Without debating whether tending towards chumra is
itself a proper attitude (that's a subject for another post), I'd just
like to wonder: Is there really such a thing as a pure chumra?  I am
reminded of the famous story where a Rav was known for being quick to
allow otherwise forbidden actions to be done on Shabbos in cases of
illness.  When asked why he was being so maykal [lenient] with regard to
Shabbos, he replied, "I'm not being maykal on Shabbos, I'm being machmir
on pikuach nefesh! [saving lives]"

Similarly, for those who insist on separate-only when they know many of
their guests will be unhappy: are they being machmir on separating the
sexes, or being maykal on hachnasas orchim?  I believe, on a very
fundamental level, that this logic can be applied to a large percentage
of the cases in which people think of themselves as being machmir today.
In most cases of halacha there is no clear black or white, "machmir" and
"maykal" option- rather, there are dialectic principals involved.  I
could give numerous other examples but it would make this post too long
- just one more obvious one is the "fish out of water" story that was
recently discussed here - an issue of Shabbos vs. tz'aar balei chayim
[pain to animals].

So for those who feel it necessary or valuable to be machmir - gezunta
hait!  But first make sure that your chumra isn't really also a kulah -
and especially not at the expense of others.

Elie Rosenfeld


From: <orotzfat@...> (Yehoshua Kahan)
Date: Thu, 14 Aug 1997 07:48:31 +0200
Subject: Shabbat morning sermons

In volume #99 David Riceman wrote:

> Why didn't he [Rav Soloveitchick Z.T.L.] 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?

It was precisely this question that one of the founders of the
Wissenschaft des Judentums school of thought, Leopold Zunz, sought to
respond to when he published his scholarly study on public divrei torah
(i.e., sermons) in Mishnaic and Talmudic times.  The purpose of the
study was to show that public sermons in shul had a venerable history,
and were not merely an aping of German Protestantism.  The was
considered a groundbreaking study by academic scholars of Judaica, and
serious enough to warrant refutation of some of its points by
traditionalist scholars.  It has been translated into Hebrew, updated
and expanded by Chanoch Albeck, (editor of the critical edition of
Bereshit Rabbah and of a scholarly commentary on the Mishnah, amongst
other works).

I would be interested to know if Zunz's central claim of historical
precedent, intended to justify the German Reform innovation (or should
that be "innovation"?) of mid-service sermons, was accepted either
tacitly or explicitly by rabbanim of the time or subsequently?  I
confess that I have a personal bias, as I wish we would do away with the
pre-kriyat hatorah devar torah at our shul in Tzfat!


End of Volume 27 Issue 2