Volume 27 Number 13
                      Produced: Sun Oct 12 15:32:19 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Ayin Hara: Births vs Bar Mitzvahs and Weddings
         [Russell Hendel]
Hashgachah for Toilet Paper?
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
         [Jay F Shachter]
Our parents are closer to Sinai?
         [Stan Tenen]
Parent's closer to Sinia
         [Carl Singer]


From: <rhendel@...> (Russell Hendel)
Date: Fri, 8 Aug 1997 13:28:27 -0400
Subject: Ayin Hara: Births vs Bar Mitzvahs and Weddings

Why do we have EVIL EYE prohibitions for buying baby presents (before
the birth) but not for bar mitzvahs and weddings? I believe this can be
explained using a recent explanation I made in another email group on
the meaning of the EVIL EYE.

I basically posited that


In other words just as halachah recognizes my right to visual
privacy--e.g. I can force my neighbor to participate in building a fence
between me and him in order to prevent him "from seeing me (and invading
my privacy)--so to does halacha recognize my right not to be the "talk
of the town"--(which I (loosely) call social privacy). Some examples
illustrate this:

* If my father and I get an aliyah then we will be the "talk of the
shule" (e.g. "Do you see all the honors the Hendel family is getting?")

* If I "eye" my neighbors field during periods of growth I might talk
about his success and "make him the talk of the town"

Hence, consecutive aliyahs and viewing fields are EVIL EYE prohibited

* Similarly if everyone gets presents for a yet to be born baby it will
make this woman and her pregnancy the "talk of the town"--this stress
coupled with the stress of pregnancy may be more than the woman can cope
with.  The excessive talk may "damage" her (Note: The talmud explicitly
uses the term that "invasion of visual privacy is "damage")

By contrast a Bar Mitvah, reaching 12,13 is something that is "going to
happen anyway"--there is no fear of damage

As for a couple about to get married, they are ALREADY IN A STATE OF
STRESS (cf. Rambam, Laws of Shema Chapter 4:1,2,3). So talking about
them or giving them presents will not ADD TO THEIR stress.

I believe that this DAMAGE approach to the EVIL EYE prohibitions is
consistent with halachah and enables understanding many of its
intricacies (NOTE: I am not claiming that ALL evil eye prohbitions come
from social privacy damage..I am just claiming it is one component)

Russell Jay Hende; PH.d; ASA; RHendel @ Mcs Drexel edu


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
Date: Sun Oct 12 19:14:06 1997
Subject: Hashgachah for Toilet Paper?

No, this is not a Purim joke - although it's not exactly a Hechsher
either.  I just bought a package of locally made toilet paper (i.e.,
Israeli), and on the outer plastic bag there stands the declaration,
"Lelo Chashash Genizah" - i.e., that one has no need to be afraid that
this toilet paper might have been made from recycled Sifrei Kodesh.

When one thinks about it, there is even a certain logic in the
declaration, because it would be tragic if Sifrei Kodesh were indeed
recycled this way.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: <jay@...> (Jay F Shachter)
Date: Wed, 8 Oct 1997 10:03:24 -0600 (CDT)
Subject: Mamzerut

Here are some questions about mamzerut that I hope will provoke some
discussion.  Since I have a daughter who will soon be of marriageable
age I proclaim and announce that these questions are not personally
relevant to me.  However, it is Torah and I must learn it.

Numerous ancient sources discussing mamzerut employ diction that seems
to indicate that mamzerut is an undesirable state.  Words like "kasher"
and "pagum", however restricted and technical their denotations may be
in the linguistic community of the academy, have connotations that a
native speaker of the language cannot escape.  Nor can we ignore Horayot
3:8, accepted as halakha by all the codes of law, which requires us to
value the life of a non-mamzer more than the life of a mamzer, caeteris

(Please, no knee-jerk responses about how all human life has infinite
value, and is therefore equally precious to us.  The meaning of a thing
is nothing other than the habits which it entails, and our habits are
codified in Horayot 3:8.)

What, if anything, is wrong with being a mamzer?  Or with there being
lots of mamzerim in the world?

Several ancient sources discuss the process of "repairing" (my
translation) the bloodline of a mamzer.  The idea is that the mamzer
cohabits with a Gentile bondwoman.  Children from this union are not
legally related to their biological father, therefore they do not
inherit his mamzerut.  These children can convert to Judaism (or perhaps
they were born Jewish) and join the Jewish community as non-mamzer Jews.
A mamzeret is less lucky, because Jewish women are legally related to
their children.

Well, everyone knows that a Gentile who converts to Judaism is a monad,
not legally related to anyone, even those of his biological relations
who are also Jewish.  Gentile bondwomen are not the only way a mamzer
may legally impregnate non-Jewish women.  He can also join the army and
impregnate prisoners of war (although I have never seen that written up
in slogan form on an army-recruitment poster, still, there are
possibilities here).  Such children don't have to be born non-Jewish,
either, and convert later in life.  The mother can become Jewish while
pregnant, and then her child is born a Jew.  Even if the child is born
Jewish, however, the father is still legally unrelated to the child.  It
isn't just that he isn't the child's legal father.  He isn't even a
great-uncle.  The father and child do not inherit from one another, the
father may be compelled to testify against the child in court, and, if
the child is male, the child may be compelled to testify against the
father (and their joint testimony in other matters counts as testimony
from two separate witnesses), they have no special obligation to redeem
one another from debtor's prison, they need not recuse themselves from
judging one another's cases, if the child is female they can marry one
another (note the distinction here between "can" and "may") and the
children from this union would not be mamzerim if the father were not a
mamzer.  In particular, the existence of this child has absolutely no
bearing on whether the mamzer father has fulfilled his obligation to

I do not claim complete knowledge of the entire corpus of Jewish
jurisprudence, but I believe that up through the entire period of the
Rishonim, and even well into the period of the early Aharonim, there is
no suggestion anywhere that a mamzer is exempt from the commandment to
procreate.  I believe that one is compelled to conclude, later
apologetics notwithstanding, that a mamzer is not exempt from this
commandment.  There would surely have been some early mention of such a
law, if he were.  Don't tell me that the earlier sages simply didn't
think to mention mamzerut when discussing such questions because
mamzerut was just so rare in those earlier ages, when all Jews were
Torah-observant and the knowledge of the Lord pervaded the Jewish nation
as the waters cover the sea.  This would be a weak argument.  Our Sages
spoke a lot about mamzerut.  They also spent pretty much the entire
first chapter of Bkhorot talking about cows giving birth to camels, and
I'll wager that that was even rarer than mamzerut, even in the days of
our holy ancestors.  The fact is, that the reason no one suggested for
three thousand years that a mamzer is exempt from procreation is that a
mamzer isn't exempt from procreation.  A mamzer is required by Jewish
law to produce two little replacement mamzerim, one male and one female.
Any "repairing" he does to his bloodline may only take place after his
minimal obligation to replenish the world with mamzerim has been

Nevertheless, there seems to be an ancient and continuing thread in
Jewish discourse which considers mamzerut an undesirable state and
wishes there to be as few of them as possible.  Given that we do not
tell a mamzer not to marry (although perhaps we do tell a mamzeret not
to marry), we must address the question of whether or not we should
order our actions toward this desideratum.  Suppose there are four
unmarried Jews in our village, Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.  Bob and
Carol are mamzerim, and Ted and Alice are converts.  Do we act so as to
minimize the number of mamzerim in the next generation?  Do we encourage
Bob to marry Carol, and Ted to marry Alice?  Or do we encourage the four
of them to marry whomever they want?  If Bob marries Alice and Ted
marries Carol there will be twice as many mamzerim in the next
generation than if Bob marries Carol.  You see, it is not just a
theoretical question, it is a practical question.

Under Jewish law a mamzer is not precluded from holding any public
office, any position of honor in the Jewish community.  A mamzer can
even be elected King.  This is a law worth thinking about.  The King is
the embodiment of the honor of the entire nation of Israel.  It is
forbidden for the King to act in any way that minimizes the honor paid
to him, even if he wants to.  The poor man has even got to take a
haircut every day, to look presentable.  But he can be a mamzer.
Apparently, being a mamzer does not detract in any way from a man's

We are left with the possibility that our desire to minimize the number
of mamzerim in the world is derivative rather than primary, and that it
is based on compassion for the mamzerim.  There doesn't seem to be any
difference between a mamzer and anyone else except that there are fewer
people whom the mamzer may marry.  So we feel sorry for the mamzerim,
because they have it rough.  We want there to be fewer mamzerim in the
world for the same reason that we want there to be fewer blind people in
the world.

(This is clearly not, by the way, the position of Rambam.  In Hilkhot
Matnot `Aniyyim 8:17, Rambam adds to the mishna in Horayot by ruling
that a possible mamzer has precedence over a mamzer, even though a
possible mamzer has an even more difficult life than a mamzer.)

But if, despite Rambam, this is our motive -- a derivative one (and no
other motive has been articulated) -- than it is subject to changing
circumstances.  You know, kohanim have it rough too.  Kohanim may marry
fewer people than an ordinary Jew may marry.  We tend not to think of
this as a great handicap, because the set of people excluded from
marriage is still relatively small, but there are communities where
these restrictions can be a significant inconvenience.

What if the proportion of mamzerim within the larger community were to
grow and grow, to the point where they were the majority?  Do we then
feel sorry for the non-mamzerim, and work to minimize their number?
Don't forget that the marriage restrictions are fully symmetrical.  Just
as a mamzer is forbidden to marry a non-mamzer, so is a non-mamzer
forbidden to marry a mamzer.  Other than that we will always need a few
kohanim to serve religious functions (and Levites too, once we rebuild
the Temple), is there any reason why we should consider it an
undesirable state of affairs if everyone is a mamzer?  In the village I
mentioned earlier, if Ted marries Alice, their children can still marry
mamzerim, so no options have been lost (other than the option to marry a
kohen).  But if Alice marries Leopold, and Ted marries Anna Livia, their
children will not be permitted to marry mamzerim.  Might the time come
when we would discourage such marriages, because they produce children
who are forbidden to marry mamzerim?

			Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
			6424 N Whipple St
			Chicago IL  60645-4111
			(1-773)7613784 <jay@...>


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 09:07:19 -0400
Subject: Re: Our parents are closer to Sinai?

There's a kabbalistic perspective that might be helpful here, although
unfortunately, it's a lot easier to see than to describe.  There's a
mathematical function known as Dini's Surface.  Dini's Surface has several
qualities simultaneously.  It looks a little like a cala lilly within a
cala lilly within a cala lilly, etc.  It has a helical outside that spirals
away from its "starting point" endlessly. And it's also a column.  As the
helix spirals around the column, it unfurls.  One could make an analogy.
The round aspects of Dini's Surface are like generations, and they proceed
along both a "male" and a "female" line.  For the form to exist, the "male"
line must be circumcised in every generation, or it folds back and cuts off
the growth of the function.  The "female" line connects directly back to
the "starting point", generation after generation, just like the real line
of female descent from womb to umbilicus to womb to umbilicus, endlessly.
(It cannot be circumcised, or the growth stops.) 

The interesting thing that distinguishes Dini's helical column from an
ordinary helix is that each and every turn throughout the entire growth of
the surface also is embedded directly in the starting point.  

And that's the point.  To the extent that this model is accurate, no matter
how many generations away from Sinai we may be, each and every one of our
souls is also right there at the start.

Anyone who would like to see Dini's Surface should email their surface mail
address, and I'll send you a pretty color printout.  (It's not yet up on
our website, http://www.meru.org).  



From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 97 11:50:53 UT
Subject: Parent's closer to Sinia

Russell Hendel's story may well be apocryphal.  I remember long ago
hearing a variation (an Alter Yid and a Russian Commissar) on a train --
different circumstances, same "punch line."

This gets us back to some issues of veracity in history.  Under the
subheading of how can you top this -- it seems that some folks seem the
need to exaggerate and add "tales" to the lives of Geddolim.  As if they
(the Geddolim) need it.  As if they (the tellers) need it.

Worse yet, some people seem to augment the halachic rulings, etc.  As if
we (any of us) need it.

Carl Singer


End of Volume 27 Issue 13