Volume 28 Number 50
                 Produced: Thu Feb 18  6:33:38 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

A Note on the Jewish Name LISA
         [Russell Hendel]
Automatic Flushing Toilets & Shabbat
         [David Kramer]
Can You Kasher Plastic?
         [David Brotsky]
Chatam Sofer & Kol Isha
         [David Brotsky]
Custom of not studying Torah on Christmas? (5)
         [David Charlap, Alexander Heppenheimer, Michael Poppers, Joshua
M Hoexter, Art Werschulz]
Frum (Orthodox) Montessori schools in the United States
         [Aviva Fee]
         [Stuart Wise]
         [Avraham Reiss]
Teaching Hebrew to kids
         [Ezriel Krumbein]


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Subject: A Note on the Jewish Name LISA

Since names are being discussed (V28n47) I thought I might mention the
following incident from a few years ago: Someone named Lisa told me that
she saw in some Sefer that Lisa meant Faith---she asked me why.

I thought about it during my Shabbath Afternoon walk and decided that
	Lisa	= ELiShah Minus the "E"
	Elishah	= God (Kayl) will save (Yshah)
This could explain the connection Lisa=Faith.

Has anyone heard anything about this (For or against).

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA RHendel @ mcs drexel edu
Moderator Rashi-is-simple


From: David Kramer <DTK1950@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 00:18:03 EST
Subject: Automatic Flushing Toilets & Shabbat

I'm sure everyone has noticed that automatic flushing toilets are
becoming more and more prevalent in public restrooms. It is only a
matter of time before they start showing up in individual hotel rooms.
Thus the question. I do not know precisely how they operate---and there
are probably different ways--but they seem to depend on the person
breaking an electric beam to start a counter. When the person leaves the
beam for a certain preset time, the toilet or urinal flushes

If it wasn't for the need to initially break the beam to start the
process (and start a pulsing LED light) I would assume that the flushing
is not a direct result of an action but a Grama--the fact you are no
longer in the beam.

Any halachic thoughts?  

I realize final halacha should be up to you LOR, I was just wondering if there
are any SHAT sources out there?

While on the subject, can we assume automated sinks are verboten?  
Is there a halachic difference on Yom Tov?

David Kramer


From: David Brotsky <DaveTrek@...>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 21:22:02 EST
Subject: Can You Kasher Plastic?

I have heard conflicting things on this topic. It seems to be regional
in some way as well. In America, I have never heard anyone say you can
or should do this. Yet, in Israel, for example, I have seen many people
not only kasher plastic, but they also will make plastic and glass items
kosher for pesach via hagalla ( i.e. boiliing). In Israel, I have heard
many normative positions that allow you to kasher a dishwasher by
boiling and buying new racks - yet here its a major disagreement and
most don't allow for it. Is plastic somehow different in the US from
Israel? Is it a historical oddity? Or is their more agreement on these
issues than I am aware of?

David Brotsky
Elizabeth, NJ


From: David Brotsky <DaveTrek@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 12:19:13 EST
Subject: Chatam Sofer & Kol Isha

Recently, I read an article about the issues relating to Kol Isha. The
article mentioned that the Chatam Sofer sanctioned mixed male and female
choir because of the principle that "Two Voices are not heard". The
source is Avodat Hayom, Shaar Taharat Yadayim, section 14.

Some disagree with his position, saying that is is impossible to
synchronize the words exactly- others feel the principle of two voices
is not applicable.  However, as a member of a mixed choir, I can tell
you that with practice it is entirely possible to harmonize in such as
way as to make a single woman's voice indistinct.

My question is, given the stature of the Chatam Sofer, what is the
current practical acceptance of his ruling in this matter or other areas
of kol isha halachot.

Additionally, the item mentioned that some people extend kol isha to
hearing a woman's non singing voice- which would seem to ban any
conversations with women other than your wife or children. My question
is, is this view followed anymore? If so, what are the practical
applications - for example, are there any ways to make phone calls,
unless you are certain the person who will answer is a man?

David Brotsky
Elizabeth, NJ 
Meshenichnas Adar Marbim Besimcha


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 02:42:41 +0000
Subject: Re: Custom of not studying Torah on Christmas?

Marc Sacks <msacks@...> writes:
> >nitl - The practice of not learning toyre on Christmas
> Does anyone in mail.jewish know of this practice?  Is this an
> East-European tradition created in fear of anti-Semitic outbursts, and
> does it still go on?  I would think that Jews should not change their
> religious practices out of respect for another religion's holidays.

I've heard of it.  I know many Chassidim who practice it.  When I asked
why, I got two different answers:

1: The simple answer.  Jews would be beaten on their way to and from the
yeshiva on that night, so the rabbis ordered that everybody stay home.

2: The mystical answer.  What a Jew learns Torah, it brings about an
improvement in the world.  We don't want to bring about such
improvements at a time when the Christian majority is devoutly steeped
in their prayers, lest outsiders believe the improvement came from the
Christian worship.

In modern-day America, there are few places where reason 1 would still
apply.  And given the fact that 99% of Christians practice Christmas as
a purely material holiday, I don't think reason 2 really applies,
either.  But your rabbi would be a better person to ask about the
applicability of this custom where you live.

-- David

From: Alexander Heppenheimer <Alexander_Heppenheimer@...>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 22:55:58 -0800
Subject: Re: Custom of not studying Torah on Christmas?

It is still kept, particularly among Chassidim. There are at least two
reasons I know of that have been given for it - neither one having
anything to do with "respect" for the non-Jewish holiday:

 1. Non-Jewish hooligans would roam the streets on that night, making it
unsafe for Jews to go to the Beit Midrash to study (offhand, I don't
recall the source for this);
 2. Since the person whose birthday is celebrated that night was Jewish,
and Torah sources teach us that one's soul-root is strongest on his or
her birthday, we don't want any of the spiritual energy created by our
Torah learning to be diverted to his credit. (This reason was given by
R' Shalom DovBer Schneersohn of Lubavitch, and is cited in the HaYom Yom
study calendar, entry for 17 Tevet.) The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l added
that this consideration applies only in those countries where that
person's influence is felt, and that therefore it was never customary in
the Jewish communities under Muslim rule.

Actually, a correction needs to be made to that list to which you refer:
"Nittel" is simply the Yiddish name for that non-Jewish holiday, with no
specific reference to the custom of not learning Torah. [One theory is
that it derives from the Hebrew word "nitleh" ("hanged"), describing his
end; another is that it comes from the Latin "dies natalis," meaning
"birthday" - and in that case, the word "Nittel" does have a Hebrew
equivalent: "chag hamolad" ("the holiday of the birth").]

Kol tuv y'all,

From: Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...>
Subject: Re: Custom of not studying Torah on Christmas?

Whatever the reason, I can testify that it was a known concept in my
*West*-European family as well as to those of other families in our
[Washington Heights, NY, USA, a.k.a. "Breuer's"] community.

Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ, USA

From: Joshua M Hoexter <hoexter@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 00:28:57 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Custom of not studying Torah on Christmas?

"Nitl" actually means Christmas in Yiddish (derived from Latin "natal",
some say it alludes to negativity - "nit"). "Nitl-nacht" is of course
Christmas eve. There is indeed a custom to this day of not learning
Torah on "Nitl-nacht" until midnight that night.

The reason given by the Rebbe Rashab, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, was
"k'dei shelo lehosif chayos" - so as not to add life (vitality). See
Hayom Yom 17 Teves. The Lubavitcher Rebbe ZY"A addresses several
questions regarding this idea in several letters, which I will
paraphrase loosely.

First, "to not add vitality" means "to 'him' and those who follow his
ways". This explains two questions - why this custom did not exist in
Arab lands or in Eretz Yisroel, and why it falls on the day according to
the non-Jews. Learning Torah adds vitality to the world in general, and
you don't want to add vitality to them on their holiday. There is
perhaps a similar idea in the beginning of Maseches Avoda Zara, not to
buy or sell to an idolator even days before their holiday, so as not to
support it or add to their rejoicing. The practice of not learning Torah
and the night on which it falls follows the majority of the non-Jews in
the given place and time (given that "Azlinan basar rova", follow the
majority, applies also to non-Jews).

As for the question how can learning Torah have a negative effect at
all, this too has a parallel in not learning Torah on Tisha B'Av and by
a mourner r"l.

The Rebbe does mention an (additional) reason for the custom (as
suggested in the question) that because of the anti-Semitic outbursts on
that night a decree was made not to go to the Yeshivas (see Likutei
HaPardes) and therefore the decree was only for this one night and only
until midnight.

The Rebbe also mentions the fast of 9 Teves (end of Mas. Taanis), which
according to some was because of his birthday, and because this was due
to the tzores caused to the Jews it follows the Jewish calendar.

To see the original letters look in the back of Likutei Sichos 10 and
17, also Shaarei Halachah u'Minhag Yoreh Deah no. 21

Most MJ readers will probably be more inclined towards the second
reason, however the first reason is more perhaps more relevant today for
those who still follow this custom.

See also: 
Likutei HaPardes
Darchei Chayim v'Shalom 825
Minhagim Chasam Sofer ch 9 siman 1 ha'ara 2
Darchei Moshe and Rema, Yoreh Deah, end of 148 (uncesored versions)

If anyone is inclined to look these up I would be curious to hear what
they say. All in all it is a very interesting custom and in fact there
is a picture of the Rebbe playing chess with the Previous Rebbe on

Josh Hoexter

From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 10:11:07 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Custom of not studying Torah on Christmas?

The explanation I heard:  In Eastern Europe, most people were too poor
to own seforim, so they needed to do their learning at the Beit
Midrash.  On the night of 24 December, it was just too dangerous for
people to walk around (i.e., to and from the Beit Midrash), and so the
cusom arose of not learning on that night.

Art Werschulz (8-{)}   "Metaphors be with you."  -- bumper sticker
GCS/M (GAT): d? -p+ c++ l u+(-) e--- m* s n+ h f g+ w+ t++ r- y? 
Internet: <agw@...><a href="http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~agw/">WWW</a>
ATTnet:   Columbia U. (212) 939-7061, Fordham U. (212) 636-6325


From: Aviva Fee <aviva613@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 06:04:33 PST
Subject: Frum (Orthodox) Montessori schools in the United States

Does anyone know of any frum (Orthodox) Montessori schools in the United




From: Stuart Wise <swise@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 99 10:22:22 -0400
Subject: Names

Names are intersting indeed.
1) I believe the name Freidel, comes from the Hebrew word Fraida
2) I heard Neche is from Nechama
3) I heard Hudus is from Yehudis; Hadas is from Hadassah
4) Then there are names -- and oddly it seems mostly female names- -
that seem to have no recognizable source, but maybe someone can shed
light on:


From: Avraham Reiss <areiss@...>
Date: Tue, 9 Feb 1999 10:33:37 +0200
Subject: Re: Reincarnation

Re a message signed Mordechai in which
he says:
 "it refers to reincarnation,which is rejected by classical
 authorities such as Rav Saadia Gaon,as well as by contemporary
authorities such as Rav Aharon Soloveitchik (based on Rav Saadia)"

- I would like to see clarification of the claim of rejection.

(Just in this week's Parshat HaShavua (Mishpatim) the Zohar HaKadosh
opens with this subject. The Chessed LeAvraham gives great detail on
this subject).

Details of the "rejection" claim, please ...

 Avraham Reiss
 Jerusalem  ISRAEL
 email: <areiss@...>


From: Ezriel Krumbein <ezsurf@...>
Subject: Teaching Hebrew to kids

> From: Louise Miller <daniel@...>
> He's being taught all the letters, and they will not start vowels until
> they know their letters cold. 

I have been teaching Hebrew reading as part the NJOP program and started
collecting books on teaching kids to read inorder to get more of a
handle on the subject.  I have three works all in Hebrew some with
abrobations from Rabbis.  They all start with teaching just the letters
by themselves and then the vowels and then the 2 together.  I think this
is the practice in the more chareidi schools.  The one thing that I
think is much better, is to teach the Alef Bet in correct order. In that
way you do not have to learn the order of the Alef -Bet as a separate

Kol Tov


End of Volume 28 Issue 50