Volume 29 Number 31
                 Produced: Sun Aug  1  7:27:40 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Mixed Dancing and Earlier Generations
         [Carl M. Sherer]
Mixed dancing and hashgacha
         [Gitelle Rapoport]
On kashrut, lifnei iver and the scope of supervisory authority
         [Eli Clark]


From: Carl M. Sherer <csherer@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 15:01:55 +0300
Subject: Mixed Dancing and Earlier Generations

Meir Shinnar writes:

> There was an offhand comment that mixed dancing might be yehareg v'al
> ya'avor 

My recollection of a Hilchos Nida class I heard not too long ago is that
mixed dancing may be yehareg v'al ya'avor, at least according to one
opinion, if one assumes that it includes affectionate physical contact
between a husband and wife when the wife is a nida. I may be fuzzy on
some of the details (and have no sforim in my office to check), but what
I recall is that there is a (Tshuvos ha?) Rashba ((Responsum of?)
R. Shlomo ben Adereth) that is brought by the Mechaber (R. Yosef Caro)
in Hilchos Nida that says that if the wife is a Nida (menstruating
woman) and is R"L dying, and the husband is the only doctor in town, he
may not touch her to save her life. I should hasten to add that
Ashkenazim do not pasken that way (the Rema doesn't hold from it), and
my impression from the shiur was that normative Sphardi halacha today
does not pasken that way either. But to dismiss mixed dancing as minor
or unimportant as a halachic issue does not strike me as correct.

On a slightly different note, I just called home to ask my wife if she
recalls the details of the view I brought in the previous paragraph (we
each listened to the shiur on tape - she remembers the opinion also but
not who says it), and she tells me of a tshuva written in Europe where
there were large, high society dances where couples stood in long rows,
and the only thing they touched were hands.  The question was asked
whether this would be permissible to Jews in high society because the
hand touching was not derech chiba (affectionate). The answer was no,
but she did not recall a source.

> in view of the wide acceptance of mixed dancing even in many rabbinic
> circles only 20-40 years ago, perhaps we should be more careful,
> especially erev tisha b'av, about being motzi la'az on the rishonim
> (denigrating earlier generations) and in general, increasing divisions
> in Israel.

I'm all for not increasing divisions in Israel, but I think that any
attempt to learn from the behavior of previous generations, especially
from the behavior of the previous generations in the United States and
Canada in this century, requires us to make a realistic assessment of
where those generations were in terms of fruhmkeit as compared with
where we are today in terms of fruhmkeit.

For example, I suspect that most of the FFB's (Fruhm from Birth) on this
list who grew up in the United States and Canada, and are aged 50 or
under, learned in Yeshivos and day schools at least through high school,
while many of our parents who grew up fruhm (or traditional) did
not. Many, many Jews threw their tfillin off the boats in the harbors
(both literally and figuratively) and were lost R"L to assimilation. How
many Yeshivas existed in the United States before World War II? How many
seminaries? How many day schools? How many graduates of those
institutions were there before 1960? I think that the answer to all of
those questions is "very few."

As a result, I think the Gdolim of the time felt that they had to do
what was necessary to ensure the survival of fruhmkeit in North
America. That's what their stress was. Someone who was going to go mixed
dancing once in a while was not as likely to be lost to the Jewish
people as someone who was going to go to work on Shabbos and therefore
not see the inside of a shul from Yom Kippur to Yom Kippur (or
worse). It was much more important to make sure that people had Kosher
meat to eat - even if that meat was only Kosher b'dieved - than it was
to make sure that a woman's skirt remained below her knee when she was
seated. It was much more important to make sure that a family made a Bar
Mitzva for their son, than it was to make sure that the husband and wife
didn't go to the beach together on Sunday afternoon. That didn't mean
that miniskirts and mixed swimming were halachically okay. It meant that
the Gdolim of the time felt that there were more important battles to be
fought that required so much energy that other matters would have to
wait. And they also recognized that unlike today, when we have many
troops, they had very few soldiers to fight their battles.

I think that for the most part, the stress was on Shabbos and
Kashrus. Later, Taharas haMishpacha (family purity laws) was also
stressed, but it's my impression (and I'm old enough to remember twenty
years ago, but not forty) that didn't happen until there was a strong
nucleus keeping Shabbos and Kashrus. Many, many Jewish communities had
no mikva or one small mikva well into the 1960's and 1970's, and many
women traveled many miles once a month to find a mikva they could use.

Of course there were always Yechidei Sgula (unique individuals) who kept
everything. But for "amcha" (the proletariat), the stress was typically
on some standard of Shabbos and Kashrus. (If anyone doubts this was so,
I suggest you read the first section of "All for the Boss" up to where
the author goes to Mir so her husband can learn in Kollel).

I can recall using a similar approach when I was an NCSY advisor 20-25
years ago. "When you leave here and go home, take it upon yourself to
keep one mitzva that you weren't keeping when you came here. If you
turned on lights on Shabbos until now, try not to turn them on from now
on. If you used to eat in McDonald's once a week, try to avoid eating
there as much as you can." It doesn't mean that it was "okay" to
continue to violate Shabbos or Kashrus in other ways. It meant that you
had to start somewhere.

Today, Baruch Hashem, there are literally hundreds of thriving Yeshivas
in North America, in Israel and elsewhere. Today, we can tell people who
are already basically fruhm, that yes, you are not supposed to go mixed
dancing, and yes, you are not supposed to go mixed swimming, and yes,
you should not go to places that serve Kosher food but have improper
entertainment. And we can do so without worrying that by doing so we are
endangering the future survival of the Jewish people, R"L.

Times have changed. At least when we are speaking with people who are
committed to a basic level of fruhmkeit, we do not need to bound by the
standards that were crafted a generation and two generations ago to fit
a nation that, in many respects, was reacting to its first taste of
democratic freedoms by throwing off the yoke of Torah. The fact that you
may have pictures of your parents in a mixed group on the beach with
people who are recognized Rabbonim today, doesn't mean that either your
parents or the Rabbonim were bad people. It also doesn't mean that we
have to be limited to the same level of fruhmkeit today.
-- Carl M. Sherer
Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.
Thank you very much.


From: Gitelle Rapoport <giteller@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 13:37:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Mixed dancing and hashgacha

A quick response to Elozor Preil's request for <a legitimate halachic
opinion permitting women to dress in a non-halachic, legally immodest

I never said that women are permitted to dress in a non-halachic or
immodest manner. First the question at issue was whether rabbis of a
kashrut organization are entitled to enforce halachic strictures about
dress regarding patrons of a particular establishment -- even more
questionable, in my opinion, than enforcing halachic norms violated by
the establishment's proprietors. But the key question about modest dress
is how one defines "modest" or "immodest." Much of the definition,
though not all, is a function of the norm in different times and
places. Clearly, different Torah-observant communities observe different
minhagim. In the Rambam's time, veils were considered an essential part
of women's modest public garb; today, in some Orthodox communities,
women wear pants while in others they do not; in some communities women
wear opaque stockings and sleeves extending to the wrist, while in
others these are not considered necessary. Halacha in this area is
somewhat flexible within absolute parameters, but the extent of the
flexibility is not always crystal-clear; as always, details should be
discussed with a halachic authority who knows the community (and the
person asking the sh'eila) involved.

Regarding women singing in front of men, I will leave a few comments
about that for a future posting.

Kol tuv,
Gitelle Rapoport 


From: Eli Clark <clarke@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 16:41:00 -0400
Subject: On kashrut, lifnei iver and the scope of supervisory authority

The current debate regarding the conditions under which a kashrut
supervisory authority should rescind its approval seems to me to involve
two sides that are not communicating with each other.

Both sides seem to be arguing about the proper role of a kashrut
supervisors: is it to ensure that the food that is served is kosher or
does it extend to ensuring that patrons or even the owner is otherwise
observing other aspects of Halakhah (Jewish law)?

On the one hand, one can argue that the proper role of kashrut
supervisors is, as the name indicates, to supervise kashrut, i.e.
dietary laws.  Issues of mixed dancing or women's singing are simply
outside the scope of the supervisor's role.  This position has a certain
appeal, but also I think certain flaws.  For instance, every Orthodox
kashrut authority of which I am aware will not approve food that is
prepared by a Jew (or by a Gentile in a facility owned by a Jew) on
Shabbat.  (Some Conservative authorities apparently will.)  Technically,
of course, such food is kosher.  But such food is subject to a rabbinic
prohibition based on its preparation in violation of the laws of

Of course, one may argue that this rule properly relates to the
preparation of the food, while the dancing/singing issues do not.  This
is a valid distinction.  But not when taken to an extreme.  For example,
how many would favor supplying kosher food to a brothel?  It seems clear
that some of these establishments, such as those in Israel, are likely
to have substantial number of Jewish clients, and the kashrut authority
is only approving the food!

In any case, I think it clear that kashrut approval does imply that
there are no restrictions on the permissibility of eating the food,
whether for kashrut or other reasons.  Obviously, the kashrut approval
has limits, in that individual patrons may not be permitted to eat the
food.  For example, as I think was pointed out, no authority can make
certain that a patron about to eat a dairy meal is not still chewing on
beef jerky.  Nor can the kashrut supervisor ensure that the patron will
recite the appropriate blessings before and -- far more importantly --
after the meal.  (Birkat ha-mazon/Grace after meals is one of the few
blessings that are biblical obligations -- hiyyuvei de-Oraita.)

Which brings us to mixed dancing and women's singing.  Both activities,
depending on the circumstances, are controversial at best and
non-halakhic at worst.  But I do not think the real issue is whether one
can defend or justify mixed dancing or women's singing.  Let us
stipulate that these are blatant violations of Halakha.  What then?

Several posts have concluded that if the establishment is actually
facilitating the violation of Halakha that is sufficient reason to
rescind kashrut approval.  There was even mention of the prohibition of
lifnei iver (a biblical rule prohibiting the facilitation of the
violation of Halakha) or mesaye'a (the lesser rabbinic rule of assisting
a halakhic violation).  Having studied this legal issue, I think it
simply inapplicable.  The biblical rule applies only where the violation
could not occur without one's help, and even the rabbinic rule would at
worst apply to the singer/band leader, while the owner of the
establishment would simply be assisting the assister, and the kashrut
supervisor would  be assisting the assister of the assister.  (Whew!)

In other words, I do not believe there is any halakhic requirement for
the denial of kashrut approval where the establishment in fact
facilitates non-dietary halakhic violations.  Hence, the issue is not
what must be done, but what should be done.

To this question, I think the answer is: it depends.  It is obviously
and painfully true that many Jews do not eat kosher, let alone engage in
mixed dancing or listening to women's singing.  Some have suggested that
Jews who would otherwise go to a non-kosher establishment might be
attracted -- and thereby encouraged to observe a halakha that they would
not observe otherwise.  I think this argument has merit, but only in
certain circumstances.  For example, if the establishment in question is
located in Borough Park, this argument is difficult to sustain, while it
my apply forcefully in a small midwestern town.  Similarly, the problem
that a kashrut authority could be tainted by association with certain
establishments may be greater or lesser depending on the authority in
question and the makeup of its clientele.  Likewise, one writer noted
that the Israeli Rabbinate has unfortunately alienated many Israeli Jews
by adopting a hypertechnical position in these and other areas.

In that sense I think there is no one answer to this question that
applies in all places and all times.  While this may make the issue less
satisfying as a topic for debate, I think that we should all recognize
that absolutism on this issue is neither justified nor necessary.

Kol tuv,

Eli Clark


End of Volume 29 Issue 31