Volume 29 Number 55
                 Produced: Sun Aug 15  7:56:54 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Kosher supervision
         [Andy Levy-Stevenson]
Left-Handed Person and Netilas Yadaim
         [David Kaufmann]
Morality of Slavery
         [Daniel Cohn]
Morality of slavery (3)
         [Warren Burstein, Ed Ehrlich, Zev Sero]
Slavery - law
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Some further questions on the Permissability of Obesity
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Andy Levy-Stevenson <teafortwo@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 11:09:07 -0500
Subject: Kosher supervision

So far we've been discussing kashrut supervision in regard to businesses
(restaraunts, caterers, etc.).

What would the situation be in regard to community institutions,
specifically Jewish Community Centers? For instance, most centers have
swimming pools, and in most (all?) there is mixed swimming. Should we
then argue that the pool snack bar ought to be traif (or at least,
unsupervised) because of this?

Can we make an argument that there is a "greater good" here in ensuring
that kosher food is available in this community center, even though
everyone's behaviour there may not match Orthodox norms?

 Andy Levy-Stevenson                  Email:   <teafortwo@...>
 Tea for Two                          Voice:              612.920.4243
 A Design and Communications Company  Fax:                612.920.4436


From: David Kaufmann <kaufmann@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 08:46:10 -0500
Subject: Re: Left-Handed Person and Netilas Yadaim

In regard to how a left-handed person should wash netilas yadaim:

Shailos UTeshuvos Tzemach Tzedek: Orach Chaim - Siman, Hey; Argues on
the Pri Megadim with regard to Netilas Yadaim and writes that it should
be like Lulav - namely with the left hand taking precedence. (He also
discusses about putting on shoes that it should follow the left not
right- even for the putting on let alone the tying.)


From: Daniel Cohn <dcohn@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 12:48:10 -0300
Subject: Morality of Slavery

I'd like to point out that the civilized western alternative to slavery
for debts is to put him in jail. As far as "pop culture morality" is
concerned, I find it that to be deprived of freedom, of living with your
family, and to subject to all kind of degradatory treatment as prisoners
usually are (not to mention the beatings, sexual harassment plus
assorted special treatments known to be prevalent in jails all over the
world) is *by far* a bigger problem than Torah style slavery.

From: Warren Burstein <warren@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 14:19:28
Subject: Re: Morality of slavery

>From: Rachel Rosencrantz <rachelr@...>
>First off, what we commonly think of as slavery (ala slavery in the USA)
>is quite different from what slavery is defined as in the Torah.

I agree, with the provision that the latter use of "slavery" is used to
translate "eved ivri".  As far as "eved cnaani", it's not very

>In a case where a person is sold as a slave because of their inability
>to pay back for crime, part of the purpose of slavery is that the one
>who owns the slave will teach by example how to live morally (not commit
>the crime they got arrested for) and how to provide for oneself.

I'd be interested to hear suggestions as to what the purpose of slavery
of the eved cnaani sort is.  I don't know if this is an answer, but
Rashi on Vayikra 25:44, says about non-Jewish slaves "And if you say,
since I don't have full control over my (Jewish) slaves .. who will
serve me?", which seems to say to me that the institution of non-Jewish
slavery is to meet the needs of the masters.

One way to get to be an eved cnaani is to be a civilian whose country
loses a war (and not necessarily against us, it's possible to buy a
slave from non-Jews, this person could have been morally blameless).
Another is to commit a crime in a country where that crime is punishible
by slavery.  But since the slave isn't going to be freed, there's no
element of reformation.

It is also possible that Avot 2:8 ("the more maidservents the more
lewdness, the more slaves the more theft") is evidence of slaves
"providing for themselves" but not of learning how to live morally.

>In the case where someone sold themselves as a slave because they had no
>money, likewise it is intended as a period for the person to learn how
>to live on their own.  At the end of 7 years the slave is to go free.
>If the slave chooses to stay it is seen as a problem.

A non-Jew could choose to sell himself, but since he's not going to be
freed, there's no reason for him to learn to live on his own.

>The slave master, in the mean time, must treat the slave according to
>the way they are accustomed to be treated.  Provide them with proper
>clothing and housing.  Abuse is strictly prohibited.  Although it is
>called slavery it is in many ways more like a long term contract for
>live in help.  Room and board is the payment (plus the payment up

The master doesn't have to provide the eved cnaani with anything.
Killing the eved is prohibited.  Beatings that don't kill the eved
cnaani are allowed.  That the Torah has two halachot concerning beatings
(the definition of when a fatal beating is defined as murder, and when a
beating that results in permanent physical damage results in the slave
being freed), I think, shows that beatings, including those that caused
death or disfigurement, were not a rarity.

From: Ed Ehrlich <Eehrlich@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 16:47:25 +0300
Subject: Morality of slavery

Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter ends his interesting discussion of slavery and
the U.S. Constitution with:

>But if we compare those components of the culture which
>are more accurately known -- i.e., the laws -- we find that the United
>States is closer to ancient Israel's explicit acceptance of slavery
>than anyone has yet admitted.

While the anti-abolitionists would give "Biblical" quotes to justify
slavery, slavery in the Torah is very different than slavery in the
United States.  The whole point of the Dred Scott decision was that a
slave was property.  A slave belonging to his owner had no more rights
than any of the slave owner's other property - his house or his plow.
According to the Dred Scott decision:

"Slaves are made property by the laws of the slave States, and as such
are liable to the claims of creditors; they descend to heirs, are taxed,
and in the South they are a subject of commerce. "

A slave owner could starve, beat, mutilate or rape his slave if he
wished because "it" was property.  This is entirely different from the
Torah which imposes many restrictions and responsibilities on a slave
owner.  Jay gives two examples of "involuntary servitude" that are
supposedly permitted by the U.S. Constitution.

1) Military draft.  While a draftee maybe forced against his will, he
(or she) does not become property.  All soldiers have certain basic
rights including the rights of citizenship and the right to go to court
which were specifically denied to slaves in the U.S. in the infamous
Dred Scott decision.  In my opinion the phrase "government property"
used by the Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn't turn members of the
armed forces into property.

2) Forced internment of U.S. Citizens of Japanese origin during World
War II.  It is both disgusting and frightening that the
U. S. government, on a mere Presidential order no less, forced tens of
thousands of its own citizens into concentration camps and that the
Courts supported this gross violation of human rights.  But as bad as
this was, it was not slavery.  The Japanese-American internees were not
legally property.  The camp commanders could not legally, kill, mutilate
or rape the internees.  (I don't know if the internees were physically
abused or not, but there was no legal right to do so).

While under the Torah, a person can still "own" another person, it is
clear that this piece of "property" has quite a difference status than
any other "object".

Ed Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Jerusalem, Israel

From: Zev Sero <zsero@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 13:03:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Morality of slavery

Shmuel Himelstein <shmuelh@...> wrote:

> It seems to me that we don't have to look very far to see that the Torah
> disapproves of slavery - certainly in terms of Jews.
> The simplest proof is that of the Eved Nirtzah, the Jewish slave who,
> when his servitude is up, decides that he would rather remain a
> slave. His ear is pierced, says the Midrash, because the ear which heard
> "Avadai haim" - they are My servants - and then voluntarily accepted
> slavery, deserves to be pierced. To me, this is a clear example that the
> Torah posits that slavery is a B'di'avad (ex post facto) construct, and
> not a LeChatchila (ab initio) construct. In other words, it seems to me
> - and again I say, at least in terms of Jews, the Torah regards the
> institution as an evil - even if under certain circumstances it might be
> a necessary evil.

But the Torah is clear about *why* it regards the institution of Eved
Ivri as undesirable: it's not because there's something wrong with
slavery, or with Jews being owned, but because `they're *my* slaves'.
When a Jew is sold involuntarily, he is merely suffering the just
punishment that Hashem has prescribed for him in the Torah.  But when he
voluntarily submits himself to another person, he is renouncing Hashem's
prior ownership of him, and thus rebelling against his true Owner.  So
even though Hashem permits it for humanitarian reasons (`for he loves
you and your family, for he has it good with you'), He makes it clear
that He disapproves.

Furthermore, the Torah makes it clear *why* we are Hashem's slaves; it's
not because He made us, as He did the whole world, but because He
rescued us from Egypt, not to set us free but to take us for Himself.
Goyim, who were not rescued from Egypt, are not Hashem's slaves, except
in the general sense in which `the whole world and its contents are
Hashem's', and therefore the Torah does not at all disapprove of owning
them, and indeed says `from them you *shall* buy slaves', which at least
some Tana'im saw as a positive command.

Rachel Rosencrantz <rachelr@...> wrote:

> First off, what we commonly think of as slavery (ala slavery in the USA)
> is quite different from what slavery is defined as in the Torah.
> It is said "He who acquires a slave acquires a master."  (Kiddushin)
> After looking at the laws of slavery (at least a slave who is a Jew) its
> hard to see why anyone would want to have slaves.

This is only true of the Eved Ivri, who is better described as an
indentured servant than as a slave.  As I said above, the true owner of
every Jew is Hashem, and while He permitted us under some circumstances
to have a limited `sublease' on other Jews, this is not a `ownership of
the body' but only of the work that the servant will perform.  The Eved
Kenaani, on the other hand, is a true slave, whose owner has `ownership
of the body', and is not even obligated to feed him, let alone treat him
better than he treats himself.  I see no significant difference between
this institution and slavery as it existed in the USA.

> In the case where someone sold themselves as a slave because they had no
> money, likewise it is intended as a period for the person to learn how
> to live on their own.  At the end of 7 years the slave is to go free.
> If the slave chooses to stay it is seen as a problem.

Actually, the 6-year limit only applies to thieves sold involuntarily.
When a Jew sells himself, the term of his indenture is whatever he
negotiates with the purchaser, provided that it doesn't go past the
Yovel.  In the first year of the Yovel, a Jew can sell himself for 49


From: Shmuel Himelstein <shmuelh@...>
Date: Thu, 12 Aug 1999 13:30:25 +0300
Subject: Slavery - law

Rachel Rosencrantz claims that a person who sells himself must be
released after seven years. That is not the Halachah. The Halachah is
that a person sold to pay for a theft is sold for the length of time
needed to pay back his theft, but only *up to* six years, even if his
sale for six years will not cover his debt. No slave, though can be sold
beyond the onset of the Yovel (Jubilee year), because all slaves must be
freed at that time.

A person who sells himself can sell himself for any length of time
whatsoever. The only proviso is that he cannot be sold beyond the
Yovel. In other words, in theory, if a slave sells himself immediately
after the Yovel, he can sell himself for forty-nine years.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 10 Aug 1999 01:17:15 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Some further questions on the Permissability of Obesity

Aviva Fee (v29n33) asks whether there is a prohibition against obesity
the same way there is a prohibition against smoking.

Some related questions are 

--If you are obese are you halachically obligated to lose weight

--Does the OBESE person have a status of a non-endangered sick person
(A practical application would be exemption from eatening traditional
fattening foods on Shabbos and Yom Tov such as pastries and cakes)

--If you know your friend is obese are you violating LIFNAY EVAYR
(putting a stumbling block before the blind) by giving your friend
fattening food

As to the actual prohibition against obesity unfortunately it is not
like smoking. For smoking is ITSELF an act. Obesity is not an ACT but
an ATTRIBUTE of the act of eating excessively for a long period of time.
You cannot say that an individual act of overeating is prohibited (the
way an individual smoke is) because eg if you have been working alot
you might need the extra food. Consequently there is no point in time
at which you can point your finger at a meal and say 'That is prohibited'

Thus I think the real questions are whether the obesity must be undone
once it is there, whether you can serve the obese person etc.

In passing, I note the fact that the AMA (American Medical Association)
has recently revised its defintion of obesity: A person is obese if their
BMI (Body mass index) is above 25.There is enormous statistical evidence
that BMI above 25 (indepedent of any other factors) correlates highly
with many diseases. The formula is
  BMI = 705x[Weight in pounds] / ([height in inches] x [height in inches])
It is an excellent rule of thumb and guideline. Currently over 50% of
Americans are obese

Russell Hendel;Moderator Rashi is Simple;http://www.shamash.org/rashi


End of Volume 29 Issue 55