Volume 30 Number 32
                 Produced: Sun Dec 12 10:27:34 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Kingship - Commanded or optional
         [Isaac A Zlochower]
Kissign tzitzis
         [Bill Bernstein]
Near Death Experiences
         [Eli Lansey]
Origin of Maoz Tzur tune
         [Josh Jacobson]
Previous Generations (2)
         [David Charlap, Joel]
Rabbanim and Supervision
         [Avi Feldblum]


From: Isaac A Zlochower <zlochoia@...>
Date: Thu, 09 Dec 1999 01:07:52 -0500
Subject: Kingship - Commanded or optional

Russell seems to have a problem with the position of R' Yitzchak
Abarbanel, R' Avraham Ibn Ezra and other commentators who read the the
section of the Torah on appointing a king in Israel (Deut. l7:14,15) as
being an option, not a command.  Since this viewpoint runs counter to
the views of the Tannaim, Rabbis Yosi and Yehudah (T.B. Sanhedrin 20b),
and of the Rambam (M.T., Melachim 1:1), he considers it problematic.
However, the general question of whether appointing a king is inherently
a mitzvah is not a practical halacha in our circumstances.  No ruler
over Israel can have the official status of a king if he is not directly
descended from David.  No one can prove such descent.  Hence a proper
king can only be created through the medium of a prophet.  If a prophet
were to be established and were to proclaim someone as the rightful heir
to the Davidic throne, then everyone agrees that we are obligated to
accept that person as a king.  Until such time, the debate is academic
and we are at liberty to interpret the Torah in the way that seems most
logical to us.  This question of the Torah's views on kingship is no
different, then, than any other issue where there is ample divergence of
views in the absence of an accepted practical halacha.

With this as preamble lets turn to the verses in question.

"When you will come to the land which Hashem, your G-D gives you, and
you will conquer and settle it, and you will say, 'Let me appoint a king
like all the peoples around me'.  Do, then, appoint a king over you who
will be chosen by Hashem, your G-D; choose a king from amidst your
brothers, you may not appoint over you a foreigner who is not your

Is G-D really commanding the Jews to seek a king like all the other
peoples?  The Ramban and other commentators agree that this verse is a
prediction rather than a command.  Where is the command then?  It is a
question of the validity of taking the next phrase out of context.  Is,
"Do, then, appoint a king" a stand-alone phrase, which would decree that
a king must be appointed?  Or, is it inextricably connected with the
next phrase of, "who will be chosen by Hashem..."?  In the latter case
the command is only to accept G-D's candidate for kingship as expressed
by a prophet.  Only in such a case is there a positive commandment to
accept that choice.  There is a negative command (a prohibition) against
choosing a Gentile as king, but in the absence of a prophetic candidate,
kingship is optional.  That is the reading of the Torah that appears
reasonable to me, and I have no problem with favoring the minority
opinion of Rabbi Nehorahe in Sanhedrin or of the Abarbanel and Ibn Ezra.

Nor is this the only case where the question of the acceptability of
taking phrases out of context occurs.  Another famous case arises from
the verse, "Do send away the mother bird and keep the offspring..."
(Deut. 22:7).  Is the command to shoo away the mother bird if one
encounters a nest an absolute command, or is it a conditional command?
That is, if you want the offspring, then you must first shoo away the
mother bird.  If you have no interest in the contents of the nest, then
just keep on going and don't interfere with life in the nest.  This
issue is not explicitly raised in T.B. Chulin, perek Kan Zippor -
perhaps the sages thought that the matter was obvious.  Nonetheless some
of the later poskim, based on a passage in the Zohar, have argued that
there such an absolute mitzvah.  One chases away the parent bird,
without any thought about the offspring or any desire to keep them.  You
simply allow the parentless nest inhabitants to starve (or freeze in
case of the eggs).  However, the early poskim (Rishonim) held the
contrary view.  The Ramban on the Torah, the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim,
the Ran, and possibly the Tosfot in Chulin agree that the mitzvah is
conditional, and to disrupt the nest without need for the offspring is
an act of cruelty.  Thus the question of the validity of taking a phrase
out of context has an important consequence.  In the case of the nest,
you are either fulfilling a commandment that carries the promise of long
life, or acting in an arrogant, cruel fashion which may place your life
in jeopardy.

I am not arguing against accepted halacha which may, ostensibly, be
based on such ways of reading the text out of context, but against new
rulings that would stem from treating the text in such a "cavalier"
fashion without support of a long-standing tradition.

Yitzchok Zlochower


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 16:50:43 -0600
Subject: Kissign tzitzis

Regarding the very wide-spread practice of kissing the front two tzitzis
at the end of Baruch Sheomar:
1) The Artscroll siddur brings this practice so it is very widespread
2) I believe I saw in Otzar HaTephillos that the practice comes because the 8
strands times 2 equals 16 plus 10 knots equals 26, the same gematria as
the shem HaShem [Name of God - Mod].  This is a reminder of shvisi
HaShem knegdi tamid [I place God before me at all times - Mod.].


From: Eli Lansey <elansey@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1999 19:41:00 -0500
Subject: Near Death Experiences

I recommend reading Dr. Raymond Moody's "Life After Life." Although it is
far from a Jewish book, it contains "case histories" of what people with
near death experiences saw.

Eli Lansey


From: Josh Jacobson <JRJ4859@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1999 08:12:29 EST
Subject: Re: Origin of Maoz Tzur tune

For the record, Benedetto Marcello, a Christian composer, did not "compose" 
any melody for Maoz Tsur. He transcribed the way it was sung in the 
Ashkenazic synagogue in Venice. Later, he wrote a sacred motet (in Italian) 
based on that synagogue melody.
-Josh Jacobson


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 1999 12:00:26 -0500
Subject: Re: Previous Generations

Deborah Wenger wrote:
> This may be going "off the topic", but I think this raises a very
> serious question - when a rabbi makes a decision for a "specific"
> person in a "specific" situation, is the rabbi, in some instances,
> thus making his own value judgment about that person? If so, what
> gives him the right to do this?

It's his right to do so because he was asked the question.  If you think
your rabbi doesn't know you well enough to make such a judgement, then
perhaps he's not the person you should be asking important halachic
questions of.

Many parts of halacha are not absolute.  You can't give someone a psak
without knowing something about the person.

For example, a Chabad rabbi has on occasion invited me to his house for
Shabbat dinner, knowing that I will have to drive my car to get there.
When I asked how he could, in good conscience make the invitiation, he
said "you drive your car elsewhere on Shabbat" (a true statement) "so
better you drive to Shabbat dinner than to the store or the movie

He would not have extended that invitation to someone who was shomer

> A number of years ago, for example, a food establishment in NY was
> cited for violations of the state's kashrut laws (at the time there
> were civil laws upholding kashrut standards; I don't know if the same
> laws are still in effect). A woman I know asked her LOR if he was
> going to tell the members of his kehilla not to patronize this
> establishment.  He replied that he would not, because it would affect
> the owner's parnasa (livelihood). She then asked him if HE would eat
> the food there himself, and he said no. To this woman, this response
> meant that the rabbi was holding himself to a higher standard than
> the rest of his kehilla - or, *allowing* his congregants to eat food
> that he himself considered treif.  Needless to say, this woman never
> went to this particular rabbi with a question again.

Or maybe the rabbi knows more information than he's letting on.

Maybe the state kashrut laws were according to a different standard than
his community.  So for his congregation, the place is kosher.  The rabbi
may have been avoiding the place, not because of the food, but because
of the possible scandal and destruction of his reputation as a rabbi
should he be seen eating in a restaurant that the state government
declared non-kosher.

A person in a position of authority must be extra strict with himself.
Technically correct actions that look bad to outsiders are generally not
allowed.  (For two reasons - that Jews may get the wrong idea and think
that a forbidden action is OK ("maaris ayin"), and that non-Jews may get
the wrong idea and believe Jews to be hypocrites ("chilul hashem")).
For a person in a position of authority, there is a third concern - that
the community may get the wrong idea and assume that the authority is
sinning, and therefore discredit him and revoke his authority.

-- David

From: Joel <joel@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Dec 1999 09:49:57 +0200
Subject: Re: Previous Generations

Daniel Israel <daniel@...> writes about:

<<how to react to apparent conflicts between halachic sources and
practices of G'dolei Torah of previous generations, [People seem to feel
the choices are (JG)] either assume ma'aseh Rav has no status or give it
the status of a psak.>>

and then gives an example of how circumstances could resolve the conflict:

<<For example, if I see someone eating something I believe is treif, I
could assume (a) he is relying on another shita, (b) I am mistaken about
the item, (c) the item is permitted to him for medical reasons, (d) he
was misinformed about the items status, etc.>>

In practice, I don't see how this helps in the situations under discussion,

Uncovered hair
Mixed swimming
Mixed seating at celebrations/events
Mixed dancing

a) Relying on another shita. This is the whole crux of the
conflict. There doesn't seem to be another shita that has wide
acceptance in another community, such as glatt/non glatt or kitnyot/non
kitnyot in the area of kashrut.

b) The observer of the Rav's actions is mistaken about the item. I don't
think the observer would be mistaken about mixed dancing, swimming,
seating. I suppose a very well designed wig could be a source of
confusion about uncovered hair, but I doubt this is the case in the
occurences under discussion.

c) The item is permitted for medical reasons. Here there might be some
leeway. I suppose some medical condition could require a person's head
to be uncovered. I myself could see having to go mixed swimming with my
wife, as it is good physical therapy and we wouldn't be able to afford
renting exclusive time at a pool. We only go to friend's celebrations
when we can sit together so that I can feed her. (Her mother can feed
her t family simchas.) Again, I doubt that any of these, or other
relevant things, were true in the occurences under discussion.

d) Misinformed about the item's status. For activities, as opposed to
objects, this reduces to case a). One can hardly suppose that the Rav in
question didn't realize that a person was a woman, or their wife, that
her hair was uncovered, or that they were at a beach.

Daniel closes with an etc. I think that it would be useful if the list
community could see if we can come up with an "etc." that really does
make sense in the four situations under discussion.

If we can't, then it does strongly suggest that Daniel's formulation of
the problem is, in fact correct: The halachic sources and practices of
G'dolei Torah of previous generations are in conflict.


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 1999 10:08:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Rabbanim and Supervision

In the course of the discussion on Rabbinic behaviour, the assumption
appears to be that a Rabbi that gives a Hashgacha / Supervision to a
product should necessarily eat from said supervision, and/or should not
advise some congregants to not eat from there.

I do not think that the situation is anything like that clear. Kashrut,
like many areas of Judaism, is not so black and white. There is the level
of what is the basic halacha, and then there are many different
stringencies that some subset / subgroup may have taken on themselves to

There are situations where there may be value to the community to have an
establishment under supervision, so that many people who may not otherwise
eat Kosher at all will eat at least basic kosher. This was especially true
in many non-NY communities as recently as 10-15 years ago, and may likely
still be true in many places.

Additional stringencies in areas like Chalav Yisrael, Yashen, and others
could easily lead to a situation where a Rov will give a Hashgacha to an
establishment, but then not eat there himself, or suggest to some select
members of his community that they should not eat there, as he is aware
that they have taken that stringency upon themselves.

In my opinion, the only time that a Rav should refuse to give a hashgacha
due to an establishment not following a stringency, is where the Rav has
poskened for his community that they all should take upon themselves that
stringency. In such a circumstance, where he has determined that no one
from the community should follow the level of kashrut that the eating
establishment wants to maintain, should he refuse a hashgacha on the

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator


End of Volume 30 Issue 32