Volume 30 Number 42
                 Produced: Thu Dec 23 14:04:12 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Helping children with Gemara
         [Rena Freedenberg]
Last Names (2)
         [Mike Gerver, Mordechai]
Previous Generations
         [Meir Shinnar]
Rabbanim and Supervision
         [Oren Popper]
Si'ag - Fences and Boundaries in Halacha
         [Joseph Geretz]


From: Rena Freedenberg <free@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1999 19:14:45 +0200
Subject: RE: Helping children with Gemara

> >From: Aviva Fee <aviva613@...>
> >We have a friend who has what seems to be not so unique situation.
> >He is a baal teshuva whose oldest son is now in his second year of
> >learning gemorah (Talmud).  Unfortunately, the father never had a chance
> >to learn in yeshiva, and hence, his mastery of gemorah is limited.  His
> >son is coming home with gemorah homework and the father is extremely
> >frustrated that he is unable to assist his son.

I agree with Nosson that there is something in the system that needs to
be changed. This is not only a problem of ba'alei teshuva who don't know
how to learn. I know of some chachamim who are very capable of going
backwards and forwards on any Gemara with their children but due to
community responsibilities don't have the time to learn with each and
every one of their many (bli ayin hara, kein yirbu) sons.

I think that the problem is that the schools place too much reliance on
parents teaching the children material that the Rebbe should be teaching
them. I know of one Rav who, instead of chazaring whatever his son was
learning in school, picked something totally different to learn with his
son on Shabbat to give his son a wider base of learning.

This also causes a lashon hara problem. It is considered lashon hara to
do ANYthing (not just directly say something) to give over negative
information. Well, it is also considered lashon hara to do anything,
verbal or non-verbal, to make a point to say that someone is a ba'al
teshuva or lacking in learning. What do you think it says to a boy when
his father can't help him with the most rudimentary Gemara? Hmmm?
Besides, what is the boy supposed to do when he doesn't get a good mark
on the test as there was no one to teach him the material the Rebbe
didn't go over? Say oh, gee, my father is an am ha'aretz, so he is
incapable of learning eilu metzios with me? I doubt that one would go
over very well.

In my son's cheder here in Israel there is very little homework, however
someone must chazar with the boys over Shabbos and then sign a sheet
telling how well the boys did. What we have done in our family is that I
(the Eema) or one of the siblings does the chazaring and then signs the
note. I asked my son's menachel (Rav of chareidi school) and he told me
that it is certainly permitted for me to learn with my son for the
purpose of chazara.  Actually, it is a very good way to see if my son
knows the Gemara through and through, since he has to know enough to
entirely teach it to me (since I don't learn Gemara, I guarantee you
that he is teaching a good bit of it to me from scratch :-)). Since
women obviously don't learn Gemara, it doesn't say anything embarrassing
if I don't know whatever he is learning and he has to explain it to me
the way that it would look if he had to explain the simplest Gemara
concepts and terms to his father. He does okay and is doing well in
school with this method, but he really won't learn the Gemara as deeply
as he would with someone who actually knew it beforehand to say the
least. However, most fathers here do NOT learn nightly with their sons
as they just plain don't have the time.

I wish your friend hatzlacha.



From: Mike Gerver <MJGerver@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1999 12:38:21 EST
Subject: Last Names

Eli Turkel asks in v30n37,

> Does anyone have any idea when last names where introduced among the
>  Jews of Eastern Europe (Galicia, Russia and Austrio-Hungary).

There is a detailed discussion of this question in Chapter 3 of Benzion
C.  Kaganoff's "A Dictionary of Jewish Names and Their History"
(Schocken Books, 1977). Emperor Joseph II of Austro-Hungary issued a
decree in 1787, requiring the Jews of Galicia and Bukovina to adopt last
names. Various kingdoms in Germany made similar decrees between 1807 and
1845, and the Russian Empire started the process in 1804, required all
Jews in what was formerly Poland (the area where almost all Jews lived
in the Russian Empire) to take last names in 1821, and started seriously
enforcing the requirement in 1845.

I have looked at census records from Medzhibozh, the town in the western
Ukraine where my Gerver ancestors came from. The records from 1816
already list my great-great-great-grandfather by his last name,
Goiva. (It was changed to Gerver when my great-grandfather came to
America in 1900.)  The records from the 1760s and earlier (when the town
was in Poland) list people by two names, but the "last names" are not
really family names in the way that they are used today.  Rather, they
are patronymics, or names of other towns where the people came from, or
occupation names.  All of the names mean something in Polish, for
example the name Krawiec (Kravitz) and Rzeznik (Reznick) are frequently
used, but never Schneider or Shechter, which mean the same thing in
Yiddish. Nor do names like Cohen or Levy appear.  This suggests to me
that these were not meaningless names that were passed down from
generation to generation, but rather descriptive names that were used by
the Polish authorities to distinguish people who had the same first
name.  By the way, the Baal Shem Tov is listed in the 1740s census
records, as "Israel Balshem."  Even this is not an exception to the
observation that all of the last names mean something in Polish.  I have
read (in "Founder of Hasidism: A Quest for the Historical Baal Shem
Tov," by Moshe Rosman, U. of California Press, a fascinating book) that
the term "balshem" (deriving from the Hebrew "baal shem") was used by
non-Jews in Poland at the time, to refer to a kind of folk physician who
used conventional medical treatments, as well as miraculous means, to
cure people.

This leads me to believe that many or most Jews in Russia used last
names even before the requirement was strictly enforced in 1845, but not
before the early 1800s.  Of course there were some distinguished Jewish
families, for example Rappoport, Horowitz, Landau, Katzenellenbogen, et
al, who used last names long before 1800.

Mike Gerver

From: Mordechai <Phyllostac@...>
Date: Mon, 20 Dec 1999 05:43:34 EST
Subject: Last Names

The introduction of surnames came about, in most cases, due to a
requirement imposed by government to facilitate governmental objectives.

Different governments imposed it at different times. Some governments
were ahead of / more progressive than others.

For a fine overview of the subject of jewish names see FAQ # 17 at

There it gives the following dates, among others - Austrian Empire -
1787, Russian Pale - 1804, not enforced until 1835/1845, Russian Poland
- 1821, West Galicia -1805.



From: Meir Shinnar <Chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 15:37:59 EST
Subject: Previous Generations

Just a few comments on responses to my posts

One poster suggested that my statement that Artscroll hairbrushed
sheitels "borders on the libelous".  We had previous discussions on the
"reliability" of Artscroll, (anyone for a rehash of My Uncle the
Netziv?) so I find this statement rather extreme, as well as an attack on
my integrity.  I was not accusing Artcroll of doing anything that it
considers immoral, as it views sanitizing history as desirable, I can
state that the source of my statement is a respected academic, whose
personal and professional integrity I respect, who told me that he heard
this directly from R Nosson Sherman.

Secondly, a poster wrote that all of the Litvishe rebbitzens who wore
their heads uncovered transgressed a d'oraita level prohibition, and all
their husbands thought their wives were transgressing; however, this
didn't require a divorce.  I find this statement to be incredible (isn't
any one else shocked at this nibul pe (foul language(??), especially on
a moderated newsgroup,

It should be understood that it was not only the wife of one gadol,
(or,as the poster wrote, "gadol"), who did not cover their hair, but
that it was common in litvishe yeshivish circles.  Second, I would think
that such an incredible claim would require precise documentation, not
merely that he heard that once one rav pushed off a questioner with an
offhand remark.

We may feel that we have surpassed the past, but we should have some
minimal respect for them.  There are significant halachic issues about
slandering the dead.

One poster has made repeated claims that he has not seen any tshuvot.
Several posters made reference to rav Messas and Yad Halevy as
permitting uncovered hair for women.  Each poster (or their halachic
authority) can decide whether these are sufficiently authoritative for
them, but sources have been presented.

A poster said that no rav would give a general heter to mixed swimming.
I asked a talmid muvhak of the Seride Esh, who told me that there was no
problem.  The rav practiced what he preached.

Another poster said that we have to be careful about learning from an
action of a rav, because there may have been other motivating unique
factors.  If I see a rav do an action once, I may not know the specific
rationale.  If, however, the rav participates in an activity in a
continuing, ongoing fashion, such quibbles do not apply.  The evidence
from previous generations is not of isolated instances where a rav was
once observed to do something, but that they participated in an ongoing
basis in activities (such as mixed swimming, dancing, going to the
opera, etc) which current standards hold taboo.

We may find it difficult to comprehend such activities.  Furthermore, we
can argue that times, and the appropriate halachic response, have
changed for us.  However, the refusal to recognize that this happened,
and the ability to casually denigrate whole communities, their rabbanim,
and their rebbitzens, are antithetical to true halacha.  Perhaps the
problem is with us.

Meir Shinnar


From: Oren Popper <opopper@...>
Date: Sat, 18 Dec 1999 20:55:19 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Rabbanim and Supervision

In MJ 30 #36 the moderator wrote: 

[...However, if the question is (and this is often not asked explicitly,
but is often rolled into a term such as "reliable") "I keep Chumrah
X,Y,Z, does the food here meet all those chumrot as well?" and the
answer is "everything except XX", then I do not see any real problem
here. Mod]

Unfortunately, all too often I find myself having to ask this question,
and not necessarily regarding what I would consider to be chumros. I
wish global, or at least national, standards could be set (possibly with
codes) with which one could easily determine what the hechsher means.

Another possibility would be to force (by public demand) organizations
giving hechsherim (at least the national ones) to publicize their
standards annualy.

For example, on a recent airline trip I took, the kosher food from a
famous airline caterer had a well-known national hashgocha.

The note that accompanied the meal proudly stated that the bread and
rolls were Pas Yisroel (no word about the muffin, should I assume that,
or am I not to assume anything which is not stated specifically). The
note went ahead stating that they were hamotzie, since according to the
opinion of the Rabbonim giving the hechsher, so-called 'mezonos bread'
does not exempt one from washing and/or bentching (a ruling which I try
to follow).

Furthermore, the note stated that the meat to be served would be

Had I not known better, I would assume that the meal accompanied by this
note could be eaten even by the biggest machmir. However, I was
surprised to find that non-cholov-yisroel was served with this meal.

[You've got me surprised now, even if the milk was cholov yisroel, I
would find it surprising with the glatt kosher meat. Mod]

Now, AFAIK the according to the Rama (and the Shach)pas akkum (palter)
is acceptable. Pas Yisroel is a chumra one should try to keep during
Aseres Yemei Teshuva, and year round if readily available.

Cholov akkum is definitely not as acceptable, though there are heterim.

[At least in America, outside of Chabad, many if not most people I know
consider cholov ha-companies (what we would call commercial standard
milk) as kosher, based on R. Moshe's psak. Cholov Yisrael is still
prefered, but at the chumra level, not the halacha level. Mod.]

With this is mind, I find it very difficult to rely on most hechsherim,
excpet where I specifically know that the Rav Hamachshir is at least as
machmir with his hechsher as I am, or where I rely on the owner of the
establishment. In some cases I will not eat at an establishment that has
a hechsher which I would otherwise trust, if I deem the owner to be

In view of all the above, I really think it is appropriate for the
public to demand that organizations issuing hechsherim should publicize
their standards annually.

[I fully agree with you, Oren. Mod.]

Oren Popper


From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Dec 1999 20:00:41 -0500
Subject: Si'ag - Fences and Boundaries in Halacha

In another topic (Negi'ah) Russel Hendel made the following statement:

#2) Negiah is a 'fence'. HENCE if we violate it we will start violating
major Torah prohibitions of intimacy.(The trouble again with this
approach is that it sounds exaggerated; certainly we see violations of
Negiah every day WITHOUT corresponding violations of major

I don't think that iminent violation is a criteria for the enactment of
a Rabbinic prohibition for the protection of a D'Oraisa (Si'ag). As a
classic example, riding a horse on Shabbos is prohibited as a Si'ag to
the Torah prohibition against uprooting vegetation in Shabbos. The fact
that a person *might* rip off a branch in order to spur the horse on, is
enough of a chance to warrant the enactment of a Si'ag. This, despite
the fact that on many occasions people do ride horses *without* ripping
off branches.

So I don't see that Russel's observation, even if factually sound, is an
objection to the enactment of a Si'ag.

Joseph Geretz
Focal Point Solutions, Inc.


End of Volume 30 Issue 42