Volume 31 Number 12
                 Produced: Sat Jan 22 21:53:21 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dr Louis Jacobs
         [Alexis Rosoff]
Jewish Database
         [Ronald Greenberg]
Praying with Avaryonim (Sinners) (2)
         [Joseph Geretz, Avi Feldblum]


From: Alexis Rosoff <alexis@...>
Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2000 16:59:01 -0500
Subject: Dr Louis Jacobs

Stephen Philips wrote:

|> Rabbi Louis Jacobs, as many of you will know, is the religious leader
|> of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in the United Kingdom and has
|> written in various of his works that he does not believe that the
|> Torah was given by Hashem word for word to Moshe. I would therefore
|> hesitate to recommend any of his books, especially for someone with
|> little knowledge of the Jewish religion.

As a reader of Dr Jacobs' books and someone who had the privilege of
hearing him...

Yes, Dr Jacobs has written this and this was the primary reason for his
breaking away from the United Synagogue. However, it's worth noting that
he was an Orthodox rabbi for years, holds orthodox smicha (from
Gateshead I believe) and in most matters has stuck to US halacha. His
West End Synagogue retains a ladies' gallery for example. The UK Masorti
Movement is not the American Conservative movement.

He does NOT deny the divine origin of Torah and Talmud; his works were
written in response to scientific criticism of the Bible. Someone
expecting heresy is not going to find it in Dr Jacobs' books. In
addition, he is one of the most respected Jewish scholars of his
generation. If you read his more theologically orientated works, they
don't follow accepted Orthodox theory; however his more practical books
are about what you'd get from any Modern Orthodox scholar of his

In addition I recommend his The Jewish Religion: A Companion as a useful
reference work for someone just getting into Judaism, or needing an
encyclopaedia type reference.

 Alexis Rosoff ---=--- http://www.mono.org/~alexis ---=--- Long Island, NY


From: Ronald Greenberg <rig@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000 14:08:41 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Jewish Database

Thanks to Carl for the summary of discussion on the possibility of
starting a registry of Jews other than the Israeli government's.

I hesitate to offer suggestions to a gadol like Rav Eliyashiv and I
don't even know how to do that.  But if anybody on the list travels in
the right circles and thinks this is a good idea, here it is.  I think
that a lot of ill-well from non-Orthodox movements (and even possible
contention from different streams within Orthodoxy) might be avoided
by including in the database anybody who wants to be in it and just
making sure that it includes the necessary information from which a
competent halachic authority can make the correct ruling.  That is,
one could even go so far as to begin building a genealogical database
of the entire world, though obviously the major thrust would be to get
Jews into it.  In any case, to be most effective, it should not be
restricted to Israelis.  (A massive genealogical database could also
be valuable in other ways, though there would be privacy issues to
work out.)

The main question is what information should be incorporated so as to
enable proper rulings and how to manage the logistics of entering the
information.  I think that, again to avoid enmity of different groups,
it could make sense to accept information from any source and simply
record what the source is.  For example, somebody might submit a copy
of his birth certificate to establish the identity of this parents,
and he might include a statement from Rabbi Ploni saying that he has
known this person's parents since the time they were children in
Podunk, and he is confident the mother is Jewish.  (I guess that for
it to work halachically you might need at least some sort of testimony
from two people; obviously it would have to be clarified to those who
care what is halachically required.)  To make this most effective, it
would be desirable to also maintain a "genealogy" of all Rabbis by
smicha rather than birth.  (It would be an independent question
whether information should be submitted on paper or could be submitted
by some sort of secure electronic means.  Probably, it would be highly
desirable to do as much as possible electronically through Rabbis and
their secretaries due to the geographic dispersal of the information
and the huge burden that a centralized registrar would face in
recording even the information of all Jews in the world.)

I have thought about trying to establish the Rabbinic "genealogy"
project as something that would also be of independent, historical and
halachic interest.  (For example, in gemorrah a debate on a subject is
often informed by an understanding of who holds what positions and who
their teachers were.)  This project would be a lot easier technically
but would also require some careful thought on what information to
include and how.  For example, one might want to allow revocation of
smicha by the granting authority and/or information on current and
past membership in Rabbinic associations.  In light of the possible
sensitive issues, it would seem that such a project should be
sanctioned and guided by gedolim.

I would be interested in hearing more thoughts on these subjects and
guidance from gedolim either on or off the list or through other



From: Anonymous
Date: Sun, 9 Jan 2000 11:49:28 EST
Subject: Re: Poskim

Carl Singer wrote:

>  1 - Community Standards - I think it's stretching a point to presume
>  that a distant Rabbi can address this correctly

With all due respect, and obviously depending on the context, this would
have to depend on whether one might have a prior relationship with the
distant rav, and how well he knew the sho'el(et) (the one who is asking
the question).

>  2 - Proper Derech and Koved for local Rabbi (Rabbaim) -- {...snip...}
>  skirting one's shule Morah D'Asrah is improper.  Again, if that person
>  feels himself out of his depth or comfort level, he can take the question
>  forward to those who are more expert.
>  {...snip...}
>  We undermine the local community and avoid building relationships with
>  local Rabbaim when we grab the phone or the net.

The above, obviously, presumes that one is located in a community where
there are suitable rabbanim whom one can ask.  Having lived in small
towns in which I was the only "dati" individual for hundreds of miles in
any direction, I attest from firsthand experience that this presumption
isn't always valid.

Moreover, what about a situation in which the mara d'atra has spoken
publicly in such a way as to make it clear that he may have a serious
bias against certain types of she'elot (questions)?  For example, years
ago, the mara d'atra in my "local bet knesset" got up on Shabbat Hazon
and gave a drasha which turned out to be an unrestrained tirade against
individuals who had been calling him during the preceding week "looking
under rocks" for heterim not to fast.

Although the situation has gotten a bit better as I've hit middle age, I
had and to some degree still have a disastrously bad track record for
getting quite ill from fasting on all ta'aniyot (fasts) except, for some
odd reason, Yom Kippur.  For many years, especially on Tish'ah be-Av but
also on most of the "minor fasts," I regularly suffered high fevers,
blackouts, loss of feeling in arms and legs, and loss of balance if I
could even stand up at all, but more usually I was not able to do more
than lie flat on the floor under my airconditioning vent not moving, not
even to turn my head, from midday onwards.  Some of that still occurs,
but not as consistently or as severely, for the most part, as it used to

I also have several serious chronic health problems which might or might
not be directly impacted by fasting, depending on what else might be
going with me at the particular time. However, the best medical evidence
is that these almost certainly are NOT the proximal cause of the trouble
I've had with fasting.

Needless to say, having heard the mara d'atra's tirade, I was not
inclined to take she'elot regarding fasting to him.  This was
particularly true since I'd had the experience years earlier of asking
the mara d'atra in another locale what to do about Tish'ah be-Av after
having had 7 consecutive years of the sorts of troubles I described
above on that fast.  This rav, as well, made it clear from the outset
that he didn't believe me, resented my asking, and insisted that I fast.

I am not talking here about a situation of "tell me what I want to
hear."  As is probably clear from what I described above, on far more
fasts than not, for far more years than not, I have become ill enough to
be incapacitated, and sometimes it has taken me over a week to recover
fully.  There have been other medical issues over the years as well,
where a rav not "favorably predisposed," for whatever reasons, to the
relevant types of she'elot could have wrought serious harm on me.  In
the presence of strongly suggestive evidence like what I presented
above, is one obligated to place one's situation in the hands of the
mara d'atra in the locale, even if that individual is someone with whose
p'sak s/he has strong reason to believe s/he could not live, perhaps
literally?  Similarly, even if that mara d'atra "passes the question up
the line," since the way he presents it, and the influence the
presentation exerts on the p'sak from "up the line," could literally be
a matter of life or death in certain circumstances?


From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000 19:58:54 -0500
Subject: Praying with Avaryonim (Sinners)

Several posters have responded with basically the same theme. That there
is indeed a category of Avaryonim, with whom it is forbidden to pray
with during the year, but for whom a special exception is made on Yom
Kippur. One who had been put in Cherem (excommunication) would qualify
as this type of Avaryon.

Daniel Katsman juxtaposed two interesting statements and so I am
commenting specifically on his comments, although others have replied in
the same vein.

> According to the Goldschmidt mahzor for Yom Kippur
> (introduction, page 28), "Anu mattirin le-hitpallel
> 'im ha-avaryanim" was introduced into the Yom Kippur
> davening by the MaHaRaM of Rotenburg.  "Here is given
> a special heter for people who were in niddui
> (excommunicated) because they had transgressed
> the decrees of the community and were therefore
> separated from public prayer, to participate in the
> prayer on this day."


> Ba'er Heitev, Orah Hayyim 619:1, says something similar.)
> I.e., the "avaryan" in this context is not a run-of-the-mill
> non-observant Jew, but someone who has been put in herem.

I am wondering, whether to qualify as an Avaryon, would one would
actually have had to be put in Cherem? Or nowadays, where people are not
likely to actually be put in Cherem, would committing a Cherem-able
offense, or living a Cherem-able lifestyle, be enough to classify
someone as an Avaryon? I have the feeling, that in the days of MaHaRaM
of Rotenburg, what we nowadays casually call a 'run-of-the-mill
non-observant Jew', might very well have been a candidate for Cherem.

(I haven't seen it inside, but I find it significant that Daniel's
translation reads: 'because they had transgressed the _decrees of the
community_' [emphasis mine]. From this I understand, that (in those
days, at least) had they transgressed against G-d's laws, they certainly
would have been placed in Cherem.)

DISCLAIMER: I'm NOT talking about people who have unfortunately been
irreligious from birth.

I'm wondering about indivduals who have been raised in religious homes
and given a religious education, but who have nonetheless rebelled and
cast off the yoke of Torah. Assume such a person is a public Sabbath
desecrator, and publicly flaunts all of the Mitzvos. I have the
following question:

Do we deem this individual, this committer of Cherem-able offenses, as
an Avaryon, one who cannot be counted toward a Minyan? Or do we say,
that since we no longer place people in Cherem, that there is no longer
such a thing as an Avaryon who cannot be included in a Minyan, and
consequently, even such an openly rebellious individual can still be
counted toward a Minyan?

Kol Tuv,

Joseph Geretz
Focal Point Solutions, Inc.

From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000 21:48:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Praying with Avaryonim (Sinners)

On Wed, 19 Jan 2000, Joseph Geretz wrote:

> (I haven't seen it inside, but I find it significant that Daniel's
> translation reads: 'because they had transgressed the _decrees of the
> community_' [emphasis mine]. From this I understand, that (in those days, at
> least) had they transgressed against G-d's laws, they certainly would have
> been placed in Cherem.)

I find it interesting that I interpret the translation in exactly the
opposite way from Yossie. As far as transgressing against God's laws, if
we were to be put in Cherem for that, we would all be in that state - ki
ain tzadik ba'aretz asher lo chatah - for there is not a rightous person
in the land who has not sinned. The specific issue that I see addressed
in what has been quoted, is that an individual has transgressed against
some "decree of the community" to place themselves outside of the
community, so for that reason, they were not permitted to come to the
shul during the year.

Would one of our Teaneck members give a copy of this Reb Ephraim
Kanarfogel to get a clarification from him on this MaHaRaM of Rotenburg?

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator


End of Volume 31 Issue 12