Volume 31 Number 23
                 Produced: Fri Jan 28  6:17:53 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Anonymous Poskim
         [Carl M. Sherer]
Churban Bais Sheni
         [Alex Heppenheimer]
Collect call game
         [Ken G. Miller]
Mi sheberach
         [David I. Cohen]
         [Bill Bernstein]
Torah LeMoshe miSinai
         [Gilad J. Gevaryhu]


From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 19:53:59 +0200
Subject: Anonymous Poskim

Jonathan Katz writes:

> Settling on one Rav raises a number of philosophical problems. First of
> all, what is wrong with "posek shopping" (not ethically speaking, but
> L'phi HaDin, according to the letter of the law)? Aren't both opinions
> equally valid and equally right? If I had only asked one Rabbi's
> opinion, I would not be blamed for following his advice; why, then,
> should I be blamed for asking two Rabbis and following the advice of the
> second?

Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 242:31 says that in general, when one posek
has ruled on something another posek should not rule on the same
thing. Thus if I take a chicken to my Rav and ask him whether it is
Kosher, and he rules that it is not, then it becomes a "chaticha
d'issura" (something which is not Kosher) and I cannot use it except in
the very limited circumstances described below.  Taking the chicken to a
second Rav is called psak shopping.

If you do go ask a second Rav, you are supposed to tell him of the first
Rav's psak (see R. Aryeh Kaplan's Handbook of Jewish Thought, Volume 1,
Chapter 12, for the clearest explanation I have ever heard of this
topic, and the sources cited in the footnotes there). Once he knows of
the first Rav's psak he will only overrule him if the first Rav was toeh
b'dvar mishna (made an obvious mistake) or if the second Rav was greater
than the first Rav or somehow constituted a majority of all Rabbonim (a

> Secondly, how is "posek shopping" defined? We all choose our posek to
> some degree based on his previous Psaks - otherewise why not just choose
> someone randomly?! And once this is the case, it becomes a fine line
> between choosing a Rav because of his hashkafa (philosophy) and choosing
> a Rav because of his psak on a similar question.

First of all, we are commanded "aseh lech Rav," (make a Rabbi for
yourself), and although I do not necessarily agree with R. Singer's
formulation that the Rav to whom you ask your shaila's must be your
local shul Rav, I do think there is merit in having one regular Rav to
whom you ask most of your halachic questions. Married couples will
almost always have one Rav to whom they ask all of their questions in
maros (looking at the wife's bedika cloths). That is the first lesson
taught in many chosson and kallah classes. I suspect that for many, that
Rav becomes their regular posek for most if not all matters.

> Furthermore, for those who are m'dakdek [strict] on establishing one
> posek, what do you do when you move? Grow up? Change Hashkafa?

We had this problem when we went on aliya. We had a regular posek we
started going to a few months after we got married (we started with him
because we were invited to his house for Shabbos, and since we knew he
paskened maros, we asked him to reconcile some of the apparently
contradictory things we had heard in our respective chosson and kallah
classes). When we went on aliya, we tried to have him continue paskening
shaila's for us (other than maros) because he knew us so well, but for a
lot of reasons it just wasn't practical. Eventually we got to our
current posek through friends who raved about their posek's sensitivity
and common sense. In between there was a period of about a year or two
where we probably asked several different poskim shailas (although for a
while we did have one we used pretty regularly). But we never asked the
same shaila from two people!

> I live in NYC, and as a (for now) single Upper West Sider I don't feel
> particularly affiliated with any one shul. I don't have a relationship
> with any Rav locally such that I would feel comfortable calling them up
> out of the blue and asking a question. What else can I do but turn to an
> Internet Posek?

At this point in your life, that may not be a bad thing. The problem
with asking shailas over the internet is that to the extent that the Rav
should know you personally before answering a shaila, he cannot really
do so. For example, the person who posted regarding fasting - IMHO no
Rav should pasken that shaila without meeting with the person, trying to
get a feel for his sincerity, and maybe even speaking with a doctor to
get a feel for that person's medical condition (especially if Yom Kippur
is involved and not another fast!).

Carl M. Sherer
mailto:<cmsherer@...>  or  mailto:sherer@actcom.co.il
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: Alex Heppenheimer <Alexander.Heppenheimer@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 09:32:10 -0700
Subject: Re: Churban Bais Sheni

In MJ 31:19, Cheryl Maryles wrote in reply to Chaim Shapiro:

>> I am looking for the earliest reference to the famous explanation for
>> Churban Bais Sheni [destruction of the second Temple - Mod.](Sinas
>> Chinam) [hatred of fellow Jews for no reason - Mod.]. 
>I believe the earliest reference is the gemara in yoma 9b which quotes
>R. Yochanan ben Torsa

Also, there is the Gemara in Gittin 55b-56a, which tells the story of
Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, and explicitly says that this episode triggered
the Churban.

(I am aware that R' Avigdor Miller, shlita, has written in Torah Nation
that this was not a case of sin'as chinam, since in fact there was a
good reason for the host to hate Bar Kamtza, as he was a prominent
Sadducee and hence an enemy of Torah-true Jewry. But, AFAIK, most
commentaries take it for granted that this episode does in fact
illustrate the statement in Yoma 9b. Which tells us, incidentally, that
sin'as chinam is inappropriate even towards a Sadducee or any of his
modern analogues! As R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi puts it in the Tanya
(ch. 32), even when it is necessary to hate someone who is committing
sins openly and deliberately and who knows better - say, for example,
the type of "avaryonim" that have been recently discussed on MJ - that
hatred has to be tempered with compassion for the pitiful state of that
Jewish soul.)

>> Was that explanation available immediately following the Churban?  Or
>> was the explanation an idea that developed over time?
>since the tannaim lived during the churban and the gemara was written
>soon after it would seem that the explanation was available soon after

True, especially since it's illustrated with an actual story that
happened at that time and that was pointed to as the proximate cause of
the Churban.

In general, though, this brings up a related point: When our Sages
expand on a Biblical episode with details not recorded there (an example
off the top of my head: in the description of the crisis before the
splitting of the Red Sea in last week's Torah portion, where the Midrash
tells us that the Jewish People split into four groups, each one with
its own idea of what to do), are they reporting what they heard from
tradition going back to the actual event; or did they analyze the verses
and derive these details on their own?  My impression is that there are
authorities on both sides of the question, and I hope other MJ readers
will be able to amplify this issue properly with source citations.

>It's therefore not clear to me if R'
>Yochanan is the author of the statement or is merely reporting what his
>rabbeim told him. It would help if anyone knew precisely when he lived.

The Yerushalmi (Taanis 4:5) has him disagreeing with R' Akiva about Bar
Kochba being Moshiach, on very familiar terms ("Akiva! Grass will grow
on your cheeks, and the son of David still will not have come") - which
would imply that he was not only a contemporary, but a colleague, of R'
Akiva.  Since R' Akiva was already becoming a prominent scholar at the
time of the Churban - only a few years later, he was described as having
a worldwide reputation (Yevamos 16a) - presumably R' Yochanan ben Torsa
also lived through it and could describe it firsthand.

Kol tuv y'all,


From: Ken G. Miller <kgmiller@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 15:22:04 -0500
Subject: Collect call game

Daniel Wells wrote <<< But where the phone company doesn't actually lose
anything, and in most cases stand to gain, since the recipient will call
back as a result of the call, can this be called Gnava Mamash. Is it
really considered "shrinkage" or "shoplifting" as some would have it? >>>

Two points:

(1) My understanding is that in every single case of this "collect call
game", even when done automatically by computer without any human
operators, the phone company *does* actually lose something. Namely, its
computers are busy handling your call, which slows things down for the
rest of its system. One might argue that this is less than a p'rutah (an
insignificantly small loss to the phone company) but even such a small
loss is still forbidden. Besides, such calls will collectively add up to
significant amounts. In any case, I strongly suspect that the loss to
the phone company is indeed significantly more than a p'rutah.

(2) In many cases, the recipient will *not* call back after rejecting
the collect call. Even if he does, in the USA it will probably be via a
different long-distance company than the one used for the collect call.
And even if it is the same long-distance company, it is a separate
transaction and does not justify the initial theft.

Hmmm, there is another real financial aspect (in the US, at least) which
I only realized just now:

Mr. Wells noted that <<< Calling a 1-800 number for no reason generally
causes monetary loss because each call has to be paid for. >>> When I
first read this, I understood that one should not call a 1-800 number as
a prank, or for any other non-reason, because although it is a free call
for you, the 1-800 company does pay for the call.

But in our example, one dials the 1-800 number in order to place the
collect call, and this causes the Collect Call Phone Company to pay real
money to the Phone Company That You Called From, to reimburse them for
placing your call. These calls are counted individually, and are paid
for on a regular basis. The Collect Call Phone Company is willing to pay
for these calls, even though they know that some collect calls will be
rejected, because that is one of their costs of doing business. But to
use this system to deliberately get free phone calls sure sounds like
stealing to me. One might just as well reach into the pockets of the
Collect Call Phone Company, and take a quarter out and put it in the
pocket of the Phone Company That You Called From.

If anyone in the US really wants to make free long-distance calls, go to
http://www.broadpoint.com/ After signing up with them, they'll give you
a toll-free number. When you dial it, you simply listen to a 20-second
commercial, and get a free 2-minute phone call. I have been using this
for over a year, and am quite satisfied with it.

Akiva Miller


From: David I. Cohen <BDCOHEN613@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 14:12:59 EST
Subject: Mi sheberach

I have great respect for Carl Sherer's point of view vis a vis the
efficacy of a "mi sheberach" for the sick in shul. (Vol. 31 #11) I agree
that one should not consider it a tircha d'tzibur as it is an integral
part of the services. ( i do disagree that a proper chazzan with
beautiful melodies and proper nussach, or a drasha from the rav are not
tirchot either).
    I believe that the problem that arises is the "method" of the
recitation of the Mi shberach that has become common. The gabai mumbles
through a list of names (or a line forms and people give names that the
gabai repeats) while the rest of the congregation takes a recess,
usually accompanied by the latest lashon hara. Talk about lack of
participation in the so-called communal pray for the ill, how can anyone
expect their prayers to be answerd when the chrus of lashon hara is in
the background.
    In our shul we have instituted a practice where the entire
congregation recites the Mi sheberach together (we actually pasted the
text to the inside back cover of the Chumashim) and we pause so that
individuals can recite the names of their individual cholim. In
addition, before starting, the gabai announces the names of members of
the congregation who are hospitalized, so that one who (baruch hashem)
has no one to recite a mi sheberach for, inserts the ill member's
name. In this way we preserve the prayer and at the smae time make it
more meaningful with proper kavanah and decorum.
    David I. Cohen


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000 20:31:40 -0600
Subject: Pollard

 Some people have written disagreeing with my statement that Pollard's
is not a case of pidyon shivuim.  I continue to disagree.  The Aruch
HaShulchan in Yoreh Deah siman 252 writes, first quoting the Rambam on
the importance of the mitzva.  He adds (free translation) and this was
in earlier times, but even now in the far corners of deserts in Asia and
Africa where bandits fall on travelers and hold them captive for a large
ransom, etc.
 Clearly this is not describing Pollard.  No amount of ransom could free
him, nor is the ransom (even diplomatic in nature) the object of holding
him.  The fact that the Aruch HaShulchan does not mention people in
prison in his times, despite the obvious anti-Semitism then, suggests
that criminals are not in the category of shivuim.  Further, we are not
speaking about traffic tickets or apples: Pollard betrayed his
employers' trust and stole and sold a roomful of goods to a foreign
government, knowing this was wrong.  Again, whether he received due
process and/or commensurate sentencing for his crime is irrelevant to
issues of pidyon shivuim.


From: Gilad J. Gevaryhu <Gevaryahu@...>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 10:43:18 EST
Subject: Torah LeMoshe miSinai

Russell Hendel (v31n20) says:
<<In discussing whether the transmission of the Torah is letter-perfect or
word-perfect I suggested that the Talmudic argument that "the Hebrew
pair DAROSH DARASH is the middle of the Torah in words" really means
that"DAROSH DARASH is the middle of all consecutive double word pairs".
Similarly the Torah forum article I referred to last time suggests that >>

 The claim that "Darosh Darash" is the middle of the Torah of all
consecutive double word pairs is factually incorrect. Thank to an
anonymous MJ member who called the count to my attention based on an
article by Rabbi I. Zilber.  (Rabbi Zilber himself believe, as Russell
does that Darosh Darash is in the middle, but in order to achieve the
accounting he does not count two double words for they have different
roots, I found this unconvincing, for he probably would have counted
them if he would need them!) In Bereshit there are 30; in Shemot 14; in
Vayikra, before Darosh Darash 2, then "Darosh Darash," and after Darosh
Darash 17 more; in Bamidbar 20; and in Devarim 7.  Therefore, the
consecutive double word pairs before Darosh Darash count is 46, then we
have Darosh Darash and from there on another 44 consecutive double word
pairs. Therefore the peshat of middle of Torah in words as expressed in
Kiddushin 30a stand. Since we do not have new understanding and no new
talmudic interpretations no new assessment is necessary. BTW the
suggestion that maybe Darosh Darsh is a middle of double words was
proposed already several generations ago (Ish-Horowitz, _Ahavat Torah_,
Krakow, 1905, cited by Zilber), but since it did not work, it was not

Gilad J. Gevaryhu


End of Volume 31 Issue 23