Volume 31 Number 68
                 Produced: Mon Feb 28  5:42:37 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bar mitzvah before becoming bar-mitzvah
         [Reuben Rudman]
Pidyon Shvuyim & Pollard
         [Yisrael Medad]
Rabbi Millers Excellent Family Purity Book
         [Russell Hendel]
Sitting with Sforim (was: Siddur and Tallis Bag)
         [Carl and Adina Sherer]


From: Reuben Rudman <rudman@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 12:13:36 -0500
Subject: Re: Bar mitzvah before becoming bar-mitzvah

The responses to this query seem to be a little unfocused.  There are
two points to consider.  The first is when is a Jewish male considered
to be responsible, legally (i.e., halachically) for his actions.  The
second is when can a Jewish male be called to the Torah.  A third
aspect, that of the celebration, via a kiddush or party, or, preferably,
a Seudas Mitzva (a meal which includes collective participation in a
Mitzva) is not necessarily linked, halachically, to the other two.

The official age of halachic responsibility is thirteen years old.  The
first mention of this is in the Tshuvos (Responsa) of the Rosh (Rav
Asher ben Yechiel, the father of Rav Yaakov Ba'al HaTurim) who was among
the last of the Ba'alei Tosfos and who grew up among the Ashkenazim and
later moved to Sfarad. It is derived from an analysis of the ages of
Shimon and Levi who are called Ish (man) [Braishis 34:25].  The Rosh
tells us that Shiurim (legally binding measurements) are Halacha L'Moshe
miSinai (laws that were taught to Moshe at Har Sinai).  Details
describing the relationship between one assuming these legal rights and
responsibilities and proof of one's chronological and intellectual age
are found in many places throughout the the Gemara, its commentaries,
the Shulchan Aruch and the extensive literature of Sh'uT (Responsa).
This is not the place to go into detail, so suffice it to say that a
normal, physically mature thirteen year old Jewish male becomes legally
and ethically responsible for his actions when he turns 13 and a day.
However, a younger boy, one who is old enough to understand what is
entailed (and there are halachic discussions as to a minimum age) can
make legally binding decisions and actions in certain circumstances.

As far as reading the Torah and an aliya are concerned it is necessary
to review a few points.  The one who makes the Bracha (blessing) is the
one who has the aliya.  He is supposed to read a portion of the Torah on
behalf of the congregation.  In this way, the congregation fulfills its
requirement of reading the Torah.  Since the Oleh represents the members
of the congregation it is necessary that they hear him.  That is why it
is necessary for the congregants to be quiet while the Torah is read.
They need to hear it from their representative.  However, since many
people are not able to read the Torah with the proper pronunciation and
tune, they have their own representative, the one who reads the Torah,
that is the ba'al Koreh. One who is not of legal age (as we say, not yet
Bar-Mitzva'd) cannot be an agent who can represent others (cannot be a
Shli'ach or, put another way, cannot be motzi someone else). This is
what is required for the requisite reading of the Torah each week, which
we call the Parshat haShevuah. The Maftir is the last section of the
Torah which is read after all the required reading for that week has
been completed.  It involves repeating the last few verses of that
week's Torah reading and is done so that even the one who reads the
portion from the Prophets (Haftorah from the Nevi'im) also reads from
the Torah, instituted as a sign of respect for the Torah.  However, that
portion of the Torah (the Maftir) is usually not a required Torah
reading, since it has already been read once.  Thus it is possible for
one to read it even if he cannot represent the congregation.  The
reading of the Navi does not require an official shliach.  Therefore it
is legally permissible for a boy less than 13+ to be called to the
Maftir and Haftorah.

 With this background information (which is more complex than has been
presented here) we can understand the so-called minhagim that have been
presented on Mail Jewish.  If the official Shul ceremony is held before
his 13th birthday (of course we are referring to the birthday based on
the Hebrew, Lunar calendar) then the Bar-Mitzva boy is limited to Maftir
and Haftorah, while if it is held after his 13th birthday he can then
read the entire week's portion (thereby representing each of those who
gets an aliya) or he can get his own aliya (thereby representing the
congregation for that portion of the Torah reading). So these shul
minhagim are based on halacha.

These Halachos apply whether or not it is the official day for
celebrating The Bar Mitzva.  If the Shul is very concerned that the
Torah should be read properly and they have a regular, good Ba'al Koreh,
then they will often have the Bar Mitzva boy get Maftir the week before
he turn 13.  Thus there is no pressure on anyone to consider having the
boy read the entire Parsha.  If the custom is that the boy reads the
parsha, then it must be after he turns 13+day.  If circumstances require
the celebratory Shabbos to be other than the one closest to his
birthday, then he can get an aliya during the week after he turns 13,
e.g., on a Monday or Thursday.  Other variations exist as well, as long
as they follow the halachic requirements.

The party, the kiddush, the meal can be made at any time and have no
halachic parameters, as long as they follow general halachic
requirements for large gatherings.  However, there is another
possibility - that of making a Seudas Mitzva at which the BarMitzva boy
completes learning some significant part of Talmud (siyyum).  The most
detailed discussion of this is found in the Maharal's Yam Shel Shlomo (I
don't have the exact reference since I am not at home now), but the
general laws of a seudas mitzva are found in the Mishne Brura in his
discussion of the Chanuka meals, in the Laws of Chanuka. Learning Torah
in public, during the meal, turns the seuda into a Torah-learning
experience, which is why it is called a Seudas Mitzva.  Whether or not
he is 13+day does not detract from his presentation but could affect his
saying the Kaddish after completed a tractate of Talmud in the presence
of a minyan (quorum of at least 10 male adults with prayers led by one
of them).

Hopefully this long presentation will help in explaining why the
different "minhagim" arose.  Very often one finds that minhagim have a
very significant halachic component as their basis.


From: Yisrael Medad <isrmedia@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 23:39:54 +0200
Subject: Pidyon Shvuyim & Pollard

I have not yet found the wording of the Pidyon Shvuyim pronouncement for
Pollard but in the meantime, the following national, international or
local organizations have called for the commutation of Jonathan
Pollard's sentence to time served:

Agudath Israel of America 
Cantors Assembly 
Coalition for Jewish Concerns - AMCHA 
Emunah Women of America 
Mizrachi of Great Britain 
National Council of Young Israel 
Religious Zionists of America 
American Assoc. of Rabbis 
Atlanta Rabbinical Association 
Bergen Cty. Board of Rabbis 
Beth Din of Grtr. Philadelphia 
Bridgeport Board of Rabbis 
Brooklyn Board of Rabbis 
Buffalo Board of Rabbis 
Calgary Rabbinical Council 
Central Conf. of Amer. Rabbis 
Chicago Board of Rabbis 
Cincinnati Board of Rabbis 
Cleveland Board of Rabbis 
Cncl. of Ref. & Lib. Rabbis (UK) 
Columbus Board of Rabbis 
Dayton Synagogue Forum 
East Bay Council of Rabbis 
Grtr. Orlando Board of Rabbis 
Grtr. Philadelphia Brd. of Rabbis 
Grtr. Phoenix Board of Rabbis 
Houston Rabbinical Assoc. 
Long Island Board of Rabbis 
Massachusetts Board of Rabbis 
Michigan Board of Rabbis 
Minnesota Rabbinical Assoc. 
Morris-Sussex Cty. Brd. of Rabbis 
New Haven Board of Rabbis 
New York Board of Rabbis 
No. Broward Board of Rabbis 
No. California Board of Rabbis 
No. Shore Rabbinical Assoc. 
Onh. Rabbin. Cnd. of So. Florida 
Oregon Board of Rabbis 
Orth. Rabbin. Cncl. of Cleveland 
Orth. Rabbin. Cncl. of San Francisco 
Rabbin. Alliance of America 
Rabbin. Assoc of Grtr. Dallas 
Rabbin. Assoc. of Delaware 
Rabbin. Assoc. of Grtr. Kansas City 
Rabbin. Assoc. of Grtr. Miami 
Rabbin. Assoc. of Ottawa 
Rabbin. Assoc. of Vanc./Victoria 
Rabbin. Board of the Bronx 
Rabbin. Cncl. of Grtr. Manchester (UK) 
Rabbin. Cncl. of Grtr. Wash. D.C. 
Rabbin. Cncl. of Massachusetts 
Rabbin. Coll. of Australia & N.Z. 
Rabbin. Council of America 
Rabbin. Council of California 
Rabbin. Council of Canada-East 
Rabbin. Council of Grtr. Baltimore 
Rabbin. Council of London (UK) 
Rabbin. Council of Ontario 
Rabbin. Fllwshp. of Grtr. Pittsburgh 
Rabbinical Assembly 
Reconstructionist Rabbin. Assoc. 
Rhode Island Board of Rabbis 
Rochester Board of Rabbis 
Rockland Cty. Board of Rabbis 
Rocky Mountain Rabbin. Council 
San Diego Rabbin. Assoc. 
So. California Board of Rabbis 
So. Palm Beadh Board of Rabbis 
St. Louis Rabbin. Assoc. 
Toronto Board of Rabbis 
Union County Board of Rabbis 
Union of Orth. Rabbis - U.S. & Ca 
Vaad Harabonim of Far Rock. & Lawr. 
Vaad Harabonim of Flatbush 
Vaad Harabonim of Queens 
Vaad Harabonim of Toronto 
Vaad Hoeir of St. Louis 
Washington D.C. Board of Rabbis 
Washington State Board of Rabbis 
Winnipeg Council of Rabbis 
Wisconsin Council of Cong. Rabbis 


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 01:24:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: Rabbi Millers Excellent Family Purity Book

Gershon Dubin in mj-v31n46 writes
	I heard an interesting story tonight before Maariv.  It appears
that there was a Rav Miller in America around the turn of the century
who wrote pamphlets advocating certain construction changes which would
have allowed any home bathtub to be a kosher mikva.  His halachic points
were apparently valid, but he was disapproved of by gedolei hador (Rav
Chaim Ozer was mentioned) for practical reasons.

I actually have his book. He advocated building mikvahs on roofs(not in
bathtubs where they are not kosher mikvahs because the water is
drawn). I never heard of anyone disapproving of what he did.

While we are on the subject:

My favorite story from his book is about a California County Law that
required a couple to wait 3 days before receiving their marriage

Upon enactment of this law the marriage rate dropped 50%! (The story was
used to illustrate the virtues of a Family purity law)

Russell Hendel; Phd ASA; Math Towson;
Moderator Rashi Is Simple


From: Carl and Adina Sherer <sherer@...>
Date: Thu, 17 Feb 2000 02:03:37 +0200
Subject: Sitting with Sforim (was: Siddur and Tallis Bag)

Akiva Miller writes:

> Carl Sherer worte in MJ 31:53: <<< The prohibition against sitting on a
> bench with a siddur on it derives from the prohibition against sitting on
> a bench with a Torah scroll on it. The latter prohibition is brought in
> Gemara Menachos somewhere around Daf 25 (sorry, I do not recall the exact
> daf), and the Rishonim there extend the prohibition to sitting on a bench
> or chair that has any kind of sefer on it. >>>

First of all, let me just correct one thing I wrote. (This is what I get
for writing emails from the office without sforim :-) The Daf is in fact
32b in Menachos. There is an argument in the Gemara there as to whether
one may sit on a bed on which a sefer Torah has been placed. We pasken
(see below) that one may not. In fact, many of the poskim are strict and
require that the sefer Torah be ten tfachim (handbreadths) or at least
three tfachim higher than the person who is sitting.

> My question concerns the phrase "any kind of sefer".
> Has anyone ever seen any place where these "seforim" are clearly
> defined?  I have heard people say that this prohibition concerns only
> "seforim" such as scrolls of the various books of Tanach, because only
> when HaShem's Name has been handwritten by a scribe for the sake of the
> holiness of that Name, only then does the book have enough holiness to
> forbid sitting on a bench where the book also sits. According to this
> idea, our printed siddurim and chumashim are not included in this
> *prohibition*, although there is certainly a *minhag* (custom) to avoid
> sitting on a bench where these books are placed.
> Does anyone know of a source which clearly says that this *prohibition*
> includes our printed books?

Well it certainly goes a lot further than sifrei Torah and Neviim. The
Rema in Shulchan Aruch YD 282:7 paskens that one should be strict about
not sitting on a bench with "other sforim" except in the Beis Hamedrash
(study hall) where it is too crowded to sit someplace else. There is
similar language in the Beis Yosef on the Tur YD 282:7, the Shach YD
282:9 and the Drisha 282:4. All of them (particularly the Shach) are
quite insistent that one should avoid sitting on a bench with a sefer on
it, because otherwise one is being mezalzel (trivializing) the sforim.

I am fairly sure that the Shach and the Drisha both lived in a time when
there was a printing press. I'm not sure about the Beis Yosef and the
Rema. But in any event, I think I can prove to you that what was under
discussion was more than neviim (prophets) written on a klaf (parchment)
from a different halacha in Hilchos Sefer Torah.

The Rosh in the Halachos Ktanos at the end of Maseches Menachos brings
that today, we fulfill the mitzva of writing a sefer Torah by buying
sforim for people to study. He argues that the whole point of writing a
sefer Torah was so that one would learn it (as he was writing?), and
given that today Sifrei Torah are typically kept in shuls and used by
the congregation rather than by individuals, the mitzva is fulfilled
today by buying sforim and making them available to others. While this
causes quite an uproar in the Rishonim (early commentaries) because it
sounds like the Rosh has gotten us all out of the mitzva of writing a
sefer Torah, it is brought in halacha, both by the Tur (the Rosh's son)
and the Shulchan Aruch (both at the beginning of YD 270) as an
*additional* way of fulfilling the mitzva of writing a sefer Torah. The
Rishonim continue to hold that those who can afford to should write a
sefer Torah as well.

I would argue that the rationale behind the Rosh's saying that the
mitzva could be fufilled by making sforim available to the public - that
the sefer Torah today is left in shul, and people do not generally use
the physical sefer Torah for their own learning - applies all the more
so to neviim, which are read less often and in many of our communities
are not read out of a klaf at all. Since all of the same poskim discuss
"sforim" (using the same term without any distinction) twelve simanim
later, I would argue that sforim means sforim and not scrolls.

Then you asked, what is a sefer? I heard the answer to this in a
completely different context. At the end of a series of Hilchos Nida
shiurim, I heard a discussion of how to treat sforim in one's bedroom
when one is getting undressed. In that context, the Rav giving the shiur
defined a sefer as any book, newspaper, etc. that had words of Torah in
it. Any dvar Torah sheet, any Rabbinic biography, and of course anything
conventionally thought of as a sefer would be included in that
requirement. Obviously, that is very stringent. CYLOP.

-- Carl M. Sherer

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for our son, Baruch Yosef
ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.  Thank you very much.


End of Volume 31 Issue 68