Volume 31 Number 79
                 Produced: Mon Mar 27  6:00:53 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bar mitzvah before becoming bar-mitzvah
         [Daniel Israel]
         [Eli Turkel]
Learning Schedule
         [Gershon Dubin]
Masada and Suicide
         [David Charlap]
Rav Hirsch's Neo-Orthodoxy (2)
         [David Zilberberg, Steve Bailey]
Reading Someone Else's Email Messages (2)
         [David Charlap, Carl and Adina Sherer]
Surgery for weight loss (was:  Cosmetic Surgery)
         [Rise Goldstein]


From: Daniel Israel <daniel@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 12:35:47 -0700 (MST)
Subject: Re: Bar mitzvah before becoming bar-mitzvah

Just one very minor nitpick.  Reuben Rudman wrote:
> However, there is another possibility - that of making a Seudas Mitzva
> at which the BarMitzva boy completes learning some significant part of
> Talmud (siyyum).

"Age 10 for Mishna, age 13 for mitzvos, age 15 for Talmud..." (Avos 5:21).
It is common today to start on Talmud at a younger age, but one could
make the arguement for having a Bar Mitzvah make a siyyum on a section
(usually a Seder [Order]) of Mishna instead of on a section of Talmud.

Daniel M. Israel
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000 13:08:21 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Charity

> 	Now -- to put it bluntly -- I am not sure that all prize winners
> report their wins to the IRS (the U.S. tax agency).  This is improper,
> of course, but I suspect that it does occur.
> 	Here is the question: by putting a such a large prize before the
> public, and such a large temptation to cheat on one's taxes, is the
> tzedakah over (transgressing) on "lo titain michshol" (do not put a
> stumbling block before the blind, i.e. do not tempt a person to do
> wrong)?  If so, how can tzedakah's justify this common practice?

On what grounds do you (or rather the charity) have to suspect the
winner of cheating? Every person has an assumption that he is honest.  I
would suggest that the charity post a notice (on consulation with a tax
lawyer) that taxes are due.

Eli Turkel


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 21:52:52 -0500
Subject: Learning Schedule

	My son would like to learn as much Mishnayos as possible for his
Bar Mitzvah in August 2001.  Does anyone have a formal schedule based on
X mishnayos per day leading to finishing Y sdorim in Z time?

	The OU Luach Limud is very good, but a mishna a day. Does anyone
know the length of their cycle?

Gershon Dubin


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 11:07:55 -0500
Subject: Re: Masada and Suicide

Bernard Jacobs wrote:
>  The Jews in Europe during the last war probably deep down hoped that
> they would not be killed or were unaware of what was going to happen
> to them.  IMHO that is why they got on the trains and entered the
> "showers".  The Zealots were under no such illusion they KNEW what
> would happen to them which is why it makes sense to kill them selves
> painlessly and quickly. I don't think they were good Jews their
> actions to other Jews show that. They also believed that their defeat
> was punishment for preying on other Jews.

This is one possible explanation.  I've learned another:

At Massada, the Romans were a conquering army.  They were not interested
in destroying the population, but in subjugating it.  Part of this
subjugation involved banning Torah study and foring the population to
engage in Roman activities.

Death might be a preferable choice to this.  Today, we are taught that
death is preferable to idolatry, illegal sexual activity, and murder.
It is not too hard to conceive of how a group of zealots might consider
capture by Rome (along with the subsequent torture and execution) to be
another situation where death is preferable.

In the Holocaust, on the other hand, the Nazis were not interested in
subjugating the Jewish population.  Their ultimate goal was complete and
utter destruction.  Against such an army, the ultimate act of rebelion
(and the only one available to most of the Jews) is to go on living.

In other words, when the Jews of Massada committed suicide, they took
Rome's victory away from them - they turned Rome's 2 year siege into a
complete waste of time.  But if the Jews of Nazi Germany had committed
suicide, it would have given the Nazis a victory on a silver platter.

-- David


From: David Zilberberg <ZilbeDa@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000 10:09:57 -0500
Subject: RE: Rav Hirsch's Neo-Orthodoxy

Chaim Mateh <chaimm@...> wrote:
> Please pardon my ignorance, but did Rav Hirsch really teach that we should
> lechatchila study gentile music, art, poetry, and philosophy, in order to
> gain an opportunity to learn about G-d's world through these?  I was always
> under the impression that his philosphy of secular studies, etc, was a
> defacto (bidi'eved) situational advice.

> Did Rav Hirsch indeed see secular studies as a lechatchila way of serving
> G-d and of safeguarding the future of Judaism?

Without a doubt, yes.  If R. Hirsch's own writings don't convince you,
then please see R. J.J. Schachter's recent artcile on historical
revisionism in the Torah U'Madah Journal which quotes the testimony of
R. Hisrch's decedent's confirming that R. Hirchs's attitiude toward the
secualr was l'chatchila.

From: Steve Bailey <stevehome@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000 23:53:30 +1100
Subject: Rav Hirsch's Neo-Orthodoxy

In v.31 #74 Chaim Mateh asks the following question in response to my
posting in v. 31 #66:

> Please pardon my ignorance, but did Rav Hirsch really teach that we
> should lechatchila study gentile music, art, poetry, and philosophy, in
> order to gain an opportunity to learn about G-d's world through these?
> I was always under the impression that his philosophy of secular
> studies, etc, was a defacto (bidi'eved) situational advice. Did Rav
> Hirsch indeed see secular studies as a lechatchila way of serving G-d
> and of safeguarding the future of Judaism?

Chaim's question is asked frequently. The answer is quite important for
contemporary Modern Orthodox Jews. My response is most succinctly
expressed by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in an 1989 article. I quote:

Exponents of Hirsch, among them Joseph, Isaac and Mordechai Breuer, R.
Yechiel Weinberg (S'reidei Aish), Dayan Grunfeld and Lord Jakobavits,
have pointed out that Hirsch unquestionably believed [that Torah im
derech Eretz was not a temporary concession]. As Hirsch himself wrote
(quote): We maintain that familiarity with all those elements which lie
at the root of present day civilization, AND A STUDY OF ALL SUBJECTS
REQUIRED FOR SUCH AN ACQUAINTANCE (emphasis mine), is of the highest
necessity for the youth of our day AS IT WAS IN FACT AT ALL TIMES
(emphasis mine), and should be looked upon AS A RELIGIOUS DUTY (emphasis
mine; end quote).

Rabbi Sacks goes on to say that today it is as applicable to the
overwhelming majority of Jews (ninety percent of American Jews attend
college), whose exposure to secular culture is a daily phenomenon,
through the media, literature and arts....

Beyond this, Hirsch notes in his Nineteen Letters that the same God who
created the universe also created the Torah. He is equally the Creator
of both the material universe and the ethical universe. So that the
study of science, music, art and literature -- reflecting human
knowledge of the world -- is studying that which is no less part of
God's creation as the Torah. Nonetheless, he was explicit that we must
use the Torah as the standard by which to filter this knowledge in terms
of that which is compatible with Torah and that which is not.

Steve Bailey
(A Jerusalemite, temporarily in Sydney, Australia)


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Feb 2000 09:23:46 +0000
Subject: Re: Reading Someone Else's Email Messages

Eric Jaron Stieglitz wrote:
>   Interesting question, and I'd like to add the following to it:
> I'm a systems administrator by profession. This means that part of my
> job involves maintenance of the e-mail system, and that on occasion, I
> need to examine other people's mail (and other files) in order to
> determine whether or not the system is working properly. In just about
> all cases I've seen, administrators usually make quite clear to users
> that they must examine private files in the course of their work, but
> I'm curious what halakha might apply to somebody with this position.

It would appear to me (from my non-rabbinic and possibly wrong
perspective) that much of this depends on the perceived level of

When you send a letter through the post office, both the sender and
recipient presume that the letter will not be read by any third parties.
Everybody assumes that it is private.  Halacha does not allow you to
violate this implicit trust in the system.

For e-mail, I think the question is whether people are assuming any
level of privacy.  As a person involved in technology, I don't believe
there exists any privacy on a network - security is simply impossible.
(Barring my explicit use of encryption, of course.)  But I don't know
what the typical user presumes.

If it is your job as a system administrator to occasionally read through
people's mailboxes, I think it would be within your right to do so, but
only if your users are made aware in advance that they can not presume
their mail to be private.  If they understand that the mail system can
and will be monitored by third parties, then they won't have any
implicit assumption of privacy, and you will not be violating any trust
when you go about your job.

If, on the other hand, you do not make your users aware of this, then
you might be violating halacha.  I think it is a fair assumption that
some users do assume some level of privacy in e-mail.  To violate that
assumption is, I think, what the halacha here objects to.

-- David

From: Carl and Adina Sherer <sherer@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000 02:40:13 +0200
Subject: Reading Someone Else's Email Messages

Gilad J. Gevaryahu writes:

> Immanuel M. Burton  (v31n64) says:
> <<Does reading someone else's email messages without their consent
> fall under the same category as reading normal mail about which
> Rabbeinu Gershon (I believe) applied a Cherem?>>
> I agree that reading someone's else email is a prohibited act. It has
> the aroma of a "peeping Tom." However, I read years ago that a
> "herem," the type of which was imposed by Rabbeinu Gershom Meor HaGola
> (c.960-1028) is valid only for 500 years, and we have past the half a
> millennium mark, in fact we are closing on 1000 years. I do not know
> what is the source for the 500 years limit. So the source for the
> prohibition at this point might be "minhag Israel din hu." 

I remember hearing when I was growing up that the cherem on taking more
than one wife would expire 1000 years after it was made, and that would
happen in 1984. I have found no such mekoros (sources). The charamim of
Rabbeinu Gershom are brought in the Beer HaGola at the end of YD
334. The Cherem against reading other people's mail is also discussed in
the Leket HaKemach at the end of YD 334. (Both of these are in the
standard editions of the Shulchan Aruch). I see nothing in either of
them that gives an "expiration date" for any of Rabbeinu Gershom's

> BTW, it is not clear at all if he was the one who enacted the famous
> haramim of a. bigamy, b.  unauthorized reading of private letters.

Why do you say that? Both of the acharonim I cited above bring 
the charamim in his name!

-- 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.


From: Rise Goldstein <Rbg29861@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 05:33:00 EST
Subject: Surgery for weight loss (was:  Cosmetic Surgery)

Moishe Friederwitzer wrote:
>  What are the Halachik ramifications of those that are having the
>  operation to lose weight. I can understand if it is for Pikuach Nefesh,
>  but what about for cosmetic reasons?

As an epidemiologist and health services researcher who has done work in
the area of bariatric (weight loss) surgery, I can tell you that, AFAIK,
NO reputable surgeon will perform the surgery for purely cosmetic
reasons.  In bygone days, the "preferred" bariatric surgery procedure
was one that rendered the digestive tract unable to absorb nutrients
fully.  Apart from the obvious medical risks, let's suffice it to say
that it frequently left patients unable for long periods of time, if not
permanently, to control their digestive functions reliably.

More recently, procedures with fewer long-term medical risks regarding
nutritional status have become accepted.  However, these aren't without
their problems, either.  Moreover, at least in the U.S., third-party
payers, especially under managed care, take a dim view of such
surgeries, sometimes EVEN WHEN a patient is severely, chronically obese
AND has major health problems attributable to the excess weight.  They
seem to concur with much popular (and unscientific) opinion that
attributes such severe obesity to lack of willpower and defective
character.  However, I would point out (citations to scientific
literature available upon request by private e-mail) that even in mild
to moderate overweight, attempts to lose weight by dieting and
exercising yield very limited weight loss and it usually is not
maintained longer than a year, if that long.  In the case of weight that
exceeds 100% (or is more than 100 lbs./45 kg. over) "ideal body weight,"
diet and exercise are basically useless.

In other words, unless you happen upon surgeons practicing under a very
different set of ethical principles from those who produce most of the
scientific research in this area (and perhaps even then), you're highly
unlikely to encounter anybody who will perform bariatric surgery for
"purely cosmetic reasons."

Rise Goldstein (<Rbg29861@...>)
Silver Spring, MD


End of Volume 31 Issue 79