Volume 31 Number 89
                 Produced: Thu Mar 30  5:41:14 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cherem d'Rabbeinu Gershom (3)
         [Zev Sero, Carl M. Sherer, Esther &Sholom Parnes]
Corporal Punishment (5)
         [Meir Shinnar, Rena Freedenberg, Russell Hendel, Frank
Silbermann, Daniel Katsman]
Reading Someone Else's Email Messages
         [Carl M. Sherer]


From: Zev Sero <Zev@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2000 16:13:20 -0500
Subject: Cherem d'Rabbeinu Gershom

Carl Sherer <sherer@...> wrote:

>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

I have also heard stories about the cherem on taking more than one wife
being due to expire around now, or having expired in the recent past,
and I have also heard stories suggesting that the Israeli Chief
Rabbinate renewed it (under what authority, and how many frum people pay
any attention to its pronouncements?).  But stories aside, there is
indeed a very strong source for an expiry date on this cherem, and I'm
surprised that Carl didn't find it.

The Shulchan Aruch (EH 1) says that the cherem was to have effect `ad
sof ha'elef', and some people have evidently taken that to mean `until
the end of a millennium', i.e. 1000 years after it was enacted, but the
correct translation is `until the end of *the* millennium', i.e. the
cherem expired at the end of the year 5000, or about 300 years before
the Mechaber's own time.  The Mechaber says, however, that those
communities who accepted the cherem in the first place have continued to
obey it even after the expiry date, so the issue is moot.  The `cherem'
now has the force of minhag, a minhag which has now lasted longer than
the original cherem did.

Zev Sero                              Harmless Historical Nut

From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 12:20:25 +0200
Subject: Cherem d'Rabbeinu Gershom

Some time ago, in my other incarnation, I wrote:
> 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). 

I have since become a little wiser :-) 

The Noda b'Yehuda in Mahadura Kama EH 1:84 brings a Rama from Shulchan
Aruch EH 1, that says that the cherem (ban) on taking two wives was
originally to expire at the end of the fifth millenium (i.e. 760 years
ago). He says, however, that the cherem against divorcing a woman
against her will (which is the subject of that particular tshuva -
responsa) was intended to remain in effect permanently. He brings
similar language in Mahadura Kama EH 1:1, Mahadura Tinyana EH 2:102 and
Mahadura Tinyana EH 2:103.

I did not find anything explicit in those tshuvos with respect to other
charamim of Rabbeinu Gershom. But the implication of the Noda b'Yehuda
(IMHO anyway) is that if Rabbeinu Gershom did not limit the cherem as to
time, it remains in effect permanently.

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: Esther &Sholom Parnes <merbe@...>
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2000 23:00:22 +0900
Subject: Cherem d'Rabbeinu Gershom

In pre World War Europe it was not uncommon for married kollel students
to study at Yeshivas not in their hometowns where their wives and
children lived.The kollelnik would return home for Yom Tov and
periodically at other times during the year. When a kollel wife had a
baby a telegram was sent to the Yeshiva to notify the father.

There is a story of one Yeshiva where the Rosh Yeshiva would open the
telegrams and read them before apprising the father of the new baby. If
the baby was a boy, the Rosh Yeshiva wait a week before telling the
father. This to eliminate the father's desire to return home for the
Bris thereby causing himself Bitul Torah. If the baby was a girl he told
the father right away.

Needless to say the fathers were not overjoyed with this system.

Once, the rosh yeshiva called a student into his office and told him
that his wife had given birth to a boy eight days ago. The father
replied , "Thank you for the news, but which one of my wives is it ? You
know I am married to two different women." The Rosh Yeshiva was taken
aback and asked if the father had never heard of the herem de Rabeinu
Gershom ? To which the father replied, "and has the Rosh Yeshiva never
heard of the herem de Rabeinu Gershom ? "

Sholom & Esther Parnes
Hamelech David Street 65/3
Efrat 90435 ISRAEL
tel. 972-2-993-2227 ; fax. 972-2-655-5312 (attention : Sholom Parnes)


From: Meir Shinnar <Chidekel@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 09:59:17 EST
Subject: Corporal Punishment

With regard to the thread of corporal punishment, I am glad to see
several posters bring current haredi writers in opposition.  However,
while inflicting serious physical harm was always frowned upon
halachically, it is major revisionism to suggest that traditionally,
corporal punishment was not viewed as a major part of the educational
process.  It is encouraging that modern ideas have penetrated enough
that most posters no longer accept that.

 I would point to a letter in Michtav Me Eliyahu (R E Dessler), towards
the end of the third volume, where he deals with corporal punishment.
His questioner asked about it, and R Dessler says that the opposition to
corporal punishment is based on infiltration of modern ideas, and that
the true haredi approach mandates corporal punishment.  He even goes so
far as to say that if a student is well behaved, teachers should make up
excuses so they will have a reason ito hit the student, as it provides
training in hachna'a (submission), a major role of education.

It seems that few posters (or even haredi writers) would today publicly
subscribe to this view, something we should be glad about.

Meir Shinnar

From: Rena Freedenberg <free@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 17:32:17 +0200
Subject: RE: Corporal Punishment

I hate to say this, but Rav Volbe's book is very new. It is only in the
very recent several months that the Rebbeim have even thought to examine
the issue. For many years now, Rebbes have been hitting with not only
the reshus, but the outright instruction of the hanhalah of the

I am personally familiar with a certain story: Once, several years ago
in a particular town, a new cheder was started. The [Anglo] parents who
started it wanted a cheder without corporal punishment. They saw to it
[through parent's committees] that only the best teachers were hired,
teachers with much experience that would ostensibly not need to
hit. Well, by Pesach time, when there was much hitting of boys in a
certain problematic class there was a meeting between the principal and
all but one parent of said class. The principal basically said loud and

In this same school, there was a boy who was kept under a desk like an
animal by a substitute teacher and told not-so-nice things and in the
same town a boy was beaten so badly by a rebbe that he had to be helped
home.  Another boy was almost drowned by classmates unsupervised during
break time and the rebbe did nothing to the offenders and just told the
victim to "stand outside in the sun to dry off".

I am sorry to say this but either the Rebbonim in general [not
principals, regular community Rabbonim] have been very out of touch for
a very long time or they are just now realizing how destructive the
system has been to thousands of boys who are now far, far off the

By the way, on the topic of R. Neriah Guttel's comments, does he have
any sons at all? Where has he sent them to school up until now? Does he
realize that his statements are in direct opposite contrast to the
situation in every cheder? Are you trying to say that no principal of a
school ever consults da'at Torah or does what Torah mandates? Since I
doubt that this is the case, it is obvious that the principals indeed
have had the blessing of the Rabbonim in beating children. This is a
situation where the Rabbonim have made a 180-degree turnabout and should
admit that they made a mistake in not acting many years ago if the
Rebbeim of recent generations were not able to handle administering
corporal punishment with love and concern for the child.


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2000 23:21:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Corporal Punishment

Zev Spero in v31n75 states
Even if a student *dies* from corporal punishment by a teacher (even a
secular teacher), the teacher has no culpability at all, and does not
even have to go into exile, because he did absolutely nothing wrong.

True he doesn't go into exile but I would hardly say he did nothing
wrong. In fact the teacher accidentally killed somebody. All Jewish law
is saying is that since it is permissable to hit a student therefore we
will not find him NEGLIGENT (SHOGAYG)--this does not mean that nothing
'wrong' was done. The person did do an accidental sin and eg requires
doing teshuva on Yom Kippur..however the persons 'accidentness' is not
enough to make him go into exile.

Zev also says that
24 hours each.  *Torah* believes in corporal punishment (`he who spares
his stick, hates his son'), and authorises teachers to implement it.
Again--The Torah does not PROHIBIT it---but I do not know that it
encourages it.

Zev brings the above verse from Proverbs to show that the Torah DOES
encourage it.  However I would argue that the reasons that eg America
stopped corporal punishment in the classroom---they stopped it because
teachers used corporal punishment out of hatred and not out of
love---would apply to Jews also. Hence, especially since the 'laws of
the land are the laws of the land' it follows that we should abstain
from corporal punishment

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA
Moderator Rashi is Simple;

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 10:21:43 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Corporal Punishment

Leah S. Gordon <lsgordon@...> writes (vol. 31 #84):
> ... no teacher should need physical force as an educational method.
> There is something seriously wrong with the teacher, students,
> educational environment or all of the above if s/he did feel such a need.
> ... child-development research has shown conclusively that children
> raised with violence are far more likely to become violent
> themselves, and have all kinds of emotional problems.

Research on the effects of child abuse and cruelty implies nothing about
the use of ordinary, old-fashioned spanking.

Learn from the goyim: Compare the unprecedented violence among this
generation of schoolchildren with earlier generations whose parents did
not hesitate to spank.  In the public schools, the total rejection of
corporal punishment has been an educational disaster.  With no recourse
for students who are openly rebellious and contemptuous of authority,
the learning environment can be completely destroyed by troublemakers.
The result here in New Orleans is a 50% rate of functional illiteracy.

Private schools do significantly better (even with poorer funding)
because they can expel troublemakers.  But which is crueler to a Jewish
child -- to expel him and deny him his heritage, or to spank him when
necessary to make him behave?

Social scientists who claim that corporal punishment should never be
needed are politically motivated; they base their belief not on
empiracal research, but on an inconsistently-applied Ghandian philosophy
of nonviolence.  (A philosophy which, I might add, almost destroyed New
York City's livability.)

I believe that a teacher who feels the need to use corporal punishment
_routinely_ is incompetent, if not brutal.  But to deny that tool
completely is also educational malpractice.

Frank Silbermann
New Orleans, Louisiana

From: Daniel Katsman <hannah@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2000 00:36:31 +0200
Subject: Corporal Punishment

Although it's true that Halakha sanctions corporal punishment by
teachers, I suspect that very few parents, even if they spank their
children themselves, would be comfortable giving this right to anyone
else, teacher or otherwise.  My father told me that when my grandfather
went to cheder in Russia/Belarus a hundred years ago, his father (my
great-grandfather) used to pay the melamed (teacher) a little extra with
the instruction that if there was any discipline problem, the teacher
was not to hit my grandfather but rather tell his father and let him
take care of it.  Another great-grandfather from the same region wrote
an autobiography in which he tells how the low-paid cheder teachers used
to hit students whose parents were too poor to give the teachers a Rosh
Hodesh present!

Regarding the pasuk "Hosekh shivto sonei beno," I think that the correct
translation is obtained by reversing the order of the clauses: "He who
hates his son spares his rod," instead of "He who spares his rod hates
his son." (The Hebrew is indeterminate.)  Such a translation is more
consistent with the verse's continuation, "But he who loves him [which
in the Hebrew is unquestionably the subject] chastises him early." This
may be quibbling, but it does yield the result that sparing the rod does
not ipso facto mean that one hates his son.

Daniel Katsman
Petah Tikva


From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 15:05:52 +0200
Subject: Reading Someone Else's Email Messages

Immanuel Burton writes:

> The prohibition against reading someone else's letters applies only to
> sealed mail.  Thus, it would be permitted to read a postcard.  

I don't think this is correct. The language in the Beer haGola and 
the Leket HaKemach (YD 334 - it's in the standard version 
Shulchan Aruch) refers to being allowed to read a letter that was 
thrown into the garbage (i.e. discarded). Whether or not the letter 
was sealed is irrelevant. There are poskim who hold that a letter is 
not protected by the Cherem unless you write on it specifically that 
it is, but even for that purpose, the fact that a letter is sealed or a 
postcard should not make a difference.

> Incidentally, I have tried to find a written source for Rabbenu
> Gershom's prohibition against reading someone else's letters, but have
> not been able to find one.  Can anyone point me in the right
> direction?

See the Beer HaGola and the Leket HaKemach at the end of YD 

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.


End of Volume 31 Issue 89