Volume 32 Number 12
                 Produced: Mon Apr 17 23:05:19 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Actual Middle Word of the Torah
         [Elie Rosenfeld]
The Choicest Aliya
         [Gershon Dubin]
Conversion questions
         [Janet Rosenbaum]
For which commandments are Blessings said
         [Russell Hendel]
"Kosher" Prenup
         [Michael Feldstein]
         [Efraim Davidson]
Shoah Commemoration
         [Bernard Horowitz]
Violating Shabbat (2)
         [Frank Silbermann, Chaim Mateh]
Who wants to marry a multimillionaire
         [Janice Gelb]
Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire
         [Carl M. Sherer]
Yeihareig v"'al ya`avor (YVY)
         [Art Roth]


From: Elie Rosenfeld <erosenfe@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 10:30:10 -0400
Subject: Actual Middle Word of the Torah

Ben Rosenbaum <brosenba@...> writes:

> In answer to Elie Rosenfeld's query, one modern solution can be found at
> http://www.biu.ac.il/JH/Parasha/shmini/pmer.pdf.  Essentially, darosh
> darash are not the middle words in the Torah, but rather the middle
> doublet in the Torah.

As previously indicated, that answer was first published about a century ago
(notwithstanding several people who have recently implied that it was original)
and has of course been "done to death" in this list.  I was looking for the
location of the actual middle word to test a different theory.

I received three or four responses (thank you one and all!) which place
the actual middle word(s) somewhere in Lev. 8:15, specifically the words
"el yesod" according to one reliable source.  That means that the actual
middle words of the Torah are some 930-odd words earlier than

If anyone is interested, my theory was based on assuming that it was
only off by a handful of words, and had to do with the verses "Vayehi
Binsoa" and "U'venucha Yomar" (Num. 10:35-36), the ones that are marked
off by the famous "upside down Nuns".  Some meforshim state that they
are marked off because they appear "out of place" and really "belong"
somewhere in the book of Shemos.  I was hoping that if you counted those
two verses in the first half of the Torah rather than the second, then
Darosh-Darash would end up being the middle.  But clearly the
discrepancy is much larger.

I do still wonder if the broader principal of "ain mukdam u'meuchar
baTorah" [the Torah is not necessary in chronological order] can be used
to resolve this.  I.e., that if all the passages that are known to
appear out of chronological order would be read in order, then
Darosh-Darash would turn out to be the middle words.  Of course, it is
just as implausible that the Gemara meant that when it referred to
Darosh-Darash as "the middle of the Torah in words", as it is that it
meant the middle of the doubled words.

Oh well, back to the drawing board!



From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000 14:38:16 -0400
Subject: The Choicest Aliya

>From: William J Scherman <zscherman@...>
<<The gabbai arranged to call the Roshei Yeshiva for the fourth and fifth
aliyas instead.  From then on it was no longer deemed "offensive" to call
someone else up for the 'other' aliyos>>

	Similarly, when Rav Asher Zimmerman z"l noticed people avoiding
gelila (tying up the Torah after the reading), he personally took it for
every Torah reading for a few weeks.  This got the point across that it
is the honor of the Torah and not your own personal honor which should



From: Janet Rosenbaum <jerosenb@...>
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 13:01:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Conversion questions

Anthony S Fiorino <fiorino_anthony@...> writes:
> > 2.  In Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai's argument about whether it was
> > better for humanity to have been created, Beit Hillel concluded that it
> > was better if humanity had never been created since humanity will never
> > completely succeed in fulfilling the mitzvot, which is why we say "shelo
> > asani nochri/nochria shifcha/eved isha"
> I thought we say those brachot because we are thankful that we have a
> higher level of obligation and more mitzvot to fulfill.

That's the purpose of the brachot, but we phrase in the negative ("for
not making me a gentile/slave/woman") rather than the positive ("for
making me a jew/free/man") because the latter would imply that we could
ever fulfill all the requirements of being a jew/free/man, and we can't.

> performance of mitzvot is by and large regarded positively in
> halacha - one can turn your question around and ask why can women assume
> additional commandments beyond what they are obligated?

Women can't assume additional commandments beyond what they are
obligated; they can generally do beyond what they are obligated in, but
it never becomes mandatory.  Also, like anyone else, women shouldn't
make vows lest they break them.

> Philosophically, it is hard to argue that one who seeks shelter under
> the wings of the shechina ought to be turned away on the basis of their
> potential future errors.  

Philosophilcally, we already have the view from Beit Hillel that it
would have been better for humanity to have never been created.  I'm
just not sure how we can reconcile conversion with this view.

My question has no practical implications: clearly, there are cases of
conversion in Torah, so it must be allowed.  I just don't understand how
it makes sense given the above.



From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 23:30:51 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: For which commandments are Blessings said

Eliezer Finkleman states in v31n92
> You can find an intersting reference to this in the Srideai Eish (Rabbi
> Yehiel Yaacov Weinberg) on why we say no blessing on Mishloah Manot,
> Sridei Eish 2:46.

Actually the reason we don't say blessings on Mishloach Manot has nothing
to do with whether we should or should not want to eat them. While there
is considerable discussion among authorities on this subject an excellent
explanation was given by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.

Quite simply the performance of a symbolic commandment whose purpose is
to remind me of something else (like Tzitzith reminding me of the
mitzvoth (cf 4-15-37:41) or Tefillin reminding me of the Torah 2-13-9)
then we say a blessing (in order to encourage the awareness that
SOMETHING else besides the raw performance is involved).

By contrast the performance of a non-symbolic commandment whose purpose
is soley that performance (like charity whose goal is to give, or
honoring ones parents whose goal is to give honor) requires no blessing
since the performance of the commandment is its own end. (There is one
possible exception to this theory (MAAKEH); however Rabbi Shalom
Kaminetsky once gave a shiur showing certain symbolic performances to

It immediately follows that the sending of gifts which is its own end
does not need a blessing

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; <RHendel@...>
Moderator Rashi is Simple


From: Michael Feldstein <MIKE38CT@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2000 09:10:50 EDT
Subject: "Kosher" Prenup

<< Whether it will achieve its goal remains to be seen. The concept is
 still new. I spoke with Honey Rackman about it a couple of years ago
 when I was writing an article on agunot, and she did not feel that it
 would make much of an impact on the agunah situation. Basically she said
 that an honorable man who would abide by the pre-nup would give his wife
 the get anyway, and an intractable spouse would just ignore the pre-nup,
 forcing the wife to procede through the court system to enforce it.

I'd be curious if anyone has any statistics about whether Honey
Rackman's theory is true.  Does anyone know whether any current agunot
have signed a pre-nup, and whether the pre-nup has been tested in the
courts?  I guess one could say that if there are no agunot who signed
pre-nups, that the concept is working--although the universe size of
those who signed pre-nups is still very, very small.  The problem is
getting all Orthodox rabbis to refuse to perform weddings unless the
bride and groom sign a pre-nup, which will be difficult, if not
impossible.  Until that happens, I'm not sure we'll really be able to
measure its effectiveness.  But I think we should all support it--this
is clearly a step in the right direction, which will at least raise
consciousness about the agunah problem, if not help to solve it

Michael Feldstein
Stamford, CT


From: Efraim Davidson <efraimd@...>
Date: Sat, 15 Apr 2000 19:26:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Prenup

When I served as m'sader keddushin at a wedding a few years back, as
part of my preparations for the chuppah I looked into the matter of a
prenuptual agreement.  I consulted with one of North America's
pre-eminant halachic authorities and was told that under no
circumstances should I arrange such an agreement or agree to it's
inclusion at the wedding.  If the couple wanted one (they did), they
could arrange it with another Rav, as long as it was not done at the
scene of the wedding.  The posek made clear that it was a suspect
procedure, and while it would not prevent a Rav from serving as m'sader
keddushin, it was not preferable.

Efraim Davidson


From: Bernard Horowitz <horowitz@...>
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2000 11:40:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Shoah Commemoration

Reuven Werber asks about formal commemorations of Yom Hashoah Vehagevurah.
Here at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale in the Bronx, Rabbi Avi Weiss
has run very moving programs, which I have attended, for several years.
His point is that if we fail to 'ritualize' Yom Hashoah it will be
forgotten and relegated to a footnote in Jewish history (as is true with
other tragic events in our history).  Yesterday in shul he had copies of
his just-published booklet called 'Yom Hashoah Seder' ( or something very
similar).  I don't know who is distributing it but I could find out if
anyone is interested.

Bernard Horowitz


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Sun, 9 Apr 2000 10:47:53 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Violating Shabbat

> From: Janet Rosenbaum <jerosenb@...>
> Why is violating shabbat not yehareg v'al yaavor [something one ought to
> die rather than do, which is not to imply suicide, just the proverbial
> villian with a gun to one's head]?  Janet

Why is _any_ violation not yehareg v'al yaavor?
Why do we have the concept of Pikuach Nefesh in the first place?

Frank Silbermann <fs@...>

From: Chaim Mateh <chaimm@...>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 08:17:52 +0300
Subject: Violating Shabbat

In vol 32 #05,  Janet Rosenbaum <jerosenb@...> asked:

<<Why is violating shabbat not yehareg v'al yaavor [something one ought to
die rather than do, which is not to imply suicide, just the proverbial
villian with a gun to one's head]?>>

The Talmud Sanhedrin 74b tells us that we are not to give up our lives
if forced to transgress any of the Mitzvos of the Torah.  IOW, yaavor
ve'al yehoreg.  This is learned out from Vayikra 18:5 ("and you should
live by them [the chukim and mishpotim]", and not die because of them).
Included in this is Shabbos violations for which we are not to sacrifice
our lives if forced to transgress.

The Talmud Sanhedrin 74b lists 3 exceptions to the above yaavor ve'al
tehoreg.  IOW, for the following 3, we are to sacrifice our lives rather
than transgress them (yehoreg ve'al yaavor):

(1) Idol worship -- learned out from Dvorim 6:5
(2) Murder -- from svoro (logic)
(3) Illicit sexual relations -- learned out naaro meuroso (engaged woman),
Dvorim 22:26, as a hekesh (comparison) between naaro meuroso and murderer.

OTOH, sins that a Jew is forced to transgress in public for the purpose of
showing him to be going against his religion, is a chilul Hashem to which
yehareg veal yaavor applies. See Sanhedrin 74b where this is learned out
from Vayikro 22:32.

Kol Tuv,


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 2000 10:12:08 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: RE: Who wants to marry a multimillionaire

Esther Zar <ESTABESTAH@...> writes in vol 31, no 98:
> I would then question you as to whether our effort lies 
> in other areas rather than frequency of dating, etc. I 
> only have to look back as far as my grandparents for just 
> one example, who have one of the best marriages I have ever 
> seen.  They viewed each other from a distance, did some 
> checking out, and got engaged the next day.  Although
> this is not what is normally done today I would say this 
> can lead us to at least partially conclude that divorces, 
> "bad dates", and the like are symptomatic of this generation's 
> "very original" attitude. 

I don't disagree that this generation has a different attitude than our
grandparent's time. Then, most frum people went into a marriage with the
hopes that they would be able to get along with their spouse and build a
Jewish home. These baseline expectations would more easily be met by a
wider variety of people, so I think there didn't need to be quite as
deep a search process for these expectations to be met.

This generation hopes, I think, for more from a spouse: compatability of
interests and personality, some degree of physical attraction (and, dare
I say it, in some cases even love), at the beginning when they are
choosing their spouse. This means that (a) they are more choosy from the
start, and (b) they are more likely to be disappointed if they do not
get to know their potential spouse better before the wedding because of
what they expect from marriage.

I think expectations have likely changed the most among frum women: in
the days before women had more serious educations and careers, their
sole goal was to find someone with whom to build a Jewish home. Please
do not misunderstand me: I still think this is a primary and important
goal, and may still be the sole goal of many frum women. But I think the
addition of possible fulfillment in other areas such as career and
personal growth mean that many women are looking for a bit more specific
compatability with a spouse than just someone with whom they get along
and can build a Jewish home.

-- Janice

From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Apr 2000 15:15:26 +0200
Subject: Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire

On 4 Apr 00, at 15:43, I wrote:

> Keep in mind that dating and even the wedding itself are only 
> machshirei mitzva (preparations for doing the real mitzva), which is 
> why the bracha (blessing) made under the chupa (wedding canopy) 
> is not a birchas ha'mitzva (blessing on a mitzva) but a birchas 
> ha'shvach (a blessing of praise). 

This is misleading (although I don't think it changes the conclusion of
the rest of the post). While the Rosh (Ksuvos 1:12) does in fact say
that the bracha is a birchas ha'shvach, implying that there is no
separate mitzva of kiddushin itself, the Rambam (Aseh 213) and the
Chinuch (552) both hold that kiddushin is a mitzva in and of itself and
not just a machshir mitzva. For further sources, see also the Ran there
(2a in the Rif s"v v'hitir) and the Rambam and Ra'avad in Hilchos Ishus

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: Art Roth <AJROTH@...>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 17:37:10 -0500
Subject: Yeihareig v"'al ya`avor (YVY)

From: Janet Rosenbaum <jerosenb@...>
> Why is violating shabbat not yehareg v'al yaavor [something one ought to
> die rather than do, which is not to imply suicide, just the proverbial
> villian with a gun to one's head]?

YVY covers much more than the situation of the proverbial gun to one's
head.  If YVY applies, you are not permitted to commit this violation to
save ANY life, your own or someone else's.  So if violating Shabbat were
YVY, we would not be able to bring a seriously ill person (or, for
example, a woman in labor) to the hospital on Shabbat for medical
assistance, and we all know that halakha in fact REQUIRES seeking
medical treatment in such situations.

Art Roth


End of Volume 32 Issue 12