Volume 32 Number 40
                 Produced: Fri Jun  2  6:14:25 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Dagesh in Aleph (2)
         [Perets Mett, Alan Cooper]
Heter Mechirah
         [Joseph Tabory]
How we treat REASONS for Minhagim-relationship to practice
         [Alexander Heppenheimer]
Not eating Nuts on Yomim Noraim
         [Alexander Heppenheimer]
Nuts on Yom Tov
         [Carl Singer]
Tiqqun Soferim
         [Moshe J. Bernstein]


From: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 14:19:13 +0100
Subject: Re: Dagesh in Aleph

Deborah Wenger wrote:

>A question arose this past Shabbat about a word in parshat Emor, 23:17:
>the word "taviu" in many - but not all - chumashim has a dagesh in the
>aleph. Most of the chumashim that have the dagesh in the aleph also have
>a marginal note "aleph degusha," obviously pointing out that this is an

This unusual dogesh is noted in the m'soiro.
There is another aleph with a dogesh - the word ru'u in Iyov (I think).
But I cannot say that I know how to read it correctly.

Perets Mett

From: Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 15:15:33 -0400
Subject: Re: Dagesh in Aleph

>From: Joseph Gilboa <bfgilboa@...>
>According to my friend, Dr Tzvi Betzer of Bar Ilan University, the
>dagesh in the alef of tavi'u is there to emphasize the correct
>syllabification of the word: NOT "taviyu" (as one would tend to read
>this word if he were careless) but tavi-'u where the consonantal value
>of the 'alef is cleanly preserved.  There is another similar case in

Genesis 43:26 (va-yavi'u lo), and also Ezra 8:18 (va-yavi'u lanu).  Note
that in these two cases, as well as in Lev 23:17, the aleph with dagesh
is in a form of the root b-w-', immediately preceding a word that begins
with lamed and is stressed on the first syllable.  The Masoretes must
have been concerned to preserve correct pronunciation of the aleph in
that particular context.  The fourth "standard" case is the form ru'u in
Job 33:21; the danger there is obviously that the aleph might get lost
between the two /u/-vowels.  In addition to these four well-known cases,
one finds other forms with dagesh in the aleph in various Masoretic
manuscripts.  IIRC, it occurs fairly frequently in the Cairo Prophets
ms.  to mark consonantal aleph.

Alan Cooper


From: Joseph Tabory <taborj@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2000 20:40:45 +0200
Subject: Re: Heter Mechirah

One of the major points missed in consumers not relying on the heter
mechirah is that by preferring produce produced without heter mechirah
they are generally preferring produce grown by non-Jews rather than by
Jews. Our sages have maintained that one should support Jewish producers
even when their produce is slightly more expensive and this has been
reflected in advertising campaigns encouraging Israeli's to buy products
of Israel, thus providing employment for Jews, rather than products
grown or manufactured outside Israel. I understand that in the USA there
was (or is) a campaign "Buy American". There is not much of a legitimate
humrah involved in a consumer insisting on products raised by non-Jews
during shemittah but the question is how does this compare with the
"kulah" of diverting economic support from Jews to non-Jews?

There is also produce grown by Jews in Israel without the heter mechira,
mainly fruits, and this should be even more encouraged by consumers to
support Jews in their attempt to keep the Israeli economy going in a
manner totally consistant with halakhah.

Joseph Tabory
Department of Talmud, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 59200, Israel
tel. (972) 3-5318593
email:  mailto:<taborj@...>


From: Alexander Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: 31 May 2000 10:47:18 -0700
Subject: Re: How we treat REASONS for Minhagim-relationship to practice

In MJ 32:35, Russell Hendel <rhendel@...> wrote:

> I have just finished reading the responses in Mail Jewish Volume 32
> Number 27 to why we abstain from eating nuts on High Holy days.
> Note that the issue in question--the prohibition against eating
> nuts---is neither Talmudic, Geonic, or in the Rishonim.

Actually, if (as quoted further on) the Mordechai gives a reason for it,
then evidently it does go back to the Rishonim, since he is a Rishon by
any criterion.

> I therefore
> would like to seriously raise the issue of whether we are obligated to
> ABSOLUTELY follow such prohibitions when they occur in the shulchan
> aruch or whether we can follow them as ADVICE CONDITIONAL ON FULFILLMENT

Maybe the real issue here is the confusion between a _prohibition_ and a
_recommendation_. The Rema (and possibly the Maharil, whom he's quoting
- I don't have his sefer handy) uses the expression "yesh medakdekin" -
"there are those who are careful" - which doesn't exactly make it
forbidden to do otherwise.

Once we realize this, then of course we're not "obligated to absolutely
follow such prohibitions," since they don't exist. The idea of
abstaining from nuts on Rosh HaShanah is (IMHO) indeed "advice," albeit
advice with Rishonim and Acharonim standing behind it, which definitely
gives it greater weight.

> Furthermore do we have the right to decide which
> reasons in the Shulchan Aruch are 'real' and which are just cute memory
> devices (Gematrias).

I don't know if I'd have the "breite pleitzes" (loosely, nerve) to make
such judgments on my own. But bear in mind that the Rema cites the
Gematria-based reason is given _first_, which would seem to imply that
this is the primary ("real") reason; the idea about nuts increasing
saliva production is tacked on as a sort of afterthought, prefaced with
"ve'od" ("furthermore"); and the Mordechai's reason, about intestinal
discomfort - the one which Russell considers the best reason of all - is
completely omitted, meaning, presumably, that the Rema didn't consider
it a good reason for the custom.

> The first reason was that CHAIT and EGOZ are numerologically
> equivalant. But if that were the SOLE reason for the law then it would
> be Biblically prohibited to follow it since it would fall under the
> prohibition of SUPERSTITION (Rambam Idolatry 11:4 --e.g. I shouldn't go
> out todya because my sandwich fell (seems to me no different than 'we
> atone for sin today so I will abstain from nuts which numerically equal
> sin').

If following Gematrias is considered superstition, then, among other
things, a Nazirite would be _forbidden_ to take on a term lasting 30
days, since according to one opinion in the Gemara (Nazir 5a) the fact
that a standard term of Nezirus is 30 days is derived from a
Gematria. Nor would we be able to accept that there are 39 prohibited
labors on Shabbos, since an opinion in the Yerushalmi (Shabbos 7:2)
derives this from a Gematria, too. I'm sure that other MJers can come up
with better examples.

In our case, what we're saying is: since nuts have some relation to sin
(as expressed by the Gematria), and we want to stay away from anything
that reminds us of sin, then we will avoid nuts on Rosh HaShanah. Why is
this any more objectionable than another Rosh HaShanah-related halachah,
that we don't use a cow's horn for a shofar so as not to evoke the
memory of the Golden Calf?

Based on the Rambam's definition, it would be superstitious (and
forbidden) to say, "I happened to see some nuts today, which is a bad
sign - therefore I know that my prayers won't be accepted" (i.e.,
"something happened" - not "I did something" - "therefore x"). But to
avoid something based on its Gematria is not avoiding "something that
happened," since the Gematria always was equivalent.

> The second reason was increase of saliva. But I don't know any Doctor
> who would concede that if eg you ate nuts Rosh Hashana night that you
> would have more saliva the next day during davening. Are we obligated to
> follow something so iffy where no medical expert agrees.

Why not? Look in the Rambam, Shechitah 10:12-13 (free translation): "We
cannot add to these terefos at all. If an animal... contracts any
condition besides those conditions that the early Sages listed... - it
may continue to live, even if medical science tells us that it will not
live. Conversely, as to those conditions of which the Sages declared
that they are tereifah - even if medical science claims that some of
these conditions are not fatal... - we follow the Sages."

Nevertheless, I would venture to guess as follows: that when the
Rishonim advanced this reason, they meant that nuts increase saliva
production _for a while afterwards_, but not over a 10- to 12-hour
period such as Russell describes. The concern, then, was not that the
nuts might disturb a person from the statutory prayers (most of which
take place before the meals anyway), but rather from voluntary prayers,
especially Tehillim, with which a person ought to fill his or her time
on Rosh HaShanah. (But since these are optional, maybe that's why this
reason is placed second, since it would apply only to those who do in
fact recite such prayers and Tehillim.)

> The 3rd reason was advanced by Mordechai 'Nuts can cause physical
> discomfort (ie intestinal gas)' which would intefer with prayer'.  This
> is the correct reason

Apparently not according to the Rema, though - see above.

>---but this raises questions. (1) If I personally
> eat nuts the whole year on Friday night and have no problem on Shabbath
> would it be prohibited for me to eat nuts Rosh Hashana (ie is the
> prohibition absolute or dependent on reason); (2) If I do experience
> personal discomfort is it permissable for me to eat nuts on Friday night
> (the rest of the year)

If my reasoning above is correct (and it could be applied as well to the
problems of saliva and of gas), that the issue is interference with
prayers/Tehillim said _after_ the meal, then the answer to both
questions would be yes: you don't normally pray (except for the bedtime
Kerias Shema) after the Friday night meal, but you do (or should) on
Rosh HaShanah, and therefore should avoid nuts; and even if you do
normally experience discomfort from eating nuts, it wouldn't be an issue
on a regular Friday night, for the same reason.

> I personally would like to see a thread discussing our views on reasons
> in halachah and how absolute our obligations are to non talmudic
> prohibitions

Keeping in mind, of course, that there is generally a lot more to the
reasons than meets the eye, and we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss a
"non-talmudic prohibition" (or even a custom) because the reason seems
to be incorrect.

Kol tuv y'all,


From: Alexander Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: 31 May 2000 11:09:40 -0700
Subject: Re: Not eating Nuts on Yomim Noraim

In MJ 32:35, Daniel Katsman <hannah@...> wrote:
> The fact is, however, that the actual gematriya of "cheit " (18) is the
> same as that of "chai"!  A good darshan ought to be able to make a lot
> of this.

Interestingly, in a parenthetical note on Rashi to Yeshayah 11:1, "the
copyist" writes that in his youth he had asked various great Rabbis why
his ancestor, the Rema, says that we don't eat nuts because "egoz" =
"cheit" (minus the alef, that is); isn't it also equal to "tov" ("good",
also numerically 17)? He writes that he eventually came up with an
answer (missing in some editions, incidentally), to which "those great
Rabbis nodded their heads to me" in agreement: that since Hashem created
the world in such a way that everything has both a holy and an unholy
side to it, we want to avoid the negative aspect of nuts (reflected in
the equivalence with "cheit") on Rosh HaShanah, even though this means
that we also lose their positive aspect (reflected in the equivalence
with "tov").

Kol tuv y'all,


From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 08:18:07 EDT
Subject: Re: Nuts on Yom Tov

<<  The 3rd reason was advanced by Mordechai 'Nuts can cause physical
 discomfort (ie intestinal gas)' which would intefer with prayer'.  This
 is the correct reason---but this raises questions. (1) If I personally
 eat nuts the whole year on Friday night and have no problem on Shabbath
 would it be prohibited for me to eat nuts Rosh Hashana (ie is the
 prohibition absolute or dependent on reason); (2) If I do experience
 personal discomfort is it permissable for me to eat nuts on Friday night
 (the rest of the year)  >>

I was rather taken aback by the firmness of this reply.  Speaking of
absolute rights and wrongs.  With a bit less uncertainty here are a few
points to ponder:

1 - If nuts cause "personal discomfort" then one should never eat them
-- we have an obligation not to do harm to our body - this argument
could extend to greasy foods, too much salt, etc., but I don't want to
go there.  Havadalah gives us no heter to resume (begin) harming our

2 - There is an important thread which some call Mesorah, or loosely,
tradition.  On the "heavy" side one may follow rulings, etc., of an
ancestor from the point of view their being a generation closer to Sinai
and learning from their wisdom; on the "lighter" side it can simply make
one feel good that if one's zeyde's zeyde sat down at one's Shabbos
tish, they'd feel comfortable, hear a familiar nigun and taste an old
family receipe.  It's probably sufficient cause not to eat nuts (or
whatever) on Rosh Hashanah because one's parents didn't.  This is not a
"lo ta'aseh" but a positive.

Carl Singer


From: Moshe J. Bernstein <mjbrnstn@...>
Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 10:32:47 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Tiqqun Soferim

When my teacher, Professor Yeshayahu Maori, was beginning to do work on a
critical text (based on MSS) of Rashi al Hatorah, I asked him what the
textual status of the infamous "asher hafachuhu razal" was. He replied
that it occurs in well over half of the kitvei yad. We both realized that
such a phrase is far more likely to be removed from "authentic rashi" than
added to it. (pietistic excision to protect the reputation of rabban shel

Furthermore, the Sefer Zikkaron (one of the earliest commentators on
Rashi; I believe that he was among the megoreshei sefarad) screams a lot
about these words in Rashi and at the end says, what can I do it occurs in
every text that I can find (or words to that effect; I don't have the
zikkaron in front of me). And he was writing about 1500.

The general principle is, just because what a rishon writes disagrees with
what has become the 14th, 15th or 743rd iqqar haemunah doesn't mean the
rishon didn't write it. (or maybe even the 8th....)

moshe bernstein


End of Volume 32 Issue 40