Volume 32 Number 59
                 Produced: Sun Jun 18 22:49:16 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Calendar Question
         [David E Cohen]
'Comforting' a Mourner pre-burial
Drug Problems in the Yeshiva World
         [Martin Epstein]
Geshem or Gashem again (2)
         [Rick Turkel, Gershon Dubin]
Question on Odd Statistics in Numbers Census (6)
         [Stephen Phillips, Myron Chaitovsky, Saul Stokar, Hillel
(Sabba) Markowitz, Michael Poppers, Alexander Heppenheimer]
Shabbat question
         [Aliza Fischman]
Shir HaMa'alot question
         [Geoffrey Shisler]


From: David E Cohen <ddcohen@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 09:28:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Calendar Question

In years like this, when the Torah reading outside of Israel falls a
week behind due to the second day of Shavuot being on Shabbat, we make
it up with Chukat-Balak.  But in those years where it falls behind due
to the eighth day of Pesach being on Shabbat, we do not catch up until

Does anybody know the reason for this difference?



From: Mordechai <Phyllostac@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 23:45:09 EDT
Subject: 'Comforting' a Mourner pre-burial

 >>I increasingly see the custom of
 >>people lining up at the funeral parlor, before the funeral, before the
 >>kriah, actually, to go in, walk by, and say something comforting to the
 >>family...Are people experiencing this in other communities? (I live
 >>in Manhattan) Is there any justification for it? >>

Although one should not comfort a mourner ' when the deceased is in
front of him' (not buried yet), perhaps / presumably one may / should
assist them with funeral / burial preparations and strengthen them
verbally if appropriate / necessary to help them get through the period
of aninus (pre burial). I would think the latter is not in the category
of 'nichum aveilim' (comforting mourners) which we are told to leave to
the post-burial period.

Perhaps some people people, not aware of the above distinction, seeing
people talking to the mourners pre burial, have confused chizuk /
assistance with nichum (comforting mourners). They should be instructed
re the difference.



From: Martin Epstein <martin.epstein@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 12:12:07 -0400
Subject: Drug Problems in the Yeshiva World

Russell Hendel in v32n16 writes
> What **is** being done about drugs in the Yeshiva world?
> How widespread is it?
Frank Silbermann responded in v32n20:
>Wouldn't admitting the problem be loshen hara?

Eli Lansey (vol.32 num.34)wrote:
<<How would it be lashon hara?  If it helps stop many Yeshiva students
from voluntarily committing suicide ( Yes, that is how I look at it )
then it is not lashon hara because it is pikuach nefesh.  And admitting
to the problem is the first step in fixing the problem.  If the Yeshiva
world keeps hiding all of these drug problems then nothing will be able
to be done.>>

The problem is not merely that nothing will be able to be done. The
belief that caring people wrestle with the permissibility of
acknowledging his problem results in an increased sense of isolation for
the person with the drug problem. The concept that acknowledging drug
abuse in our community is lashon hara belies a belief that drug use
represents a problem to be understood as essentially different from
other human problems in our community.  Somehow I doubt anyone would
consider acknowledging depression, materialism, or ongoing singlehood as
lashon hara. Understandably, when drugs are involved people become
alarmed, and may be at a loss as to how to help.  However drug abuse is
an understandable human behavior.  Also, the individual taking recourse
in drug use is extremely sensitive to the fact that "mainstream" society
is often merely repulsed, disdainful etc.  Strangely, many substance
abusers privately share society's views even as they fail to conform to
them, thus compounding the problem further.

My clinical work with substance abusers over the last 11 years has
taught me that individuals who abuse drugs are exquisitely on guard that
those helping them may seek merely to control their behavior, and may be
unwilling to empathize with a host of other self-experiences.  Often
patients will test the therapist/counselor/family member with
challenges, demands, provocations, needs, etc. in order to ascertain in
roundabout ways the person's ability and intentions in extending help,
and will adjust their participation according to their (often private)

The abuse of drugs among our teens (and adults) presents new challenges
to our community, and there is no reason to expect people not to be
alarmed by the very real danger.  However our initiatives should strive
to be sophisticated enough to cast the problem in human terms. I have no
doubt that with our profound collective talents we are up to the task.

Martin Epstein, Ph.D.


From: Rick Turkel <rturkel@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 14:23:47 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Geshem or Gashem again

>Some time ago there was an interminable argument as to whether [in
>winter] we should say geshem or gashem [gimel kamutza].  The operative
>conclusion is that both are acceptable but that there should be a stop
>in the reading after the gashem form.  Sounds right and both forms are
>found in various siddurim.
>I realize that those you who live in diaspora do not say the equivalent
>summer, "morid haTal."
>But the Tal form is ALWAYS written with a tet kamutza.
>Wouldn't that argue for a kamutza form in the winter blessing, too?

	Not necessarily.  There are two issues here, both of which must
be answered in the affirmative to necessitate this change: (1) is this
an etnachta or sof-pasuq situation; and (2) is this the type of segolate
noun that undergoes the segol -> qamatz change?

	The answer to (1) above appears to be yes, although I've seen
people argue to the contrary.  However, the answer to (2) is a pretty
definite "No."  "geshem" is like "beged," which doesn't undergo this
change; beged, bigdi, bigdei (e.g., b. kehuna), etc., and no change in
sof-pasuq - the form "*baged" doesn't exist AFAIK.  The semikhut forms
of geshem are gishmi, gishmei (e.g., g. berakha), etc.  I don't have a
concordance handy, but I'm pretty sure "gashem" doesn't exist either.

	Just my NIS 0.08+.

Rick Turkel      (___  _____  _  _  _  _  __     _  ___   _   _  _  ___
<rturkel@...>      )     |   |  \  )  |/  \ ein |navi| be|iro\__)    |
<rturkel@...>    /      |  _| __)/   | ___)    | ___|_  |  _(  \    |
Rich or poor, it's good to have money.    Ko rano | rani, u jamu pada.

From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 13:37:08 -0400
Subject: Geshem or Gashem again

	I thought that discussion of that part of birchas techiyas
hameisim was dead <g>.

	Be that as it may, Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky says in his sefer that
the word division is different: morid hageshem is one of several
attributes of HKBH which we enumerate:

Mechayeh meisim ata, comma, 
Rav lehoshia,
Mashiv haruach umorid hageshem,
Mechalkel chayim bechesed,

	No break; therefore no komatz.  Tal, however, is the vehicle for
techiyas hameisim as described in several places in Chazal; therefore in
the summer, morid hatal is the end of the attribute of techiyas
hameisim.  Read, then,

Mechayeh meisim ata,
Rav lehoshia,
how?  by morid hatol.

New sentence (or at least new clause):  Mechalkel chayim



From: Stephen Phillips <stephenp@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 18:59 +0100 (BST)
Subject: Re: Question on Odd Statistics in Numbers Census

> From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
> I have a similar mathematical question on Nu03:39-50.
> The percentage of FirstBorn in the nation is 3.7%.  For there were
> 22,273 firstborn (Nu03-43) out of 603,350 Israelites (Nu01-46).
> But the percentage of FirstBorn in the Levites is lower.  There were 300
> Firstborn levites (Rashi on Nu03-39) out of a total of 22,300 Levites
> (Rashi on Nu03-39) making a percentage of 1.3% (Vs 3.7%).
> Are there any Midrashim, Sources (or simple explanations) as to why the
> big difference in 1st born ratios (1.3% vs 3.7%)

The thought occurred to me that the reason might be as follows. We know
that the Levites were not treated as slaves in Egypt and led a
relatively comfortable life compared with the rest of the Bnei
Yisroel. We also have a tradition that the very circumstances of the
Bnei Yisroel's burdens seemed to have caused them to give birth rather
prolifically (6 at a time according to Rashi), whereas it is reasonable
to suppose that the Levites were not so prolific. It follows, therefore,
that the numbers of the first born of the Bnei Yisroel would be
substantially higher than those of the Levites.

Does that make sense?

Stephen Phillips.

From: Myron Chaitovsky <MCHAIT@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2000 12:55:00 -0400
Subject: RE: Question on Odd Statistics in Numbers Census

There are midrashim that state that the Levites, as teachers/ rabbis,
were not enslaved in Egypt because Yosef had established a "clergy
exemption" from imperial taxation years earlier(--cf. Gen.47:22, and
recall the midrash that the Egyptians tricked Bnei Yaakov into slavery
by initiating the building projects as a matter of civic duty and pride;
"Uncle Pharoah wants you").

As a result of being spared the hard labor, they were similarly not
included in the miraculous proliferation of children experienced by the
other tribes. Everything else being equal, fewer zaidehs/ grandfathers
should geometrically yield fewer eineklach/grandchildren, and arguably
fewer b'chorim.

Myron B. Chaitovsky
Director of Admissions
Brooklyn Law School

From: Saul Stokar <saul.stokar@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 07:54:42 +0200
Subject: Question on Odd Statistics in Numbers Census

In mj vol 32 #55 Russel Hendel asks about the very low percentage of
first borns amoung the general Israelite population and the Levites, as
described in Numbers 3:39-50. This problem is addressed by Eliyahu
Beller of the mathematics department of Bar Ilan University in Vol. II
of the journal "Higayon" (5753), edited by Eli Merzbach and Moshe
Koppel. In essence, Beller shows the plausibility of a hypothesis
mentioned and rejected by Nachmanides. This basic idea is that the
census data for the first-borns (both Levites and non-Levites) refers
only to those born after the Exodus, while the other census data refers
to the total population, including those born before the Exodus. Beller
builds a population model with a small number of free parameters. He
fixes some of the parameters using data on the initial Israelite
population (70) and shows how the percentages mentioned in Numbers can
be obtained using reasonable values for the remaining
parameters. Interestingly enough, Beller's model supports Targun
Yonatan's explication of the word "chamushim" in Exodus 13:1, viz. the
average family had 5 children, rather than the more well known Midrashic
explanations (20%, etc.). The article points out another interesting
statistic, viz. the relatively large percentage of Levites ages 30-50,
indicating a dip in the birth rate in the 30 years before the Exodus.

	As I stated above, Nachmanides mentions this thesis briefly and
rejects it as not realistic. With all due respect to Nachmanides, there
is no way that anyone in the thirteenth century could have done the
calculation performed by Beller - the mathematical tools weren't
developed yet (e.g.  exponential functions) and you need a computer to
iterate the model over the 210-year exile in Egypt)."Gut feelings" just
don't work for such complicated mathematical problems. I recommend the
article for anyone with some background in mathematics (basic statistics
and linear algebra are enough).

Saul Stokar

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 22:42:29 -0400
Subject: Re: Question on Odd Statistics in Numbers Census

An article from Yeshiva Har Etzion discussed the matter and stated that
a Professor Beller has stated that the counts of bechorim are based on
the children born _after_ yetzias mitzrayim.  The article was sent out
for Parshas Naso last week.  You could find it on the Yeshiva Har Etzion
website (I think it is http://www.yhe.org.il but I am not sure).

[The web address for the Yeshivat Har Etzion Virtual Beit Medrash is
http://www.vbm-torah.org/, but I could not find the above referenced
item in their archives area. Mod.]

Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore" | Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz
 Jews are the fish, Torah is our water | Zovchai Adam, agalim yishakun

From: Michael Poppers <MPoppers@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 13:21:44 -0400
Subject: Re: Question on Odd Statistics in Numbers Census

I'll e-mail Russell a VBM shiur by Rav Samet that deals with both
percentages being so small as well as with the smaller shevet-Levi
percentage (among other issues) -- y'all are welcome to ask me for a
copy, too!

All the best from
Michael Poppers * Elizabeth, NJ

From: Alexander Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: 15 Jun 2000 14:14:46 -0700
Subject: Re: Question on Odd Statistics in Numbers Census

The simplest explanation I can think of is that the set of Israelite
firstborn is not completely included in the set of Israelite countees,
whereas the corresponding set for the Levites is. In other words, the
regular census counted males from age 20 upward (no upper limit given,
though the Gemara (Bava Basra 121b) implies that those over 60 were not
counted, and the Ramban (Num. 27:63) and Sforno (ibid., 1:45) state this
explicitly), but the counts of the firstborn (both Israelite and Levite)
and of the Levites were of males aged 30 days and up (no upper limit
given). Supposing, then, that the 20-60 age group represented only 1/3
of the male Israelites above 30 days old, then we would find that the
firstborn ratio was roughly 22000/1800000, or about 1.2%; obviously,
there is plenty of room for conjecture here.

In fact, our Sages tell us - I don't recall the source - that the
Levites did not enjoy the blessing of multiple births and supernatural
population growth that G-d granted the rest of the nation in Egypt,
since the operative rule was "the more they oppressed [the Jews], they
continued to multiply" (Exodus 1:12) - and the Levites were not made to
work (Rashi, ibid., 5:4). This would mean, if anything, that we should
expect that the percentage of firstborn in Levite families should be far
higher than their percentage in Israelite families. So we might even
suppose that the 20- to 60-year-olds made up only, say, 1/6 of the total
male Israelite population, which would yield an Israelite firstborn
ratio of 0.6%, or about 1/3 the ratio of Levite firstborn.

Kol tuv y'all,


From: Aliza Fischman <fisch.chips@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2000 09:19:07 -0400
Subject: Shabbat question


I have a question for you.  Over Shavuot the eruv was down where I live.
Normally, this would not be an issue on Yom Tov, but as you know, this year
the second day in chutz l'aretz fell on Shabbat.  We were at my parents'
house for chag, and they have a deck attached to their house (in back).
Would it have been permisable to bring some of my 1 1/2 year old daughter's
toys outside onto the deck?  What about to the backyard?  I remember when I
was growing up, before our town got a community eruv, that my parents made
an eruv around our backyard so we could go out and play on nice Shabbatot.
However, thinking about it after chag, I thought that maybe because their
backyard is their own private property that it might fall under r'shut
hayachid.  Is this true?  Is the deck any different then the rest of the
house because it is attached?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Thank you and kol tuv,
Aliza (Novogroder) Fischman


From: Geoffrey Shisler <geoffrey@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 12:34:25 +0100
Subject: Shir HaMa'alot question

I have tried, without success, to discover the origin of the verses
Tehillat Hashem...Va'anachnu Nevareich.....Hodu........and Mi Yemalell
being attached to the Shir HaMa'alot before Birkat HaMazon.

Why are they there? Why these specific verses? Who put them there, and
when were they added?

I've been Benching for more than 45 years and, although I couldn't say
for certain, it seems to me that these verses are a fairly recent
addition to that Shir HaMa'alot. I certainly don't recall singing them
at home when I was a child.

Any insights would be appreciated.

Rabbi Geoffrey Shisler
Bournemouth (Orthodox) Hebrew Congregation


End of Volume 32 Issue 59