Volume 33 Number 04
                 Produced: Tue Aug  8 23:11:28 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Female Jewish Slave (3)
         [Chana/Heather Luntz, Moshe and davida Nugiel, Yehoshua
Jacket and Hat in the Pizza Shop (was Kosher L'Mehadrin)
         [Carl M. Sherer]
Omo Ivriyo (Female Jewish Slave )
         [Percy Mett]
Size of yarmulka
         [Chaim Mateh]
Slavery and Gender Differences
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Chana/Heather Luntz <Chana/<Heather@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2000 10:48:03 +0100
Subject: Female Jewish Slave

In message <20000718015902.843.qmail@...>,Moshe and
davida Nugiel <friars@...> writes

>   Akiva Miller's reopening of this thread has motivated me to further
>refine my original question, since the responses which were received I
>found to be unsatisfactory.  (In my original post I had mentioned that I
>had done more than a minimal research into the problem, so telling me
>that the slaves owner was supposed to marry the girl is not very helpful
>(Akiva seems to agree with this point.))
>    Permit me to redefine the problem.  We all agree that the truths of
>Torah are universal, and that, therefore, halachot which deal with
>topics which seem to be not relevant to our present day lives still
>deserve to be learned and understood in order to uncover the underlying
>truths which these halachot teach.  The most obvious example would be
>that of korbanot [offerings] 

I think there is a difference between korbanos and other halachas, for
the very reason that you give, we expect korbanos to be reinstituted
come Moshiach.  Let us take another example - causing an ox to plow with
a weaker animal.  While we can learn a great deal of truths from this
halacha, I don't know that anybody expects (or prays for) us to abandon
the tractor and go back to the days when we plow with oxes.

On the other hand, to understand this halacha on even the most basic
level, you have to understand that for most of the years of our history,
there were no tractors.

Similarly you have understand the reality of an agrarian society.
Today, in the agrarian societies of India and China there is still a
very high level of female infanticide.  (Nowadays that people have some
access to abortion, it is often done that way, but to the extent they do
not, then leaving babies on hillsides or abandonment remains an
acceptable option).  It very rarely happens with boys. I am not saying
it is nice (actually it is brutal and horrible), but it is the reality
as to how agrarian societies operate and have operated all over the
world.  Boys are valuable because they can take over the land and work
it, girls tend to be a financial liability.  One can only afford to have
girls if one is one step above subsistance and if it does not look like
all the family will survive, girls get jettisoned and the boys get
saved.  I believe that they have done calculations of all the "missing"
girls (ie the numbers of girls that should have been born to match the
number of boys born) in India and China, and they run to the millions
and millions.

Selling a girl is (from a life affirming perspective) obviously a better
solution than female infanticide.   It gives girls a value that they
otherwise did not have.  Once, however, a girl reaches maturity, the
risk of sale is that it will feed into the prostitution trade, and, in
addition, the desire for a marriage partner by an adult male who has
established himself means that there are alternative opportunities for
the girl herself.

The converse is true for a boy.  Agrarian families preserve their boys
at all costs, in the hope that, once they mature, they will be able to
provide for and support the entire family.  If they turn out to be
unable to do so - or one method of doing so is to sell themselves as
slaves (for a limited period, ie seven years).

> Or are we
>forced to say, like the Rambam says about korbanot, that there is no
>universal truth in this body of laws; i.e., that this component of Torah
>was relevant only for the normative moral system in effect at the time
>of Matan Torah.

I think not just for the time of Matan Torah, but for most of our
history.  The modern environment, in which women are able to easily earn
an independant living without engaging in prostitution, is a very new
scenario on the world scene.  I believe that, in contrast to what I have
just said about India and China, in the Japan of today, couples are
prefering to have girls, because they are a) more docile, obedient and
trainable b) as adults can earn as much if not more of a living than
boys (ie can be just as good providers for their parents and other
siblings in a financial sense); and c) are more likely to have and
maintain filial ties (ie with their parents).  But this is extremely
rare historical occurance, brought about by our modern technological

For those places and times where agrarian rules rule, the Torah is
providing a strong moral counterbalance to the typical (if brutual)
behaviour practiced by such societies.

And the reason I keep referring to modern day agrarian societies is
because not only is female infanticide practiced today in such
societies, but so, to a limited extent, is female slavery.  Only today,
the type of slavery for young girls is called "adoption".  A (usually
western) family desparate for kids pays money (a significant amount to
the original family, or to the orphanage) and takes the kid home.  The
kid is deemed legally to be theirs until she reaches the age of maturity
when she becomes her own person.  It is no coincidence that most of the
cases where the child is not disabled involve girls (cf the Bamboo
Cradle).  On the other hand, the post maturity female slave trade also
exists, for the purposes of prostitution.  However, it is also no
coincidence that, like the Torah, most of us and our governments regard
the first as possibly laudable (depending on the circumstances), and the
second as something that needs to be stamped out.


From: Moshe and davida Nugiel <friars@...>
Date: Thu, 20 Jul 2000 22:41:32 +0300
Subject: Re: Female Jewish Slave

I thank Chana Luntz for her well thought out and informative reply.
If I understand it correctly, the practical basis for female infanticide
is the following:

"Boys are valuable because they can take over the land and work
it, girls tend to be a financial liability. "

Now my question is, what is the Torah's opinion about that dichotomy?
According to Chana's analysis, given that the Jews lived in an agrarian
society, and given the factual truth of the above dichotomy, the Torah
is interested in not having the girls killed at birth, and so it allows
the fathers to sell the girls instead.  What I would have liked the
Torah to say (I know I'm treading on dangerous ground here) is something
like, "Since girls are also created in the image of God, they need the
same protection and nurturing which boys need, despite the fact that
they may be somewhat of a financial burden."  Sort of like the Torah's
protection of widows, orphans, and aliens; and that the Torah does not
allow us to charge interest on loans to our fellow Jews (a truly
revolutionary concept).  What I have, instead, is the perpetuation of a
sexist dichotomy, one which teaches that since girls are physically
weaker, it is OK to sell them, just as long as you don't kill them.
Does this doctrine really make us a light unto the nations?  Maybe it
did then, but probably not now.


From: Yehoshua Berkowitz <RYehoshua@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Jul 2000 12:36:16 EDT
Subject: Re: Female Jewish Slave

<< I am still bothered by the question. It may be true that this slavery
 is intended to lead to marriage, but this is *not* a requirement. The
 master *can* choose not to marry the girl, in which case she is freed
 at puberty. So the first question still stands: Why does a family of
 many daughters get this benefit as compared to a family of many sons?

The master had to release the young lady at the time that he realized
that no one in his family would marry her, even if her contract was not
yet up.  At the time of release, the master also had to give her a large
"present," that was Biblically mandated.  It is referred to as hanaka.
This present would then serve as a dowry for future marriage.  It is
assumed that a son would not need a dowry.  I hope this answers your

 (Rabbi) Yehoshua Berkowitz


From: Carl M. Sherer <cmsherer@...>
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2000 14:43:57 +0200
Subject: Jacket and Hat in the Pizza Shop (was Kosher L'Mehadrin)

Carl Singer writes:

> > > Is it more kosher to wear a black suit to the pizza parlor on a 95
> > > F day?
> > No, because there is nothing in halachah that requires (or
> > encourages) wearing a black suit; it's a matter of appearances. [The
> > issue of chukkos hagoyim (not to imitate the non-Jews) means
> > (according to some opinions) that we shouldn't dress like them, but
> > it doesn't prescribe a particular outfit.]
> Perhaps I should ask is it more kosher to wear a black suit to shule
> on Shabbos or a grey suit.  Black Hat / Straw Hat?  What is it,
> however, that compels someone to wear a black suit on a 95% day to go
> to the Pizza shop when a comfortable pair of slacks and a (white?)
> shirt would be equally sneyisdik?

I think there actually is at least a (potential) halachic issue here. 

The Mishna Brura (91:12) writes:

"And in our times, one must put a hat on his head during prayer, as he
would go in the street, and not only with the small hat (i.e.  yarmulka
- C.S.) under the hat, because one would not stand that way in front of
important people." [Translation mine - C.S.]

You can argue about the jacket. You can argue about whether times have
changed so much since the Chofetz Chaim wrote the Mishna Brura so as to
make a hat no longer required. But you will find that many, many people
are strict about wearing a jacket and hat for davening.

Although I don't have the source handy, it is the opinion of many poskim
that the laws of Tfilla also apply to Birkas HaMazon.  Therefore, many
people are also strict to wear a hat (and a jacket) for Birkas HaMazon.

It is likely that someone who goes into a pizza shop will find himself
required to bentch. Hence there is a halachic basis for wearing a hat
(and a jacket) into the pizza shop, even if it is 95 degrees outside.

 From the Holy City of Yerushalayim, where it was 106 degrees 

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: Percy Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 2000 18:29:27 +0100
Subject: Omo Ivriyo (Female Jewish Slave )

Moshe Nugiel writes
>Similarly, the institution of slavery, which presents even more
>difficult hashkafic problems, will become a reality.  That a man who is
>halachically responsible for his own actions has fallen to such an
>ignoble state that he needs to sell himself as a slave, well, this has
>been the subject of a long and passionate thread here on MJ not too long
>ago.  There are ways to find a positive approach.  But how do we find a
>positive approach, a moral truth, in a father's right to sell his minor
>daughter as a slave, or, for that matter, to force her into a marriage
>about which she is too immature to understand?  Anybody out there with a

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding somewhere in this
thread (not just Moshe Nugiel's contribution - all the previous
contributors seem to be saying this).

A Jew can NOT sell himself into slavery. NEITHER can he sell his
underage daughter into slavery.  The status of eved ivri and omo ivriyo
is that of an indentured worker (with a normal timespan of six
years). This is not a form of slavery. The worker effectively enjoys a
contract of employment which would not fall foul of contemporary
employment legislation. Even the period of employment is not immutable -
the worker has the right to be redeemed before the period is up.

As to forcing his daughter into marriage, this is not specifically a
question of avdus. The Torah invests every father with the right to
marry off his (minor) daughter.

Perets Mett


From: Chaim Mateh <chaimm@...>
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000 22:56:20 +0300
Subject: Re: Size of yarmulka

In vol 32 #93, Nosson Tuttle <TUTTLE@...> wrote:
<<I believe it was Rav Moshe Feinstein ZT"L who said, however, that there
is "no Shiur for the yarmulke".>>

Rav Moshe's exact words (Orech Chaim 1:1) are: "if [his head] is covered
in such a way that it's called that his head is covered, they are
permitted to go in the street and even to bless [i.e., make borchos]"

Are bottle-cap yarmulkas referred to as "his head is covered"?

Kol Tuv,


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2000 02:21:31 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: RE: Slavery and Gender Differences

In v32n93 Akiva Miller raises the question as to why there is a
difference between boys and girls in slavery.

I think this can be adequately answered using the concept of "long range
effects". Let me illustrate with an example from last weeks TOrah
portion which dealt with the CHOK of inheritance laws.

Under inheritance laws daughters (a) inherit nothing from fathers if a
boy heir is present but (b) women are maintained/supported by their
husbands estate in case of death. Without getting into details we could
easily see the argument that it would be unfair if women BOTH received
50% of their parents estates AND ALSO were supported by their husbands
estate in the event they became widowed. Hence it is more equitable to
let the men inherit parents and let the women be supported by estates of

Note: This is not completely equitable; but the lack of fairness is an
attribute of reality not an attribute of the law. In the long run or on
the average inheritance will be equal.

Returning to slavery we know that by and large women are more vulnerable
to rape than men. Hence we have the laws that (a) adult women are NEVER
sold at all (The risk is to great); (b) girls from poor families (who
are expected to have a difficult time in the world when they become
teenagers) are allowed to grow up in someone elses household with a good
potential for marriage (The status of slavery is really not there since
minors and slaves have about equal rights).

All I am saying is that in the long run this works out on the average.
For those who want further details you can check Rambam slavery chapters
7 and 9 who writes as law that "if a female slave is being 'played with'
then she should be freed to give her status and prevent it'. In chapter
9 we further see a number of prohibitions of slave ownership between
members of the opposite sex. Finally we are all aware that teenagers
from poor families historically enter prostitution in greater numbers
than other girls. Thus we see that the issue of vulnerability does enter
The Torah simply chose a "good way" out that maximizes opportunities

Russell Jay Hendel; phd ASA;
Moderator Rashi is Simple;


End of Volume 33 Issue 4