Volume 33 Number 30
                 Produced: Tue Aug 29  5:50:02 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Inspiring intro to Judaism book (3)
         [David Schiffmann, Chaim Sukenik, Cynthia Tenen]
Reading of Tanakh
         [Saul Davis]
Spring, Pesach Hebrew&Roman Calendars
         [Daniel M Wells]
VP Candidate Senator Joe Lieberman (6)
         [Carl Singer, Carl Singer, Barry Best, Stan Tenen, Zev Sero,
Jonathan Groner]


From: David Schiffmann <das1002@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 17:49:17 +0100 (BST)
Subject: re: Inspiring intro to Judaism book

Josh Hoexter <hoexter@...> wrote:
>I'm looking for a book or two to give to a religious Christian whose
>maternal grandmother was Jewish. I told her that according to Jewish law
>she is Jewish and she is very excited and eager to learn more about the
>holidays, traditions, etc. She is also curious why Jews do not accept
>the NT. 

A recent book by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, 'Jewish Literacy', may also be
of interest (it's available from amazon.com); it's a one-volume overview
of many aspects of Judaism.

Another books which may be suitable here is 'To be a Jew', by Rabbi


David Schiffmann

From: Chaim Sukenik <sukenc@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 10:10:54 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Inspiring intro to Judaism book

One of the best, elementary level, summaries of Jewish practice is "To Be
a Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life" by Hayim Halevy

[Same recommendation from: David Kaufmann <kaufmann@...>. Mod.]

From: Cynthia Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 17:00:44 -0400
Subject: Re: Inspiring intro to Judaism book

This may sound like an off the wall suggestion, but it really isn't.
When I first became observant (coming from *nowhere*, believe me) and
wanted to know more about what it meant to be Jewish, the most helpful
book I read was Blu Greenberg's "How to run a Traditional Jewish
Household."  It's human, it's humorous, it's halachic, and through
real-life incidents Rebbetzin Greenberg conveys how she, and her family,
*feel* about being Jewish -- which I think will answer what is probably
your friend's real question, namely, how it is that we can feel complete
without Jesus.  --Blu Greenberg's book is, in fact, a woman's answer to
a woman's question, IMHO, and I think might be just the ticket.

Cynthia Tenen
Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>


From: Saul Davis <sdavis@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Aug 2000 09:00:45 +0300
Subject: Reading of Tanakh

Daniel Israel wrote:
"I have seen the other Megillos (Shir HaShirim, Ruth, and Mishlei) split
between several readers."

I too have heard Megilloth that were split chapter-by-chapter and, with
the exception of Eikha, I think it is a very bad idea. Our printed
tanakhs use chapter divisions which are not of Jewish origin, are not
part of our mesorah (tradition) and sometimes contradict our
understanding of the text.  It was Stephen Langton (later Cardinal at
Canterbury, England) who created the chapters in about 1205. See the
beginnings of chapters 2 and 6 in Bereshith for some clear examples of
Langton's misunderstanding of tanakh - and there are many more examples.

Even non-Jewish sources consider Langton's divisions to be
unsatisfactory: "Doubtless the large majority of the present generation
of thoughtful Bible readers are in favor of printing the Bible without
the present breaks into chapters and verses. ... Who can say that the
extreme convenience of reference afforded by the chapters and verses has
not' on the whole, been purchased at too great a cost?" Professor Isaac
H. Hall http://www.theexaminer.org/history/chap6.htm.  "There is no
doubt that the chapter divisions which we have inherited from Langton
leave much to be desired. These divisions do not rest upon a
comprehension of the literary structure of the Biblical books."  H. von
Soden, Die Schriften des Neuen Testamentes (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck,
1912), I, 482. Quoted at

Our tanakh is divided into parshiyoth and stumoth (open and closed
paragraphs). A sefer torah - or neveim or megilloth written likewise on
klaf (parchment) - do not have the non-Jewish, non-mesorah chapter
divisions but only parshiyoth and stumoth and a separation between

There is a Jewish chapter division which unfortunately very few tanakhs
use (the first and notable exception is Qoren) and corresponds with the
triennial torah reading cycle. Tehilla 91 has a nice example of a Jewish
chapter division: chapter 13 of the Jewish chapters starts at the last
verse of Tehilla 90, which is how we traditionally say this Tehilla (see
Qriyath Shema (the Shema said at bedtime)).

As regards the Megilloth:

Shir Hashirim is a good (bad) example of how the non-Jewish chapters cut
up the text incorrectly without regard to the parshiyoth and stumoth or
the text's meaning. Ruth has no parshiyoth and stumoth but there is no
reason to switch readers as it is short. Eikha is different in that the
5 chapters coincide with the parshiyoth and each of the them is clearly
a new section so that the Langton had no chance of making a mistake! The
non-Jewish chapters of Koheleth and Ester make a mess of them.

Similar problems can be found in all other books of the tanakh. The
exceptions are Eikha and Tehillim where the non-Jewish chapters coincide
with the parshiyoth simply because Langton had no room to
err. Fortunately we do not have a problem with the Torah readings as
they are already split up into the 7 traditional reading sections.

IMHO it is not only wrong to switch readers at the end of the non-Jewish
chapters but it is also wrong to use a special note to end the
non-Jewish chapter (common amongst Megilla readers). The first reader I
ever heard who was careful not to use the special note to end the
non-Jewish chapters was Rabbi Yaaqov Maydan from Yeshivath Har Etsion. I
cannot explain why it is so widespread to switch readers at the
non-Jewish chapter or use a special note. Gedollim have used the
non-Jewish chapters although I think only aharonim (= since beginning
16th century). I imagine that the non-Jewish chapters became popular
because of their convenience and ease of use especially when dealing
with non-Jews (eg in the infamous Xstian-Jewish debates of the middle

I have a number of questions which I do not know the answers to regarding
the above:
Who were the first Jews to use the non-Jewish chapter?
Why did the non-Jewish chapters become widespread and accepted?
How can we stop the use of non-Jewish chapters?
Who was the first Jewish authority to use the non-Jewish chapters?
Where can I find more information and sources for all this?

BTW: Mishley is not a megillah. There are just 5 Megilloth and they are
read on special occasions in public.

Saul Davis


From: Daniel M Wells <wells@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 19:52:05 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Spring, Pesach Hebrew&Roman Calendars

> From: Deborah Wenger <dwenger@...>

> I would just like to correct what is most likely an inadvertent misstatement
> by Daniel Wells in v.33#15, when he says:
> > The solar year length is important to both Judaism & Christianity since
> > both Passover & Easter should be before the Vernal Equinox.
> In reality, Pesach must be AFTER the vernal equinox - the vernal equinox
> signals the beginning of spring, and Pesach must be during "chodesh
> ha'aviv," or the "month of spring."

Thanks Deborah, of course you are right. I presume it was a slip of the
memory process.....

> From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
> Just a short comment to Daniel Well's long 

Really, in comparison to some of the verbiage on this list, I really
thought I did justice to the subject in as few words as it takes to
discuss this subject.

> There is a BIBLICAL commandment to have Passover fall out in the SPRING
> TIME. This is explicitly stated in the 7th aliyah of REAY which is read
> on the 3 festivals "Be involved in watching the Spring Time (so that )
> you can make Passover for God (then) since God took you out of Egypt in
> the Springtime"
> This (having Pesach fall out on Passover) is one of the guiding
> principles in making our calendar

qI agree its a biblical commandment but as with other such commandments
such as korbanot on private altars, Techelet for zizit etc, until a beis
din that is qualified and thus accepted by all, I find it hard to believe
that someone will take it into his hands to make changes to the
established calendar that to all intents and purposes is considered Torah
LeMoshe MiSinai.



From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 11:08:29 EDT
Subject: Re: VP Candidate Senator Joe Lieberman

<< General Colin Powell knew what he was doing when he declined to
 run. A minority candidate still faces obstacles - despite all the
 rhetoric of equality. Let us not delude ourselves. >>

This is far afield for Mail Jewish -- but having worked w/ Major Colin
Powell many years ago, I think the issue with him is as he states, that
political ambition doesn't burn in his gut.  I don't believe this is a
good source for extrapolating your view on minority candidates (even
though General Powell speaks some Yiddish!!!)

From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 11:13:29 EDT
Subject: Re: VP Candidate Senator Joe Lieberman

<< And, the fact that Senator Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew does not make
 it mandatory for him to believe that Jonathan Pollard deserves a
 pardon, >>

Not to get diverted by the Pollard issue, which always seems to loom
around the corner -- being an Orthodox Jew doesn't make it mandatory for
me to support any political agenda -- and I'm sick and tired of people
claiming to speak for me.  --

Is there any issur that anyone can cite that prohibits someone from
standing up on a soap box and stating that "ALL ORTHODOX JEWS BELIEVE
THAT ....., SUPPORT....." etc.  This is especially relevant in a
political context, but also in several others.

Kol Tov

Carl Singer

From: Barry Best <barry.h.best@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 15:32:23 -0400
Subject: RE: VP Candidate Senator Joe Lieberman

Somebody raised the question of whether it was proper for a Jew to put
himself in a position (like VP, or senator for that matter) where he
would have to periodically violate Shabbes even though there may be
heterim to do so.  Does anyone know how the Abarbanel worked it in
fifteenth century Spain?  Did he leave any diaries or T'shuvos about the

From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 14:46:04 -0400
Subject: VP Candidate Senator Joe Lieberman

I'd like to suggest that perhaps the effect of the Lieberman candidacy
on the spectrum of thought in the Torah community may turn out to be of
the greatest interest to the Torah community.

For example: if I had to guess, I'd guess that we all are at least
somewhat wrong in what we guess the effects will be.  No one knows what
is really going to happen, but clearly, some people will find out that
what they expected and/or feared does not happen, and others will find
that their judgment was mostly sound.

And of course, some may have something real to fear.  A person who
believes that our situation today is comparable to a particular teaching
in Gemara, or particular opinions in Chazzal, may learn that this is not
so.  Or, we may all learn that it is so.  Thus, traditional teachings of
what to expect politically might be found to be similar in some cases to
traditional medical opinions, which have turned out to be just plain
wrong (spontaneous generation, for example).

Also, since Senator Lieberman is a "moderate," "Modern Orthodox,"
Orthodox Jew, his behavior -- if successful in bringing respect to
himself, his country, and Torah -- could set a new standard.  What if
Orthodox Judaism were no longer (more or less publicly) defined by its
most stringent elements, but rather became defined by Senator
Lieberman's more moderate expression of halachic behavior?  In other
words, a successful VP Lieberman could halt the drift of Orthodoxy "to
the right" that so many more moderate observant Jews have noted, and
this would of course be something for those who are more stringent to
become very upset by.  Also, by the same logic, Senator Lieberman's
success might halt the drift of non-Orthodox Jews "to the left".  On
balance, there could actually turn out to be a reduction in "unwarranted
hatred" within Am Israel.  (I didn't want to use the overly strong word
"hatred" here, but I do want to refer to the traditional terminology.)

Regardless of whether or not we approve of a more moderate Modern
Orthodox perspective, it might become more attractive.  That would be
pleasing to some, not pleasing to others, and a cause, perhaps, of a
realignment in all of Judaism.  Some "traditionally observant" families
that have drifted towards Conservative practice might return to what
appears to them to be a more appropriate Orthodox practice.  Some
extremely observant families might isolate themselves from a newly
resurgent moderate mainstream Orthodox Judaism, while others might feel
more comfortable drifting back towards a more inclusive Orthodox

Based on my reading of the postings here on mail-jewish, I'd also like
to point out that a healthy dose of realism is more than in order,
because from my perspective, a few of the postings have been, to put it
politely, inappropriately emotional and unrealistic.  And it seems to me
that whatever it is that halachic Judaism is to be, it certainly must be
realistic if we're to "live by it" (rather than "die by it".)

I'm suggesting that the Lieberman candidacy could be very healthy for
the Torah community, regardless of its wider political or social

Meru Foundation   http://www.meru.org   <meru1@...>

From: Zev Sero <Zev@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 13:35:25 -0400
Subject: VP Candidate Senator Joe Lieberman

David Lloyd-Jones <david.lloyd-jones@...> wrote:

>It is a measure of the excellence of the United States of America among
>civilizations that a Jew can be considered for high office like others
>as an equal This marks the USA as one of the high points the human race
>has achieved.

What makes the USA so special?  In what other countries do you think
this could not happen?

Zev Sero

From: Jonathan Groner <jgroner@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Aug 2000 14:34:15 -0400
Subject: VP Candidate Senator Joe Lieberman

In order to shed light rather than heat on this topic, I recommend an
article that appeared in Legal Times, a newspaper at which I am an
editor, on August 21.

It is written by the distinguished Washington, D.C., attorney Nathan
Lewin, who is of course Orthodox, and focuses on the question, "Will
observance of Jewish religious principle impede Sen. Joseph Lieberman's
performance of his governmental duties if the Gore-Lieberman ticket wins
in November?"

Lewin comes up with a fascinating statement by the Ramban to the effect
that the avoidance of physical danger or even economic harm to the
general public is a form of pikuach nefesh.

The article can be found at

Jonathan Groner


End of Volume 33 Issue 30