Volume 33 Number 55
                 Produced: Tue Sep 12  5:59:07 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Love and Death
         [Jay F Shachter]
The reasons for the hypen in Dt08-08
         [Russell Hendel]
Shapes of letters
         [Stan Tenen]
Sources for prohibiting theft of services
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Jay F Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Wed, 6 Sep 200 11:55:06 -0600 (CDT)
Subject: Love and Death

In Volume 33 Issue 2 of mail.jewish, someone had an article which stated:

    It has become popular in many places to show a sad documentary film on
    Tisha Baav.  Not a bad idea in principle.  It certainly has the
    potential to put people in the mood for that somber day.  But, I have to
    wonder if the idea is working.  The several showings I have gone to,
    have turned into social scenes with quite a bit of flirting.

and he concludes with the question (apparently intended to be rhetorical):

    Is this what we want kids doing on Tisha Baav?

A few years ago, someone else posted a similar article to mail.jewish
about the Tashlikh ceremony, and the contact between men and women which
often attends it.  I wrote a response to that article which some
mail.jewish readers may remember.  I do not know if I can match my
former eloquence, but no one else on mail.jewish has said what needs to
be said, and in a place where there are no men, one must try to be a

The posting which I cited above was written by a man who saw men and
women flirting with each other on Tish`a B'Av, and disapproved.  He does
not think that such things are appropriate on Tish`a B'Av.  These words
are the words of someone who looks on the things that men and women do
who are falling in love, as he would look on a necessary but slightly
disgusting minor operation, like having an enema.  They are the words of
someone who does not remember, or who never knew, what it is like to
fall in love.

Both during periods of national mourning, such as Tish`a B'Av, and
during periods of personal mourning, Jewish law forbids "Qalut Rosh".
Qalut Rosh means frivolity, the feeling that things are of no
importance, not to be taken seriously, at times, indeed, almost
ridiculous.  There are different levels of Qalut Rosh, and certain
levels are permitted on some occasions and not others.  The most intense
levels of Qalut Rosh are permitted only when one is ridiculing idolatry,
because idolatry is as ridiculous as it is detestable, and the Devil is
(in the long run) an ass.  Lesser levels of Qalut Rosh may be
appropriate for other occasions, but when we are in mourning we must
eliminate it completely.  Mourning means a sense of loss; to sense a
loss properly, we must comprehend the magnitude of the thing that has
been lost.  There are only two times in life when we understand fully
the preciousness of human life.  One is when we mourn for its loss.

The other is when we fall in love.  If you have forgot what it felt like
to fall in love, then find two people who are falling in love, and watch
them.  No one is further away from Qalut Rosh, from a feeling that the
world is absurd and of no account, than two people awakening to love.
If they ever doubted the importance of living, if they ever doubted the
worth of the world they live in, they know it now.  They are in awe that
a person of such beauty, such kindness, such wisdom, such strength,
should walk the earth, they are thankful beyond measure that Divine
Providence should have brought such a person into their lives, and if
they were atheists they would create a new God in order to be able to
fall on their knees and thank Him with piercing cries.  Until now they
have assented that there is a God Who rules the world, and they have
believed it, intellectually, but now they know it, they know it in the
same way they know the sun on their faces and the wind in their hair and
the earth beneath their feet.  These are the people at whom the person
to whom I am responding directs his gaze on Tish`a B'Av, and condemns.

Do not think me a romantic poet.  I am not.  I do not falsify reality in
any way.  I have seen everything that you have seen.  I know that the
women are only pretending to be interested in what the men are saying,
that if you look at the women in a moment of unself-consciousness, their
momentarily unfocused eyes and strained facial muscles will betray the
pretense of their smiles.  I know that it is false, and dishonest, but
she is not doing it out of unkindness, she is doing it because that is
what she has been socialized to do, and she is afraid of losing this
wonderful, beautiful man whom she has just met.  A woman who has just
fallen in love is an insecure and timid child, even if she is
twenty-five or thirty or thirty-five years old she becomes an insecure
child, and nothing she does, in her fear, can be condemned.  I know that
if you look at the man in a moment of unself-consciousness, he will
probably be staring at the curve of the woman's breasts, but this is not
ignoble, it is his nature, and the fond thoughts he has as his gaze
momentarily lowers before he raises it again in a spasm of
self-consciousness are not ignoble thoughts, they are beautiful.

The person to whom I am responding thinks that it is inappropriate for
Jewish men and women to think about mating on Tish`a B'Av, after
watching a video depicting our nation's calamities and tragedies and
horrors.  I disagree.  I think that that is precisely what they should
be thinking about.  I remind the person to whom I am responding that one
of the highest birthrates on record was sustained in the refugee camps
of postwar Europe, among the population of Jews who had survived the
concentration camps.  My parents met, and married, in Bergen-Belsen.

My father died when I was twenty-one years old, before I was married.
After he died -- after I went into his room in the Intensive Care Unit,
and saw him dead -- I took the hospital elevator to another floor, and
went to the obstetric ward, and stood outside the glass window looking
at the newborn babies, because love is stronger than death.

			Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
			6424 N Whipple St  //  Chicago IL  60645-4111


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2000 13:04:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: RE: The reasons for the hypen in Dt08-08

The question has arisen as to the hyphenation in Dt08-08. I believe all
postings till now have assumed that ZaYTH is a construct state of the
word ZaYiTh (Olive). Thus they translate the verse as "A land of
olive-oils and honey" which as RDK says in his book ROOTS means that
"olives of Israel produce oil--wheras many varieties of olives do not
produce oil".

I suggest an alternative interpretation based on the fact that ZaYTh
could also be NOUN-FORM (not a COnSTRUCT form) and eg would be similar
to the word A-Y-D (mist). In other words I am suggesting that there are
two words for OLIVE in Hebrew: ZaYiTh and ZaYTh. The verses bear this
out (eg Zach4:3, Ps128:3, Dt28-40).

So quite simply Dt08-08 means "A Land of Olives, oil and honey."

(In passing I have various objections to the original-construct-state
interpretation: 1) If it is a construct then the hyphen should be
between ZaYTh and SheMeN; 2) if so it would be preferable to write
"shemen-tayith" --that is "A land of oil-olives and honey".

Finally with regard to Barry Bests suggestion that we infer halachah
from this verse I point out that all blessings (except benching) are
rabbinical.  Therefore this verse is at most a 'memory peg' for the
rabbinical enactment)

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA;
Dept of Math; Towson Univ
Moderator Rashi is SImple


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 04 Sep 2000 22:31:23 -0400
Subject: Re: Shapes of letters

>From: Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...>
>I must admit that I have never really understood the postings of our
>friend Stan, but I could not but think of him tonight in my daf-yomi
>[content snipped]
>Having seen this thesis here for years, that the shapes of letters
>themselves contain secrets beyond my understanding, I really perked up
>when I saw that Ro"sh. :-)

I'd like to thank Shimon Lebowitz for his kind words and helpful references.

Even though Shimon "really doesn't want to start a long thread about
things I don't begin to understand <smile>" I'd like to explain a bit.

The Kabbalists and sages teach that the beginning of B'reshit -- in
particular, the first letter, the first word, and the first verse --
really does contain the "template of creation" that Hashem looks into in
creating the world.

Therefore, it really should be no surprise that one of the first things
specified by the sequences of letters at the beginning of B'reshit is
the creation of the alphabet.  (Much else is also included, including a
counting of the 248 positive and 365 negative mitzvot, and many
kabbalistic arrangements including several that enable Sefer Yetzirah to
be read clearly.  Following the directions in Yetzirah -- based on the
letter-sequences at the beginning of B'reshit -- leads to a specially
shaped "tefillin strap" that matches the form of a human hand.  When
this "tefillin strap" is viewed from different perspectives, exact
outlines of all of the Rashi-Nachmanides Meruba Ashuris letters appear.)

So, B'reshit may be the only text that literally specifies and draws the
letters that are used to write it.

Recently published peer-reviewed scholarly work by established scholars
and researchers has demonstrated has shown that :

1) Anthropologically, humans gestured before we were able to speak
phonetically.  Hand-gestures are natural, even for other primates.

2) Infants can be taught to gesture _meaningfully_ and explicitly to
their parents before they can speak, and these gesture-languages
naturally flow into spoken language.

3) Blind persons who have never seen gesture, gesture when they speak,
even to other blind persons who can't see their gestures.

These gestures -- in some of the published materials -- match the
hand-gestures that produce the Hebrew letters as the outline of the
specially shaped "tefillin strap".  A chart of the letters and the
gestures that make them can be found at
<http://www.meru.org/Gestures/Atbashgest.html>.  The natural meaning of
each gesture that displays the outline of a Hebrew letter matches the
name of the Hebrew letter: a Pe is seen when making the
thumbs-towards-mouth, fingers-flared, "shouting" gesture (Pe means
"mouth"); a Zayin is seen when making the "sleepwalking" gesture with
hands and arms pointing forward, as if to "project" or reach forward
(Zayin means '"projectile").  The same is true for all of the letters.
(Most of the gestures are unambiguous, and are the only gesture possible
that produces an outline of the letter.  Some of the gestures are
ambiguous, and it's not possible without further reference to
traditional teachings to decide between the possibilities.  Enough of
the letters are determined to make the entire system plausible, because
of its overall coherence.)

In some cases, making the gestures that display the letters of a Hebrew
root enables a person watching (who doesn't know Hebrew) to know what
the root means.  For example, when we want to ask a person who doesn't
speak our language to get us something round, we usually outline the
shape of a basketball or globe or melon in front of us with our hands.
If we do this while wearing the "tefillin-strap" specified at the
beginning of B'reshit, we see in sequence the Hebrew letters Gimel and
Lamed.  Gimel-Lamed is the Hebrew root that means "round".  (Not all
words are this easy to see, and of course this theory cannot directly
account for idiomatic meanings that stray from the basic operational

Also, in modern physics, entities are specified by _pointing_ directions
(in Hilbert space).  In physics, pointing carries meaning.  Pointing
also carries meaning in conversation.  And pointing carries meaning when
we're trying to remember something, and are searching in "different
directions" in our mind.

Thus, Hebrew understood this way is truly a natural universal language.
It's universal not only horizontally -- that is, between people who
speak different languages -- but also diagonally, in that other
creatures, such as primates and possibly elephants, could make use of
it, and vertically, in that this same set of letters can also be used to
specify basic entities in physics, _and_ in consciousness.  And, unlike
the Canaanite letters, which all derived from images of pagan Egyptian
gods and godlets, letters derived from hand gestures can never become
objects of idolatry, because only a fool would make an idol of their own
servant, and our hands are indeed our servant(s) in that they invariably
do our bidding by projecting our private conscious will into the
objective world.

This is an extraordinarily elegant and coherent model, that stands
squarely within Torah tradition, and the teachings of our sages, and
that is uncompromisingly logical and useful in the modern non-religious

I found these models and the specially-shaped "tefillin-strap" by
working with the letter-text of B'reshit, and by reading the teachings
of the Kabbalists and sages, and by coming across quotations and
references similar to those mentioned by Shimon in his posting.

There's much more to this, including a halachically and technically
sound understanding of the so-called "Codes in Torah."  For those who
would like to know "who holds by this," check the private website
address <http://www.meru.org/090400/evalindex.html>, or ask via email.

For those who would like to know "what it's good for," let me just point
out that the discovery of a truly universal language would be of
enormous benefit to humankind, and that to discover something this
valuable -- by scientific methods -- in Torah could bring real respect
to Torah from those who now have none.  Derisive Bible scholars could no
longer point to the story of the Tower of Babel as a superstitious
mythology.  Instead, Torah would be seen -- even by its most cynical
skeptics -- to be what it claims to be.

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


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 4 Sep 2000 13:02:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: RE: Sources for prohibiting theft of services

Yehoshua Kahan (v33n33) comments on my answer to Jonathan Shiff that the
Torah prohibited BOTH misappropriation of **objects** as well as
**services**(eg not paying a laborer). Yehoshua points out that since I
'owe' him the money, therefore it is not services that are being
misappropriated but rather the money that I owe him.

I could simply answer that the fact that the Torah prohibits witholding
wages of a laborer can be 'perceived' as a statement that services (like
labor) have a monetary-equivalant-status (just like objects) and can be

However on a deeper level Yehoshua's question relates to Moshe Feldman's
question as to whether 'property can be stolen'. Let me therefore answer
both Yehoshua, Jonathan and Moshe by citing the Rambam Theft and Losses,
Chapter 3:6-9(paraphrased)

>The following are prohibited under the Biblical prohibition of theft
>even though the owner may have no loss: (3:6) working with someone
>else's animal while it is idle; (3:7) using someone else's servant while
>the servant was idle; (3:8) using someone else's yacht during a period
>that the owner did not want to use it; (3:9) living in someones vacant
>apartment that is not up for rent

Hope this clarifies this difficult Talmudic Concept.

Russell Jay Hendel; PHd ASA
Dept of Math; Towson Univ.
Moderator Rashi is Simple


End of Volume 33 Issue 55