Volume 33 Number 61
                 Produced: Tue Sep 19 21:00:20 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Aleinu Leshabeach
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Aleynu's Cemsored phras
         [Jerome Parness]
Gematria and pi
         [Stan Tenen]
Gematria and Pi
         [Carl Singer]
Rabbits and Camels (2)
         [Eli Linas, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Why we mistranslate ARNEVET
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <Gevaryahu@...>
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2000 20:41:02 EDT
Subject: Aleinu Leshabeach

A couple of weeks ago I posted the story that "varik" in tefilat Aleinu
was interpreted by the Christians as alluding to Jesus, and that as a
result of this the sentence was taken out of the siddur. I feel that it
is my obligation to bring you some of the research on this
point. Several postings before me already stated that this is an old
tefila, dating from the time before the Jesus. This dating of the first
part of "Aleinu" has been known for hundreds of years. The second part
of "Aleinu" is from much later time; for example, it is not included in
Machzor Romi (1485-6).

Here is a quotation from Professor Ismar Elbogen: [square bracketed
comments are mine--GJG]

"Since about 1300 'Aleinu leshabeach' is mentioned as a regular
finishing tefila for weekdays; in all the traditions it is at the very
end of the tefila, and only the Ashkenazi rite brings it as the first of
the finishing appendices which were mentioned here, and added to it 'al
ken nekave lecha.'  'Aleinu leshabeach' is taken from tefilat Rosh
HaShana, in which it is the introduction to the 'Malchuyot' section,
where it praises the idea of heavenly kingdom on earth.....

The acceptance of this tefila was very controversial in Germany, where
there were repeated charges against the Jewish religion. These did not
subside for hundred of years and eventually led to the elimination of
the sentence 'shehem mishtachavim lahevel varik umitpalelim le'el lo
yoshia,' which still exists in manuscripts and Sephardic and other
siddurim. In about 1400 a Jewish mumar (an apostate) went to the
authorities and told them that in this sentence the Jews refers to
Jesus. His proof was that the gematria of varik equals 316 as does the
name Jesus. Liefmann-Milhausen, in his book _Nitzachon_ proved the
charges wrong [claiming inter alia that this tefila preceded
Christianity], nonetheless, the charges were repeated again and
again. The censorship changed this sentence in many ways [to subvert the
gematria], but that did not stop the charges. Jew haters came up with
new charges against Aleinu, with Eisenmanger doing the worst. In Prussia
a renewed charge against the Jews because of 'aleinu' came in 1702. As a
result of the new charge, a thorough investigation was launched, which
produced a voluminous investigation file resulting in the enactment of a
law dated August 28, 1703. The name of this act is 'The edict regarding
the Jewish prayer 'Aleinu,' and that the Jews must cut out several
words, must not spit, and must not jump while saying it'; after this
edict it appears that the sentence was expunged from the siddurim
completely. The edict said that the chazan must say 'Aleinu' aloud [they
thought that although they took it out of the siddurim, the chazanim
will continue to say it from memory], and special inspectors were
appointed to attend the services to insure the implementation of this
edict. No police intervention was recorded, and soon the edict was
forgotten" Ismar Elbogen _Der Judische Gottesdienst in Seine
Geschichtlichen Entwicklung_ [I translated the above from the] Hebrew
updated version _HaTefila be-Israel_1972, pp. 63-64.

Is saying "Aleinu" aloud today in many synagogues a remnant of the 1703

Additional research showing that 'Aleinu' is very early, probably from a
period when the Temple was still functioning, appears in _Hatefilah
bitekufat hatanaim veha'amoraim_ by Joseph Heinemann, Jerusalem, Magnes
Press, 1966, pp. 173-175.

My late father (Haim M. I. Gevaryahu) was of the opinion that the
'Aleinu,' was composed during the Babylonian exile.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Fri, 08 Sep 2000 16:08:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Aleynu's Cemsored phras

Joseph Kaplan wrote re: Aleynu's Cemsored phrase
> In the Modern Orthodox community in which I grew up in the 50's and
> early 60's, no one said the censored phrase; not in school or in shul.
> And in my seven years at Yeshiva University (high school and college),
> I do not remember hearing anyone say it either.

That is not an excuse for not saying it.  This simply means that no one,
other than scholars of old Hebrew texts, knew anything about the
existence of this phrase.  Even the music composed in Germany for Aleinu
(yes, it is reform music that we sing) does not leave any sign that
there was an extant yet nearly extinct phrase to be inserted.  Indeed, I
knew nothing of the text prior to ten or twelve years ago either.

> My deep discomfort with adding this phrase once again into our
> teffilot arises from the maxim of Hillel that what is distasteful to
> you do not do to your fellow person.  The Jewish community was
> outraged, and justifiably so, when Louis Farakhan called Judaism a
> "gutter religion," and we were equally outraged when the head of the
> Southern Baptists stated that God doesn't listen to the prayer of a
> Jew.  If we are insulted when our religion is insulted, why have we
> reinstated a phrase that is equally insulting to the religion of our
> neighbors?

Because it is true.  What you have done is misinterpret the phrase in
the exact manner that the Jews of the middle ages (read: in fear for
their lives a la the inquisition, etc) were fearful their Christian
neighbors would interpret it.  Indeed, it was the accusation of a number
of apostates that ensured the disappearance of this phrase.  However the
case may be, this phrase, of "praying to utter nonsense, emptiness and a
false god unable to bring salvation" was composed dealing with avodah
zarah, specifically idol worship.  Christianity was not specifically
tartgeted by this phrase, unless you hold that Roman Catholicism is
avodah zara.  Protestantism and Islam most definitely are not.
Therefore, the historical consequences of praying what you believe no
longer being extant, it is not surprising that traditional Jews wish to
restore the traditional that was robbed from by fear of death... or

On the other hand, the Hachamim were able to be metaken shev ve'al
ta'aseh even for a mitzvah de'oraita.  If your LOR says shev ve'al
ta'aseh, more power to you.  Just don't misinterpret the phrase.

Jerry Parness


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2000 19:03:28 -0400
Subject: Re: Gematria and pi

At 02:07 PM 9/10/00 +0000, Sheldon Meth wrote:

>There's a more accurate "relationship" between "year" and "Pi."
>The number of seconds in a solar year, 31556940, is ten million times
>Pi, to within 0.45%.

Unless I misunderstand Sheldon Meth's point, I think this doesn't add

A number like pi, because it's a universal, mathematically unit-less
constant, should not be based on an arbitrary constant.  The number of
seconds in a year is a completely arbitrary number (from the point of
view of mathematical idealism) because it could be any number, depending
on how we define a second (relative to a year).  There's no reason why
there might not be 100 quasi-metric "seconds" in a quasi-metric
"minute," and a 100 quasi-metric "minutes" in a quasi-metric "hour".
Division into 60 is not something that comes naturally.

So, at best, a coincidence between the number of seconds in a solar year
and a number like pi would be showing us that the ancient sages that
first settled on 60-second minutes and 60-minute hours _might_ have
known about pi, and _might_ have deliberately included this
consideration when they decided on the units of time.

The coincidence which Sheldon Meth tells us is within 0.45% is really
not very good.  That's only one part in about 200.  355/113 is an
accurate approximation of pi to better than 1 part in a million.

Therefore, it seems to me that we should be suspicious of gematria in
general -- which was the point of my posting -- and triply suspicious of
numerical coincidences.

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

From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Sun, 10 Sep 2000 19:20:42 EDT
Subject: Re: Gematria and Pi

<< The number of seconds in a solar year, 31556940, is ten million times
 Pi, to within 0.45%. >>

Are you asserting that this is anything more than a coincidence?
Carl Singer


From: Eli Linas <linaseli@...>
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 16:05:41 +0200
Subject: Re: Rabbits and Camels

Concerning the question of whether rabbits can be classified as
ruminants, I sent an email to Dr. Tim Lewis, PhD, who holds the biology
chair at Wittenberg University. I wrote him after seeing the entry on
rabbits in Wittenberg's excellent site about animals. Here is the letter
I wrote, and his response:

>I just saw your website on animals, specifically, lagomorphs, and I was
>wondering if I could ask you a question: Could rabbits be classified as
>ruminents? The Bible says that there are three animals that chew the cud,
>but don't have split hooves, and one that has a split hoove, but doesn't
>chew the cud. In the former category, one one the animals listed is
>commonly translated from the Hebrew into English as a rabbit. Thanks for
>your time.

His reply:

>I will give first the biological answer, and then a philosophical one.
>Since some of this is unsavory, you might not want to be eating lunch as
>you read it.
>Plant material is broken down primarily by bacteria that live in an
>animal's digestive tract.  In rabbits, these bacteria live in the cecum, a
>blind pouch between their small intestine and their large intestine.  Food
>passes (in almost all animals you are familiar with) from mouth to
>esophagus to stomach to small intestines to large intestines and out.
>Nutrients are absorbed in the small intestines.  With rabbits having their
>food broken down after it has passed trough their small intestines, they
>get almost no nutrients.  So when they defecate food after its first pass
>through the digestive tract, they eat it again (they appear to be grooming
>but in fact are defecating directly into their mouths).  The nutrients are
>them absorbed on the second pass through and these pellets are excreted
>normally and not consumed again.  This form of feeding is called coprophagy
>and is more common than you might care to think.
>Ruminants keep their bacteria in their stomach (plural, usually 4).  They
>tend to eat fast and then go find a sheltered place to regurgitate their
>food, chew it again (their cud), and swallow it.  Since the stomachs come
>before the small intestines, they do not re-eat their feces like rabbits
>do. So rabbits are not ruminants.
>Taxonomically rabbits are closely related to rodents (rats and mice) and
>ruminants are with other even-toed (cloven hoof) animals.
>Philosophically speaking, I try to tell my students (both at Wittenberg and
>at my Lutheran church where I teach catechism) that the bible was not
>written to be a science text book for the 20th century, but a spiritual
>guide based on facts for all times.  It would be meaningless to write in
>the Old Testament (sorry, it's that Lutheran thing) law something that
>would not be addressed or defined by science for thousands of years and add
>nothing to the point of the law.   So while we would not call a rabbit a
>ruminant, the word may well have been used differently when the text was
>written to mean something like "anything that eats its food twice" in which
>case the word would be fine.

It seems to me that it is not unreasonable to define "ma'alei geira" in
keeping with Dr. Lewis's final statement. As far as camels, the websites
on animals that I checked out all classify camels as ruminents - and
therefore I didn't bother to ask Dr. Lewis about that.

Eli Linas

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahillel@...>
Date: Tue, 12 Sep 2000 23:36:38 -0400
Subject: Re: Rabbits and Camels

The term "maalai gairah" does not necessarily mean a ruminant.  It is an
interesting point that a fiction book (Watership Down) pointed out what
many veterinarians did not know but which turned out to be correct, that
rabbits "rechew" their food even though they do not have the extra
stomachs that true ruminants do.

An article in from the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists
suggested a different translation.  It suggested a possibility based on
the tense of the verb used in "splitting the hoof".  I keep forgetting
which kind of camel (one or two humped) had existed in the time of
Avraham but disappeared from that area by Yetzias Mitzrayim but I think
it was the two humped camel.  That leads to

Two humped camel - upharsa lo hifrisah - past tense
One humped camel - uses mafris - present tense
llama - uses yafris - future tense not discovered until "modern" times.

While I don't know if this is correct or not, it certainly is an
intriguing thought.

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: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 11 Sep 2000 22:43:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: RE: Why we mistranslate ARNEVET

Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov asks (v33n42) what the proper translation of
Rabbit is (Since it does not ruminate and could not therefore be the
reference in Lev11-the chapter on Kashruth)

I believe that ARNEVET is translated as something like HARE(in light of
the postings saying that HARE does not ruminate either I wont commit
myself). King Ptolemy's wife's name was HARE(or however they translated
it) ---to avoid insulting her (by translating the Bible as '(Queen) HARE
is not kosher' they instead translated it as Rabbit.  (This was
uniformly done by the 70 scholars who translated the Bible into Greek).

I also believe there is a Tosafot presenting many other 'false'
translations such GRIFFEN VULTURE for NESER which is usually translated

Russell Jay Hendel; Dept of Math; Towson
Moderator Rashi is Simple
Surfing the Talmudic Sea


End of Volume 33 Issue 61