Volume 33 Number 82
                 Produced: Sun Nov 19  8:39:09 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Alephbets (2)
         [Roger & Naomi Kingsley, Ben Katz]
Learning From Artscroll
         [Eli Linas]
Learnings areas of study that are no longer relevant
         [Russell Hendel]
Questions regarding Bris Milah
         [Eliezer Shemtov]
Sewage system on Noah's ark
Announcement: New Book - JEWISH ANSWERS
         [Rabbi Shmuel Jablon]


From: Roger & Naomi Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 23:07:12 +0200
Subject: Alephbets

Mike Gerver writes:

> My guess is that the Ktav Ivri was used for carved or incised letters,
> and the Ktav Ashuri was used (at least later on) for writing with pen
> and ink.

I suspect that it is more complex than that.  After all, writing on
papyrus or parchment is very old indeed - surely going back to before
the exodus.

Since he mentions the Dead Sea scrolls - it may be of interest to note
that one of the psalm scrolls on display is clearly written in a modern
script, but with the Tetragrammaton everywhere in the archaic phoenician
letters.  Presumably this was a conscious archaism on the part of a
scribe who felt that made it more "correct" - which implies a conscious
awareness of a transition.  I have not noticed this in any of the other
scrolls on display.

Roger Kingsley

From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 09:51:08 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: Alephbets

>From: Mike Gerver <Mike.Gerver@...>
>Janet Rosenbaum asks, in v33n79, about when and why the older,
>Phoenician-style alephbet (Ktav Ivri) was replaced by the modern style
>alephbet (Ktav Ashuri).
>As far as I know, all extant Hebrew inscriptions from the First Temple
>period and earlier are in the old style.  This includes, for example,
>the silver amulet with the birkat kohanim, on display at the Israel
>Museum, as well as various stone carvings and pottery.  The oldest of
>the Dead Sea scrolls, from the 2nd century BCE, are already in a script
>that looks pretty modern.  I don't know if there are any older examples
>of the modern style.

       Mike Gerver makes some very interesting comments here.  To me, the
most interesting aspect of all of this is that the Torah was "translated"
from the old ketav ivri to the new ketav ashuri.  Also it is inetersting
that in some of the Dead Sea scrolls the script is the modern ketav ashuri
except for YHVH which is in the old ketav ivri.  

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box # 20, Chicago, IL 60614
Ph. 773-880-4187, Fax 773-880-8226


From: Eli Linas <linaseli@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 11:25:46 +0200
Subject: Re: Learning From Artscroll

I've been following the thread on Artscroll Gemaros with interest, and
thought I'd throw in my two cents worth. People have come out for and
against. It seems to me that the question is not so simple. Like most, if
not all things in this pre-Mashiach world, the Artscroll has both good and
bad elements, and so can neither be universally condemned or embraced.
Therefore, it really hinges on each individual, and those we have influence
over. Yes, it can be used for good things, and can also be abused. It's
mara mekomos are awesome, and can direct one to look in places where he
never would have thought of otherwise. If you have difficulty with a word,
or a sentence flow, it's a good dictionary. If you've broken your head
trying to get peshat, and there's no Rashi, and you've looked at Tosfos and
a few other Rishonim, then it's a nice way to get one opinion on peshat,
which might be a springboard for you to get your own peshat. Conversly, it
can be used as a crutch. Seeing as how we can't ban it, our only
alternative is to use it wisely, and infuence those around us to do so as
well. As a side note, I recently had a discussion with Rav Brevda. I
translate seforim on the side, and was taking some of his sefarim to be
sold in Beitar. I half-jokingly told him that when he wanted to translate
his works, he should be in touch with me. He answered me in all seriousness
that he has no interest in translating them because he is chosheish that
goyim are going into Jewish bookstores and buying the copious English works
on Torah and learning them. 

Some comments on a particular post: Russell Hendel wrote:

>Carl's 1st point: It encourages people, who are not truly capable of
>understanding the Gemara on their own, to learn without a Rebbe, and
>sometimes without a Chavrusa.
>My response: But this is not a criticism on Artscroll but rather a
>criticism on Rabaynu Hakadosh who wrote down the Mishnah precisely so
>that people who did not have a Rebbe or chevrutha could learn (Another
>reason often given is so that people should not rely on their memory--be
>that as it may--the Mishnah was written to deal with the 'unfortunate
>learning situation' which has not changed--hence we are justified in
>applying this to artscroll

This is not how I understand why Rebbe wrote down the Mishna. He did so
because conditions were such that it was no longer feasable to learn Torah
shebal peh completely orally, and it was in danger of being forgotten.
Therefore, he wrote down an extremely brief text to use as an aid to study.
Originally, it was a test - one learned orally, and then checked himself
against the Mishnah to make sure he got it right. I have never heard that
he wrote it down so that people could use it as a chevrusa - indeed, it is
such a closed text that this would seem to be impossible. The "unfortunate
learning situation of today" would not be a heter, because the need
Artscroll comes to fill is not that the Torah shebal peh is in danger of
being lost. There are plenty of Talmidei chachamim who learn just fine
without it. Therefore, this is not a justification.

>Carl's 2nd point: Artscroll is more than just a translation.

>My response: Good--then in effect when I learn Artscroll I am learning
>from the "Artscroller" rebbe.

The problem with this is, Artscroll can give the impression that its
peshat is the sole, and correct one. This is not the case when learning
with a real Rebbe.

>Carl's 3rd point: To the extent that Artscroll causes people with no
>grounding in the basics to take on Daf Yomi and similar endeavors, it is
>diverting resources from where they could be more gainfully employed.
>The whole point of learning Gemara is to learn how to attack a sugya,
>how to attack a halachic problem and follow its development through. The
>result of Artscroll - IMHO (and without having done a scientific survey)
>is that there are people out there who don't know how to wash Netillas
>Yadayim properly who delude themselves that they are "learning Shas"
>once every seven years.

>My response: This is a valid criticism of Daf Yomi (Which I oppose).
>However you can spend the seven years learning one tractate of Artscroll

Why do you oppose it? (I also happen not to learn it, because it's not
for me.) Are you disagreeing with Rav Meir Shapiro and all the Gedolim
who endorse it? It seems to me that the best one can say is that "its
not for me." However, I don't think that the majority of people labor
with the illusion that Daf HaYomi is a substitute for "real"
learning. To get an overview of Shas is a tremendous thing. I am aware
of people whom Daf HaYomi has transformed ( I know it did me - the
street where my house is on, that we bought after renting for several
years is Rechov Daf HaYomi!).

Eli Linas


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 19:33:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: Learnings areas of study that are no longer relevant

Eli Linas in V33n76 asks an excellent question whose answer fully
illustrates my reasoning on the learning issue. First let me recap
the discussion. I recently stated that

>>**If** I believed that sacrifices were concessions
>>to temporary conditions then there is no reason why I should learn
>>them. On the other hand if sacrifices have intrinsic value (eg teaching
>>Psychological methods as Rav Hirsch suggested) then indeed I should
>>spend many hours studying them

Eli responds
>>I don't understand: let's say that a given area of Torah is due to
temporary concession. Why is that a reason not to study it? It is still
the Almighty's Torah!>>

Eli is certainly correct on a theoretical level...people SHOULD study
Torah independent of how useful it is. But on a practical level people
only study what they are interested in. SO...if I get married I am MORE
LIKELY to study laws of family; around Chanukah I am more like to study
the laws of Chanukah; if I am a Rabbi with women who cook I am more likely
to study laws of Kashruth.

So Eli has his the nail on the head: People dont care about Sacrifices.
They SHOULD be learning it but in practice many people dont. They dont
understand the sacrifices and find them confusing. If these same people
(the ones who dont learn) knew that sacrifices contained all principles
of psychology---if these people knew that eg sacrifices could solve
their problems of depression, guilt, and joy--then they would be more
likely to study Torah.

In summary: Sure..Eli is correct...One should equally study everything.
But in practice SOME people do not study things they dont understand. So
Rav Hirsch can MOTIVATE some of these people to study sacrifices. I took
a minor poll in my synagogue last Shabbos on those who study
sacrifices..  in practice Rav Hirsch was correct..we need to motivate
people to study them.

Russell Jay Hendel; phd asa
Dept of Math; Towson Univ
Moderator Rashi is Simple


From: Eliezer Shemtov <shemtov@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000 20:04:04 -0300
Subject: Questions regarding Bris Milah

I was once invited to attend a 'Bris' performed by a non-observant
Jewish doctor, using a clamp.

As far as I understand, performing a Bris with a clamp is forbidden
(invalid?) because of several reasons: 1) there is no bleeding ('Dam
Bris') at the moment of the incision; 2) what is being removed is
already dead tissue, due to the pressure of the clamp that cuts off the
blood circulation to the Orlah. I do not know if he did Metzitza in any
way or form. I understand that there is also a problem with Priah when
using the clamp.

Based on all of these considerations, in addition to the fact that the
doctor who performed the circumcision was not shomer shabos, I decided
that it would not be proper for me to be present, as this would give a
'hechsher' to the doctor and his technique regarding Bris Milah.

I would like to point out that many people use this doctor due to the
fact that there is no local Mohel and one would have to be brought in
from out-of-town, incurring extra expenses and complicating post-Bris
care and follow up.

I tried persuading the father that he opt for the out-of-town Mohel. He
declined. I went to the Bris, in order to offer the father the option of
the doctor putting the Mogen and me proceeding with the Bris ((chituch,
pria and metzitzah) like I had done once before on my own son, with a
Kosher Mohel present). At first the father liked the idea, but then he
chickened out. I then wished him well and left before the ceremony

One of those that was present later told me that there WAS some bleeding
during the act of the 'Bris' itself, thereby justifying his presence and

What I would like to ask the readers is:

1) Is there any way that a 'clamp bris' is kosher? Are there different
types of clamps?
2) Does the fact that the one performing the Bris is not Shomer Shabos
affect the kashrus of the Bris?
3) Is one allowed to be present at such a ceremony? Does the answer to
this question depend at all if one is a Rabbi or just a 'Poshuter Yid'
(If there is such a thing as a 'poshuter Yid'...)?
4) Is there anything else that should be taken into consideration?

Rabbi Eliezer Shemtov


From: Mordechai <Phyllostac@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000 01:28:14 EST
Subject: Sewage system on Noah's ark

I have been wondering about something that I saw recently in parshas
Noach .  Rashi (Bireishis 6 : 16) states (from the gemara) that one
floor (bottom) of the teiva (ark) was set aside for refuse ('zevel') -
which seems to mean mostly human and animal waste, as there were no
bottles, plastic jugs and wrapping, etc. to discard then.

I was wondering why an entire floor (according to the most common
interpretation 1/3 or so of the ark) had to be devoted to this purpose
as 1) that is alot of space - and 2) would it not have emitted a
terrible stench, etc., even if the humans lived two floors above
it. Could it not have been discarded along the way (either without or
after treatment)? I believe large cruise ships today store waste in
tanks, offloading it at ports and some have been fined for dumping it
offshore - but perhaps they are allowed to dump some of it after
treatment (?) (anyone know?). Why couldn't it just be discarded in the

Is the Torah perhaps teaching us an environmental lesson here, not to
pollute, etc.?

Perhaps there was some type of ('primitive'?) sewage treatment plant on
the ground floor of the ark that dealt with stench, etc. ?

The Torah Temimah on the above verse seems to say that the refuse was on
the ground floor to enable it to slip out (? - into the water?), but
doesn't explicitly say how this could happen.

Another theory is that perhaps the refuse attracted insects, flies, etc.
which were eaten by other creatures - so the refuse was part of the food
supply as well.

Was Noach a very 'green' man, very 'into' recycling?

Did the portion of Noach containing the above verse, read just before
the USA Presidential election somehow give a boost to the green party
candidate and / or pro - environment gore?

Does anyone know if any of the above points are addressed in any
commentaries? I looked in some, but found little to nothing...

I would be interested to get feedback from M-J readers. Thanks in advance.



From: Rabbi Shmuel Jablon <rabbij@...>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 21:27:17 -0500
Subject: Announcement: New Book - JEWISH ANSWERS

I wanted to share with the list the news of the publication of my new
book, JEWISH ANSWERS.  It contains numerous questions I have received
via the internet in all areas of Jewish life.  It also has articles
about Chagim and Religious Zionism.  The book is available on line at
www.bn.com and www.iuniverse.com.  For more information, please check
out my web site, www.rabbijablon.com.

Shavuah tov to all!
Rabbi Shmuel Jablon


End of Volume 33 Issue 82