Volume 33 Number 83
                 Produced: Sun Nov 19  9:20:04 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Stan Tenen]
Are Jewish Inheritance Laws Fair
         [Russell Hendel]
Can we know >THE< reason for a commandment (2)
         [Wendy Baker, Andrew Klafter]
Hasidism in America video
         [Jon Hertzberg]
Plural of Tallis
         [Mark Steiner]
Reasons for Commandments
         [Steve Bailey]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2000 12:30:34 -0500
Subject: Alephbets

[Slightly edited by Mod.]

Dear Mike Gerver and Janet Rosenbaum,

Mike,  your outline is essentially correct _as the standard story goes_.

However, it's really not correct.  The Canaanite/Phoenician style
letters could never have been used for Torah scrolls, because they are
essentially all simplifications of Egyptian hieroglyphics representing
pagan deities.

The Meruba/Ashuris alphabet was _always_ used for Torah scrolls, and it
existed alongside Canaanite, going back to at least before the sojourn
in Egypt.

Also, contrary to the scholarly belief, there was no orthographic drift
from Canaanite to Meruba Ashuris.  All you need to do to assure yourself
that there was never any _graphic_ relationship between the two
alphabets is to actually look at the sample letters.  Letter-shapes do
drift, but not to their opposites.  The Canaanite Ayin is a circle,
whereas the Meruba Ashuris Ayin has a Y-shape.

The Meruba Ashuris letters are discussed in the Appendix by R. Nosson
Scherman to Michael Munk's "Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet". (Mesorah
Publications Ltd., Brooklyn: ISBN 0-89906-194-X (paper))

My work of the past 30 years, now peer-reviewed, indicates that the
Meruba Ashuris letters all derive from an idealized hand-shape, formed
from a tefillin strap fitting exact descriptions in the letter-sequences
in B'reshit and the Sh'ma, and as described in Kabbalistic texts.

This tefillin-hand also solves the most famous mathematical riddle of
the ancient world -- how do you "square a circle" with only a straight
edge and a compass.  The tefillin-hand is formed from a section of
tefillin strap that takes the form of a circle and a line.  For more on
this, check the articles at
<http://www.meru.org/3220lecture/contents.html>.  Also see the abstract
at <http://www.meru.org/tucsonIII.html>.

There is much more to all of this.  It's been my principal topic of
research for 30 years.  Check the Meru Foundation website for an
alphabet/hand-gesture chart at
<http://www.meru.org/Gestures/Atbashgest.html> and related kabbalistic
geometry that confirms the model.  (For example, the same geometry
identifies the letters decorated with triple tagim or keterim,
previously known only to Rabbi Akiba, and not otherwise known today.
You can see the keterim drawing at
<http://www.meru.org/Lettermaps/triptag5feb.html> .)

By the way, Meruba Ashuris does not mean "square-shaped Assyrian".  As R. 
Scherman points out, "Ashuris" here refers to the same root as "ashrei," 
and means "most praiseworthy."  It does not mean Babylonian, Assyrian, or 
Aramaic.  Likewise, my work demonstrates that the proper interpretation of 
the word Meruba, "square-form," does not apply to the letter-shapes in 
2-dimensions only, but rather to the 3-dimensional "square-form" that 
mathematicians now call a tetrahedron (a triangular pyramid, with all 
triangular sides and a triangular base).  You can see pictures of this at 
<http://www.meru.org/Posters/ColorLightinTent.html> and also at 
<http://www.meru.org/letteressays/bet.html#Poster>, and 

The bottom line is that the story of the Tower of Babel is not the story
of the loss of a universal _spoken_ phonetic language, but rather the
loss of universal understanding of the Meruba Ashuris hand-gesture

With regard to historical evidence: there is none.  The Dead Sea Scrolls
are not kosher.  They use a form of Meruba Ashuris.  They also use
Canaanite to spell God's Name.  The oldest example of this early sort of
Meruba Ashuris can be found on the Elephantine Papyrus, which is dated
to 300 BCE.

Other than these, all we really have are scraps.  We don't have solid
documentation until much later, and most of that comes from either the
Cairo Genizah, or from the Leningrad Codex.  The Codex includes carpet
pages which show some of the same geometry I've been working with.  It's
about 1000 years old, and it's also from Cairo, possibly from Karaite

If you really want to know more, I can send either of you, or anyone else 
on mail-jewish who asks, a file of an extended debate on physicist Jack 
Sarfatti's Internet Science Education Project "Physics & Consciousness" 
e-list.  It provides a solid rough-and-tumble overview of what I'm 
proposing, and offers some of the evidence.

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


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 13 Nov 2000 19:37:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: Are Jewish Inheritance Laws Fair

A recent posting in Mail Jewish stated an alleged disparity in
inheritance laws

>>inheritance goes to males in preference to females (but females must
be supported out of the estate in preference to males, ie if there not
enough to provide support for the girls and an inheritance for the boys,
the boys miss out);<< (Vol33n73)

This is actuarially incorrect. A proper application of fairness demands
the Biblical law. Here is a rought overview of the argument.

Under normal circumstances if a husband dies the woman has a lien on his
estate during her widowhood (eg Marriages 12:1-7). Although she does NOT
inherit the estate she nevertheless has rights to the income of the
estate. Now If Biblical law also allowed her preference or equal
treatment with her siblings in the event of death of parents then the
female population ON THE AVERAGE would come out ahead--for they would
inherit half their parents estate and ALSO have rights to the incomes of
their husbands estate.

To rectify this possible inequity Jewish law says that men have
preference in inheritance of parents while women have preference in
marriage estates. Certainly this is fair!

Note that according to Biblical law men do NOT inherit their wives at
all Even according to Rabbinic law it is the WOMAN who elects whether
her husband inherits her. Rambam (Marriages 12:1-7) lays out clearly
that (a) it is the woman not the man who selects economic preferences in
marriages (b) IF the woman so elects then in exchange for her giving up
her (1) income (2) found objects (3) estate interest (4) her rights of
transfer of her estate upon death to her own family, in exchange for her
giving up these items the husband agrees to provide for her (1')
sustenance (3') redeem her from captitivy if captured (4') make funeral
arrangements. The Rambam emphasizes that it is the woman who makes this
election (certainly this is not bias AGAINST woman)

Before getting bogged down in details let me make my major point: It is
grossly unfair to judge inheritance law WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE WHOLE
PICTURE We must look at both death of parents, death of spouses and
normal allowances for widows. The concept of FAIRNESS is holistic!

Hope this helps on this touchy topic

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


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 23:20:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Can we know >THE< reason for a commandment

> From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
> However my understanding is that Rav Hirschs views are the opposite.
> Rav Hirsch introduced introduced 3 fundamental principles which allow us
> to actually arive at >THE< reason for a commandment.
> Take Shabbath. Rav Hirschs 1st principles is to listen to the Bibles own
> quotes: If the BIble says "OBserve the Shabbath because it is a symbol
> between Me and the Jews< then I am ***sure*** that this commandment must
> be observed symbolically. Rav Hirschs second principle is to apply known
> methods of symbolic interpretation: If the Bible says >abstain from work
> on Shabbath< because >God created the world in 6 days and rested on the
> 7th< then I am sure that my resting is a symbolic affirmation of Gods
> resting.

I am concerned with the use of the term "symbolic" in relation to
Shabbat observance, or any observance.  It seems to me that if we say we
observe "symbolically" we are open to the kinds of changes in observane
one sees in non-Orthodox movement.  " for me, it is resting to listen to
good music, go to a concert, Do the kind of activities I don't get
achance to do during the work, etc" I am sure you have heard these.  How
does this symbolic observance led to reasonably strict observance of
shabbat, Kashrut, etc.?  Am I missing something here?

Wendy Baker

From: Andrew Klafter <andrew.klafter@...>
Date: Sat, 18 Nov 2000 23:45:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Can we know >THE< reason for a commandment

> The Rav explained that this corresponds to the point of view that the
> reason we observe Gods commandments are because He is King and that is
> His will.   ....what we are really doing
> is OBSERVING AN EFFECT of KEEPING KASRUTH--we are not giving the
> reason.
> However my understanding is that Rav Hirschs views are the opposite.
> Rav Hirsch introduced introduced 3 fundamental principles which allow us
> to actually arive at >THE< reason for a commandment.

    I am not familiar with this formulation of Rabbi Soleveitchick, and
since you have listed no sources, I cannot comment on it.  As far as Rav
Hirsch, you are entirely correct.

    The Rambam, in the Shemona Perakim (his introduction to Pirke Avos)
shows how these ideas were already formulated by Chazal.  "Mishpatim are
the commandments whose reasons were revealed and the benefit of their
observance in the world is obvious... Chukim are the commandments whose
reasons are not known...." (Chapter 6).  There is a well known Agadata
about how "If the Torah had never been given, we would learn modesty
from a cat...." (Eruvin 100b, bottom).  From the Rambam's language I
infer that he feels that there ARE in fact reasons for the Chukim, but
we simply do not know them.

    The Lubbavitcher Rebbe, z'tz"l, spoke and wrote frequently about
these issues.  In a posthumous publication "Gedaran Shel Mitzvos", many
of his ideas on Ta'amei Ha Mitzvos are summarized.  The Rebbe points out
that according to Rambam, not only is it true that for many mitzvos we
know THE REASON(S) for their institution, but we are obligated to
perform the mitzva AND to have THE REASON in mind as our primary intent.
(Yes, it is possible to be yotze without the proper kavana, but in order
to fulfill the mitzve l'mehadrin, we must l'chatchila have the reason in
mind.)  One of the texts cited to support this idea is the following:
Don't say "I don't want to [perform this forbidden act, or to eat this
forbidden food]."  Rather, say "I want to [peform this forbidden act],
but my Father In Heaven has decreed upon me [that I may not]." (Toras
Kohanim, cited by Rashi, Kedhoshim 20:26).  This implications of this
are profound.  According to the Rebbe, the Rambam is telling us that
when we give tzedaka, WE SHOULD BE MOTIVATED TO HELP THE POOR, and not
just to do HaShem's will.


From: Jon Hertzberg <jon@...>
Date: Wed, 15 Nov 2000 16:41:10 -0500
Subject: Hasidism in America video

[I thought that this might be of interest to members of the list, so
even though there is a certain commercial aspect to this (he wants to
rent/sell the movie) I've decided to let it through. Mod.]

I'm writing to you from First Run Features to tell you about the
celebrated documentary A LIFE APART.  Released in 1997, this thoroughly
interesting and revealing film sheds much light on a frequently
misunderstood group of people--the Jews known as the Hasidim

Their strict adherence to Jewish ritual and law, use of Yiddish, and
devotion to old world customs and traditions, set them apart from the
rest of the Jewish community and mainstream America.  At the same time,
their values are the same one that many Americans hold dear: family,
community, and a life of meaning.

The film, directed by Menachem Daum and Oren Rudavsky, is a fascinating
and illuminating foray into the wholly distinct world of the Hasidim.
Seven years in the making, it's a most intimate look into a joyous,
sometimes harsh, and often beautiful culture, which the San Francisco
Bay Guardian calls "beautiful, mysterious, and mesmerizing."

A LIFE APART is distributed on video by First Run Features and is of
great interest to cultural and religious historians, students, and to
anyone with a curiosity about one of America's most vibrant, yet unknown

I was wondering if you might be able to post a heads-up to your readers 
about the film and a link to our site,

Best regards,
Jon Hertzberg
Director of Consumer Sales
First Run Features


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 09:02:15 +0200
Subject: Re: Plural of Tallis

    Not that this is the greatest concern to the Jewish people at the
present time, but--the plural of the Hebrew word 'tallis' is 'talliyos'
(Mishnah Zovim 4:5,7).


From: Steve Bailey <stevehome@...>
Date: Sun, 19 Nov 2000 17:13:17 +1100
Subject: Reasons for Commandments

    Dr. Hendel mentions the Rav and Rav Hirsch's views on whether one
can discuss THE reason for a commandment. Let me add the view of Rabbi
Belkin in an article which discusses the difference between the REASON
for a commandment and the PURPOSE of a commandment. The former cannot be
absolutely known; we are obligated to say that the reason for all
(biblical) commandments is that G-d legislated the commandment. However
we can explore the purpose of the commandment in order to discover its
meaning. Indeed, as Rav Hirsch points out, some commandments are
described as symbolic and we cannot understand their purpose without
discovering their meaning.

    For readers interested in Rav Hirsch's approach to the meaning of
specific symbolic mitzvot, I just published a book entitled -- Kashrut,
Tefillin, Tzitzit: Studies in the Purpose and Meaning of Symbolic
Mitzvot inspired by the commentaries of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch
(Jason Aronson, 2000).

Steve Bailey
Sydney, Australia
Steve at Home: +61 2 9328-3632
+61 2 9387-3555


End of Volume 33 Issue 83