Volume 33 Number 92
                 Produced: Mon Dec 25 10:04:34 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Automatic Light
         [Mike Gerver]
Automatic light
         [Carl Singer]
Bracha by phone, and in movies
         [Mike Gerver]
Buying Ma'arat Hamachpelah
         [Moshe and davida Nugiel]
Chanukah in Hotels
         [Y. Askotzky]
Great Book on Eastern European Jewish Life
         [Paul Ginsburg]
         [Bob Werman]
Reasons for Commandments
         [Leona Kroll]
Tefillat "Zakah"
         [Shlomo Pick]
Texts for Hebrew Learning
         [Bill Bernstein]
Yiddish spelling of Hebrew words
         [Batya Medad]


From: Mike Gerver <Mike.Gerver@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 09:17:14 +0100
Subject: Automatic Light

Shmuel Himelstein, in v33n90, tells us about "a sensor which turns on a
bright floodlight when anyone passes by" and asks if it would be a
problem to walk by such a sensor on Shabbat.  About twelve years ago, I
asked a shayla about a somewhat similar situation. There was a real
estate office I passed on the way to shul which had a cute display in
the window, to attract attention.  It consisted of a solar cell driving
a motor which was attached to a little figure of a man riding a bicycle.
When the motor was on, the figure's legs would move, and it would look
like he was pedaling the bicycle.  If your shadow fell across the solar
cell as you were walking by, the motor would stop.  I was told that
there was absolutely no halachic problem with walking by the window on
Shabbat, and accidentally stopping the motor.  I wasn't trying to stop
the motor, and I wasn't benefitting from it, so there was no need to be
careful to avoid letting my shadow fall on the solar cell. The fact that
I wasn't directly turning on and off the motor might have had something
to do with it also.  However, I was told not to deliberately make my
shadow fall on the solar cell on Shabbat, in order to watch the bicycle

There may be important differences between this case and the case of
sensor with the floodlight.  For one thing, I'm not sure there would be
any Torah prohibition even on deliberately starting and stopping the
motor with the solar cell, although there might be if the motor were not
a brushless type, and sparks were created when the commutator opened and
closed. Deliberately and directly turning on a floodlight, especially if
it were an incandescent light, would probably violate the Torah
prohibition on lighting a fire.  Also, depending on whether it was
cloudy, and on how close to the window you were walking, it was possible
to walk by the real estate office without putting a shadow on the solar
cell, while it might not be possible to walk by the sensor without
activating the floodlight.

There were a few houses with sensor-activated floodlights near where I
used to live in Brookline, and I sometimes accidently set them off on
Shabbat.  If I was thinking about it, I would cross the street when I
passed by those houses, but I usually didn't think about it until it was
too late.  I never asked a shayla about it, because there didn't seem to
be any shayla to ask.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2000 22:28:57 EST
Subject: Re: Automatic light

<< From: Shmuel Himelstein <shmuelh@...>
 The Conservative synagogue near my home (the one in Jerusalem vandalized
 a few months ago) has now installed a sensor which turns on a bright
 floodlight when anyone passes by. They do not activate it on Shabbat,
 but the question arises: if someone has such an automatic sensor, what
 is my responsibility on Shabbat? Must I find an alternative route home?
 And what would the law be if there is no alternative route home? >>

 I believe in an earlier posting I mentioned a neighbor of mine who was
renting and reached an agreement with his landlord re: a sensor-light
that would be activated whenever he came to his doorway.

Perhaps we should add some additional structure to the question: My
responsibilities as an owner, renter, guest.

Also when walking, unknowingly (that is we see the sensor go off on
someone walking in front of us) and now we will need to take a
significant detour.

When knowing of such a sensor a priori and having to plan a route.

I imagine more circumstances / alternatives might be relevant.

Kol Tov

Carl Singer


From: Mike Gerver <Mike.Gerver@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 09:52:46 +0100
Subject: Bracha by phone, and in movies

Asher Goldstein, in v33n90, mentions the halachic ruling that you cannot
be yotzei [fulfill your obligation] by hearing Megillat Esther read on
live TV, and concludes that it is not necessary to say "amen" when
hearing a bracha on live TV, let alone in a recording or a movie.  But
this doesn't necessarily follow.  If I hear someone make a bracha on
putting on tefillin, then I am obligated to say "amen," even in the
middle of putting on my own tefillin (when ordinarily I would not be
allowed to talk).  But I cannot be yotzei on the mitzvah of putting on
tefillin by saying "amen" to someone else's bracha on tefillin.  So it
might very well be that you are obligated to say "amen" to the bracha of
someone reading the Megillah on live TV, even though you cannot fulfill
your obligation to hear the Megillah read.

As I mentioned in my earlier posting, I was told that my daughter could
be yotzei on hearing havdalah over the phone, so I assume you would have
to say "amen" to a bracha made over the phone. It might be that hearing
Megillah, like hearing shofar, has to be direct, while hearing havdalah
(and perhaps any other bracha) can be indirect.  There is a famous
gemara which says you cannot be yotzei on hearing shofar if someone is
blowing shofar while standing in a hole which amplifies the sound. This
is the basis for not allowing microphones to be used to amplify the
sound of the shofar, even aside from any questions of using electricity
on Yom Tov.  It might be that something similar applies to hearing the
Megillah read on TV, although it might not extend to prohibiting the use
of microphones for Megillah (I don't know).

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Moshe and davida Nugiel <friars@...>
Date: Tue, 28 Nov 2000 20:53:06 +0200
Subject: Buying Ma'arat Hamachpelah

This year's reading of parshat Chaye Sarah raised the following
question.  One generally assumes that Avraham's insisting on the legal
purchase of a familial burial place was a good thing.  I believe that in
Hevron a sort of extra festive Shabbat is held annually on this parsha.
However, let us ask the question, why did Avraham, in fact, insist upon
the "legal" purchase of his burial plot?  The B'nei Het offered to give
him, as a gift, the use of any area he wanted to bury Sarah.  Avraham
knew from prophecy that the entire Land of Canaan would belong to his
family in a few hundred years.  So why buy now, at an exorbitant price,
that which the Almighty has promised He will give?

Perhaps the common wisdom is missing the point of this difficult parsha.
Perhaps this is a failure of faith on the part of Avraham Avinu.
Avraham wants to make "doubly sure" that at least this burial plot will
remain under his ownership (whatever that may mean after his people are
enslaved in Egypt), and so he acquires "ownership" of it by giving part
of his vast wealth to the heathen people residing there at the time.  As
if this legal procedure has more power than the promise of God.

Yaakov Avinu also "buys" part of Eretz Canaan, that part which is known
today as Kever Yosef.  Same question.  Yaakov surely knew the promise
made to Avraham and his descendants.

Nowadays, Hevron and Kever Yosef are, arguably, the most hotly contested
areas in Eretz Yisrael.  The "purchases" effectuated by material means
signify very little.  Perhaps only today can we understand the lesson of
the lack of faith committed by our forefathers.  The lesson is, only
Hashem decides who gets what, and when.  Trying to "buy" parts of Eretz
Yisrael with money or other hardware alone cannot succeed.  We must
bolster our faith in the Almighty, remembering that He has promised us
Eretz Yisrael.  When He sees that recognition of the true source of
blessing has been strengthened, and that faith has replaced lack of
faith, He hopefully will consider this generation worthy of His promise.

Moshe Nugiel


From: Y. Askotzky <sofer@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 10:28:19 +0200
Subject: Chanukah in Hotels

Actually, the halacha of the gemora obligates us to light the menorah
outside at the gate of the chatzer to the mavuy (alley). (In the time of
the gemora people lived around a large courtyard that led into an alley
that led into a larger street.) Due to the galus of living among the
goyim the halacha allowed for indoor lighting and for many it has stuck
to this day eventhough many of us could once again light outside. What
is very clear from the halacha/gemora is that the lighting is for
pirsumei nissa (proclamation of the miracle) to those passing by and not
mainly for those at home. The halacha is says that the time for lighting
is while people are still in the shuk (market). If the main purpose was
for those at home then why would it make any difference when people are
in the shuk- the opposite would be true- the preferred time to light
would be once most people have returned home from the shuk so they can
see the candles burning!

I assume most hotels would not allow candle lighting in the rooms. One
must consult a rav as to where the proper place to light in a hotel
would be.

kol tuv,

Rabbi Yerachmiel Askotzky, certified sofer and examiner
<sofer@...>   www.stam.net   1-888-404-STAM(7826)


From: Paul Ginsburg <GinsburgP@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 07:51:29 -0500
Subject: Great Book on Eastern European Jewish Life

I have read countless books on Eastern European Jewish life and history
and recently came across a fantastic book which should be mandatory
reading for anyone whose family comes from Eastern Europe.  The book
information is as follows:

"Life is With People: The Jewish Little-Town of Eastern Europe" by Mark
Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog.  International Universities Press, Inc.
New York.  1955.

Please e-mail me with any questions.

Paul W. Ginsburg
Sudilkov Online Landsmanshaft
Bethesda, MD


From: Bob Werman <RWERMAN@...>
Date: Tue,  28 Nov 2000 18:02 +0200
Subject: Mizvat-Ha-Rai

I wonder if someone could enlighten me about the use of mirrors to
center tephillin shel rosh?  When did this become a custom?  Everyone
carrying a small mirror in his tephillin/tallit bag?  I don't remember
it 25-30 years ago.  When did it begin?  Where?

And where is the mitzva to center the head tephillin to the millimeter
written first?

__Bob Werman
Over 70, Jerusalem


From: Leona Kroll <leona_kroll@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 21:40:02 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Reasons for Commandments

While I agree with many of Nachum's points, I have hard time believing
that the essential character-molding inyon behind giving tzedkah should
be learning to sympathize with the poor, or rather- giving beyond your
10% might be linked to developing your sympathy, giving free loans is
part of understanding and sympathizing with others who have less, even
inviting the poor to your wedding (still a custom in many
communities)has to do with this.  However, when we give miser, it is not
saying 'I have and I must sympathiize with those who don't have'.  IMHO,
it is saying this:the Aibeshter is responsible for my parnossa, down to
the last penny, and if the same Aibeshter ( as the name implies, there
can be only one) who said that a yid should give 10% of his income to
tzedakah has decreed that my income should be x dollars, then He is
really giving me 90% of x, and that other 10% belongs to someone else,
and if I keep it then I'm a thief, because its not really my money. So,
IMHO, giving 10% is really acknowledging that we don't run the show, and
we have to pass that money on to its rightful owner. Tzedakah means
jutice, not charity. I think that it is also meant to humble the giver,
and to make us feel our dependence on Hashem.


From: Shlomo Pick <picksh@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 14:23:00 +0200
Subject: Tefillat "Zakah"

I'm looking for any information concerning "tefila Zaka", first mention
known to me in chayei adam (Vilna, 1819) [144:20].  Is there any
articles concerning this work? Can any one answer the following:
A. What is his source (he himself refers to "early books")?
B.  Are there any different customs concerning this prayer? Does anyone
say it in the morning of Yom Kippur? Before Mussaf?
C.  Do women actually say it also? If they do, do they emend any of the
sexual texts?
D.  Are there variant versions?
Shlomo Pick


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Nov 2000 09:19:23 -0600
Subject: Texts for Hebrew Learning

I am not very happy with the text series the local school here uses for
teaching Hebrew.  The stories seem very short on emphasizing
vocabulary-building, shoresh (root) recognition, and grammar.  I was
curious what other schools use to teach beginning reading.  Thanks for
your help.


From: Batya Medad <isrmedia@...>
Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 08:36:02 +0200
Subject: Re: Yiddish spelling of Hebrew words

>Since I doubt if there would be any ideological reason to misspell
>Hebrew words at the Brooklyn Jewish Center in 1922, where my grandmother
>was married, it seems that this practice was not limited to the Soviet
>Union, although I guess it could not be called "systematic" in the case
>of my grandmother's ketuba.  Or maybe I was mistaken, and "Osna" does
>not come from the Hebrew "Osnat" after all?

If I'm not mistaken, Osnat is not a Hebrew name, though it is in the
Chumash.  Not all the "Biblical names" are Jewish.  Of similar
construction is Anat, a popular, though non-Jewish, Biblical name.



End of Volume 33 Issue 92