Volume 34 Number 08
                 Produced: Sun Jan  7 11:48:57 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Is Change Bad?
         [Stan Tenen]
Learning with a nigun
         [Alan Cooper]
Mardi Gras and Purim
         [Mike Gerver]
non-Jews at chuppah
         [Leona Kroll]
Ohr Hamizrach
         [Stan Tenen]
Rambam, Hil. Melachim
         [Janet Rosenbaum]
Rosh Hashana Vs. New Years day
         [Shlomo Zwickler]
Siddur - Leshon Mikra or leshon hakhamim?
         [Mark Steiner]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 05 Jan 2001 09:05:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Is Change Bad?

Jonathan Grodzinski concludes his very helpful posting with the following 
two paragraphs:

At 10:39 AM 1/5/01 +0000, Jonathan Grodzinski wrote:

>Similar changes have happenned to many other items (think of the myriad
>products which were kosher but now "require" a hechsher (kosher
>certificate) ) but surely there is nothing wrong with change within the

This is not helpful.  Requiring hechshers on many products that didn't
require them previously adds expense, inconvenience, and uncertainty.
It also reduces our personal responsibility.  And it doesn't always
protect us from non-kosher, as the listings in the kosher certification
booklets and updates constantly warn us about.  Mislabeling is not so
uncommon that it can be neglected, so the responsibility still falls on
each of us.  There are problems with new chemicals and additives, but in
most cases this could be dealt with through normal consumer laws on
proper labeling.  Personally, I have given up worrying about cans of
peas where the ingredient list is only "peas" or "peas and water".  It
just doesn't seem right to me to not buy products that are perfectly
fine, just because a canner -- who meets health standards -- doesn't pay
to have a hechsher on a can of peas.  There are risks with all choices.
It's also not sensible to think that avoiding all unhechshered products
like vegetables (where full ingredients are listed) because there is
still risk of mistakes, etc.  To think we can be perfect is a result, I
believe, of what Jonathan Grodzinski posted in his last paragraph,

>The vast increase (not only in numbers but also in the proportion to
>total jewish population) of men and women attending yeshiva / sem.  This
>is caused by a change in standards of living.  A hundred years ago, only
>the select few attended yeshivah beyond teenage years, because in
>general people could not afford. This is no different from the increase
>in numbers of people attending university and other tertiary education.
>Is change bad ?

In the case you mention here, of more people attending yeshiva, this is
definitely not good IMO.  The same has happened in the secular
universities.  We've opened them up to unqualified people, who have then
dummied-down the general understanding of important subjects, and this
dummying down has taken hold across the community because the less
qualified people greatly outnumber the qualified students.  Much of our
unwarranted fundamentalist hyper idealist halachic perspective has come
from the need to teach people who can't think for themselves exactly
what to do, and it's only become worse when people who can't think for
themselves -- regardless of how much they've learned -- are also those
who have been led to believe that they have a solid education when they
really don't.

Universal _higher_ education has been, in my opinion, an unmitigated
social and spiritual disaster.  I'm not an elitist, but I do believe
that Torah learning requires a meritocracy.  When we pump anyone who can
pay through any school, all we're doing is diluting the quality of the
school, and of the learning of its students -- and worse, of our own
future leadership.

I know this is going to sound off-the-wall and extreme, and without much
discussion it will appear unjustified.  But I believe that we would
today have a secure Israel, and full unquestioned sovereignty throughout
Eretz Israel including Jerusalem, if we hadn't been so intent on
repopulating our yeshivot after the devastation of the last century.

Yes, it's necessary to have an education, and an education must be
available to everyone.  But the education must be appropriate to the
ability of the student.  This becomes increasingly important as the
level of education increases.  We really don't want to certify everyone
who is pushed into brain surgery.  We only want the best and the

Torah learning is just as important, and just as serious, as brain
surgery.  In my opinion, it has been extraordinarily destructive to the
functionality and effectiveness of Torah Judaism to let students
graduate believing they know more than they actually do, and to allow
students to graduate who are not capable of really mastering subjects
that require real mastery.

I believe that Jewish survival depends on our providing education that's
appropriate, but not that exceeds the capacity of the student.  Yeshiva
education beyond the basics is in my opinion counterproductive.  We need
to see to it that every student who _is_ qualified does get a full
education, and that every student who is not qualified is told that
they're not qualified, and guided to activities where they are
qualified.  Unless Judaism is not a serious pursuit, there's no other
choice.  We can't maintain quality of leadership by telling everyone
that they're ready to do brain surgery when they're not.  We also can't
attract the 90% of disaffected Jews when the majority of our leadership
is second- or third-class.

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


From: Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>
Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2001 09:34:41 -0500
Subject: Re: Learning with a nigun

Aliza Fischman wrote:

>My mother used to always say to me, "If only you could remember your
>Chumash as well as you know the songs on the radio!"  As a matter of
>fact, many of the things I remember best from the younger grades are
>things that were put to song.  That is why we sing the Aleph Bet, the
>ABCs, Mode Ani, and Shma to our children instead of just saying them.

And that is why Torah should be taught with te`amim, especially at the
elementary levels.  I first heard this suggested by Danny Lasker, who is
now a professor at Ben Gurion University.  He even wrote an article
about it, although I can't put my finger on the reference.  I have tried
it, and it works: for most students, learning Torah with te`amim
improves both memorability and comprehension.  I guess the Masoretes
were onto something ;-)

Alan Cooper


From: Mike Gerver <Mike.Gerver@...>
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 13:01:10 +0100 
Subject: Mardi Gras and Purim

Chaim Shapiro, in discussing the comparison of Jewish and non-Jewish
holidays (v34n06), says that there is nothing similar to Mardi Gras in
Judaism.  Actually, I have heard that many of the customs of Mardi Gras
derive from Purim, and perhaps vice versa.  They both occur about the
same time of year, both involve people getting dressed up in costumes,
eating, drinking and partying, etc.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Leona Kroll <leona_kroll@...>
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 07:07:34 -0800 (PST)
Subject: non-Jews at chuppah

I believe that this point has already been made, but it is worth
repeating- decisions regarding non-Jews at a chuppah are not necessarily
halachic but rather they are often based on hashkofa. I'm not suggesting
that we shouldn't respect a rav's opinion in matters of hashkofa, but
one thing we have to bear in mind is that gladdening a chosson and
kallah is a serious obligation, too, as is kavod habrios, and these two
obligations have to weigh against all other non-halachic decisions. And
by the way, starting off your married life with a wedding that doesn't
unnecessarily hurt anyone close to you is a pretty good foundation for a
Jewish home, don't you think?


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2001 10:56:55 -0500
Subject: Re:  Ohr Hamizrach

At 01:09 PM 1/7/01 +0000, Eli Turkel wrote:
>Anyone who knows of other articles about why Amoraim don't disagree with
>Taanaim (or similar issues) please contact me


I'm not sure this is what you're asking about, but there are some only
recently-researched historical reasons for the break in continuity
between the Sevora'im and the Geonim.  Some of this history is outlined
in "The Geonim of Babylonia and the Shaping of Medieval Jewish Culture,"
by Robert Body; Yale University Press, 1998.  Brody's chronology makes
sense in light of a newly published book by David Keys: "Catastrophe".
Keys' research demonstrates that when Krakatoa exploded in 535 CE, there
were several summers without sun, massive crop failures, and then the
plague that devastated all centers of learning and civilization
throughout the world.  The Jewish kingdom in Yemen was particularly
hard-hit.  This is the period when Brody reports that the Geonim ruled
that they could not overrule the Sevora'im, because "Our knowledge of
the earlier Geonim and their doings is extremely limited."  On page 9,
Brody says that "Whatever may have been the precise nature of these
troubles, the scholars who reopened the academy of Pumbedita apparently
saw themselves as belonging to a different era from that of their
predecessors, the Savora'im."  This was during the latter part of the
6th century CE (from the text and notes on page 9).

Obviously, Brody is not aware of the Krakatoa event.  But the timing
fits perfectly.

What I'm suggesting is that the break between the Sevora'im and the
Geonim was due to a world-wide "act of God" that re-set the clocks of
civilization all over the planet simultaneously, by forcing a break with
previous knowledge and tradition.

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


From: Janet Rosenbaum <jerosenb@...>
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 12:42:01 +0200
Subject: Rambam, Hil. Melachim

Why does Rambam say that all Noahide laws are punished by the same
punishment, (and for that matter, why this punishment)?

I have heard speculation (by a no longer observant rav) that no sources
indicate that this punishment would actually be administered in the time
of the Moshiach and that Rambam was only constructing a hypothetical
system.  Is there any basis for this person's claim, or does the
consensus seem to be that a future Jewish State would be administered
like the Rambam describes?  If the latter, would the same evidentiary
rules apply for non-Jewish punishment as for comparable Jewish

Sorry if these are basic questions.



From: Shlomo Zwickler <zwickler@...>
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 16:53:55 +0200
Subject: Re: Rosh Hashana Vs. New Years day

>From: Chaim Shapiro <Dagoobster@...>
>Think of what a Christian might think if you told them about Simchas
>Torah.  My guess would be that you would find many aghast at the idea
>that people drink and act crazy on the day that celebrates the finishing
>of the law!

That is only because many Jews - particularly in the United States (even
in frum communities in the United States) have turned Simchas Torah into
a Purim of sorts. Its not just the Christians who would be aghast, but
their fellow Jews.



From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2001 15:39:50 +0200
Subject: Re: Siddur - Leshon Mikra or leshon hakhamim?

I wrote:
<<   Nice point, but Gilad doesn't note the irony that these very
Ashkenazim continue to use MH "lakh" instead of BH "lekha."  Their
excuse may have been that "lakh" is the "pausal" form of "lekha," but I
don't see the "etnahta" here.>>

Matthew Pearlman replies:
> Not quite so ironic perhaps as the whole phrase "modim anachnu lach" has
> been copied verbatim from Divrei Hayamim I 29:13, which is the only
> place in Tenach where the word "modim" appears.

    Of course, Matthew is correct (we say the verse every day, as it is
part of pesukei dezimra, and I should have remembered it)--and this
explains the use of "anahnu" even in the Talmud's version of the "modim"
prayer.  Lakh is, of course, a BH pausal form.  Thank you.


End of Volume 34 Issue 8