Volume 34 Number 14
                 Produced: Mon Jan 22 22:33:54 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Burial of Parts
         [Batya Medad]
Harry Potter (6)
         [Naomi Silverman, Mike Gerver, Joshua Hosseinof, Ben Z. Katz,
David Eckhardt, David Herskovic]
Source Request (Blink of Eye)
         [Nosson Tuttle]
U'Teshu'at HaShem Keheref Ayin
         [Steven Oppenheimer]
Vilna Gaon and Sabbateans
         [David and Toby Curwin]
Women and Gemorra
         [Alexis Rosoff]


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Jan 2001 05:00:31 +0200
Subject: Re: Burial of Parts

I just discovered a bit of family history, while doing a children's
literature paper.  My cousin wrote that our grandmother, as a little
girl in Bellarusia, played with her grandfather's finger bones.  They
were in a box awaiting his death, to be buried with him.  Apparently he
had lost part of his limb in an accident years befoe.  I thought that
the burial of parts of the body was immediate.  Anyone have any ideas?


From: Naomi Silverman <menu@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 11:20:25 +0200
Subject: Harry Potter

Moshe Nugiel wrote:

>  I don't think that Harry Potter is good for the Jews.  My understanding
> is that HP is some sort of wizard or witch, and that he is the hero of
> these books.  The Torah is quite clear that all forms of witchcraft are
> forbidden.  How is it, then, that these books are being tolerated, nay
> bolstered, by the shomer mitzvot community?

It's true that it would be Avoda Zara if it were true, but it's
obviously fantasy.  It's no worse that reading about Shfichut Damim and
Gilui Arayot which is in every single popular novel.  It doesn't "extol"
witchcraft - the book's premise is it's based on witchcraft as a part of
life, which is obviously not true.  It's based on "Real" "witchcraft"
such as incantations, and flying broomsticks and magic wands - stuff
that nobody thinks may really be happening.  (not like energies that I
really do believe in)

Harry Potter extols courage and nobleness , traits which I definitely
think we can all benefit from.  Also the books encourages strong
friendship and loyalty - those are great.  I think (based on my
experience) that after reading the book, a person is uplifted, and eager
to help others.

Anyone that thinks all novels should be "ossur", should include this
novel in the "ossur" category.  But anyone that allows other
novels should strongly encourage this series.

Naomi Silverman
Beit Shemesh

From: Mike Gerver <Mike.Gerver@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 11:00:44 +0100
Subject: Harry Potter

I'm not sure that Moshe Nugiel's posting in v34n09 is meant seriously,
but I'm going to assume that it is, since it raises some interesting

1) He asks how children can dress up as witches and goblins on Purim, if
witchcraft is forbidden by the Torah.  But it is quite common for people
to dress up as Haman on Purim, and Haman's behavior is certainly
forbidden by the Torah. So surely there cannot be any prohibition on
dressing up as a witch.  The same remarks apply to reading and writing
stories about witches and wizards.

2) I assume that his objection to Harry Potter is that it portrays
witches and wizards in a positive light.  Moshe argues that witchcraft
must exist if the Torah forbids it.  But perhaps the Torah forbids
witchcraft precisely because it doesn't exist.  Arthur Clarke once
remarked that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable
from magic.  Does that mean that sufficiently advanced technology is
forbidden by the Torah?  Not at all. The problem with trying to do
witchcraft in the real world is that it doesn't work, according to the
laws of nature.  Anyone who is trying to accomplish something that is
not allowed by the laws of nature, and who is not asking Hashem to
perform a miracle, must be asking some other supernatural power to
perform a miracle.  This is avodah zarah, and hence is forbidden by the
Torah.  But in a fantasy world such as that of Harry Potter, magic
spells do work, i.e. they are part of the fabric of nature.  Anyone who
casts a spell in a certain way will get a certain result.  Magic is just
a kind of technology.  In such a fantasy world, I see no reason why
witchcraft would be forbidden.  It wouldn't really be witchcraft, as
defined by the Torah in the real world.

3) Even if you disagree with point #2, and feel that the activities of
witches and wizards as depicted in the Harry Potter books are forbidden
by the Torah, who says children should only read books from a frum
Jewish perspective?  Children, at least at a certain age, can understand
that in a book written by a non-Jew, who is allowed by the Torah to eat
pork, good people will sometimes be depicted eating pork.  At a somewhat
greater age, they can understand that in a book written by a
non-observant Jew, even Jews might be depicted eating pork, and not
criticized for it.  They can understand that we should disagree with
this point of view, but that this is the author's point of view, and the
book might still be worth reading for other reasons.  It depends on the
age and maturity of the child.  I remember when my kids were very little
(3 or 4) I would sometimes change the meat and cheese sandwich in one of
their favorite Little Golden books to something more innocuous.  But it
would be silly to censor a book for a normal 10 year old in this way.
There are many wonderful, moving works of fiction and nonfiction
(history, biography) in the world that are written from non-Torah points
of view.  Reading such books can be spiritually uplifting, and provide
us with useful knowledge about how other people think, if we are mature
enough to be able to appreciate their good points while understanding
that we disagree with some of their premises.

Point #3 ties in with the discussion under the topic "Jewish Fiction" in
volumes 8 and 9, and people wanting to comment on this might want to
read some of those postings first. Search for the topic "Jewish Fiction"
on the mail-jewish home page.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

From: Joshua Hosseinof <hosseino@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 19:06:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: re: Harry Potter

The argument about Harry Potter is nothing new.  It's the same as the
disagreement between the Rambam and most other Rishonim about
sorcery. If, like the Rambam, you hold that the sorcery and witchcraft
mentioned in the Torah was not real, but was just simple trickery and a
fraud, then indeed a book like Harry Potter should not be allowed,
because even though it is clearly presented as fiction, even fake
sorcery and witchcraft is prohibited by the Torah.

If however, you hold like most other Rishonim that the sorcery and
witchcraft in the Torah was real, then there is no problem with fake
sorcery and witchcraft which is clealy presented as just for show, as in
Harry Potter.

If you take the Rambam's approach however, you can't take your kids to a
magic show either, because that is his exact definition of the
sorcerer/witch in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 11:15.

Joshua Hosseinof

From: Ben Z. Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 08:52:34 -0600
Subject: Re: Harry Potter

  Mr. Nugiel needs to lighten up.  The books are fairy tales, the same
way that Snow White and Greek mythology are fairy tales.  Either one reads
fiction or one does not.  (I personally do not read much fiction any more,
maybe one novel every few years, because I have so many interests, learning
being a primary one, but I read the first Harry Potter book to see what it
was about, and it was delightful.  It is also getting kids to read!)  And
not everything the Torah outlaws is "real", avodah zara being a great
example.  The Torah could have outlawed withcraft as an abominable, but
useless practice in the same way that avodah zara is an abomination that
the Bible knew was useless ("atzabayhem keseph vezahav maasay yeday adam").
 And I do not wish to start a debate as to whether the magic described in
the Tanach is "real" or not; there are opinions on both sides and no one is
going to change their minds.  Suffice it to say that there is a rationalist
tradition in Judaism (baruch Hashem) so one does not have to believe in
necromancy (see I Samuel 28) to be observant.

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Ph 773-880-4187
Fax 773-880-8226

From: David Eckhardt <David.Eckhardt@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 13:42:16 -0500
Subject: Re: Harry Potter

My quote file contains the following, quoted by Yehoshua Kahan in
volume 24 #80 of this list:

The purely righteous do not complain about evil,
 rather they add justice!
They do not complain about heresy,
 rather they add faith!
They do not complain about ignorance,
 rather they add wisdom!
Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook, Tallelei Orot

I think much of the attraction of the Harry Potter books is the sheer
density and realism of the emotional and moral challenges that the
characters are faced with and overcome.  In one book Harry faces
childhood as an orphan living in a cruel stepfamily, being thrown into a
new social structure (boarding school), conflicting loyalty between his
peer group and the rules of adult society, various instances of learning
not to value people by superficial characteristics, taking
responsibility when his rule violations hurt another person, threats to
his life and the lives of his friends, and so on.  The settings are
quirky enough and the writing skillful enough that the result does not
read like a morality lecture.

In an ideal world, there would be so many examples of youth fiction
embodying these characteristics and also consistent with Jewish values
that the Harry Potter books would be just one voice among many.

Or, if such fiction already exists and the only problem is publicity,
imagine a Jewish book recommendation web site which could make
suggestions along the lines of "Children who liked Harry Potter
typically also liked ...".

Dave Eckhardt

P.S. Caveats: (1) I have read only the first HP book, (2) I am not
currently Orthodox.

From: David Herskovic <crucible@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2001 10:56:52 +0000
Subject: Harry Potter

Should I be telling my children about Paroy's magicians in this weeks
sedre? I have no references to hand but I believe the Rambam somewhere
has something about magic not existing. Anyway what harm is there in
letting kids be kids and enjoy a make believe world? I am currently
reading The Hobbit to my 7 year old and we're both thouroughly enjoying
it. The only time I was disturbed by a magical book was when I read him
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Christian message is so strong
that I couldn't get myself to finish it with him.

Dovid Herskovic


From: Nosson Tuttle <TUTTLE@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 10:38:56 -0500
Subject: RE: Source Request (Blink of Eye)

As far as I and my Daf-Yomi Shiur-mates have ascertained, this is only a
well-known and well-used expression with no Bilblical source.  I thought
I remembered it as a Rashi but the closest one I have come up with is on
Ex. 12:41, "Shikivan Shihigia Haketz Lo Ikvan HaMakom KHeref Ayin", or,
in English, "once the end had arrived, Hashem did not detain them even
for the blink of an eye".

Nosson Tuttle (<ntuttle@...>)

> From: Eli Linas <linaseli@...>
> Anyone have a source for the expression: "u'teshu'as (or "teshu'as)
> Hashem k'heref eyin"? I searched the Torah CD Library, and looked in the
> m'chlol, with no success. Anyone have Bar-Ilan, or any other resources
> they could check? Thanks a lot.


From: Steven Oppenheimer <oppy@...>
Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2001 23:35:07 -0500
Subject: U'Teshu'at HaShem Keheref Ayin

Eli Linas asked for the source of U'Teshu'at HaShem Keheref Ayin.

See Shut Yosef Ohmetz 104; Sredei Aish 2:125; Heichal Yitzchak 37, 39;
Igrot Moshe O.Ch. 4:108.

Perhaps this is based on "She'mi'keivan she'hi'gi'a hakeitz, lo akvan
HaMakom keheref ayin" (Mechilta deRabi Yishmael - Bo; Midrash Tanchuma -
Bo; Yalkut Shimoni - Bo)

The Even-Shushan dictionary quotes R' Yehuda HaLevi: natati roznim
la'ayin, u'teshu'ati keheref ayin.

Steven Oppenheimer, D.D.S.


From: David and Toby Curwin <tobyndave@...>
Date: Sun, 21 Jan 2001 13:42:36 +0200
Subject: Vilna Gaon and Sabbateans

I happened to come across an article recently discussing Rabbi Moshe
Chaim Luzzato's connections to the Sabbateans. I know that it is not
entirely clear that he did follow Shabtai Tzvi, but some major
rabbinical figures of his day, including Rabbi Yaakov Emden, did seem to
accuse him of Sabbatean tendencies. I also know that the Vilna Gaon had
a lot of respect for Luzzato. Does anyone know if the GR"A had any
particular stance in the Sabbatean controversy? Did anyone ever accuse
him of sympathies for the movement because of his support of the

-David Curwin
Efrat, Israel


From: Alexis Rosoff <alexis1@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 23:30:42 -0500
Subject: Re: Women and Gemorra

On Mon, 15 Jan 2001 23:24:35 PST, Leona Kroll wrote:

|> Strictly speaking, there was never a "ban" on women learning Gemorra, as
|> evidenced by the fact that many pious women throughout the ages
|> (including Rashi's daughters) were learned in Gemorra. The ban is on a

I think I either misphrased my original message, or it was
mis-interpreted here (probably both, rereading my message--I only
mentioned teaching, but failed to draw this distinction). I know that
women _learning_ Gemara is not prohibited, and women studied it on their
own (and that it can be inferred from Jewish history that women have
done so) but _teaching_ it is--or at least, halacha is interpreted that
way by some. I'm more interested in the teaching aspect--how the halacha
came to be interpreted so that Gemara/Talmud specifically was banned,
and why it was changed.



End of Volume 34 Issue 14