Volume 34 Number 15
                 Produced: Mon Jan 22 22:44:53 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

A Can of Peas
         [Stan Tenen]
Does the Torah command emotions or behaviors
         [Russell Hendel]
Is there a Biblical Grammar
         [Russell Hendel]
Place and Name
         [Stan Tenen]
Shoveling Snow on Sabbath
         [Russell Hendel]
What is the real reason we dont remember Rashis
         [Russell Hendel]


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 08 Jan 2001 08:43:43 -0500
Subject: A Can of Peas

At 12:43 PM 1/7/01 -0500, <CARLSINGER@...> wrote:
> >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.
>I'd like to agree with you -- because life was simpler, once.
>but "peas" are not only "peas and water" -- They are "peas and water" canned
>and processed (cooked) in a certain way in certain vessels,
>I am not in the food services industry, so I cannot speak to the complexity
>or the details of modern food canning, but there are issues of concern that
>need to be investigated -- and a hechsher is likely necessary.

Thank you, Carl.  This is a really helpful response.  If either of us
had used a more exaggerated example, then the point I'm trying to make
would not be as reasonable.  (For example, I am not talking about
situations involving meat.  Here, there obviously are issues where a
mashgiach is necessary.)

My point is that no matter whether there's a hechsher or not, either we
grow and cook everything ourselves with no exceptions, or we have to
trust others.  There's no way around this.

It seems to me that it is far preferable to focus our concerns on
serious matters (such as the kashrut of meat, and Jewish survival, as
two separate examples), rather than to attempt to be perfect in every
detail, in every case, particularly when a reasonable person, knowing
the situation, would opt to trust that things were as they should be.

First, we have to remember that the kosher rules are a good example of a
wide class of halacha (involving other minor issues where an intelligent
person should be able to exercise their own careful choice).  So this is
an argument that goes beyond the kosher rules.

It's important to remember that kosher isn't a matter of food poisoning
or toxicity, and it also isn't a matter of magic.

If it were a matter of toxicity, then it wouldn't only concern persons
adhering to halacha.  So, in no case are we talking about a situation
where there's an imminent objective physical danger.  Most food in
developed countries is presumed to be safe when handled safely.

And kosher also isn't a matter of magic.  Kashrut standards and
practices vary in different halachic communities.  And when it's
accidental and not deliberate, a contamination of 1/60 is considered to
be of no consequence.  Remember, 10 or 15 years ago as I recall, someone
realized that nearly all tin cans (aluminum cans, etc.) used for food
packaging had their mechanisms lubricated with edible grease -- i.e.,
lard.  As I recall, the Islamic world was very upset, because they have
no 1/60 rule.  No one retroactively ruled that old canned goods couldn't
be used.  Our halacha is not based on magic, it's based on reasonable
and customary interpretations of Torah.  Jello (animal gelatin) in the
States is not intrinsically different from jello in Israel, but we treat
them differently in terms of their being kosher.  Again, this isn't
magic.  This is custom that developed which was reasonable at the time.

But today, some things IMO have gone to excess.  If there were something
non-kosher about a can of peas, or peas and water, from a major
manufacturer in the US, it would be far more serious than a matter of
kosher; and/or, it would be trivial and effectively non-existent.  It
wouldn't be deliberate, it wouldn't exceed 1/60, and it wouldn't have
occurred under the supervision of a Jew.  Even in the few instances
where this may not be a good assumption, it seems to me there still
wouldn't be any problem with the peas being kosher.

But there is a problem when a class of "pea cans" needs to have kosher
supervision.  It's burdensome, it's gratuitous, and it unnecessarily
separates "us" who keep kosher, from "them" who don't keep kosher.  In a
Jewish world, where 90% of Jews don't respect Torah, it seems to me that
we don't need any gratuitous off-putting regulations, and it seems to me
that we need our energy and attention for far more serious matters. (I
know Conservative Jews who think that halachic Judaism is just plain
stupid, because of situations regarding jello, for example.  Here,
hyper-kosher is a gratuitous encumbrance to respect for Torah, IMO.)

No one "can of peas" is a burden, of course.  But when we apply
hyper-halachic customs to a broad range of products, then we're burdened
by what amounts to a million flea bites.  No one flea bite is
significant. But when thousands bite, even though no single bite is
significant in itself, that is significant.  This is what puts off the
90% of us who are not Torah observant.

I want to be clear. I'm not calling for any sort of violation of halacha
or of reasonable standards of kashrut.  I'm calling for a gradual,
caring, and realistic reduction of relatively recent _gratuitous_
additional stringencies, which have in part been responsible for pushing
so many Jews away from Torah.  IMO this is not a time when we want to
use kosher rules to keep the Jewish world socially separate from the
non-Jewish world, because in this time, that means keeping the Jewish
world socially separate from 90% of itself.

It seems to me that the more each of us takes responsibility for our own
level of observance, and does not constantly default to a K or a U with
a circle, or some similar symbol on a can, the more we demonstrate to
others that it's not necessary to leave one's own personal mind at the
door (as the critics say) in order to be a halacha-observant Jew.  Even
if we should occasionally be wrong, it's better for the reputation of
Torah in the world that we think for ourselves, and learn to make
decisions for ourselves.  (Personally, it seems to me inappropriate for
a person with yirat Hashem to believe that an occasional accidental 1/60
contamination is any harm to their spiritual well-being.  Belief that
one is injured by an _accidental_ 1/60 is in my opinion the equivalent
of turning kashrut into magic.)

Even if I risk accidentally violating kashrut by eating a can of peas
processed on a machine that was used for clam juice before it was
steam-cleaned, it seems to me that this is far better than a "we who
keep kosher strictly vs they who don't keep kosher strictly" world-view.
No one is at risk of disrespecting Torah for eating from an unhechshered
can of peas, but many are pushed away from Torah by gratuitous
regulations that appear unnecessarily authoritarian and

And of course, if it's not our responsibility to reach the 90% of our
nation that is disaffected, whose responsibility is it?  Surely kashrut
was not intended to keep Jews from Torah.  If this has become the case,
it's certainly not Hashem's fault, or Torah's fault.

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


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2001 18:09:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Does the Torah command emotions or behaviors

Mark Symons in v34n07makes two comments about mourning/Tisha Beav
(a)Mark asserts that there is no commandment to be sad (>Where is
it stated that a mourner must be sad?<), (b) Mark asserts that the
mourners obligations are >behavioral< He says >Thus I would
understand the Mitzvah of being sad on 9 Av as meaning to get into a
state of mind where we really feel the loss of the Bet HaMikdash and all
that goes with that; the 9 Av rituals are designed to help this
process. If we do this successfully, then sadness will naturally follow<

I would respond to Mark with 4 points. (1) There are many commandments
ordering emotions such as >Love God<, >Believe in God<, >Dont hate
your friend in your heart<, >Love thy neighbor as thyself< etc..I
dont believe that Mark and I disagree on this.

(2) Mark and I also agree that the Torah and the sages will try and
implement an emotion commandment by ordering behavioral actions to
facilitate the emergence of the emotion.

(3) However I believe that the Torah also directly commanded the
emotional state. Thus the Torah commanded us >to Believe in GOd,
or >to Love God< or >to be sad in the presence of a family death<

(4) With regard to mourning allow me to point out that the 11
items that the mourner is Biblically prohibited and many of the 5
Rabbinically prohibited items are all >OPPOSITES< of >HAPPINESS<
For example (i) learning the torah, (ii) marital relations, (iii)
marriage, (iv) parties. Furthermore there is no mourning on holidays
since the >happiness< of holidays contradicts mourning--hence
mourning must be considered >sadness<

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA
Dept of Math
Moderator Rashi is Simple


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 20:21:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: Is there a Biblical Grammar

Leona Kroll in mjV34n3 states that we shouldnt infer Grammar from the Bible
>since we know from meforshim that there are numerous places where a
phrase or word is used in a way that is grammatically incorrect but
which teaches us a lesson in the meaning of the pasuk, etc. Rashi, esp,<

If Leona will reread what she wrote she will see that in essence she is
saying that (i) there **is** something called Biblical grammar but (ii)
at times there are exceptions to grammatical rules (which the
commentaries use to give explanations).

In other words the exceptions to the grammatical rules only make sense
because there are so many counterexamples which prove the rule. In fact
most of Classical Hebrew grammar (Roots, grammatical form) can and are
derived from the Bible.

Here is a simple example from the Rashi website (URL below). On Ex02-12b
it describes that Moses witnessed an Egyptian taskmaster hitting a a Jew
so >Moses looked around and saw no person<. Rashi however reinterprets
this verse >Moses looked prophetically and saw no person(descending from

Why? Because the correct grammar for a search with no results is to use
the keywords >BEHOLD....there was NONE< (A Verse list is provided on the
URL below with a discussion of possible exceptions).

But that simply means, not that grammar was violated, but rather that
verb >SEE<. So Rashi correctly interprets >SEE< prophetically.

Thus there was never any bad grammar--only suggestions to reinterpret.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA
Dept of Math; Towson Univ. <rhendel@...>
Moderator Rashi is SImple


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2001 10:23:47 -0500
Subject: Place and Name

There is no doubt, Kabbalistically speaking, that God's Name (Ha-Shem)
is actually God's Place (Ha-Sham).  This is the Makom.  This is the
location of the Temple, and the Tabernacle, and the Heavenly Jerusalem,
within the Pardes Orchard.  This is the _Place_ where Akiba met
Moshiach.  God is a Place in meditation.  God is a Verb in the world.
God is not a person, and not a thing.

My work indicates that there never was a prohibition of pronunciation of
the Four Letters, because the pronunciation was never an issue.  Rather,
there was a loss of knowledge of how to reach the meditational space in
Pardes which is the Place of Hashem.

The concept of a Name is naturally confused with the concept of a place
or a function.  That's how we name things -- by their place or by their
function.  That's how Adam was able to give meaningful names to the
other creatures.  We call a person from Krakow, "Krakauer".  We call a
person who is a butcher, Mr. Fleischmann.

Thus, because Torah speaks in our language, the Name of God must be the
Place of God, and/or the Function of God.

Kabbalistically it's possible to demonstrate how God's Name is Place and
is Function.  Kabbalistically, there is no Name of God that needs to be
spoken, but rather a Place of God that needs to be reached.

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


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 7 Jan 2001 20:18:37 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: Shoveling Snow on Sabbath

Jeff Fischer in mjv33n99 responds to the question as to whether you can
shovel snow on Shabbath. There have already been many responses. I just
wanted to comment on the >Danger to life issue< Jeff states

>I asked my rabbi that question a few years ago when we had a blizzard on
>Shabbos.  He said that you are absolutely able to shovel on Shabbos
>since there is Bikuach Nefesh involved.
>This is only if the snow fell on Shabbos

I disagree. >SNOW< has the potential to cause slipping(this was pointed
out in mjv34n4) As such its tort category is the same as the >PIT<.  Now
a >PIT DAMAGE< is only considered potentially lethal if a height of 10
tephachim (30-40") is involved. A >PIT< with less than that height is
considered possible to cause >DAMAGE< but not >DEATH< (eg Rambam,
Monetary Torts, 12). And you do not descerate the Sabbath Biblically to
prevent damages.

In passing I lightly respond to some other issues: (a) I dont see how
Shoveling is >building/unbuilding< since you are not shovelling to make
foundations for building but rather to clear the pathway. (b) Even
though snow is NOLAD the laws of Muktzeh allow things to be removed
(under certain circumstances) if danger is involved (which is the case
here). (c) Even if there is no eruv, shovelling usually involves moving
the snow from the sidewalk to the gutter, a move of less that 6 feet
which is permissable on Shabbath (even without an eruv).

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA
Dept of Math; Towson Univ; <rhendel@...>
Moderator Rashi is Simple


From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 2001 18:09:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: What is the real reason we dont remember Rashis

Aliza Fischman and Gilad Gevaryahu (eg v34n7) both suggest that
the >reason we can remember a nifty song over a Rashi is because
differnet parts of the brain are involved<

I disagree. The reason we dont remember Rashis is because we dont
understand them. By contrast a nifty song has lyrics which we
relate to and understand.

So a Rashi which has a clear derivation OR a Rashi with a punchy
mnemonic are remembered. My favorite example is Gn32-04: I >STAYED
OVER(Gimel Resh Tauv Yud)< with Laban:Rashi states that a juggling
of the letters of the Hebrew GRTY is TRYG=613, the number of
Biblical commandments. Hence we learn that Jacob kept all commandments
while by Laban. The Rav, Rabbi Joseph Baer Soloveitchick, explained
(a la the Chizkuni) that the Hebrew root >GUR< means to >stay over<
(in contrast to the Hebrew root >YSHV< which means to >DWELL<).
For more details see the URL below from my Rashi website (whose goal
is to make all Rashis >sing<)

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA
Dept of Math; Towson Univ
Moderator Rashi is Simple
http://www.RashiYomi.Com/ (See http://www.RashiYomi.Com/gn32-5a.htm)


End of Volume 34 Issue 15