Volume 34 Number 28
                 Produced: Mon Mar 12 22:57:40 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Couples going out
         [Chaim Shapiro]
Heter Mechira
         [Elazar M Teitz]
High note at the end of an aliyah
         [Michael Appel]
Kashrut Of Bottled water
         [Eli Krowitz]
         [Barak Greenfield, MD]
Magic Shows
         [Barak Greenfield, MD]
Tefillah and rigging the system
         [Chaim Shapiro]
WItchcraft and Astrology (2)
         [David Herskovic, David Charlap]


From: Chaim Shapiro <Dagoobster@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 16:37:49 EST
Subject: Couples going out

     I was recently wondering about the best manner for married couples
to pursue friendships.  Either couples can go out as couples, or males
can go out with males and females can go out with females.  I do see
positives and negatives to both types. 

 Couples that go out together have the problem of comparison.  In other
words, a husband who goes out with his wife and another couple may think
to himself, wow look how his wife does... why can't my wife do that?
This could lead to Sholom Bais problems.  Furthermore, going out as
couples my lead to the possibility of marriages breaking up as
individual partners may fall for their friend spouses.

Going out same sex may avert these problems, and yet, there is something
to be said about a couple socializing together.  Doing things as a
couple, can lead to the strengthening of a relationship, as their common
experiences increase.


Chaim Shapiro


From: Elazar M Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 16:32:38 +0000
Subject: Heter Mechira

The citation from HaRav Shlomo Aviner, regarding reliance on the heter
mechira (sale of Israel to a non-Jew, to avoid the prohibitions of
shmitta) contains arguments which appear to be halachic, but are
actually arguments based on rhetoric and emotion rather than halachic

First, he states that "it is interesting that many who rely on Heter
Chametz (selling chametz), which is a heter around a Toraitic
prohibition, have decided to be "strict" regarding shmitta--according to
most poskim a rabbinic mitzvah in this age."  This is wrong on both

Most halachic authorities recommend relying on the sale of Chametz only
where its ownership is prohibited rabbinically, such as chametz utensils
and products containing mixtures of which some ingredients may be
chametz.  It is not recommended, except in cases of major financial loss
(e.g., bakeries, breweries, etc.) to rely on the sale for breads, cakes,
noodles, cereals, etc., whose ownership on Pesach is Biblically

Further, no one argues that a valid sale can be relied upon to avoid the
prohibitions of shmitta.  The question is: how valid and how permitted
is the sale?  There is no restriction, Biblical or rabbinic, to sell
chametz to a non-Jew.  There is very clearly a Biblical prohibition
against selling land in Eretz Yisrael.  Further, should the non-Jew who
has purchased the chametz come to the individual sellers to collect his
purchase, it would be forthcoming.  Can one imagine a
non-Torah-observant landowner allowing the non-Jew to whom the rabbinate
sold his land allowing the purchaser to come and do as he pleases with
the land?  Accordingly, the sale is not a true one, but what is known
halachically as asmachta (roughly, a matter agreed to in anticipation of
its never being realized), which renders the sale halachically invalid.

He writes further, "If someone buys from Arabs and hurts Jewish
agriculture, is this a "chumra"?!  On the contrary.  It is a mitzvah to
buy from Jews.: "You shall buy from your people."  Is destroying the
Jewish economy a chumra?!  Is strengthening the hands of the Arabs in
our holy land a chumra!  On the contrary, it is more stringent to buy
from Jews in reliance on the heter mechira..."  Here the argument leaves
Halacha and becomes demagoguery.

First, this is not the first shmitta in which large numbers of people
have refused to rely on a weak heter (admittedly weak, even by those who
first proposed it, and who did so only because of the extreme poverty
and precarious position of the Jewish settlement in what was then
Palestine, in 1882).  Yet the Jewish economy was not destroyed in 1994,
1987, 1980 or any previous shmitta, though it was more agriculture-based
and less robust then than it is in 2001.  Furthermore, non-reliance does
not necessarily strengthen the Palestinians, since much of the produce
comes from Jordan, as well as from Jewish settlements in the areas which
are not sanctified with respect to shmitta.  Too, it should be noted
that the bulk of the profit in agriculture is not the farmer's, but
those who handle it from the farm until it reaches the consumer -- all
of which is in Jewish hands, and thus aids the Jewish economy.

Above all, if the heter of the sale is indeed invalid, then there is no
obligation whatever to aid the one engaged in agriculture.  To the
contrary, the argument can be made that it is prohibited to do so, since
one is then machazik y'dei ovrei aveirah (strengthening the hand of the
sinner).  Indeed, "It is a mitzvah to strengthen the Jewish economy, the
Israeli economy and the Land of Israel," but certainly G-d-fearing Jews
should feel that they do so by fealty to Hashem and his Torah.

In sum: while those who utilize the sale have upon whom to rely, those
Halachic authorities permitting it are in the minority, and no amount of
emotion-driven rhetoric can make a mitzvah out of what is a kula
(leniency) nor stigmatize those who choose to follow the majority of
accepted poskim (decisors of Jewish law).


From: Michael Appel <mjappel@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 11:28:24 -0500
Subject: High note at the end of an aliyah

Does anyone out there know the basis (or theories as to the basis) for
the Minhag (I think largely a German one) of ending an aliyah whose last
word is Holy Shem on a high note?



From: Eli Krowitz <elik@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 14:40:13 -0800
Subject: Kashrut Of Bottled water

> Don't know about the cigarettes, but according to my kashrus guru,
> bottled water is often filtered with traife materials which l'hathila
> would be a problem according to some opinions.

I once visited Tate & LYLE a large sugar producer in Europe on behalf of
a leading recognized Hashgachoh and to my surprise I discovered that the
filtration process in the refinery consists of layers of Bone Char. I
immediately contacted my superiors and was put in contact with Dayanim
of the Kedasia Beis Din in London who produced all the relevent proof
from gedoilim in Eretz Yisroel alowing the use of bone char.

Perhaps the same could be said for the filtered water.

kol Tov


From: Barak Greenfield, MD <DocBJG@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 11:19:10 -0500
Subject: RE: Krakatoa

In MJ 34:23, Stan Tenen writes (regarding the proposed ancient eruption
of Krakatoa as the cause of the break in halachic transmission between
the Savoraim and Geonim):

> This is not a theory.  There are facts that are documented.  History
> isn't a theory.

What isn't a theory, that there was a break in halachic transmission or
that Krakatoa was the cause?

> Archeologically, you can notice that this was the period immediately
> after which "pagan idolatry" was removed from _Jewish_ synagogues (as
> opposed to Christianized ones) throughout the Middle East.  Those
> beautiful mosaics of the zodiac, with Apollo the sun-god in the
> center, which had crept into many synagogue designs (some of which
> still remain for your inspection) were defaced.  I mean, "de-faced,"
> in that the designs remain, but the faces of the idols were chiseled
> out.  This was because our people believed that the reason God had
> withdrawn the sun was due to our idolatry.

We were idol worshippers until Krakatoa? You have some source for the
dates at which the mosaics were removed from synagogues?

> By the way, who says that the two destructions of the Temple were not
> catastrophic to us?

You do, in some sense, because you imply that the climatic changes of
Krakatoa were more severe a blow to us than the churbanot. You also
ignore the fact that there were plenty of upheavals, empires collapsing,
etc, even before the volcanic eruption. The Talmud relates that the
entire oral tradition was forgotten at one point, yet reconstituted
through the erudition of one man. Yet what the Savoraim added could not
similarly have been remembered or deduced by the Geonim?

> What is now known as Kabbalah is hardly more than the distorted
> remnants of the priestly traditions whose knowledge was maintained
> through the time of the Savora'im.

I assume you have some source for this?

> The destruction of the two Temples was horrific, but there was still a
> maintenance of some level of knowledge.  After all, our sages were
> able to write the Oral Torah as Talmud.

This doesn't follow. If at the time of the churbanot, when there was no
written Talmud, we were still able to maintain the halachic tradition,
then at the time of the Savoraim, when the Talmud and additional works
had already been written down, we should have been even more able to
maintain continuity.



From: Barak Greenfield, MD <DocBJG@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 22:57:14 -0500
Subject: RE: Magic Shows

The question of allowing children (and adults, I suppose) to watch magic
shows has been discussed lately in this forum. R. Moshe Feinstein wrote
about this in volume 8 of Igros Moshe (published posthumously), Yoreh
Deah chelek 4 siman 13.

He goes through a rather extensive analysis of the views of the poskim
regarding achizas einayim ("grabbing the eyes", or deceiving the eyes),
presumably magic in which supernatural powers were invoked, and how this
relates to the prohibition of kishuf (witchcraft). However, with respect
to pure sleight of hand, although the Shach and Bach appear to prohibit
it, R.  Moshe wonders how someone using his natural talents and not
invoking other powers could possibly be doing anything wrong. Moreover,
there isn't even any question of trickery involved, since the audience
of a magic show nowadays knows perfectly well that sleight of hand is
being used and that the "magician" has no supernatural powers.

R. Moshe concludes by stating that, in deference to the Shach and the
Bach, he would prefer not to say that, halacha lema'aseh, magic shows
are permitted, but in the final analysis they in fact are.


From: Chaim Shapiro <Dagoobster@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 16:40:11 EST
Subject: Tefillah and rigging the system

I have often heard that if a person needs something, and prays for
someone else who needs the same thing before praying for himself, his
prayers will be answered first.

That is fine.  But what does that mean?  Can a person use this as a
better method to get his prayers answered, thinking that I will pray for
Sholom so that my tefillah will be answered?

Chaim Shapiro


From: David Herskovic <crucible@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Feb 2001 23:09:59 -0000
Subject: Re: WItchcraft and Astrology

Knowing the Ralbag's famous explanation on Yehoyshia's halting of the
sun I was surprised to read Russell Hendel's quotation of this
rationalist seeming to be out of character. So I checked.

I would disagree with the translation "seance makers caused the
participants to have visions" but rather that the 'matter (inyan) of the
'oyv' is to awaken the imagination (le'oyreyr hadimyoyn)'. Whether this
is a form of hallucination, hypnosia or some creative process I know not
but if anything his commentary seems to enforce rather than refute the
view that magic is non-existent. He repeats a few times in the course of
his comments that both her vision and his hearing of voices were 'an act
of the acts of the imagination.'

However, even if i were to concede that magic is real I beg you to tell
me how my son could be affected by having read to him about Bilbo the
Hobbit wearing a ring that makes him invisible. And where do things end?
May one read The Secret Garden where a robin is endowed with
supernatural qualities; how about most of the fairy tales, are they
kosher? or are we required to stifle our children's discernement of
quality prose by bringing them up on a diet of poorly written so called
'kosher' books?

David Herskovic

From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 2001 01:51:26 -0500
Subject: Re: WItchcraft and Astrology

Russell Hendel wrote:
> Notice that such a theory that WITCHCRAFT=HALLUCINATIONS and MAGIC
> SHOWS= GRABBING THE EYES is consistent with the following statements
> in Idolatry 11:15 (a) Witches don't really change reality (they just
> cause hallucinations) (b) doing witchcraft or magic shows is a waste
> of time since Jews should only engage in bona fide wisdom and the
> study of Torah.  (Note: I infer from this Rambam that watching Magic
> Shows is rabinically prohibited.. a view not shared by all legal
> authorities)

How does this compare with modern stage magic?

This is not a performance intended to convince a crowd that some
supernatural powers are being used.

Stage magic is known by everybody - performers, promoters and audience -
to be slight-of-hand, use of props and misdirection.  Nobody believes
that any supernatural powers are used.  As a matter of fact, many of the
performers will make a point of saying so to their audience during the
show, and will often call themselves "illusionists" in order to
underscore that point.

I think the intentions of the performer and the expectations of the
audience are important in deciding what is or is not permitted.

If a performer is claiming to use supernatural powers, or if the
audience believes that such powers are in use, then it would clearly be
prohibited.  In the first case, it would be supporting someone claiming
to use forbidden powers, and in the second case it would be willingly
participating in what one believes to be use of said powers.

But when everybody is completely aware that there's a trick involved,
there is no such danger.  Nobody is going to begin practicing witchcraft
after seeing such a show, because he knows that what he is seeing is
nothing more than a skilled performer and some stage props.

-- David


End of Volume 34 Issue 28