Volume 34 Number 63
                 Produced: Thu May 24  8:02:40 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Minchas Elazar
         [Jeanette Friedman]
Newton's Cubits (3)
         [Mark Steiner, Reuben Rudman, Stan Tenen]
Newtons Temple
         [Danny Skaist]
Rupture and Reconstruction
         [Andrew Klafter]
Throwing Candy (2)
         [Carl Singer, Gilad J. Gevaryahu]


From: Jeanette Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 21:26:47 EDT
Subject: Re: Minchas Elazar

The Minchas Elazar, the father-in-law of my mother's Zionist Chassidishe
rebbe brother Harav Baruch Y.Y. Rabinovich, formerly of Munkacs--now
deceased-- was strongly anti-Zionist and did not believe in Eretz
Yisroel as a place unless Moshiach brought him there. Thefore, until
Moshiach comes, the rules of Golus apply even there. Anyone who ever
read or heard his anti-Zionist writings/speeches could figure that one

Jeanette Friedman


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 00:48:00 +0300
Subject: Re: Newton's Cubits

In response to Eli Turkel's request for specific information on Newton's
cubit, I got out the book from a collection at HU, and here are some of
the points:

1.  The sacred cubit of the Jews is 6 palms (tefochim); the "vulgar"
cubit is 5 tefochim.

2.  He quotes the Talmud in Eruvin that the height of the human body is
3 cubits from the feet to the head.  Assuming an average height of 5 1/2
(Roman) ft, this gives the cubit between 24 and 28 4/5 Roman inches.
The Roman inch is a little more than the present day inch.

3.  Josephus writes that the pillars of the azara could be embraced by
three men with their arms joined.  Since these pillars were 8 sacred
cubits, he again gets a cubit more than two Roman feet and less than 2

4.  The tehum shabbat is 2,000 cubits, but he quotes the shibbolei
haleket (!) to the effect that a cubit is equal to a "pace".  Arguing
that on Shabbos we don't use a "pesia gasah", Newton gets a pace or
cubit once again as in 3.  I have not yet checked his source.

5.  The 15 "maalot" of the Temple, Hazal say, were 1/2 cubit high, with
their retractions also 1/2 cubit, meaning the sacred cubit.  Comparing
to Vitruvius who says that the height of steps ought not to be more than
10 inches and retractions not less than 18, inches, he concludes that
the Jews took a middle proportion (between 10 and 18), and once again
arrives at a cubit of between 24 and 27 inches.

6.  He assumes that the Egyptian cubit is equal to the vulgar cubit of 5
tefochim, i.e. that the Jews learned the small cubit from the Gentiles,
preserving the sacred cubit by tradition.  He infers the size of the
Egyptian cubit by sending somebody to Egypt to measure the Pyramid of
Giza.  The cubit is understood to be that length such that an integral
multiple of it will give all the various dimensions of the Pyramid.
>From this he calculates the sacred cubit as 6/5 the Egyptian one, and
again arrives at an even more exact figure of a little less than 26

7.  This would mean that the Roman cubit of 18 inches (R. Chaim Naeh!!)
is 2/3 of the 'amah of the Temple.  And in fact Josephus in describing
the Temple (the chayil, etc.) uses just this ratio in giving dimensions,
compared to Hazal.

The bottom line is, Newton comes up with an amah a little bigger than
that of the Hazon Ish!

   R. Yonah Merzbach z"l, an important Rav from Germany who later taught
in Kol Torah writes that the large 'amah was customary in various places
in Ashkenaz and notes that the Hatam Sofer agreed with the Noda Beyudah.
In Frankfort, he says, it was even the "mimetic" tradition.
Interestingly, he gives some of Newton's proofs, and also cites
Josephus.  See his collected works, entitled Alei Yona.  It should be
noted that he explains the various measures, resolving the
contradictions without assuming that there was any change in the
physical dimensions of olives or eggs over time.

From: Reuben Rudman <rudman@...>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 08:32:40 -0400
Subject: Re: Newton's Cubits

For your information, there is a book (reworked dissertation) about
Newton and his Jewish studies.  The following is copied from the
Amazon.com site:

Judaism in the Theology of Sir Isaac Newton
                     (Archives Internationales D'Histoire Des Idees,
                     by Matt Goldish
                     Our Price: $121.00
                    Hardcover - April 1998)
                                    Special Order

Reuben Rudman

From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 08:51:23 -0400
Subject: Re: Newton's Cubits

As I've posted from time to time over the years, there's serious
scholarly and technical evidence that Newton derived his Laws of Motion
and Gravitation from his personal translation and study of the Hebrew
letter-text of B'reshit.

I won't go into detail here, but perhaps others (who are familiar with
the Pardes meditation) have noticed the similarity between descriptions
of the Pardes meditation of Rabbi Akiba and the apocryphal story of
Newton's discovery of the laws of gravitation.  Both take place in an
orchard, and both involve sitting quietly, and both involve an "apple"
tree.  As others have pointed out, the designation of the tree as an
"apple" tree comes from non-Jewish translations.  Sitting quietly is a
way of saying meditating.  The "apple" is really an archetypal fruit,
and it is specified in detail in the letter-sequences in B'reshit.  This
is the geometry I show at <http://www.meru.org/contin.html> and

I am suggesting that the "Angular Momentum" poster is similar to what
Newton found, and that it, or something equivalent to it, is what
inspired his formulation of conservation of angular momentum.

Biographers of Newton suggest that the idea of an attractive gravity is
based on the same geometry.  There is a Makom that attracts us all.

Of course, academic scholars I've tried to discuss this with become
apoplectic.  But then of course, they can't follow the geometry, and
they neither understand Newton's laws, nor are they aware of the
letter-text of B'reshit.  If I'm right about this, the academic scholars
will be a bit embarrassed, and our Torah will look a bit more
impressive.  So what else is new? <smile>

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


From: Danny Skaist <danny@...>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 12:38:13 +0200
Subject: Newtons Temple

 << Modern scholars, to whom Newton is a hero, are often embarrassed by
Newton's "obssession" (as distinguished from gravitation, to which he
was "dedicated") with the temple, and of course they couldn't care less
about the cubit.  On the other hand Talmudic Jews, to whom the length of
the cubit is a cardinal fact of their lives, do not consult non-Jewish
works.  >>

But there are the "Masons".  For the 1964 Worlds fair the Mason exhibit
was a model of the first temple. Was Newton a Mason ?



From: Andrew Klafter <andrew.klafter@...>
Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 12:33:25 -0400
Subject: Rupture and Reconstruction

> From: <rubin20@...>
> I'm not exactly sure I understand which point I allegedly miss. R. C.
> Soleveitchick is asserting that tradition is more important than written
> Halacha. Which leads to weird conclusions, like the importance of doing
> things by rote. Maybe people would not have asked questions as to the
> shiur of a cos, but that would not be to their credit, or as a result of
> scholarship....

I think some of the readers are assuming that I agree with every point
in "Rupture and Reconstruction."  This entire thread started because
someone commented on how classes in his community seemed unusually
focused on practical halakha to the exclusion of NaCh, Midrash,
Machshava or Kabbala.  I pointed out R. Soloveitchik's article and
summarized its points as an important attempt to understand the
contemporary lay Orthodox Community's recent and unprecedented attention
to and emphasis on technical scholarship in practical halakha.  I then
found myself "defending" Rabbi Soloveitchik against mischaracterizations
and misunderstandings of his article.

Let me summarize some of my points against R. Soloveitchik's conclusions and
Here are some obvious advantages to todays promulgation of books and
attention to halacha l'maaseh.
1) We are more technically scrupulous about mitzvos than we were 1-2
generations ago.
2) The American Orthodox Jewish establishment which was erected during the
late 19th and early 20th century, largely by German Jewish immigrants, was
very influenced by assimilation to a level that Orthodox Jews today would
not be comfortable with.  Many important areas of halakha (mixed swimming,
modest dress, mixed dancing, shmiras negi'ah, stam yeinam, etc.) were
violated publicly, sometimes even at synagogue functions.  A resurgence in
education of the practical halakha of these areas is a welcome phenomena.
3) Ba'alei Teshuva (such as MYSELF) who had no home-based education in
mitzvos need a lot of technical and practical information on mitzvos and
need the specifics laid out in detail for them
4) The local shtetel is no longer the model around which Jewish life is
organized because of changes in transportation, telephone and internet
communication, etc.  We are more spread out than we used to be, and we need
to make sure we are receiving the same instructions, or else divergent
minhags and opinions could become problematically divisive.  This is already
a problem, where in given communities there are rampant disagreements about
kashrus or eruvin or appropriate standards for modesty and educuational
philosophy in community schools.  Authoritative scholarly texts on such
issues probably has a unifying effect (though they often tend to be more
"machmir" than was the family minhag for many Jews).
5) Modern computer publishing technology as well as search programs makes it
much easier to produce scholarly books on Jewish Law than ever before.  It
is expected that Am HaSefer (the People of the Book) should be producing
more books than ever before with these new technologies.
6) Translations of complex rabbinic texts make the Talmudic, Midrashic,
Kabbalistic, and Halakhic material accessible for otherwise uneducated Jews.
Therefore, books on topics of Jewish Law must now meet the new
sophistication of English readers.
7) The advent of Reform and Conservative Judaism necessitate the Orthodox
Jews will focus on what makes our beliefs authentic/unique/different from
heterodox and heretical movements.  Thus, the halakha is a defining point
for Orthodox Jews nowadays, and we are proud of it and study/observe with
this added motivation (in addition to the more fundamental motivation of
follownig the will of G-d).

Other points that Rabbi Soloveitchik is ignoring:

8) There is also a multitude of Jewish books on OTHER topics, not just
Halakha.  R. Soloveitchik fails to comment on the number of books on Kabbala
mysticism.  Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan translated Sefer Yetzira and even included
instructions on how to make a Golem.  Isn't that more remarkable than Rabbi
Binyomin Forst's book on Birchos HaNehenin? Artscroll started by producing a
Tanakh series (which by the way was decried by the so-called 'Centrist' camp
as being to 'Yesivish')
9) The move toward texts away from mimetic tradition is not as new a dynamic
as R. Soloveitchik asserts.  The objection of many authorities to the
publicization and widespread loyalty to the Shulchan Aruch in its day has
some parallels to Rupture and Reconstruction.
10) Financial prosperity for Jews in North America has funded the creation
of a Torah educational system which promotes yeshiva and kollel educations
among a much higher perecentage of Orthodox Jews than ever before.  This
creates a demand and market for halakhic scholarship that is a new
phenomenon.  Imagine 50 years ago trying to market a new book on "Shabbos
Erev Pesach", or "Chol HaMoed K'Hilchasa."
11) American society is dominated by laws, lawsuits, litigation, regulation,
etc.  Perhaps fascination with halakha has something to do with this as

An article's value is not determined only by it's rigorous accuracy, but
also by it's ability to shed new light on previously unexamined notions,
and to provoke creative thinking on others.  Rabbi Soloveitchik's
article definitely succeeds in this regard.  I do believe there are many
important and valid points in his article, including the infamous
closing line: stating that since the Jews are less aware of His
Presence, "...they find solace in the pressure of His Yolk"



From: Carl Singer <CARLSINGER@...>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 07:59:22 EDT
Subject: Throwing Candy

<<  WHile I was in Philadelphia I saw that the Rabbis of one of the
 synagogues instituted a trap door in the ceiling which showered candy at
 appropriate simchas without force. All throwing was prohibited. The
 reason given was that it is prohibited to cause damage and it is
 prohibited to raise ones hand against another person. >>

I lived in Philadelphia for about a dozen years -- I didn't know any
Rabbi's there had overcome the law of gravity :)

BTW -- was the Torah returned prior to this shower?

Kol Tov,
Carl Singer

From: Gilad J. Gevaryahu <Gevaryahu@...>
Date: Wed, 23 May 2001 11:01:55 EDT
Subject: Throwing Candy

That attempt at the shul mentioned by Russell, held up only for couple
of weeks, and it is back to throwing candy. It is dangerous, and it will
stop for sure after the first law suit from an injured party. I actually
didn't like the trap door solution, because the candy fell on the sefer
Torah (k'vod ha-Torah issues!), and the kids had to fight to get to it,
and it had many of the same problems as the throwing. Handing out candy
to kids after the aliyah seems to me to be the only respectable

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


End of Volume 34 Issue 63