Volume 35 Number 25
                 Produced: Fri Jul 27  4:28:43 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The Congregational Rabbi as Posek and Re: Yoetzot
         [Allen Gerstl]
Deity's name
         [Akiva Miller]
         [Carolyn Lanzkron]
The function of the Yoatzoath
         [Andrew Klafter]
         [Edward Ehrlich]


From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 19:12:05 -0400
Subject: Re: The Congregational Rabbi as Posek and Re: Yoetzot

>From: Carl Singer
>I think one cannot look at this role (or 
>task?) without looking at a large context. In many synagogues the Rabbi is 
>A (emphasis on "A") Posek not THE Posek. When one looks at the historic 
>correspondence among famous Rabbi's of previous generations or even the 
>well-known interactions between the Vilna Gaon and the Rabbinic authorities 
>of his town, one sees a different model than one has today. Over 
>simplifying -- partly from lack of knowledge -- The Rabbi as THE Posek, 
>meant that the Rabbi was the singular source who, as necessary, contacted 
>other Rabbi's when "stumped" -- that is in need of advice, guidance, 
>opinions. The Rabbi as A Posek means the individual seeking a P'sak Halocha 
>contacts other Rabbis or other sources (and yes, Mail Jewish might be 
>classified as one such source.) My oft stated opinion, that this undermines 
>the community and the Halachik process remains.

I believe that the reason for this different model of Rabbi as Posek is
is because there is a different Jewish polity. There are no longer (in
most cases (perhaps Breuer's or Chassidic groups are exceptions?)
cohesive, self governing, Jewish Kehilot (communities). While the Vilna
Gaon was the officially appointed Rav of the Vilna community; a Rabbi
today is not the official Rav of an entire community. As such the Rabbi
no longer derives his authority, as I understand it (again, see Shulchan
Aruch, CM 25, 1,2) from appointment by the community but by consent of
the questioner on an ad hoc basis based upon the alternative source of
authority of Kiblu Aleihu (lit.  "they have accepted upon themselves").

>From: Beth and David Cohen
>There is a real difference between the function of a Rav and the
>Yoatzot: In the halachic system, the Rav has the power to issue a p'sak
>(decision)that is binding. If I ask a shayla from my LOR (assuming that
>he is my posek) I am bound halchically to follow his ruling. I do not
>believe that a ruling of a yoetzet is similarly binding.  A very big

I agree.  What I believe is even more significant is the fact the Rav as
a Posek (i.e.  a qualified Posek as per SA, CM 25, 1,2) renders a
binding decision that may followed by the questioner in the particular
circumstance without fear of committing a transgression, notwithstanding
that there may conflicting Halachic opinions; while an educator or
advisor is not giving a decision but only advice and guidance.  The
principle "sefeka de-oraita le-chumra" (a doubt as to a Torah law is
resolved in accordance with the stricter option) only applies to either
(1) a safek in meziut (fact) - the resolution of a doubt as to factual
circumstances) when such is "e-efshar le-varer (can not be resolved by
investigation) or (2) a safes in Halacha - that the Posek is not able to
resolve after attempting to be "machria" (to decide) including by
consulting other Halachic experts as necessary and if possible. (There
may be exceptional situations of Minhagim (customs) that have been
adopted by a group or community as to being strict in a particular
circumstance, but again this is not the usual Halacha but an exception.

A Posek can not decide that something is assur (forbidden) when in fact
the Halacha is that it is muttar (permitted).  Someone might wish to be
"machmir upon himself" but these are not Halachic considerations for a
Posek rendering a decision but matters of PERSONAL (often praiseworthy
but still personal) piety, irrelevant to the Halachic process. The
Posek, is required to try his very best to give a definitive decision,
rather than being machmir due to safek.

But, the point is that all of the above only applies to a Rav as Posek.


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2001 01:19:45 -0400
Subject: Re: Deity's name

In MJ 35:13, several posters mentioned authorities who allow us to erase
G-d's name when written in other languages. I would like to point out
that this is *not* unanimous.

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 6:3 writes, "... and it is forbidden not only
in the Holy Tongue, but even in any language." In my edition, he cites
the Chayei Adam for thus ruling, but does not say which section of the
Chayei Adam says it.

Further in the same paragraph, the Kitzur writes, "People write the word
'adieu', which is French and means 'with G-d', and this is strictly
forbidden [issur gamur], because eventually that letter will end up in
the trash. (I am pretty sure that I once saw a standard sefer use the
Polish "Bog" (=G-d) as an example of this, but I cannot find it now.)

Akiva Miller


From: Carolyn Lanzkron <clkl@...>
Date: Mon, 23 Jul 2001 07:36:06 -0400
Subject: Dumb-waiter?


In order to bring food and dishes to our (enclosed) backyard, we must
walk down an imperfectly stable staircase from the back porch and around
a long way.  Last year, the first year in this house, we even had Sukkot
guests complaining that it was taking to long to bring out the food.  It
would have taken less time if we had more helpers than complainers, but
I'd like to solve the problem, instead!

I would like to design a mechanical dumb-waiter system on a flagpole,
similar to the one designed by Thomas Jefferson and used at Monticello.
A major motivation for doing this would be to make Sukkot much, much
easier.  If kosher, we'd even like to eat outside sometimes on a Shabbat
afternoon.  The system would involve a rope and pulleys, with the rope
wrapped around a wheel. The pulley would have a hook on the top with a
removable rolling laundry basket (or something similar) that could hold
trays of food.

Is this something that can be used on Yom Tov and Shabbat?  If so, what
design considerations should I consider to avoid melacha problems?  If
not, is there any way to accomplish the goal of sending food platters up
and down outside without being mechallel shabbat?  (and without risking
injury to persons or platters...)

Thank you in advance for helping me think through this!

All the best,


From: Andrew Klafter <andrew.klafter@...>
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2001 14:16:44 -0400
Subject: The function of the Yoatzoath

> From: Saul Davis <sdavis@...>
> Where is the difference between Rabbi and Yoatseth?! I cannot see it.
> Are women competent to study tora (including halakha and gemorra)? Do
> they succeed in these studies? If the answer to these questions is
> "yes" we have de facto created women rabbis because a rabbi is someone
> who knows halakha and is capable of answering halkhic questions. If
> someone can show me that rabbis do have uniqueness and that uniqueness
> is not attainable by women then my thesis is wrong and women have not
> and cannot become rabbis regardless of academic (halkhic) abilities.

I think there are some major flaws in Saul's analysis of this topic.

1. Whether women CAN study gemarra, even according to the most right-wing
view varies among individual women.  Nashim Da'atan Kala is a generalizable
klal to which there are exceptions, even though the halakha may follow the
majority for all cases.
2. Whether women MAY/SHOULD study gemarra is a separate question from wether
they CAN study gemarra.  There are various approaches to this question among
achronim, and it is not relevant really to the queston of Yoatzot, as I will
try to demonstrate.
3. For the purpose of this discussion, will use the term "RABBI" in the
sense of "Jewish legal expert and authority," and not necessarily as
teacher, spiritual leader, or administrator of a synagogue or other
4. A RABBI, nowadays, is someone with the endorsements of individuals or
institutions (i.e. SMICHA) as being capable of adjudicating halakhic
questions in limited areas of Jewish Law.  This means that when a
contemporary halakhic dilemma has not been addressed by the Shulchan Aruch
or other achronim, or when the scenarios explicitly addressed but there is
significant controversy and lack of consensus among achronim, the RABBI has
been endorsed/ordained to decide what aspect.
5. Books like Aruch HaShulchan, Mishna B'rura, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Chayei
Adam, and more contemporary English Books on Halakha were not written for
RABBIS, but for lay Jews to be able to know the basics of halakha.  These
works enable Jews observe normative p'sak in various scenarios where there
is (according to the author of these works) a good consensus.  When a real
life dilemma is not addressed explicitly in Shulchan Aruch or a consensus of
Achronim, one must consult a RABBI for instruction.
6. Individual Jews have varying degrees of knowledge of the halakha.  If
someone is unsure, for example, whether it is acceptable to make tea on
Shabbos, it DOES NOT REQUIRE A RABBI to explain the laws of Kli Shlishi and
to convey what the community standard is on these issues.
7. Women are not eligible for ordination because the (a) halakha, for a
number of reasons, excludes them from becoming Judges and this standard was
adopted also for rabbinic ordination and (b) numerous statements in Chazal
about how most women function with a different cognitive style than do men
which led Chazal to exclude women from the Rabbinate based on this
generalization, despite the fact that some women may be exceptions.
8. Women for centuries who are knowledgeable of halakha have been consulted
for advice, clarification, explanation, etc., but this is not the same thing
as ADJUDICATION (p'sak).
9. Because the Yoatsoth are not adjudicating questions that have not already
been clearly adressed by their own rabbis or the texts that their rabbis
have instructed them to rely upon, they are NOT functioning as rabbis.
10. If a woman were to notice an irregularity which may signify a question
about her status as a niddus there are various possibilities: (a) she may
already know the halakha and have no reason to ask (b) she may ask if her
husband knows the halakha (c) she and/or her husband may realize that this
is not a case that is addressed in Shulchan aruch or other achronim and ask
a she'elah (d) she and her husband may not know the halakha and may need to
ask--whether it's a case of established law or not (e) she may consult a
yoatzet who can either inform her that this is a clear case of known
halakha, can ask the she'elah to a rav on her behalf in case she is
embarrassed, or can tell her, "This is a real she'elah and you need to ask
your rav."

I see no reason to worry that a yoatzet is functioning as a RAV unless
she oversteps her bounds, but this would be no different than discussing
halakha with one's friend, husband, parent, or teacher in school who is
not a musmach.



From: Edward Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Jul 2001 10:49:35 +0300
Subject: Orthodox

Andrew Klafter <andrew.klafter@...> wrote:
> Probably most of us agree that there exist halakhic standards to
> delinite "one authentic Judaism" and we wish that all of klal Yisrael
> were shomrei torah u'mitzvos (observant of the torah and commandments).
> Since that is not the case, and since there are so many people who tout
> their own personal/political philosophies as "Judaism" or as "New
> Judaism" of some kind, it has become necessary come up with some way of
> identifying Jews and Judaism which are faithful to traditional beliefs
> and practices...

I agree with Andrew's statement, but in my opinion, the word "Orthodox"
is a very poor way of identifying Jews who are faithful to traditional
beliefs and practices because it confuses the concept of halakha and its
recognized standards with organizations and movements.  The fact that I
was a member of the Binghamton, New York synagogue affiliated with the
Union of Orthodox Synagogues did not necessarily mean that I was
observing Halakha and the fact that someone else was a member of the
neighboring Vestal, New York synagogue affiliated with the United
Synagogues of America did not necessarily mean that he wasn't.

The use of the word "Orthodox" has had two detrimental effects: 1) It
has made it more difficult to find solutions to Halakhic problems facing
the Jewish people.  When the Neeman Commission tried to find solutions
to the problem of conversions of immigrants from the former Soviet
Union, it was difficult to even discuss the pros and cons because a
statement would be made that "all conversions must be Orthodox" and that
would end the discussion even though the word "Orthodox" was not a term
used by Hazal as far as I know. I'm not saying that there were no
Halakhic difficulties regarding the Neeman Commission proposals
(particularly what is the meaning of accepting the "o'l ha-mitzvot").
But these are halakhic difficulties that should be discussed on a
halkhic basis and not be summarily dismissed with the word "Orthodox".

2) Non-observant Jews mistakenly feel that the words "Orthodox",
"Conservative" or "Reform" provide some sort of justification to not
observing the mitzvot.  When a relative of mine invited my parents to a
simkha at a synagogue that did not observert Kashrut, their
justification was "We're not Orthodox" and the discussion was closed.

In short, in most cases that the word "Orthodox" is used, "observant" or
"halakhic" would be more appropriate and would differentiate halakhic
issues from those of administration and organizations.

Ed Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Jerusalem, Israel


End of Volume 35 Issue 25