Volume 35 Number 66
                 Produced: Mon Nov 19  7:11:09 US/Eastern 2001

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

The Body of God
         [Robert Israel]
"Hamaqom yenakhem ethkhem ..."
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu ]
Plural in Hamakom
         [Yitzchak Kasdan]
Rivka at the well (5)
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz, Saul Davis, Mordechai,
SheepTree1@aol.com, Howie Sherman]
Shalom Aleichem
         [Rhonda Weinraub]
Shalom Alekhem
         [Ira L. Jacobson]


From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 10:28:21 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: The Body of God

I'm not claiming that God has a body, but I don't see Eli's argument as
convincing at all.  Yes, before there was a universe God would have had
no physical body, but maybe he has one now.  Why couldn't God create a
body for himself when he created the universe?

Robert Israel                                <israel@...>
Department of Mathematics        http://www.math.ubc.ca/~israel
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z2

> From: Eli Lansey <elansey@...>
> Everyone is quoting various sources, many of which can be interpreted in
> various different ways.  However, no one has considered the following.
> God created the universe.
> The universe is a physical entity.
> Anything contained in the universe is physical, everything outside of the
> universe is not.
> Since God had to have been around before the start of the universe to
> start it (nonwithstanding the Shem Havayah), there is no way one can
> believe that God created the universe if one believes G-d has a body
> since a body is by definition only a concept that exists in the universe.
> Eli.


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu )
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 09:43:45 EST
Subject: "Hamaqom yenakhem ethkhem ..."

Saul Davis MJv35n63 writes:

<<"Hamaqom yenakhem ethkhem ..." is usually said to the family as a
group. The concept is collective, comforting all Jewish mourners
together. (I thought that "Hamaqom yenakhem ethkhem ..." might be a
quote but I could not find a source.)>>

"Hamaqom yenakhem ethkhem ..." is usually said to the family as a group,
but NOT to an individual mourner.

This question came up a couple of weeks ago when I went to "nichum avel"
who set "shiva" for his brother who was one of the WTC victims
hy"d. What are the proper wording of the words of consolation? Should it
always be in the plural; that is: "Hamakom yenachem ETCHEM betoch she'ar
aveilei Zion vi'rushalyim", or rather for single male OTCHA, single
woman OTACH, plural men (or mixed group) ETCHEM, plural women ETCHEN?

Some suggested that Artscroll Siddur put it in plural ETCHEM, and it
therefore should be in plural, as the consolation is both to the mourner
and to the decedent. I don't believe this is correct. There are no words
of consolation to the dead, only to the living, and it might be also
"la'ag la'rash." Artscroll itself makes it clear that their wording in
the siddur are for mournerS. (p.318; p.800), as does the Birenbaum
siddur (p. 247).

Similar berachot, starting with God's name appear in the Talmud, and
they always refer to the individual and not to a group. "Hamakom
yerachem alecha betoch shear cholei Israel" (Shabbat 12b); "Hamakom
yemale chesroncha (B.Berachot 16b; Y.Berachot, Chap. 2, 5b;
Lev. Rab. Parashah 5 s.v. Matan; Due. Rab. Parashah 4, s.v. Ki yarchiv).

The influential siddur Avodat Yisrael by Isaac Baer is very explicit
"Hamakom yenachemcha (yenachemchem) im she'ar avelei Zion virushalyim"
(p. 182), and Sefer Hachaim by Blogg (in Hebrew/German) Hannover, 1884,
followed him: "Hamakom yenachem OTCHA (lerabim ETCHEM) betoch shear
avelei Zion virushalyim". Sefer Hachaim by Elzas, New York 1915 is
identical in the wording to his German namesake predecessor.

Mauric Lamm in his book "The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning"
summarizes the above on page 124. In his opinion you follow the rules of
the Hebrew grammar.  So, I don't think that there is any machloket here,
or even different minhagim, the rule is: for single male OTCHA, single
woman OTACH, plural men (or mixed group) ETCHEM, plural women ETCHEN.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu 


From: Yitzchak Kasdan <Ikasdan@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 21:16:53 -0500
Subject: Plural in Hamakom

Regarding Michael Savitz' question (mail-jewish Vol. 35 #61 Digest): 
> Why the apparent grammatical incorrectness in ...
> "Hamakom yenacheim" Is there a deeper meaning here?

The Rambam says (Hilchos Aveil 14, 7) that that nichum aveilim is a
(g'milas) chesed for *both* the chayim (the living) and the maisim (the
departed).  Perhaps the plural is a reference to the niftar (the
departed) (in addition to the bereaved) the whose neshama (soul) it is
said is present in the shiva house.

This suggested (deeper) explanation is akin to the explanation that we
call Yom Kippur also by the plural name of Yom *HaKippurim* because it
is a day requiring kaparah (atonement) not only for the living but also
the dead.

After I suggested to a friend the pshat (explanation) that the plural of
"eschem" in the traditional words of comfort to the bereaved -- "HaMakom
y'nachem *eschem* b'soch sh'ar aveilei Tzion v'Yerushalayim" -- might be
an allusion to the departed ( -- apart from the bereaved, based on the
Rambam, Hilchos Aveilus 14, 7 who clearly says that nichum aveilim is an
act of kindness not only to the bereaved but to the departed as well),
he wrote: "You'll have to explain the tanchumin for the meis".

It occurred to me that the tanchumin (comfort) to the departed is
contained in the reference to "b'soch sh'ar aveili Tzion v'Yerushalayim"
(that G-d should comfort the departed [along with the bereaved] "among
those others who mourn for Zion and Yerushalayim." Perhaps this is an
allusion to the gemorah in Taanis (30:) which says that: "All those who
mourn for Jerusalem will merit to witness her joy" ["kol hamisabail al
Yerushalayim, zoche liros b'simchosah"] -- a reference to the building
of the Third Beis haMikdash in the times of Moshiach when we also
believe there will be a "t'chiyas hameisim", Resurrection of the Dead.

Thus, we are comforting the soul of the departed -- which, it is said,
during the shiva period hovers in/returns to the house where the
departed used to live out of confusion in not being able to experience
life in this world any longer -- with the hope that s/he will return one
day to this world through the merit of being a part of the Resurrection
of the Dead.      

Yitzchak Kasdan   


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahem@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 09:22:16 -0500
Subject: RE: Rivka at the well

>From: A.M.Goldstein <mzieashr@...>
>Presumably Rivka imenu came from a well-to-do household.  If that
>supposition holds, then why was she the one sent to draw up water?  Why
>was it not some servant?  Does anyone know of any Midrash or any other
>source pertaining to this question?  The same question might apply to
>Jethro (Yitro) and his daughters, who went to the well.

According to Medrashim that I have seen there are several answers.  I
will answer the second question first as it is more obvious.

When Yisro rejected the Avodas Zara of Midyan, he lost his position as
chief priest and the local shepherds refused to work for him.  That is
why his daughters had to take care of the sheep and the shepherds felt
able to bully them.

As far as Rivka goes, I have read that it was not her normal job, but
that she had to go to the well that day because everyone else was busy
at the time.

Another point is that they were not necessarily so well-to-do.  I
remember seeing as part of the discussion of Yaakov and Lavan that he
became wealthy as a result of Yaakov (and that his sons were born after
Yaakov came to his household).  If that is the case, then Besuel would
not have been wealthy (or Lavan would have inherited the wealth).

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz - <sabbahem@...>

From: <davis@...> (Saul Davis)
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 18:32:39 +0200
Subject: Rivka at the well

A.M.Goldstein _presumed_ in mail-jewish Vol. 35 #63 that Rivqah and
Yethro's daughters' fathers were "well-to-do^.

Why make this presumption? Not everyone is comfortable - not then and
not now.  There are good people who are poor and bad ones that are
rich. Avraham seems to be wealthy: he had servants and wives and Eliezer
his servant had expensive jewelry to give to Rivqa. The fact that the
young Rivqa herself was sent to draw water shows that she was from a not
rich household. But she did have a servant/nurse who went with her.

As for Yitsxaq, Ibn Ezra (at Bereshith 25:34) says that he was actually
very poor! (Qarney Or (by Rav Y.L. Qrinsqy) notes on that Ibn Ezra that
"Ibn Ezra never had more than 2 pennies his whole life"!) BTW has
anyone ever read the poem by Robert Browning called "Rabbi Ben Ezra"?
It can be seen at

Yaaqov certainly amassed quite a fortune whilst with Lavan
(notwithstanding Lavan's attempts to prevent this).

Yethro was an important person, he was a priest (Shemoth 2:16), an
international traveller (came to visit family and Jewish people in the
wilderness), an adviser to royalty (identified as an adviser to Pharo
and Eyov (=Job)) and he clearly had so many sheep that all his 7
daughters were shepherds and he even seems to have employed Moshe.

Saul Davis

From: <Phyllostac@...> (Mordechai)
Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 15:30:46 EST
Subject: Rivka at the well

Perhaps the idea was not to let the children sit around doing nothing
and let them be 'spoiled' letting servants do everything for them. Maybe
they were into exercise then too.

re Yisro - I believe he was laid off from his job after asking too many
questions, so the family may have fallen on hard times then, in addition
to the above reasons.


From: <SheepTree1@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 11:15:18 EST
Subject: Re: Rivka at the well

This is from the Midrash Says, volume 1 (the Book of Beraishis), pages 

"Rivka had never before gone out to draw water by the well.  She would
usually send her maids to carry out an errand of this kind since her
father, Besuel, was the ruler of Aram Naharayimand she was of noble
rank.(Pirkei DeReb Eliezer 16)"

"But now HaShem's angel drew Rivka to the well in order to lead her to
her destiny as the wife of Yitzchak. (Beraishis Rabba 59,14)"

From: <HowieSherman@...> (Howie Sherman)
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 01:35:28 EST
Subject: Re: Rivka at the well

As we see in Afghanistan and the lifestyles in Saudi Arabia and in other
Arabic countries, it is the wealthy, educated and sophisticated women
who are out and about on there own.  It is a statement of the
enlightenment and status of Rivka & Rachel Emainu, Tziporah et al.
She/they were free to chose their own career and do as she/they pleased
and not have to worry about personal safety - no one would dare accost
with them a) either by force of their own personality and strength of
character and/or 2) because of their "connections," and family prestige.
As you can see by contrast, in the Dina incident, when Chamor violated
this rule of etiquette/societal norm, what a hullaballoo ensued.

Even Sarah Emeinu was out in the world, "Oseh nefesh" - preaching to the
masses and spreading the word of the one Hashem.  This was not because
she couldn't afford to hire a Billy Grahm type or two, etc.  It was
precisely because educated, wise women ( and men) of character and moral
conviction are out there making a difference.  Especially when they are
not completely preoccupied with their own nuclear family/child rearing
responsibilities.  When ultimately, Sarah emainu was accosted, it was
not by your average middle-eastern-philistine-arab type sheepherd joe
blo, but by royalty, the kings henchmen with velvet gloves.  And
diplomacy protected and saved them.

I suggest one rethink the asumptions that the religious right
(retreating Taliban included) are always attempting to foist on the
world: that women have always and should stay barefoot and pregnant and
hidden away in the kitchen.  The model of the Emahot ( fore mothers,
(four mothers?) )  is far from that.


P.S. I have two daughters who I hope will emulate the emahot both is
raising fine benai & benot Yisrael as well as make their mark on clal
Yisrael and the world, as they so chose.

To: <mail-jewish@...>

From: Rhonda Weinraub <c613@...>
Subject: Shalom Aleichem

Regarding the " hamakom yenachem etchem" instead of otach or otcha, I
once heard a vort at a shivah home as follows:

Always say this in the plural, even when only one mourner is present, as
the neshama of the niftar/nifteres is still present in the home and
benefits from the comfort as well.

I do not know the source for this vort, but it surely provided confort
when I heard it!


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 16:17:10 +0200
Subject: Re: Shalom Alekhem

Saul davis wrote in mail-jewish Vol. 35 #63 Digest:

>It is a Hebrew idiom to use the plural when referring directly and
>formally to someone important.

The use of the second person plural is frequently thought to be a sign
of respect in Hebrew, since it is indeed the case in Yiddish.

But in Hebrew, the *third person* is used to show respect.

And halakha (Mishna Berura 206:12 as one of many examples) abounds with
the definition of tokh kedei dibbur as the time it takes one to say to
his teacher "shalom alekha rabbi v'mori" in the singular!  This is
defined as the greeting of a pupil to his teacher.  (See also, for
example, Ta`anit 20b, Rambam Hil. Talmud Tora 5:5, YD 242:16, as an
expression of honor.)



End of Volume 35 Issue 66