Volume 36 Number 53
                 Produced: Mon Jun 24 22:22:34 US/Eastern 2002

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Certificate of Observance (2)
         [Gershon Dubin, <ESTABESTAH@...>]
         [Tzvi Harris]
Exception that proves the rule
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
"Proving" the rule
Tehillas Hashem
         [Jonathan & Randy Chipman]
Typeface size (font) of the siddur (2)
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu, Carl Singer]


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 00:15:34 -0400
Subject: Certificate of Observance

From: Bill Page <Page@...>
<<What is the halachic basis for a conditional conversion?>>

        I thought every conversion was conditional on shemiras hamitzvos
(observance of the commandments).  The only question is whether we
nullify the conversion ex post facto if we have evidence that the
acceptance was never sincere.


From: <ESTABESTAH@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 19:35:26 EDT
Subject: Re: Certificate of Observance

      From: Bill Page <Page@...>

      In today's online issue of Ha'aretz, I read of a proposal in
      Israel by the head of the Haifa religious court "which would
      require as a condition of conversion the issuance of a certificate
      of commandment observance, similar to a driver's license. If it
      were proven that the convert in question failed to observe
      commandments faithfully, the certificate would be revoked."

      What is the halachic basis for a conditional conversion

The issue of conversion is quite a sensitive one nowadays.  This is
based not only on past history (there were a couple instances where
non-jews wanted to mass convert to judaism for ulterior motives), but
also in recent history, such as in the sefardic community (which went so
far as to excommunicate any member who married a convert) since when
emigrating to the U.S. many took non-jewish women as wives which
converted but not genuinely.  This measure of excommunication may seem
harsh, however, in reality, the Rabbis must have seen that there was
little chance of any of these supposed converts having a Jewish soul, in
those particular circumstances, but rather choosing Judaism as a matter
of convenience.  There's a dvar torah brought down in the 3 part series
sefer of Siach Sarfei Kodesh (section of al hatorah, parashat
vayishlach, last paragraph) on the situation where Dina's brothers
massacred Shechem after circumcising them.  The Rambam discusses in
Hilchot Melachim 89 - whether they were considered murderers for doing
so.  The Chiddushei Harim offers an explanation: There's an halachic
principle that a gentile who observes Shabbat is liable of "Mita"(the
death penalty) (citing sanhedrin 58:2) because Shabbat is an "Ot"
(sign/oath) exclusively between G-D and Jews, and since he is perusing
of that sign he is liable of death.  Circumcision has that same status
of "ot" as quoted in the Torah, therefore they are also liable of death.
This was only the case here, the Chiddushei Harim continues, because
they were converting only out of desire for women.  Nowadays, the
grueling interviews that a potential convert undergoes before converting
are perhaps not considered enough in a world of desire to measure his
sincerity.  However, this still does not answer what the halachic basis
is of issuing a certificate.


From: Tzvi Harris <ltharris@...>
Date: Wed, 19 Jun 2002 05:46:06 +0200
Subject: Chukat-Balak

Menashe Elyashiv wrote about three different readings around the world.
There's actually a fourth.  The custom of Halab is to always try to read
Korach together with Chukat.  This is different than the Teimanim,
because the Halabim read the entire Chukat with Korach when possible.
I'm not sure that all Halabi communities still follow this tradition
(which goes back at least 500 years according to "Derech Ere"tz" the
customs of Halab), but I know that at least some of them do.

By the way, one of the reasons given for this minhag (in the same
source) is that each year on Parshat Korach the community would suffer
from machloket.  It was decided to avoid reading Korach alone.

Tzvi Harris
Talmon, Israel


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabbahem@...>
Date: Mon, 17 Jun 2002 11:24:57 -0400
Subject: RE: Exception that proves the rule

>From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
>> A correspondent recently brought a certain Halachah as an "exception
>> that proves the rule." I know that Mail Jewish is not an English
>> language forum, but would nevertheless like to point out that in the
>> above expression the word "prove," as used here, originally meant to
>> "test." The point is that if there is a rule and an exception is found,
>> it then "tests" to see if the rule is indeed one, or whether the
>> assumption underlying the rule is incorrect. In Halachah this is
>> certainly the case. If there is a rule and there is an exception, it
>> either means that the rule is incorrect or that the exception is simply
>> not a member of that rule class.
>I admit to not recalling my source, but my understanding of "the
>exception that proves the rule", that i read somewhere, somewhen, is
>that it is exactly like "mikllal lav, ata shomeah hein"
>an example would be if a sign said, "No parking on Monday" this
>exception proves that parking is allowed the other days of the week.

This shows the difference in idioms between Hebrew and English as well
as the change in language usage over the years.  The English idiom can
"prove" (in the usual sense) that the rule is untrue or that it applies
to a more limited set of cases.  The Hebrew idiom would "translate" more
as "The exception that clarifies the rule".

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


From: chihal <chihal@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 21:52:09 -0500
Subject: "Proving" the rule

    [ The following text is in the "iso-8859-1" character set. ]
    [ Your display is set for the "US-ASCII" character set.  ]
    [ Some characters may be displayed incorrectly. ]

Shalom, All:

	Just to clarify English as she is spoken: The saying "It's the exception
that proves the rule" simply means there is an exception to something that
**tests** said rule. The old meaning of "prove" means "test," and if you
find an older English language Torah you'll see that the verse referring to
the Akayda (binding) of Yeetzkhak (Isaac) says "And it came to pass after
these things that the Lord did prove Abraham." Of course the meaning here is
Yeshaya (Charles Chi) Halevi (<chihal@...>)


From: Jonathan & Randy Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 11:59:39 +0300
Subject: Re:  Tehillas Hashem

    In MJ v36n46, Tzadik Vanderfhood <tzadikv@...> mentions a
friend who refused to say the verses "tehillat Hashem..." before Birkat
Hamazon unless he could be shown it in a "really frum" siddur.  In that
same number the moderator, Avi Feldblum, provided some sources.
    I woud like to add two comments:
    My first reaction was, frankly, anger at the friend.  Is there a
special store where they sell a "frumometer" or "datimeter."  Where does
he come off measuring other people's religiosity?  And making such a big
fuss about a trivial matter, which is clearly one of minhag and about
which there is tremendous variation.  This feeling was reinforced by the
story about the guy who shared a hotel room with another man, who cowed
him into not opening the lock from inside, even though after examination
it was quite clear to him that it was purely mechanical and unrelated to
the magnetic card used to get into the room, which obviously worked
    These two stories taken together seem to exemplify some very
unhealthy facets of the current atmosphere in Orthodoxy, where the
frummer and the more mahmir the better, and where such values as
menschlichkeit, sensitivity to not insulting another person, and a
certain modicum of common sense seem to go by the wayside.

    As for the issue itself, I'd like to divide it into two separate
questions:  a)  the source for reading the two verses mentioned;  b)
how one ought to behave in such a situation.
    From the Siddurim that I am familiar with, it seems clear to me that
the original, classic Ashkenazi minhag is to recite Psalm 126 (Shir
Hama'alot) alone on Shabbat and Yom Tov, etc., and Psalm 135 (Al Naharot
Bavel) on weekdays.  Thus in Baer's Avodat Yisrael (the classical
Yekkishe Siddur, publsihed in the 19th century in Rodelheim), in the
Gera's Ishei Yisrael, in Rav Kooks' Olat Re'iyah, and in many others.
The classical Sephardi (Oriental) minhag, on the other hand -- what is
widely known in Israel as Minhag Baghdad, as in Siddur Tefillat
Yesharim, in the various siddurim of Rav OvadiahYosef and Rav Mordechai
Eliyahu, etc -- has no psalms before Birkat Hamazon, but does have five
verses, recited both weekday and Shabbat:  Ps 34:1;  Kohelet 12:13;  Ps
145:21;  116:18 (the last two are "tehilat hashem.... va'anahnu nevarekh
Kah...);  and Ezek 41:22b  (i.e, the second half of that verse only).
     Somewhere along the way -- essentially, after the development of
Hasidut and its adaptation of Kabbalat ha-Ari and its nusah-- there
began to develop hybrid nushaot, which collated elements of Ashkenaz and
Sefarad  (i.e, the so-called Nusah Sefarad of the Hasidim, whch in many
cases overlaps or conflates both readings).  Thus, the Habad Siddur adds
these five verses followig Shir Hamaalot/Al Naharot Bavel, as the acse
may be, also adding Psalm 87, as well as Job 20:29 just before mayim
aharonim (Vayedaber ailay is said afterwards).
     The custom I have seen today in many homes is a perhaps a variation
on that:  to say Shir Hama'alaot, followed by "Tehilat hashem...
Vaanahnu..." (i.e., Ps 145:21 and 116:18).  Some people add only these
two verses, while others add Ps 118:1 (=106:1) and 106:2 as well (Hodo
la-Shem... Mi yimalel).  My personal theory is that these last two
verses may have been added for musical reasons:  in most melodies for
Shir hama'alot, from Yossele Rosenblatt's on down, the melody is
repeated twice to accomodate the text (vv. 1-3, then vv. 4-6).  If one
adds two verses, one sings it a third time, but is stuck in th emiddle,
so two more verses are needed to round out the third round.

    Is this minhag "kosher"?  I have seen this particular combination of
verses in one or two benchers, but not in any "venerable" siddur.
However, it is clear that the mitzvah of benching is fulfilled by saying
the four blessings -- three from the Torah , one derabanan -- mentioned
in the gemara, alone.  Everything else, both before and after, is a
matter of minhag, and is in a sense "fluff" (pardon the irreverence).  I
have been at two different learned Litvishe homes (of rashei yeshivah!)
who in fact ended Birkat Hamazon with "umikol tuv al yehasreinu."  (I
also once davened with the minyan of Brisker grandchildren in Ge'ulah,
who totally omitted Kabbalat Shabbat!)
    Does a minhag have to be written in a book to qualify as a "kosher"
or authentic minhag? Given that one is not interrupting or breaking up
any berakha in doing so, and that one is saying Gd's name within the
context of a full pasuk from the Tanakh, and that the minhag mentioned
is one that has taken root among many good Jews, I don't understand the
objection.  It seems to me that sitting stoney-faced, demonstratively
objecting to ones host's minhag, and thereby insulting him (and I would
add -- presumably after being served a nice Shabbat meal at that same
host's expense!) is probably a bigger aveirah than singing one or two
verses from David Hamelekh's Tehillim that happen not to be printed in a
"frum" siddur.
    Rav Yehonatan Chipman, Yerushalayim

P.S. Meanwhile, A. Seinfeld <aseinfeld@...>, in 36n49, asked
whether the verse said by Habad doesn't <<contradict the halacha (MB
179:1-2) that one should not speak between mayim achronim and
   In my humble opinion, this rule does not apply to saying a pasuk.
"Speaking" refers to talking about things unrelaterd to benching.  An
argument in support of this  (although admittedly related to a somewhat
different case) is the minhag among many Sephardim to recite pesukim
between washing and motzi;  some even say an entire psalm,  "Hashem
Ro'i...," at that time.


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 09:42:14 EDT
Subject: Typeface size (font) of the siddur

Chaim Wasserman (v36n50) wrote:

      An extended (several decades) study of siddurim and machzorim
      indicated to me that the single overriding factor for type size
      was spacing on the page rather than a consistent desire to
      emphasize one tefillah over the other.  Although, the emphasis
      principle did abide in many instances. I am not ready to do a
      recount to see if it really was MOST, like Dr Singer claims.

I am in a complete agreement with Rabbi Dr. Wasserman above. Two
exceptions come to mind:

1. Otiyot shel "Morid Ha-Tal"
2. Otiyot shel "Kiddush Levana"

This two were intentionally written with a different fonts. The first
with a smaller font so that the reader will not be confused during
Shemone Esre, and because many do not say it at all. The second with
very large font because it was read in the dark and the larger font
alleviated the eye strain.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu

From: <CARLSINGER@...> (Carl Singer)
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2002 06:36:40 EDT
Subject: Re: Typeface size (font) of the siddur

Dear Rabbi Wasserman

I'm on your side -- it was someone else who asserted that typesize had
to do with importance.  I'm of the school that it was haphazard due to
source copied from, etc.

Kol Tov
Carl Singer


End of Volume 36 Issue 53