Volume 38 Number 79
                 Produced: Sun Mar 16 18:19:50 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

5 megillot?
         [Alan Cooper]
Falling on left side for tahanun in shaharit
         [Yehonatan Chipman]
The Mirror Has Two Faces: Images of Vashti and Esther in Megillat Esther
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
Mishloah Manot
         [Yehonatan Chipman]
The Monsey Fish
         [Judy and Paul Shaviv]
Purim question
         [Yehonatan and Randy Chipman]
Women Learning Gemara
         [A. Krinsky]


From: Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>
Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2003 20:57:07 -0500
Subject: 5 megillot?

The other day, a student, presumably with Purim on her mind, asked me
one of those deceptively simple questions that turn out to be not so
simple: everyone knows what "the megilla" is, but what is the origin of
the term "chamesh megillot"?  I explained to her that the grouping of
the so-called megillot in most modern Bibles presupposes their
liturgical use, the order reflecting the order of the calendar,
beginning with Pesach (Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Qohelet, Esther). When
you look at medieval manuscripts, however, the order is sometimes
different.  Codex Leningrad B19a, for example (the source of Biblia
Hebraica), has Ruth, Song, Qoh, Lam, Esther, which seems to be putting
them in chronological rather than liturgical order (time of the Judges,
young Solomon, old Solomon, destruction of the Temple, Persia).

But both of these arrangements (liturgical and chronological) seem to be
relatively late.  I am not aware that any of the Dead Sea Scrolls
include more than one of these books in a single scroll (as opposed to
the trei asar).  The Septuagint, which is followed by Christian Bibles
to this day, places Ruth after Judges, and Lamentations after Jeremiah.
Esther follows Nehemiah, and Song and Qohelet follow Proverbs.  The
operative principles there, evidently, are to put the books into
chronological sequence, and also to keep the three books attributed to
Solomon (Prov, Song, Qoh) together.  That sequencing is probably older
than the familiar order, and is not too different from the order of the
ketuvim given in Tur Yoreh De`ah 283: Ruth, Psalms, Job, Prov, Qoh,
Song, Lam, Daniel, Megillat Esther, Ezra, Chronicles.  Not only are the
five megillot split up, but also (as one would expect) only Esther is
explicitly referred to as a megilla.

When I asked a learned colleague about the matter, he said that while
the term "chamesh megillot" might be found in a few medieval works (very
few, according to a search of the Bar-Ilan CD), it was basically a
modern usage, as far as he knew.  He also told me something interesting,
namely that when he was growing up in Poland, the only megillot that
were recited in his shul were Esther and Eikha--"not like the way you do
them all here in North America" was the way he put it.

Sorry for being long-winded, but I would be grateful for any further
insight into the origin of the term "chamesh megillot" (not citations
from the standard CDs, which I have checked).  I'm also curious about my
colleague's remark that in his community, only two of the books actually
were used liturgically.  Was that practice common, and does it persist?

Alan Cooper


From: Yehonatan Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Mar 2003 16:47:04 +0200
Subject: Re: Falling on left side for tahanun in shaharit

Re the question asked in v38n69, about <<the practice of a famous rav to
fall on his LEFT side during tahanun in the morning, despite his wearing
tefillin on that side, even if everybody else was doing the opposite.>>

Although I did not see this with my own eyes, I heard during the
lifetime of Rav Soloveitchik ztz"l, from his close talmidim, that:
a) he fell Tahanun on the left-side even during Shaharit, i.e., while
wearing tefillin;
b) that the Rav  fell even when not in shul, and not before a Sefer

    Both of these practices follow from a straightforward reading of the
Rambam, and from the tradition of the Gra and of Brsk to which he
belonged.  I have also written previously here at some length about the
issue of Sefer Torah.

    Yehonatan Chipman


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Subject: The Mirror Has Two Faces: Images of Vashti and Esther in Megillat Esther

Drisha Webcast Lecture on Purim - Begins Sunday, March 16, 2003

"The Mirror Has Two Faces: Images of Vashti and Esther in Megillat Esther"

by Drisha Scholar Wendy Amsellem

March 3, 2003, New York, NY -- You can begin your celebration of Purim
early - by joining a Drisha community learning circle at www.drisha.org
from Sunday, March 16, to Shushan Purim on Wednesday, March 19. The
lecture is dedicated in memory of Annapearl E. Frankston, by the
Frankston Family.

The 50-minute lecture is "The Mirror has Two Faces: Images of Vashti and
Esther in Megillat Esther." Using forms of exegesis, speaker Wendy
Amsellem explores the women's centrality within the drama of the Purim
story, including how they are portrayed separately and as foils to one
another. [All Hebrew text references are translated in English.]

"Listeners will walk away with new insights on the text, and an
appreciation for the educators and leaders that Drisha develops through
its Scholars Circle," said Rabbi David Silber, founder and dean of
Drisha Institute.

Wendy Amsellem is an alumna of the Drisha Scholars Circle, which is an
intensive 3-year program in Talmud and Jewish law offered to qualified
women by Drisha Institute. Ms. Amsellem is currently pursuing a PhD in
Judaic Studies at New York University as a Wexner Fellow. She has a BA
in History and Literature from Harvard University.

The lecture was recorded in partnership with JBI International
(established in 1931 as the Jewish Braille Institute of America), a free
international lending library of Jewish-interest materials serving those
unable to read standard print for any reason including visual
impairment, physical handicap and dyslexia. Through this partnership,
the lecture willl be distributed to JBI subscribers as part of JBI's
Cultural Series.  For more information: 1-800-433-1531 or
www.jbilibrary.org (110 East 30th Street, New York, NY 10016).

"Drisha is delighted to extend its learning circle to the constituency
of JBI (Jewish Braille Institute), " said Daniela Weiss, executive
director of Drisha Institute. "Access to Jewish texts and education has
been always been a driving force at Drisha. Now we have an opportunity
to directly reach blind and partially sighted young people as well as
elderly Jews with vision loss who want to connect to the Jewish
community of learning."

Drisha Institute for Jewish Education is a forum for developing and
empowering the next generation of Jewish educators and leaders. Drisha
offers a wide variety of educational initiatives for women including
full-time learning programs, summer institutes, a summer high school
program, a Bat-Mitzvah program, as well as continuing education classes
and community lectures for women and men. Many Drisha alumni are
prominent leaders and educators in Jewish communities around the
world. For information: www.drisha.org

Judith Tenzer
Program Director, Drisha Institute for Jewish Education
131 West 86th Street, New York, NY 10024
(212) 595-0307
<jtenzer@...>; www.drisha.org


From: Yehonatan Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Mar 2003 22:48:05 +0200
Subject: Re:  Mishloah Manot

In MJ v38n67, Batya Medad <ybmedad@...> wrote:

<<When, on another Jewish list, I recently mentioned that
mishloach manot should be parve because it's part of the meal, there
was great surprise.  Can someone please give me halachik backing?>>.

     Conceptually, the mishloah manot are indeed meant to be part of the
meal.  I once saw it written that, conceptually, mishlaoh manot consist
in sending your neighbor a part of his seudah; most probably it was in
Rav Sternbuch's "Hagim u-Zemanim ha-Shalem," but I don't have the book
available to me now.

    Several halakhot suggest that mishloah manot and seudah are closely
    1.  Rambam, Hilkhot Megillah 2.15, lists the two mitzvot in one
halkahah, and specifically mentions that, in the case where one is too
poor to prepare separate manot to send, two friends exchange their meals
with one another.  "zeh sholeah seudato lazeh, vezeh sholeah seudato
    2.  The mishnah in Megillah 1.4 says "There is no difference between
Adar I and Adar II except for reading the megillah and giving gifts to
the poor" -- implying, by elimination, that in Adar Rishon one has
seudah and mishloah manot .  And indeed, at Shulhan Arukh OH 697.1. the
Ram"a says that one should perform these two mitzvot in some minimal way
on Purim Katan (i.e., 14 or 15 of Adar I).
    3.  On Purim Meshulash (a rare case observed only in Jerusalem, when
15 Adar falls on Shabbat), the mitzvot of Purim are spread over three
days, and mishloah manot and seudah are performed on Sunday, 16 Adar.

     OTOH, there are so many people out there who are vegetarians, that
if the recipients of the mishloah manot are known to be vegetarian, or
eating a vegetarian seudah, one can certainly send milkhich.
    Also, since the strict minimalist requirement is to give two
portions (i.e., different things;  re the other thread, I never heard
that they have to be of different berakhot) to one person, one could
argue that after giving the first manah, all the rest can be
unstructured "nasherey," not necessarily appropriate to eating at a
seudah.   In support of this, many darshanim speak of the purpose of
mishlaoh manot as being to increase joy and love among Jews;  any gift ,
of food stuffs fulfills this aim.
      I think all one can say with certainty as a halakhic requirement
is that any mishloah manot that are not pareve should be clearly
identified as such, to avoid pitfalls.

      To end with a more personal observation & suggestion:   at times
we have received so much cake and candy and "junk food" of types that
are generally unhealthy to eat in excess, that we did not know what to
do with it all, and at times could barely finish it all before Pesah!
Thus, a few years ago, both for that reason and in light of the halakhic
understanding of the manot as "portions" as in a meal, I decided to
preapre "real food" as mishlaoh manot:   different kinds of pareve
salads and the like suitable as first courses or side dishes --
majadara, ratatouille, mock liver, or whatever -- which I divided into
small disposable boxes, of which I sent two or three kinds to whomever I
wished to send mishloah manot.  My feeling was that this was better
appreciated, and also more personal, than pretzels, chocolate wafers,
and peanuts.

        Yehonatan Chipman


From: Judy and Paul Shaviv <shaviv@...>
Date: Fri, 7 Mar 2003 17:11:59 -0500
Subject: The Monsey Fish

Strange stories are circulating in Toronto regarding a 'maaseh shehoyyoh'
in Monsey (Skvir?) involving a fish. Can anyone give a reliable

 Paul Shaviv, Toronto (this posting is not related to Purim)

[I tend to doubt that there is a truely reliable version. It has been
discussed much on the Areivim list. If someone wants to summarize the
story, I will post it here on mail-jewish. Even though it is not related
to Purim, it does seem to me that publishing it on Purim would be
appropriate. Mod.]


From: Yehonatan and Randy Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Mar 2003 16:54:40 +0200
Subject: Re: Purim question

In MJ v38n73, Irwin Weiss <irwin@...> asked:

<<Just occurred to me that we don't light candles for Purim.  We do for
Shabbat, we do for Chagim, and we do for Chanukah (the latter being
post-Torah).  So, how come we don't light candles for Purim?>>

    1.  The candles for Shabbat & yom tov, on the one hand, and those
for Hanukkah, on the other, each have a special reason, and both are
Rabbinic mitzvot.  Shabbat and yom tov candles are to assure Shalom
Bayit, so that people won't eat their Shabbat or Yom Tov meal in the
dark   (It was instituted long before electricity), and also to mark off
the separation of holy from mundane time.  Hanukkah candles are to
commemorate the miracle relating to the Menorah lit in the Temple.
    Neither of these reasons apply to Purim.

2.  On the other hand, there are many people who do have the custom of
having candles on the table at the Purim seudah, to enhance its festive
nature.  Such is the custom, for example, of my ex-wife's family, who
are German Jews, and have many "old-time" Ashkenazic minhagim.
The same applies to other festive meals, such as a wedding, sheva
berakhot, brit milah, bar mitzvah, etc.
   Yehonatan Chipman


From: A. Krinsky <adkrinsky@...>
Date: Wed, 05 Mar 2003 10:05:15 -0500
Subject: Women Learning Gemara

My local day school (serving a mix of Modern Orthodox and Yeshivish
families has been discussing instituting an optional girls' Gemara
class), and I have a number of questions related to women learning
Gemara.  I am hoping for some assistance in better understanding the
issue.  Although it seems clear the elective course will go through, it
seems equally clear that those opposed to it are abstaining from voting
against only because they cannot stop it, but that some of those opposed
actually see girls' Gemara as beyond the pale of Orthodoxy (I imagine
much in the same way that the absence of a mechitzah is beyond the
pale). So here are my questions:

1. One rabbi told me that none of the Gedolim have approved of girls'
learning Gemara.  First of all, is this true?  Who in the rabbinic world
have come out in support of women learning Gemara?  Second of all, does
this question matter?  That is, say none of the Gedolim have stated
their approval but many other (second-tier?) rabbinic figures have
approved of it, does that place the practice clearly within Orthodoxy?

2. Does the sociological fact that many Orthodox day schools teach
Gemara to girls matter?  Does it matter that at least a significant
minority within the Orthodox world supports this practice?

3. Can someone suggest to me any good sources/articles/essays on the
halakhic justification for women learning Gemara?

4. Am I wrong to think it reasonable that even those opposed to women
learning Gemara ought to recognize that the opposing position is well
within Orthodoxy?  This leads to a broader question, for anyone
interested: How are the Modern Orthodox viewed by the rest of the
Orthodox world?  I had long imagined that a great gulf separated the
Orthodox from the non-Orthodox, at least theologically, and that for all
our differences, Modern Orthodox, Yeshivish, Haredi, Hasidic, etc. all
stood under the same umbrella.  But now I fear that from the perspective
of many Orthodox Jews, Modern Orthodoxy is viewed as much closer to
Conservative Judaism than to the rest of the Orthodox world, that we do
not really share one umbrella.  So, any thoughts on this observation?
And, more importantly, are there any consequences to this, if true, in
terms of such matters as working together to build schools, local
kashrus, and other institutions?

Be well.

Alan Krinsky
Pawtucket, RI


End of Volume 38 Issue 79