Volume 38 Number 95
                 Produced: Sun Mar 30 13:48:07 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Five megilot
         [Yehonatan and Randy Chipman]
Learning from non-Jews
         [Michael Kahn]
Women learning Gemmara
         [Moshe Pessin]


From: Yehonatan and Randy Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2003 16:54:36 +0200
Subject: Re:  Five megilot

Alan Cooper <amcooper@...>, in MJ v38n79, in a very
interesting posting, asked two important questions about the five
megillot.  To summarize his question: :

1.  the Order of the Megillot
  << In medieval manuscripts, 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...  the Dead Sea Scrolls [don't] 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 question of the specific order of the megillot is part of the larger
question of the order of the biblical books.  The beraita in Baba Batra
14b gives the following order to be followed by one writing the entire
Bible in one scroll (it also gives various rules about how to write it,
how many lines to leave blank beteen one book and the next, etc.).
Prophets: Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the
Twelve. (the order is like ours, except for Isaiah being after Jeremiah
and Ezekiel rather than before them).  Writings: Ruth, Psalms, Job,
Proverbs, Kohelet, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Daniel, Megillat Esther,
Ezra [which presumably includes Nehemiah], and Chronicles.  (i.e., more
or less chronological, assuming Job to be written at the time of David
and not that of Moses, with the peculiarity of Chronicles being after
the three post-exilic books).

      This is brought by Rambam in Hilkhot Sefer Torah 7.15, with the
inexplicable omission of Ezra!  In the absence of any other explanation,
I would like to assume that this is a copiest's or printer's error,
although we Jews believe no human being to be infallible, not even the
Rambam, and it might have been a simple oversight.

      This is also the source for Tur Yoreh De`ah 283, mentioned by

      We are thus left with two interesting, and no doubt interrelated,
questions: How did our Tanakh come to be arranged as it is?  And how and
when were the five megillot grouped together?  I join Alan Cooper in an
appeal for information, and especially scholarly bibliography on the

     As for the Septuagint and the Christian usage: that is a whole
other story.  Unlike the Jewish tradition, which organizes the biblical
books into the familiar tri-partite sections of the Tanakh, the
Christian OT (as they call it) has four sections: Penateuch, Historical
Books (roughly equivalent to Nevi'im Rishonim, but also includes the
last four books of Ketuvim, including Esther, as well as Ruth, just
after Judges); Wisdom Books (the remaining Ketuvim), and the Prophetic
books (including Eikha, following Jeremiah, and Daniel, which certainly
qualifies as a visionary book in terms of contents, and which they like
because it serves as the model, lehavdil, for their Book of Revelation).
There's actually a good dealk of logic to this arrangment. The internal
order of each of these sections is roughly chronological, and th
breaking up of the megillot follows from their organizing principle.  I
suspect that the aim of the overall system is christological: the final
verses of Malachi, which refer to the coming of Elijah the prophet
before the "great day of the Lord" come at the very end, immediately
before the opening chapter of Matthew, with John the Baptist and
guess-who.  An interesting literary-historical-comparative religion
puzzle, but not otherwise relevant to us as Jews.

     The Jewish division into three sections is based upon different
levels of holiness: the Torah is described as "mipi hagevurah" (directly
from Gd); the prophetic books, including the historical ones, as
originating in nevuah (prophecy); and the Ketuvim by Ruah Hakodesh
(inspired with the Holy Spirit).  Thus, books with similar kinds of
contents are in different sections because of their level of kedusha.

2.  Customs of Reading the Megillot
<<When I asked a learned colleague about the matter, he said that the
term "chamesh megillot"... was basically a modern usage, as far as he
knew.  He also told me... 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

    References to when and how the megillot are read on the respective
holidays are indeed sparse in halakhic spurces.  For example, unless I'm
overlooking something basic, the sugya in the last chapter of Ta'anit
about the nine days and Tisha b'Av makes no mention of the reading of
Eikha, nor does Rambam in Hilkhot Ta'aniyot.  Nor does he discuss the
readings of the other megillot anywhere.

     The earliest reference to the megillot is in Masekhet Sofrim 14.18,
but the customs described there are utterly different from anything
known today.  First, after mentioning R. Levi's statement, knwon also
from the Bavli, that Megillat Esther is read at night and repeated in
the day, it adds:

     The people were accustomed to read it on the Motzaei Shabbatot
     of Adar until the fifteenth of the month:  the first Shabbat
     of Adar reading till "On that night" [i.e., the beginning of
     Ch 6], and on the second shabbat from "On that night" till
     "and speaks peace to all hsi seed" [ie., the end of the
     Shir Hashirim is read on the last nights of the Yom Tov of
     exiles, half on the first night and half on the second night.
     Ruth is read at the end of the first Yom Tov of Atzeret
     [Shavuot], till half way through, and he competes it at the
     end of the latter Yom Tov.  There are those who say that, with
     all of them one begins one the Motzaei Shabbat that precedes
     them, and the people behave thus, for halakhah is not fixed
     until there is a minhag."

   No mention of Eikha; none of Kohelet.  And what is meant by "the
latter Yom Tov" of Shavuot?  And what are the "two latter days of Yom
Tov of Galuyot"?  Anyway, with all its difficulty, this is the earliest
text mentioning the five megiollot, even in a fragmentary way.

     Shulahn Arukh mentions the reading of Eikha in Orah Hayyim 559.2
(Ram"a), citing as the sources Hagahot Maimoniot and Maharil, the former
citing in turn Maharam of Rothenberg and "the French rabbis."  In other
words, it goes back as far as the early rishonim.  Similarly, Kohelet is
mentioned in OH 663.2 (Ram"a); and all three are mentioned in the laws
of Shabbat Hol Hamoed Pesah (490.9, Ram"a).  The Ram"a there, quite
interestingly, says one shouldn't say a brakha over these readings,
mentioning two possible wordings for the hypothetical brakha that one
shouldn't say: "Al mikra megilla" and "Al mikra ketuvim."  But see the
Mishnah Berurah there, who mentions the Gera's ruling that one should
say the blessing, certainly if it is written on parchment.

     Hence, your colleagues comment about the custom in his shteitl is
doubtless true.

    In Hasidic batei midrash to this day, the megillot of the three
regalim are often read quietly and quickly by each person from his own
Humash (in the same way they often do the haftarah).  I saw this at the
Bostoner's (a Galician-type Hasidut) and at a small Satmar shteibl in
Queens, New York.

    In Israel, and specifically Yerushalayim, the custom of reading the
other megillot (in some places including Eikha!) from a scroll with a
brakha, is attributed to the "Perushim"-- the disciples of the Gaon of
Vilna who established the Ashkenazic customs in Jerusalem.  Does this
appear in the writings of the Gaon himself?  I don't know.  An
interesting question.

      Just for the record: One is not particular about the megillah
being written perfectly.  I used to read a Megillat Kohelet someone gave
our shul in Ramat Eshkol, Yerushalayim.  The first year, after supper
Friday night, I suddenly noticed that two words were missing (!) so I
set out after 10 at night to seek a pesak halakha.  Rav Yaakov Blau, of
the old Yerushalmi family, paskened for me that it was OK and I could
still say the brakha.

    As you can see, there are many interesting questions that remain to
be pursued on this subject.  If I speak with one of the academic experts
on minhag, I'll let the group know what they say.

    Rav Yehonatan Chipman


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2003 13:24:34 -0500
Subject: Re: Learning from non-Jews

>I believe that Yeshiyahu Leibowitz's observation is applicable- the 
>attitude of sages, thruout the ages, vis-a-vis teaching Torah to non-Jews, 
>was: was it good for the Jews!

I'm very wary of such a statement. Of the divine legitimacy of hallachah
means that we don't search for sociological reasons for Chazal unless
they are clearly present, such as in the case of the prohibition of
drinking wine touched by a gentile, a rabbinical law promulgated to
prevent interfaith mingling. In the case of gentile Torah study, I think
there is a Chazal that 'darshins' the posuk, Torah tzivah lanu Moshe,
morashah kehilas Yaakov, Moses commanded us with the torah, it is an
INHERITANCE to the congregation of Jacob, as excluding gentiles from the
exclusive Jewish possession of Torah. (Inheritance implies possession.)
On the other hand, there is also a gemara that speaks laudatory of the
gentile who studies Torah. Whatever the case, the status of a gentile
studying Torah is rooted in Chazal, not in societal factors.

>So it was fine for Sporno to teach curious fine gentile folks in Italy, and 
>for Berg to teach Madonna in California.

What is your source that Sforno taught gentiles Torah?  Also, were they
pop stars like Madonna who pollutes our culture on a mass scale?

>Re an alleged prohibition to teach kabbala to those under 40

Alleged? This opinion is brought down in the Shach Hilchos Talmud Torah
seif koton 6!

>Just as Rav Meir learnt from his heretical master, Acher, carefully 
>separating the wheat from the chaff so we can separate Madonna's sense of 
>how to treat humanity from her loose sexual morals

The gemara says that one should only study Torah from one who "apears to
him as a G-dly angel." The Shulchan Aruch, Yorah Deah, Hilchos Talmud
Torah 246:8 explicitly states that "A rabbi that does not go in the good
way (derech hatova), even if he is a great sage and all the people need
him, we do not learn Torah from him until he returns to (the) good
(path)." The Shach deals with how to reconcile this halacha with the
fact that Rabbi Meir studied from Acheir.

We don't need to learn about Loshon Hara from people like Madonna. We,
as a holy nation, have, 1000 times lehavdil, people like the Chofetz
Chaim, from whom we can learn.


From: Moshe Pessin <mypessin@...>
Date: Thu, 27 Mar 2003 23:07:33 +0200
Subject: re: Women learning Gemmara

allow me to clarify my points.
1)my reference to feminism being a rebbellion against Hashem was directed
at the leadership, who like moses menelson, abraham gieger (reform),
zacharia frankel, soloman shecter(conservative) in their desire to rebel
decided to create a coherent ideology which lured others into their trap.
the same here. most of the feminist women are being decieved.
unfortunately they have been influnced by western society in strange
ideas about "equality", therefore they are suseptable to this movements
ideas. but we should realize that if we think the Torah must be changed
then we are denying the eternality of it.
    a point to ponder, i who am not a cohen am discriminated against
serving in the bais hamikdash, should there not be a movement to abolish
this midevil caste system? the last recorded serious attempt was korach
and we all new how far that went. so to try and prove i can do it to is
no more then a rebellion against Hashem and His Torah.
    though while we're trying to bring equality, i'll even qoute a
gemmara, Hashem promises that the reward for women is greater then for
men. how's that for discrimination? i lose out for eternity just because
i'm a man.
    But we know these two things can't be changed one because there's no
bais hamikdash and, we can't take on Hashem in Olam Habah. so we will
just continue to challenge Him in this world, for here we have a veneer
of control.
    in other simplified words, Hashem laid down the law for what ever His
reason's were, we must follow it's dictates as spelled out in the
shulchan aruch and it's perushim.
2)the responses to my arguement have only proved my point. is our sages
opinions consireded silly? can we ever live our lives according to
halacha without guidance from them? to flippantly and arrongantly dismiss
their opinions is the most offensive arguement on this issue and exactly
the point, there we go again, rabbi bashing, that's called rebelling
against G-D.
3)is there anything in our life but following the Torah? is our
subservience to Hashem's will a minor thing? on the contrary it is our
whole life.
4)the halachic process is one that we do not just change explecit
halachos on the secular liberal view of the world. the difference between
teaching girls torah sh' be'chasav and torah sh' bal'peh is that the
gemmara and shulchan aruch clearly diffrentiate between them. one is
permitted bedieved and one is not. the leading rabbis at the time of the
formation of bais yaakov decided that we were in a sha'as ha'dichak,
which halachicly allows for the use of b'dieved. this is a legitimate
halachic practice as is constantly spelled out in the halacha literature.
to teach gemmara had no such room for movement. i have never read the
psakim permitting it and would be curious to know their reasoning. my
opinion has been based on learning the classic sources, therefore as the
majority holds, there is no halachic place for gemmara.
5)the arguement that minority opinions have become majority ones is
ridiculous. first please spell out were this has been the case, instead
of a nice sounding it's been done. second it's irrelevant in the first
place, as long as the monority remains that then it is not the halacha,
therefore to follow it is wrong. if in 50 years the majority of poskim
permit it then you have an arguement.
6)any serious halacha student knows that not all opinions are of equal
weight. to say that r' fienstien has the same weight as the magen avraham
is ridiculous, and r' moshe fienstien never entertained tyhe thought. so
if the majority of "teir 1" rabbis would forbid something then "tier 2"
rabbis opinions would be of less relevence. i illustrated this with the
incident around dialouge between reform and orthodox by r' reinman. he
said he had the endorsement of very respected rabbis but with the
opposition of the gedolim (the leading sages) he and his rabbis
retracted. which inceidntly shows their yiras shamayim and pure
7)my post was a response to someone else's. he assumed sub divisions in
klal yisrael therefore i addressed my response the way i did. the reality
is there is no subdivisions, just the Torah and we must follow it to the
best of our abilities.we once had 12 shevatim and will once again have
that each one had their own particular avodah the common denominator was
the desire for true service of Hashem nowadays except for cohanim all
divisions are really just a way of mandating less observance. see reform
8)so long as it's not passe to bash the torah, the defenders of it will
continue to attack all movements against it.
9)two people have already said that their minds won't be changed, really
are they that distant from truth? if their true desire is to do Hashem's
will then if proven wrong they should change. i would be willing, i just
have the gemmara and shulchan aruch on my side therefore (in game terms)
have the upper habd as the burden of proff falls on the dissenters.


End of Volume 38 Issue 95