Volume 39 Number 36
                 Produced: Tue May 20  5:53:47 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Candles and Danger (5)
         [Wendy Baker, Gershon Dubin, Akiva Miller, c.halevi, Shmuel
G-d has no body, and the Raavad
         [Gil Student]
Jewish community in Tokyo
         [Michael Rogovin]
No'ach mit zibn greizen
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Potato Starch (2)
         [Wendy Baker, David Charlap]
Potato Starch as kitniyot
         [Bernard Raab]
Rice at the Seder Plate
         [Sam Saal]
Sefira Beard
         [Yisrael and Batya Medad]


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 13:26:54 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Candles and Danger

> From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
> This makes me wonder: Did our ancestors never notice fire hazard?
> Surely they did. Any sefer (classical or modern) about the laws of
> Shabbos talks about what may or may not be done to put out a fire on
> Shabbos, or what may be rescued from a burning building where there is
> no eruv. In generations which had no electric lighting, such fires were
> even more common than they are today, and occurred during the week as
> well.

I would think, quite simply, that in a era when candles or oil lamps
were the only source of light, Shabbat candles in candle sticks long
enoungh to make them a reasonably useful light would not be any
different that candles use the rest of the week.  the fire hazard was a
constant.  It is only since the advent of electriciy in lighting that
this has become a problem.  since this is only recent, the force of
tradition is strong and the urge to change or innovate is small.

Wendy Baker

From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 16:43:11 GMT
Subject: Candles and Danger

From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)

<<It seems to me that a very simple solution was available to
them. Several posters here have recommended tea lights. This is an
extremely low-tech solution to the problem of falling candles. Why did
no one in the past 3000 years think of this?>>

Maybe because candles for the most part were a dish of oil with a wick,
not a stick of tallow/wax/paraffin.


From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 00:11:07 -0400
Subject: Re: Candles and Danger

In MJ 39:30, I wondered why (despite centuries of lighting Shabbos
candles), the fire hazards never sparked a decree or custom to insure
any degree of fire safety, such as to use only short candles rather than
long ones.

Gershon Dubin responded <<< Maybe because candles for the most part were
a dish of oil with a wick, not a stick of tallow/wax/paraffin. >>> and
someone else made a similar comment to me offline as well.

I *did* consider this before writing my original post. I could respond
by pointing out that although Neros were *generally* a shallow dish of
oil, solid wax candles *were* occasionally used as well -- at least for
non-Shabbos purposes -- even in times of the Mishna. But I'm *not* going
to use that as my response, because I honestly don't know how recent the
change is, or how many people had adopted use of solid candles by any
given date.

Since I freely admit that the change to candles might be pretty recent,
that is a simple explanation why there's no rabbinic decree on the
subject; such decrees haven't been made in two millenia. But plenty of
customs and minhagim have developed!

The whole thing seems so bizarre to me... At a bris milah, blood is
removed in a very specific way; not doing so is considered dangerous to
the baby. No one eats fish together with meat; it's unhealthy. When
reclining is required at the Seder, it must be done to the left; how
many people have choked themselves because they leaned to the right?

What a people, this Am Yisrael! They take such care to avoid things
which experience has shown to be dangerous, even when the evidence is
tenuous at best. (Or at least, the evidence seems tenuous to this 20th
century mind.) So why did no one ever suggest, "That was a pretty awful
fire. We should use shorter candles from now on." Did this idea never
occur to anyone? Even if someone did suggest such a thing. it obviously
did not catch on with the neighbors.

I can think of a couple of explanations. One is that fires were so
common that the people learned to take it in stride. I find that
difficult to accept in light of all the many special halachos about what
to do if a fire breaks out on Shabbos; surely they realized that
prevention is preferable over salvage. Another is that short candles
failed to solve the problem. I can't imagine why that might be so. Or
maybe the beautiful tall candles and easily-tipped candlesticks were
considered to justify the risk of their falling. Naaah, can't be, could

Akiva Miller

From: c.halevi <c.halevi@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 23:43:53 -0500
Subject: Candles and Danger

Shalom, All:

	IMHO a solution to the problem of lighting Shabbat candles in a
hotel is simple: use yahrtzeit candles, placed on a surface that won't
be damaged by heat. (A piece of cardboard covered with aluminum foil can
be placed under the candle to prevent heat damage to furniture or
counters. If you want to make the yahrtzeit candle attractive in honor
of Shabbat, decorate it with a crayon or any other non-flammable
	An added advantage of this is that for the whole Shabbat you
have light in the room without using electricity.
	For the belt and suspenders safety crowd, you can surround the
candle with aluminum foil twisted into a box shape.

Charles Chi (Yeshaya) Halevi

From: Shmuel Ross <shmuel@...>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 08:43:06 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Re: Candles and Danger

> This makes me wonder: Did our ancestors never notice fire hazard?

   I would speculate that, on the contrary, given that non-fire-based
ways of lighting one's home are a relatively new innovation, the reason
why there are no particular laws governing fire safety for Shabbos
candles is that there was no need for such; people used to dealing with
candles on a nightly basis presumably knew how to use them safely.  It's
only now that candles are *not* generally used outside of Shabbos, Yom
Tov, and the occasional power failure -- so we're less experienced in
their use, and live in environments that aren't designed for such use --
that this becomes a problem.

   But, again, this is only a hypothesis.



From: Gil Student <gil_student@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 10:36:21 -0400
Subject: Re: G-d has no body, and the Raavad

Chaim Mateh wrote:
>It's clear that the Raavad holds that the belief that G-d has a
>body is an incorrect belief.

R' Isadore Twersky, in his Rabad of Posquieres, cites Ra'avad in the
introduction to Ba'alei HaNefesh as stating explicitly that he believes
in the incorporeality of G-d.  When I looked it up I did not see it as
quite compelling but I defer to R' Twersky.

Gil Student


From: Michael Rogovin <rogovin@...> 
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 09:50:12 -0400
Subject: Re: Jewish community in Tokyo

Bernard Raab writes:
> On Shabbat morning we did have an orthodox minyan in the
> synagogue, which has a very kosher mechitza, 

Not to nitpick, but what is a "very kosher" mechitza?  Assuming that the
mechitza is a minimum height (about a meter, I think (?)) and creates a
separation between men and women, is it not kosher? How can a mechitza
(or food or anything else) be "very" kosher. Sure I understand that one
can be more machmir, or take a maximalist approach and try to satisfy
the requirements of all or most poskim, but that does NOT mean that a
minimalist approach that follows a recognized posek's (or one's own
LOR's) opinion is not kosher, nor is a maximalist approach "more kosher"
than such a minimalist or middle approach. Such a position denigrates
poskim in general and imho damages the halachic process.

Having said all this, I don't think that such was Bernard's
intent. I suspect he meant a very tall and opaque mechitza.

Michael Rogovin


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 20:08:31 +0200
Subject: No'ach mit zibn greizen

An old Yiddish expression to indicate that a written item has numerous
errors is to refer to it as being "No'ach mit zibn greizen," i.e., (the
spelling of the single two-letter word) "No'ach with seven errors." It
can be done I'm told, but I haven't really tried it.

In any event, the announcer on Israel's 6 a.m. news this morning
belonged to that club. Each day, the 6 a.m. news includes the Hebrew and
secular dates, and during the Omer time, the Omer count.

In any event, the announcer this morning said the following (In Hebrew,
of course):

"Today are twenty-eight days of the Omer, which are three weeks and
eight days."

I believe she deserves a prize for creative mathematics.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Wendy Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 13:01:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Potato Starch

> From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
>          There is a strong possibility that potatos would have been
> included in the ban had they existed in Europe at the time for this
> reason.  While we lament the lack of an organized rabbinate today
> because of an inability to act decisively on issues such as the agunah,
> there may be some advantages as well.

But why is corn and corn products considered kitniyot?  Didn't corn
(maize) come to Europe well after the ban was instituted.  Why corn and
not potato?  Both should be permitted as far as I can tell.

Wendy Baker

From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 10:13:17 -0400
Subject: Re: Potato Starch

Mike Gerver wrote:
> I read or heard somewhere (sorry, I don't remember where) that there was
> an attempt to ban potatoes on Pesach among Ashkenazim, when potatoes
> were first introduced to Europe from the New World in the 1500s. But
> there was a famine in Poland shortly after that, so the ban was
> temporarily lifted, and by the time the famine ended, it had become
> established that potatoes could be eaten on Pesach, and it was not
> practical to reinstate the ban.

After reading several of these possible explanations, I suspect that if
there is a concrete reason "why not potatoes too", it has been lost in
the mists of time and legend.

But since people are sharing their stories, here's what I heard.  That
the rabbis actually did want to ban potatoes, due to the ability to make
cakes from potato (undermining the spirit of Pesach), but the refrained
because their wives (who have a hard enough time figuring out how to
cook on pesach) told them "don't you dare" (putting it politely) and so
the issue was dropped in the name of keeping peace in our homes.

But I suspect this is just as much myth and legend as the other

-- David


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 11:29:03 -0400
Subject:  Potato Starch as kitniyot

Frank Silbermann wrote:

>>I remember hearing of rabbis centuries after the ban saying: "We would
like to repeal the prohibition on kitniyot, but we do not have the
power."  So the reasoning behind the ban no longer applies today, but
the ban stands.  Though we do not have the power to repeal the ban,
fortunately we most certainly do have the power not to extend this
prohibition to kitniyot-like non-kitniyot (such as potato starch).<<

>>Since we would like to repeal this ban but do not have the power, it
only makes sense to avoid adding to it.<<

then Ben Katz wrote:

>>There is a strong possibility that potatos would have been
included in the ban had they existed in Europe at the time for this
reason.  While we lament the lack of an organized rabbinate today
because of an inability to act decisively on issues such as the agunah,
there may be some advantages as well.<<

I find it fascinating that Ben thinks that an organized rabbinate today
would extend the ban on kitniyot rather than abrogate it despite the
widespread understanding that this is gezera the reason for which has
expired! Frank writes: "...we would like to repeal this ban but do not
have the power." Having just heard a lecture on changes in halacha over
the years influenced by ideology and sociology (by Marc Shapiro), I
believe that "we" have more power than Frank suspects. Many changes in
halacha have been made from the "bottom-up" over time. I believe the
same will happen with regard to kitniyot, over time, starting in Israel,
as Sephardi and Ashkenazi customs get blended as the communities mix.


From: Sam Saal <ssaal@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 08:23:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: re: Rice at the Seder Plate

Shlomo Pick <picksh@...> wrote:
>sam saal is under the impression that rav huna was a sephardi because he
>ate rice on passover.

OK. I blew it. I forgot the smiley when I posted my comment.

I know the talmud was written (compiled) long before the
Ashkenaz/Sephardicd split.

My point was to make light of our having so strongly taken on a custom
that had no basis in the talmud. I understand that we do this and even
why we do it. But as with the story of Moshe being shown Rabbi Akiva,
and wondering what was going on, I'm sure our predecessors wouldbe just
as confused to see us now. I only hope their Tourguide has as good an
explanation as He did while showing Rabbi Akiva's shiur to Moshe.

Sam Saal


From: Yisrael and Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Thu, 15 May 2003 20:01:56 +0200
Subject: Sefira Beard

Anonymous wrote:
      I, nonetheless, would hesitate to impune any psak that allows
      someone to shave given that it might impact their parnoseh
      (livelyhood / income.)  "Jewish Pride" does not fully enter into
      the halachic equation.

since Halacha permits someone who is sitting shiv'a to play a musical
instrument at a wedding the same evening, if that is his trade, one
would have to agree with the above premise.  Nevertheless, I presume
that here in Israel, the Jewish country, to have to remove one's Sefira
beard for such reasons as livelihood should be unnecessary.  I, for one,
did an interview with the BBC's Tim Sebastian of Hardtalk infamy on the
issue of the Jewish communities in Yesha which is a fairly important
platform for explaining our position.  When I informed a friend of it,
she immediately asked "you did trim your beard, didn't you?", knowing
that the potential several millions-strong viewing audience would see me
as a bit sloppy.  But my appearance, I'm afraid, will be a bit on the
scruffy side on the screen.

Yisrael Medad


End of Volume 39 Issue 36