Volume 39 Number 63
                 Produced: Tue Jun  3  5:06:57 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

D.H.L. in Judaic Studies Programs
Ethical Behavior and Halachah
         [Eitan Fiorino]
         [Evan Rock]
The gezara
         [Danny Skaist]
Goals of Judaism
         [Ari Trachtenberg]
Group Aliyot
         [Aliza Berger]
         [Boruch Merzel]
Library Items
         [Asher Breatross]
Rosenblum article -- question re Choosing Jewish Leaders
         [David Waxman]
Safek bracha (2)
         [Jack Gross, Mike Gerver]


From: Anonymous
Date: Sun, 01 Jun 2003 17:33:31 -0400
Subject: D.H.L. in Judaic Studies Programs

Does anyone know of a program for a D.H.L (Doctor of Hebrew Letters) or
some similar degree in Judaic Studies where someone who has completed a
Yeshiva Gedolah background (and/or perhaps a Masters) and could write a
dissertation and be granted the degree without additional coursework, or
by distance leaning or very limited coursework at the institution?


From: Eitan Fiorino <tony.fiorino@...>
Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 10:33:58 -0400
Subject: Ethical Behavior and Halachah

> Some of the kids came and told him that they were troubled by stories
> of "frum Jews who had committed fraud" (or other unsavory dealings).
> The Rav asked the kids what they thought of a frum guy he knew who drove
> on Shabbat or another frum guy who enjoyed eating at treif restaurants.
> The children, looking puzzled answered "but clearly those people aren't
> frum. How can you be frum and drive on Shabbat? It's a contradiction in
> terms." ...  <<

I'd summarize the issue in this thread as follows: many (myself
included) are disturbed by the seemingly widely held view that major
ethical lapses do not impugn someone's "frumness" whereas trangressions
of other halachot (including some minor rabbinic enactments) would not
render the transgressor "not frum."  Examples of transgressions easily
forgiven by the community include fraud, theft, adultery, and in one
particularly sad story, even attempted murder.

I think there a several overlapping factors that contribute to this

1.  We live in a society that pretty much downplays fraud as a moral or
ethical problem.  The relatively minor criminal liability that accrues
to those commiting so-called "victimless crimes" is well known.
Certainly there is almost an ethic of "cheating the system" in this
country - whether it be gaining access to undeserved entitlements (like
unenployment insurance) or underpaying taxes or other similar types of
things.  It is therefore not suprising that the Orthodox community does
not look with revulsion upon these matters.

2.  We have to face the difficult fact that one who seeks to be (in Rav
Lichtenstein's phrasing of the Ramban) "a scoundrel within the Torah"
can find more than enough support for things like scamming welfare,
cheating on taxes, defrauding Medicare, obtaining Pell grants
fraudulently, and so on (e.g., taut akum - I'm not suggesting taut akum
matirs the behavior, only that it is interpreted in that way by many).
Such scamming seems to have become an ethical IMPERITIVE in some
communities.  I'll relate a sad/funny anecdote - when I was getting
married, my wife and I went to a silver store in a certain borough of
NYC to purchase candlesticks.  We settled on a pair and, when we were
paying I requested that they include sales tax because my rebbi said one
is obligated to pay sales tax.  The bewildered salesperson was
completely flabbergasted, questioned me about who had issued such a psak
and that he had never heard of such a thing, and then convened a
conference of all the salespeople who discussed the matter for several
minutes.  He then returned and pointed to a tiny sign behind the
register that said "all prices include tax."  In this case, the one
seeking to adhere to an ethical imperitive and a psak regarding dina
demalchuta dina was looked upon as silly, absurd and perhaps even
halachically wrong and theologically corrupt.

3.  It seems to me that in general we as a community are more concerned
with/worried about/careful with mitzvot that are bein adam lemakom than
those that are bein adam lechavero.  We hear about chumrot with regard
to shabbat, kashrut, etc. all the time - but when was the last time you
heard someone say "I've accepted a chumrah on myself to give 12% to
tzedakah?"  Aside from some communal attempts to work on lashon hara, we
don't even address these issues in a systematic way.  I'm not sure
exactly for reasons - theological, sociological - for a preoccupation
with things bein adam lemakom, but the net effect seems to be that we
think careful minding of our relationship with G-d makes up for a
careless approach to our relationship with our neighbors.  One thing I
am  certain of - it is far easier to be a baal nefesh than it is to be a



From: Evan Rock <theevanrock@...>
Subject: FFB, S"T

Where does the need for acronyms in our Jewish lives come from?  At a
dinner at a kiruv organization, one of the honorees deemed it necessary
to address the audiance and let them them know that she and her husband
are a "FFBs", i.e. a Frum From Birth!  I have seen letters signed by
rabbis with the acronym "S"T" i.e.  Sepharadi Tahor!


From: Danny Skaist <danny@...>
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 08:43:31 +0200 
Subject: The gezara

<<[Kitniyot has a technical term in relation to Hilchot Zerayim - laws of
seeds and that is what I think Frank is refering to above. However, I do
not think that it is at all clear that there is an equivalence between
what is considered Kitniyot in Hilchot Zerayim and what is considered
kitniyot is relation to the gezerah / minhag of not eating kitniyot on
Pesach. Avi Feldblum, Mod.] >>

I agree.

The logical conclusion of this argument is that the original gezara
could not have used the word "kitniyot", since that word had a very
specific meaning. (assuming that the gezara was made by learned Rabbis).
Which leaves us to assume what ?  That the gezara was on anything that
might be confused with flour, (even mustard seed) by non-balabaytim who
would tell their wives that it's OK to prepare "X", because they saw the
rabbi's wife prepare it.

So the original gezara DID include potatoes, not by name, but by
catagory.  This is not to assur potatoes but to recognize that the
gezara has not been followed for centuries, and is something that B'nei
Yisroel cannot live with.  Like "takanat Ezra" it is time to retire it.



From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Sun, 01 Jun 2003 17:06:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Goals of Judaism

Akiva Miller wrote:
 >In MJ 39:54, Harry Schick asked <<< I recently had a discussion with
 >someone whose claim was that Judaism and Orthodoxy in particular had to
 >be considered a failure. His reasoning?  The two main goals of Judaism
 >would have to be the establishment of a just and honest society ...
 >and/or the bringing of the Meshiach ... What is the counter arguement?
 >I think he should consider the possiblity that he's mistaken about what
 >the "goals" of Judaism are. I'm not sure it even HAS any goals by which
 >its success or failure might be judged.
 >I do what I do because my Creator told me to do it. If good things would
 >result from *everyone* doing His will, that would be wonderful, but I
 >still don't know if that it our goal. My goal is to do what I'm supposed
 >to do.

I have heard this argument before and, though convincing, it is not
intellectually satisfying.  Certainly, we have a role in life beyond
simply doing our Creator's will ... at the very least, to advance good
in the world.  Not everything we do is a mitsva ... what job you choose,
what wife you choose, where you live, are all examples of fundamental
decisions people make that, though l'shem shamayim (for the sake of
heavens), are not chosen for us by our creator.

I would thus argue that our goal goes beyond just doing what we are
*supposed* to do, to further developing and creatively improving what we



From: Aliza Berger <alizadov@...>
Date: Mon, 02 Jun 2003 12:44:42 +0200
Subject: Group Aliyot

I have read about and witnessed a group of people (two or more)
receiving an aliyah to the Torah together. The people recite the Torah
blessings in unison, and the congregation answers. However, I'm not sure
about the halachic acceptability of this. It also brings to mind the
group aliyah for children on Simchat Torah - how does that fit into

Seems that the principle - two voices are not heard - would act against
group aliyot being permitted.


Aliza Berger, PhD
English Editing: http://www.editing-proofreading.com/
Statistics Consulting: http://www.statistics-help.com/


From: <BoJoM@...> (Boruch Merzel)
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 21:31:45 EDT
Subject: Re: Kitniyot

> > The best that can be said is that the category of kitniyot has no
> > rational criteria. It is what the ashkenazi community says it is.

> I believe someone earlier mentioned that the Rambam somewhere and for
> whatever reason (not Pesach, I presume, because Sephardim don't have
> that ban) defined the term kitniyot as edible seeds grown in a field.
> Is that not true?  If it's true, then the term "kitniyot" does indeed
> have a rational definition (regardless of the rationality of any single
> Askenazi community's practice).

A year or two ago I pointed out that the definition of Kitniyos is found in 
the Rambam, at the end of the first Perek of  Hilchot Kilayim where he clearly 
defines  grains, Kitniyos and vegetables for halachik purposes.
He defines Kitniyos as all produce (aside from the  5 grains known as T'vuah) 
whose seeds are the edible part of the plant and he gives some examples such 
as beans, peas, rice, sesame, poppy.  This is the only source of which I am 
aware that so clearly defines Kitniyos.

By this definition maize, or sweet corn, is very definitely Kitniyos as are 
peanuts.  The fact that these plants were unknown at the time of the acceptance 
of the custom forbidding Kitniyos on Pesach is another question and one may 
want to debate wether they should be included among those foods forbiden to 
Ashkenzim .

Boruch Merzel


From: Asher Breatross <ash002@...>
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 20:03:40 -0700
Subject: Library Items

I have in my library the following Seforim:

1.  The Friedlander translation of the Moreh Nevuchim published by Pardes

2.  A book by a Dr. Yeshayahu Aviad entitled "Hirhurim B'Filosofia Shel
     Hahistoria" published by Mosad Harav Kook.

Regarding (1) is it an authoritative and reliable translation?  Can
anyone provide me with a short biography of Dr. Friedlander?

Regarding (2) can anyone provide me with a short biography about
Dr. Aviad?

Thank you.
Asher Breatross


From: David Waxman <yitz99@...>
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 00:31:27 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Rosenblum article -- question re Choosing Jewish Leaders

>>are not the Moetzes, the leadership of the RCA and local Batei Din or
Vaadim, chosen in the same way that Mr. Rosenblum decries about the
Israeli system -- i.e., from within and without public input? <<

This is an interesting question and I have no idea what the formalities
involved are.  Ultimately though, the process must be democratic in the
true sense of the word.  That is because these organizations have no
police authority, but rather depend on the voluntary participation and
compliance of the people that they represent.  If the councils were to
appoint leaders that were unacceptable to their 'constituents', the
people would simply go somewhere else.  And as you alude to above, there
is plenty of competition in the Rabbi / beit din business.



From: Jack Gross <jbgross@...>
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 19:02:15 -0400
Subject: Re: Safek bracha

From: Danny Skaist <danny@...>
>All this talk about safek bracha got me to think. 
>The brocho on the tfila shel rosh is in dispute.  Those who make it even
>follow up with "baruch shem..etc" which is said after a brocho l'vatala
>(unnecessary brocho)
>Why is this disputed brocho different from other disputed brochot ??

If The Rema considered the matter to be a safek, he would omit the
beracha entirely.  The Rema's opinion is that halacha follows the Rosh,
and the beracha is required (vadai).  The custom of adding Baruch Shem
is a token of respect for the other opinion (Rambam's).

From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 18:53:33 EDT
Subject: Safek bracha

Danny Skaist asks, in v39n60,

> All this talk about safek bracha got me to think.  
>  The brocho on the tfila shel rosh is in dispute.  Those who make it even
>  follow up with "baruch shem..etc" which is said after a brocho l'vatala
>  (unnecessary brocho) 
>  Why is this disputed brocho different from other disputed brochot ??

Years ago, in the 1970s, I heard an explanation (I believe it in a shiur
was given by Chaim Citron who was a Chabad rabbi in Berkeley at the
time) that this bracha is not really a safek bracha. If it was, we
wouldn't say it, and in fact many people (chassidim? or only
Lubavitchers? or anyone who is not nusach Ashkenaz?) don't say it. For
those whose minhag is to say it, there is not really any safek on
whether it should be said, but "boruch shem kavod" is said as a kind of
acknowledgment of the opinion that it is a safek bracha.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


End of Volume 39 Issue 63