Volume 39 Number 67
                 Produced: Thu Jun  5  5:16:10 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conservative Conversions (3)
         [Rachel Swirsky, Amitai Bin-Nun, Chaim Wasserman]
Ethical Behavior and Halacha
         [Yakov Spil]
Folding Talis on Motzoei Shabbos
Kitniyot (4)
         [Akiva Miller, Akiva Miller, Martin D. Stern, Danny Skaist]
non-Orthodox Conversions
         [Martin D. Stern]


From: Rachel Swirsky <swirskyr@...>
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 11:25:56 -0400
Subject: Re: Conservative Conversions

<MDSternM7@...> (Martin D. Stern)wrote

	the fundamental point which separates
	Orthodoxy from Conservatism is the latter's rejection of the concept of
	Torah min hashamayim as formulated by such authoratative figures as the

It seems to me that they are not saying that Torah is not min hashamayim,
they are saying that our current understanding of torah min hashamayim is
flawed.  We see torah in much the same ways, only they take it one step
farther.  We say Torah and the way it was interpreted by those who came
before us is eternal.  They say that that there is no real difference
between us and those who came before us and that current leaders are still
free to interpret it for today.

	While it is possible that some Conservative clergymen may in
	fact be fully believing and practicing Orthodox Jews, it is difficult to
	believe that these are anything but a small minority.

Here is Toronto, many if not most of the Rabbis at Conservative Shuls are
themselves Orthodox in many if not most respects.  I know Torotonto is known
for being right wing in most ways, but would their conversions therefore be
considered 'kosher'?  I know for certain that Conservative converts in this
city do go through Mikva and, in the case of men, mila.

Rachel Swirsky

From: Amitai Bin-Nun <readsscience@...>
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 08:36:49 -0500
Subject: RE: Conservative Conversions

In MJ v.39 i.65, Gil Student wrote that R' Aharon Soloveitchik would 
disqualify any Conservative Rabbi from serving on a beit din based on 
ideology alone.  I would just like to point out that Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm 
wrote claimed in article in Moment Magazine (I think it was either 1983 or 
1986), that the Rav, in his role as Chair of the RCA Halacha Commitee, would 
accept the gittin of Rabbi Boaz Cohen of the JTS faculty. Rabbi Lamm 
extrapolated from this that denomination itself is not a disqualification 
according to the Rav. This being the Rav, I wonder if anyone knows of 
anytime he indicated that he held the opposite.

       In addition, I remember that this thread started when a Conservative 
Rabbinical student commented on the closeness of Orthodoxy and Conservatism, 
at least in theory. I know that this contention is a major overrarching 
theme in the books of Dr. Jeffrey Gurock of Yeshiva University. In his 
writings on American Orthodoxy in the first half of the twentieth century, 
he often points out how similar these two movements were- in practice! This 
is done explicitly in "From Fluidity to Rigidity" and this idea is a theme 
easily seen in his book on Kaplan and his articles in Torah U'madda Journal 
(Vol. 9) and Hazon Nahum. If someone is interested in investigating the 
divergence in these two movements, Gurock has an interesting perspective on 

From: <Chaimwass@...> (Chaim Wasserman)
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 13:44:01 EDT
Subject: Re: Conservative Conversions

Binyomin Segal's statement which follows is simply not factually
accurate. He writes: <<The near universal attitude of "world class"
poskim from the last hundred years (MO and Chareidi) is that affiliation
with the Conservative movement - its synagogue organization, its
rabbinical organization - is significant evidence that the rabbi or
synagogue in question should be treated as heretical.>>

I have lived for the better part of the last hundred years and can show
you repeated and notable exceptions to the broad picture which he

Chaim Wasserman


From: Yakov Spil <yspil@...>
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 07:35:10 -0400
Subject: Ethical Behavior and Halacha

>"but when was the last time you heard someone say "I've accepted a
chumrah on myself to give 12% to tzedakah?" <

I enjoyed Eitan's posting and agree with his conclusions on an issue
that has also bothered me to no end.  That we strive for consistency in
our avodas Hashem, but have many gaping holes, certainly can leave one
bewildered as to what is the goal and are we anywhere near seeing
success.(I will address the Goals of Judaism in another posting)

But this quote above caught my attention and I believe this is a major
point in this discussion. And that is we may never have heard someone
say this or some other statement about a hanhaga tova they have because
if they are doing it lishma- no one in their right mind would mention it
and talk about it.

This is a point all of us can miss and that is all of the judgments and
pronouncements we can make about our collective and individual Avodas
Hashem- should be kept to ourselves and not advertised.  This is
certainly what we are exhorted to do by all the seforim and I believe
one of the corruptions of America is that we all think our avodas Hashem
has to have some grand public display so that we know who is adam kasher
and who is not. Does this person keep such and such a chumra- and what
camp is this person really in etc. etc.

There are stories of people from Europe and immigrants to the US early
on in the 20th Century who kept from their children and close
acquaintances all of the chesed they did, or the state of their
finances- to the point that the children thought they were poor- all
because their parents knew what to keep quiet about.

WHY?? Because that's what was important to them!

Yakov Spil


From: LR <lreich@...>
Subject: Folding Talis on Motzoei Shabbos

 Chaim Mateh posted

>>When I got married many moons ago, I heard of this segula and queried as
>>its origin.  I was told that since it was a minhag for the wife's father
>>to buy the choson's talis, if the first thing he does after Shabbos is
>>fold up the talis that he received from his father-in-law, that would
>>find favor in his wife's eyes, and thus enhance shalom bayis.

I have heard this reason put more powerfully as follows.

A husband who neglects to fold his Tallis on Motzei Shabbos make his
wife wonder if he is shortly expecting a new tallis........


From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 07:54:48 -0400
Subject: Re: Kitniyot

In MJ 39:63, there were two posts from people who seem to think that
because the word "kitniyot" has a certain very specific meaning
regarding the laws of farming, it theremore *must* have the same meaning
regarding this Pesach custom.

I disagree. Words *can* have different meanings in different contexts.

The word "melacha" means one thing for Shabbos, something else for Yom
Tov, something else for Chol HaMoed, something else for Rosh Chodesh,
something else for Chanuka, and in some cases it can have even more

Akiva Miller

From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 09:24:25 -0400
Subject: Re: Kitniyot

In MJ 39:65, Bernard Raab makes some important comments:

<<< This is NOT a "chok" from the Torah which we accept even if we cannot
"divine" the reason for it. This is a Rabbinic gezera. If there is a
"deeper reason" which *might* be relevant to us, let us seek it. Perhaps
from this discussion it will emerge. >>>

It's a custom among Ashkenazim, and not a Rabbinic gezera, but that's
really a minor side point. Otherwise, I agree with this. It seems to me
that there are some customs which have been abandoned over the centuries
(certain important fast days, for example) and others which have been
maintained. I'm not sure where the border is between the two, but I
agree that seeking the deeper reasons is a good first step.

<<< if one buys a box of matzo meal or potato starch labeled kosher
l'Pesach with a trusted hashgacha, one assumes that it does NOT contain
even a speck of wheat flour. One does not, in general, open the box to
inspect for possible chametz before taking it home as you would be
obliged to do if you wanted to rely on your senses! >>>

The idea that a grain of rice looks (to some) similar to a grain of
barley is not the only reason to avoid kitniyos. If that were true, lima
beans -- and most other beans -- would never have fallen into this
category! Another famous reason (page 50 of Rav's Shimon Eider's book,
quoting the Beis Yosef) for kitniyos is the possibility the chometz
grains may have gotten mixed in with the non-chometz grains.

Much as I'd like to think that this is no longer relevant in today's
industrialized age, Dr. Josh Backon of Hadasah Hosiptal at Hebrew
University (you can read his full posting at
http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol05/v05n019.shtml#03) says that if an
Ashkenazi must eat rice on Pesach, he advises that "the rice is checked
grain by grain for presence of any of the 5 forbidden grains [for anyone
who has ever visited a wholesale grain market and has seen 200 pound
sacks of rice in burlap bags, knows what I'm referring to]."

I accept this as firsthand testimony that such grains DO find their way
into other grains even nowdays. I have seen similar comments over the
years, posted by sefaradim who buy ordinary rice in the supermarket,
check it grain by grain, and occasionally DO find a different sort of
grain in there. Ashkenazim have accepted the custom to just avoid
kitniyos entirely, while Sefaradim rely on their detection abilities. To
each their own, but nothing has "expired".

(I anticipate that Mr. Raab might counter with something like, "So the
rabbis can check the corn or rice, and then put it in a box with a
hechsher, and there's no need to fear that the consumer will buy the
wrong thing." -- But the Ashkenazi custom is the even the rabbis *don't*
check the kitniyos for foreign grains.)

<<< Today in the US, there are supermarkets which sell packaged kosher
meats with reliable supervision in freezer cases right next to non-kosher
products of really identical appearance. They may be separated by a
divider (easily breached by any shopper) but if you were not careful with
the label, you could easily take home "that other white meat" instead of
the chicken breasts or veal cutlets you thought you had selected! >>>

Please note your own words: "but if you were not careful with the
label".  Are you worried about such accidents or not? If you are not
worried about such accidents, and you are not worried about people
mistaking veal for "the other white meat", then you certainly wouldn't
worry about people mistaking veal for chicken. Is this a vote to allow
mixing chicken and milk because of how heavily we rely on labels
nowadays? This would be very consistent with your views on kitniyos.

But if you *are* worried about such accidents, and you *are* worried
about people mistaking veal for "the other white meat", then shouldn't
you also be worried about people who reach for a bag of rice and
mistakenly take the barley? Such fears would support a continuation of
the customs of kitniyos.

From: <MDSternM7@...> (Martin D. Stern)
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 2003 05:53:29 EDT
Subject: Re: Kitniyot

    In a message dated 3/6/03, Deborah Wenger writes:
<< Hm, there seems to be a difference, then, in what is considered kitniyot
in Israel and in the US - I'm now looking at my bottle of OU-P vegetable
oil from this Pesach, which says "100% cottonseed oil." I don't know of
anyone in the US who questioned this (of course, I don't know THAT many
people... <g>). Is there any explanation for this discrepancy?>>

There is definitely a dispute as to whether oil pressed from kitniyot
came under the gezerah and one can only assume that different kashrut
authorities take different positions on the matter.

    As to the definition of kitniyot, the consensus seems to be that it
follows the use in Hilchot Zerayim despite Avi Feldblum's
reservations. The alternative view that it was anything from which flour
can be made, though it seems more logical, would appear not to have been
accepted. Hence Danny Skaist's claim (echoing the Chayei Adam) that "the
original gezara DID include potatoes, not by name, but by category" has
in practice been rejected.

Martin D. Stern
7, Hanover Gardens, Salford M7 4FQ, England
( +44(1)61-740-2745
email <mdsternm7@...>

From: Danny Skaist <danny@...>
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 11:57:01 +0200 
Subject: Kitniyot

<<Akiva Miller
Surely they could tell the difference between a grain of wheat and a
lima bean! But they accepted this custom anyway, so there is obviously a
deeper reason which might still be relevant to us nowadays. >>

The reason is, that when someone sees a religous Jew eating home-made
cake he will go home and tell his wife that it's OK to make cake on
pessach, and that she should use her own recipe.  Back to no potato



From: <MDSternM7@...> (Martin D. Stern)
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2003 06:52:32 EDT
Subject: Re: non-Orthodox Conversions

In a message dated 2/6/03 Eitan Fiorino writes:

<< The problem with non-Orthodox conversions is that the kabalah is by
definition defective, since Orthodoxy views non-Orthodox halachic
processes as invalid.  Thus, things are exactly NOT as laid out above -
one does not interpret the education of the non-Orthodox convert as
having simply been taught "some of the strict and lenient laws."
Rather, from the view of Orthodoxy, the non-Orthodox convert has been
taught a system of mitzvot, of halachah, that is incorrect.  It is
therefore impossible for the non-Orthodox convert to be viewed as having
correctly accepted the yoke of the mitzvot.  >>

The above is certainly true; the main point about kabbalat ol mitsvot is
that it should be unconditional even if the prospective ger does not
know all the details. In this it must resemble the na'aseh venishma'
statement at Sinai by the B'nei Yisrael who specifically accepted all
that G-d would command and only afterwards would study it to find out
what was required.

Martin D. Stern
7, Hanover Gardens, Salford M7 4FQ, England
( +44(1)61-740-2745
email <mdsternm7@...>


End of Volume 39 Issue 67