Volume 39 Number 71
                 Produced: Sun Jun  8 17:54:16 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Elazar M. Teitz]
Custom as Legislation (was kitniyot)
         [Binyomin Segal]
Ethical Behavior and Halacha
         [Eitan Fiorino]
"Marranos" vs. "Conversos"
         [Charles Halevi]
Vaccines and Halakha (2)
         [Bernard Raab, Eitan Fiorino]
Vaccines and Social Responsibility
         [Meir Shinnar]


From: <remt@...> (Elazar M. Teitz)
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2003 16:40:42 GMT
Subject: Re: Acronyms

Emmanuel Ifrah quotes me as his source that "the meaning of "samekh-tet"
was "sin tin", an aramaic translation of the expression "afar va-efer"
(dust and ashes). In this case S"T would be a form of modesty in the
signature. Such was the practice of Hacham Tzvi" (who was an Ashkenazi).

My source for this meaning is Rabbi Yehudah Leib Maimon, who mentions it
in one of his volumes of Sarei HaMeiah.  His proof is not only that an
Ashkenazi used the expression, but the fact that among the talmidei
chachamim, no one used it in addressing others, but only with respect to
himself.  Any meaning such as "Sefaradi tahor" or "seifei tav" could
just as well havebeen applied to the addressee as well as the writer.

Elazar M. Teitz


From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2003 03:34:16 -0500
Subject: Re: Custom as Legislation (was kitniyot)

I've been reading the ongoing kitniyot discussion, and it occurs to me
that a reframing of the question might be helpful.

In halacha (as in any legislative system), there is a general rule
"batla taama, lo batla gzeira" (if the reason for the legislation no
longer exists, the legislation nonetheless continues to exist). That is,
given the formal legislative process of enacting the legislation, the
legislation continues to exist until there is an equally formal process
to annul the legislation. (and yes, I know there are exceptions)

However, it seems to me that the rule of batla taama exists based
entirely because of the formal legal process of legislation. This
process does not exist when a custom is accepted. There is no formal
process for enacting a custom, rather it is informally accepted and
eventually it becomes clear that this is now a custom.

So, the question then is does the rule of batla taama exist in regard to

That is, let us stipulate that there is no longer a reason for the
custom of kitniyot (I know that is an ongoing discussion, but for this
discussion, lets stipulate, K?). Is the absence of a reason for the
custom sufficient to nullify the custom, or does there need to be a
formal process?

Of course, there are probably many other ramifications as well.

any thoughts?


From: Eitan Fiorino <tony.fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2003 12:32:20 -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?" <
> 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.

Kudos to Yakov for beeing dan lekaf zchut.  I personally think people
don't talk about assuming tzedakah chumrot (for example) because they
generally don't accept such chumrot.  Why do I think that?

1.  People are very happy in general to have their tzedaka or other good
deeds publicized, with various journals, dedications etc. in shuls,
schools, other charitable organizations. Thus I think it is a stretch to
say "no one in their right mind would mention" accepting such a
stringency with regard to tzedaka - people like to publicize (admittedly
in the right context) their level of giving, and if they did not, we'd
see a lot more anonymous donations in the Jewish community.

2.  Many are also very happy to talk about, display, flaunt and impose
their other chumrot on anyone and everyone around them.  In particular,
chumrot that are bein adam lemakom.  With so many so eager to tell the
world about their chumrot, surely we'd hear about it if even a modest
number of people were giving 12% to tzedakah or adampting some other
personal chumrot with regard to mitzvot bein adam lechaveiro.

Unless, one wants to postulate that there is an inverse relationship
between the desire to publicize chumrot bein adam lemakom and the
likelihood of adopting chumrot with regard to mitzot bein adam
lechaveiro.  According to such a hypothesis, the people MOST likely to
talk about/display their chumrot are the LEAST likely to be adopting
chumrot with regard to tzedakah, etc., and vice-versa.

I have no idea about the possibility of such a phenomenon, but the very
sad thing is - I actually find this concept entirely plausible.

-Eitan Fiorino


From: <halevi@...> (Charles Halevi)
Date: Sun, 8 Jun 2003 11:37:15 -0500
Subject: "Marranos" vs. "Conversos"

Shalom, All:

	Since people dealing with the "Samech-Tet/S'fardi Tahor" issue
have begun referring to our unfortunate brothers and sisters who
remained in Spain, please be advised that -- contrary to what many of us
learned -- the word "marrano" is an insult. It means "pig," "swine,"
"filthy," "dirty" and "filthy dirty pig."

	The proper, non-pejorative term is "converso" (pl. conversos),
meaning "converted one(s)."

	Those wishing to check the accuracy of this teminology are
invited to look it up in a Spanish-English dictionary. Two such on line
and http://wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=marrano.

	While I'm at it, please let me share a wonderful resource, an
online dictionary site featuring some 300 languages:
http://www.yourdictionary.com/languages.html.  Many of these languages
are subdivided into specialized categories and professions.  Thus,
http://www.yourdictionary.com/languages/afroasia.html#semitic yields not
only Hebrew and Arabic but Hebrew-English astronomy terms, computer
terms etc.

Charles Chi (Yeshaya) Halevi


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Wed, 04 Jun 2003 18:08:33 -0400
Subject: Vaccines and Halakha

Leah S. Gordon writes:
>>However, to me the *halakhic* question is this:
>>What halakhic right do we have to tinker with one person's health to
save another person?  In the case of vaccination, you are likely
providing the bulk of the benefit to others (rather than the more remote
possibility of saving your own life).  If one believes that a given
vaccine has a small chance of maiming/killing one's child, and a greater
chance of contributing to herd immunity and lack of epidemic, then on
what *Jewish* basis may one choose to vaccinate?<<

This is not unlike to the issue of organ transplants. At the beginning
of the era of organ transplantation, religious Jews were recipients but
not donors, mainly because most Rabbis would not accept the concept of
brain death as a definition of death. Within a few years, however, the
powers that decide who gets on what positions on the donee lists made it
very clear that Israeli hospitals would not be getting many donated
organs from abroad unless this policy were changed. Some very courageous
people and Rabbis found the proper halachic route to effect this change,
and the overwhelming result has been a kiddush haShem, IMHO.

Clearly, the *Jewish basis* for this change was the overiding community
benefit and the aviodance of chillul haShem in the eyes of the world. If
only Jewish people refuse to vaccinate and thereby threaten the safety
of the larger community, even if only marginally, the same situation
results.  This is how science/sociology effects change in halacha.

Bernie R.

From: Eitan Fiorino <tony.fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2003 13:06:33 -0400 
Subject: Vaccines and Halakha

With regard to vaccinations, Leah Gordon asked: 

> What halakhic right do we have to tinker with one person's health to
> save another person?  In the case of vaccination, you are likely
> providing the bulk of the benefit to others (rather than the more remote
> possibility of saving your own life).  If one believes that a given
> vaccine has a small chance of maiming/killing one's child, and a greater
> chance of contributing to herd immunity and lack of epidemic, then on
> what *Jewish* basis may one choose to vaccinate?

I think it is incorrect to assume more benefits accrue to the rest of
society than to the person receiving the vaccine.  After all, most of
the rest of society is not protected by herd immunity - rather they are
protected by being vaccinated.  It is the unvaccinated person who
benefits from the rest of society because of herd immunity (basically,
despite opting out of the risk-sharing borne by society in vaccination
programs, the unvaccinated nevertheless reap much of the benefit).  But
the unvaccinated person is unequivocally at greater risk for contracting
the disease in question than the vaccinated person, regardless of the
status of the herd.  So, when one gets a vaccination, one has accepted
some level of risk of an adverse event in exchange for a high degree of
protection against infection by a particular agent.

I think the entire concept of tinkering "with one person's health to
save another person" does not even enter the halachic question on an
individual basis - the phenomenon of herd immunity is a side benefit
that accrues to society when a large number of individuals become
vaccinated.  As far as halachic policy goes, I'd say herd immunity
supports the concept that vaccination should be universal, are as close
to it as one can get.  Certainly there are ample precedents for
requiring or proscribing behaviors on the basis of medical
benefits/risks to the individual - we don't eat meat and fish together
because of some sakanah - I think one could justify a broad psak that
vaccination against childhood diseases should be obligatory because of
the benefits to the vaccinated and the benefits to society.

On the other hand, would such a broad policy be put in place, herd
immunity could be used to rationalize individual heterim here and there
for people with solid reasons for avoiding vaccination.



From: Meir Shinnar <Meir.Shinnar@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Jun 2003 09:48:06 -0400 
Subject: Vaccines and Social Responsibility

WRT to the issue of vaccines, it is related to a far more substantive
issue - the nature of our obligations to others and the community.

First, WRT to the risks, outside of well defined populations (eg,
immunocompromised), the risk of major complications (eg, not just a few
days of fever and malaise) of most commonly used vaccines (not small pox
, but the widely used childhood and adult vaccines) is quite small, and
within the boundary of risk that most of us do routinely without a
question - ie, driving, going to the store, etc.  While in general
halacha is leery of putting someone in actual danger to save someone
else, the level of danger here is far below that normally considered.

Second, the risk of not taking vaccines is two fold:

	a) If one is the only person in the community not taking
vaccines, one is putting oneself at a slight risk - the question of the
amount of the risk is difficult to calculate, as it depends on the
vaccine and the prevalence of the disease.  Whether for the individual,
that added risk is greater than or less than the risk of the vaccines is
not always clear.  For some vaccines, one could make the case that the
optimal situation (from a risk, not moral perspective) is that everybody
else be vaccinated, but the risk reduction if any would be extremely

	b) If a substantial number of people in the community make that
calculation, then the entire community is put at increased risk, due to
the loss of herd immunity.

	Note that the successful experiences that some posters have had
of remaining healthy while being unvaccinated is irrelevant to the
discussion - the level of risk of infection is known to be quite small.
However, if all of Boro Park (or even one large hasidic group, so one
has a large group living closely together) was not to vaccinate their
children, at some point (not necessarily immediately) a measles epidemic
would be disasterous.

	The question, therefore, is both the halachic permissibility as
well as the moral status of refusing to vaccinate (when there are no
medical contraindications).  I don't know of halachic discussions.
However, morally, a Kantian imperative would clearly seem to exist to
require one to vaccinate themselves.  Even from a non Kantian
perspective, the decision not to vaccinate oneself seems to clearly
depend on relying that everyone else is - being, let's be blunt, a
social parasite, and something that needs to be condemned by the
community.  (not everything that is halachically permissible should be
done - if refusing to vaccinate is deemed permissible, this would seem a
classic example of yesh naval birshut hatorah)

This issue - of the responsibility to the community versus maximizing
personal benefit - is a common thread of several areas of conflict
between some parts of the religious community and the community at large
- eg, army service (the army recognized by most as necessary, but viewed
by some in the religious community that the obligation can be fulfilled
by others) or work versus kollel - but in the case of vaccines, the
other arguments used in those areas (eg the value of torah study)
disappear, and we are left with naked self interest.  This issue of
balancing one's own personal well being, whether physical or spiritual,
with the needs of the general community, is something that needs greater
discussion within the community, as it affects the general perception of
the community.

Meir Shinnar


End of Volume 39 Issue 71