Volume 39 Number 75
                 Produced: Tue Jun 10  4:18:52 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conservative rabbanim
         [Meir Shinnar]
Gittin Question
         [Ephraim Rubinger]
         [Bernard Raab]
"Marranos" vs. "Conversos"
         [Dov Teichman]
Sefek Brocha
Standing During L'Cha Dodi
         [Yisrael and Batya Medad]
Vaccines & tetanus
         [Eitan Fiorinod]
Vaccines and social responsibility
         [Meir Shinnar]


From: Meir Shinnar <Meir.Shinnar@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 09:01:46 -0400 
Subject: Conservative rabbanim

WRT Rav Moshe Feinstein's position about Conservative rabbanim, it is
not quite as black and white as some have made it.  While he viewed
being a Conservative rav as being a hazaka that one was not shomer
mitzvot, if there was evidence to the contrary, he accepted it.
Therefore, if one did not know anything about the rav except that he was
a Conservative rav, one could rely on the hazaka that he was not shomer
mitzvot.  However, if one knows that he is, then the hazaka does not
apply.  (This is quite different than what was reported in the name of
Rav Aharon Soloveichik)

Thus, on another email list, a student of rav Moshe told of the
following case.  A ba'alat tshuva was the daughter of a woman from a
second marriage, who had not received a get from the first marriage.
The first marriage was by a Conservative rav.  Rav Moshe told her she
could get married.  The woman (against rav Moshe's advice) investigated
further, and found out that that Conservative rav was shomer mitzvot, at
which point rav Moshe told her he couldn't do anything for her.

WRT to RYBS's position, it is well known that he worked with RS
Lieberman in the 1950s on establishing a joint bet din for conversions
and gittin with the Conservative movement (it fell apart because RSL
couldn't guarantee that the Conservative movement would actually abide
by the bet din - he lacked that power).  Part of the whole idea of the
bet din was precisely that RW Conservative rabbanim would serve on it.

Meir Shinnar


From: Ephraim Rubinger <RebGer@...>
Date: Fri, 06 Jun 2003 11:44:49 -0400
Subject: Gittin Question


 A fiance of a member of mine as been married twice to Jewish men. She
did not receive a get from either. The second marriage was performed by
a Reform rabbi.  My initial reaction is to say that she only needs a get
from the first husband since the kiddishun were not tofsin in the second
marriage. Am I correct in this?

 eph rubinger


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, 05 Jun 2003 15:58:40 -0400
Subject: Re: Kitniyot

From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
>>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 am puzzled as to why this stringency would apply only to Ashkenazim? And 
why can't we rely on the general nullification of minute quantities of 
chametz which we rely on when we pronounce the "afra-d'ara at the biur 

>>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. <<

Is this truly a general practice of sephardim?

>>(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.)<<

But we still rely on the myriad hechsherim we see on all the processed
foods we buy on pesach, and we do rely on the checking and control of
the processes.

>>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.<<

Yes I am worried about such accidents but I would simply point out that
the analogous response would be too ban the purchase of all meats in a
general supermarket. This may be a chumra which some people accept for
themselves but it would create undo hardship for other people if this
were to be viewed as a general "minhag". Plus, even if you buy your meat
in a totally kosher supermarket, you still must rely on the hechsher on
the package. No amount of "inspection" will reveal whether all the steps
were properly followed which would make this meat kosher!

As to your last point, I can only say that those who buy their grains in
bulk these days really need to be careful about taking home the right
grain before pesach, along with everything else they need to be
super-careful about before pesach.

kol tuv--Bernie R.


From: <DTnLA@...> (Dov Teichman)
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 20:25:09 EDT
Subject: Re: "Marranos" vs. "Conversos"

Charles Chi (Yeshaya) Halevi writes:
<<The proper, non-pejorative term is "converso" (pl. conversos), meaning
"converted one(s).">>

I am not advocating the title "Marrano", however, I do not believe that
Jewish Leaders and/or Jewish history have looked favorably on those
Jews.  They CHOSE to remain in Spain after the Expulsion in 1492. And
they CHOSE to convert instead of leaving, thereby keeping their social
status and wealth. Obviously, it was a very difficult trial, and who am
I to judge as I am not in their place (Avos 2:5 "Al tadin es chavercha,
etc.") But those who remained steadfast and did not convert to save
their status or wealth were quite reluctant to accept them back into the
fold when they wanted to return to Judaism, and they wore the title
"Sfaradi Tahor" with pride. Correct me if i'm mistaken, but the
conversos were part of the campaign shortly after, to reinstate the
Semicha in the time of R. Yosef Kairo and Mahari bei Rav for the purpose
of administering lashes to themselves to atone for converting to
Christianity and to be readmitted to the jewish people.  It was
obviously a dark period in Jewish history, but it pales in comparison to
the the suffering of the Jews of Europe in more recent history.

Dov Teichman


From: <chips@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 18:39:00 -0700
Subject: Re: Sefek Brocha

> >As for the general thesis, the first question that pops to my mind is:
> >Do the Sefardim make a brocho for Counting Omer ?
> Why would you argue one should not make a brocho for counting the omer
> (ie who holds that no brocha should be said)?

I checked up on this in my area. Sefardim do indeed continue counting
with a Brocha if they miss a night but count by day.



From: Yisrael and Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sun, 08 Jun 2003 20:45:50 +0200
Subject: Standing During L'Cha Dodi

      The claim is that the author of Lekha Dodi specified that it be
      recited standing.  I have seen this claim in the Belz annual
      lu'ah, for example.  But I would like independent confirmation.

As I am not well versed in the volumes of the 16th & 17th centuries that
could attest to this, I cannot help.  Others on this list, including my
brother-in-law, may.  In any case, I found a reference in the Ben Ish
Chai (Otzrot Chayim, p.  129) who quotes Rav Chayim Vital, the recorder
of the AriZal, that one should keep one's eyes shut during "Bo-ee,
Kallah" and stand during Barchu and Ufros Aleinu, as a symbol of the
threefold spiritual elevation of the entrance of the Shabbat.  Again,
the standing element for L'Cha Dodi is missing but your direct quote
request from Rav Alkabetz eludes us.

Yisrael Medad

p.s.  for those interested the boat was the Queen Anne Marie, Aug-Sept.


From: Eitan Fiorinod <tony.fiorino@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 13:46:31 -0400
Subject: Vaccines & tetanus

From: Rise Goldstein <rbgoldstein@...>

> The illustrative case that comes readily to mind is something like
> tetanus, which in the developed western world is very rare, and in any
> case is not transmitted person to person.  Yes, the person not
> vaccinated runs a very small risk of contracting the disease should he
> or she incur a "dirty" wound.  

Tetanus is an interesting and almost unique case for a number of
reasons.  It is true that the infection is rare (202 cases in the US
from 1996-2000), though the flip side is it can easily be fatal.  One
can also treat/potentially prevent tetanus by administering a booster
(to one previously vaccinated) or immune globulin immediately after a
wound, though such treatments may be only partially effective.  And,
since it is rare, treatment may not be contemplated or offered because
tetanus is not part of the everyday thinking of most people or most
physicians.  Since it is not transmitted from person-to-person, there is
no herd immunity - ie, it does you no good that your neighbor's been
vaccinated if you are exposed. I think it is noteworthy that according
to the CDC, 11 of the 13 non-neonatal childhood cases in the US from
1992-2000 were in children unvaccinated for religious of philosophical
reasons.  I know one thing - I would not want to have to explain to the
ribbono shel olam that my child died of tetanus because I chose not to
vaccinate (but that is a side issue . . . ).

> However, if he or she is one of the ones who suffer debilitating
> fever, pain, and nausea for days after the vaccine, it is virtually
> certain that he or she will not be able to go about his or her normal
> business and may lose earnings, cause shelom bayit problems because of
> inability to hold down normal family roles, etc.

I think this is overstating the case a bit - after all, the booster is
once every 10 years - surely every bout of the flu or a severe cold or
GI virus that causes "debilitating fever, pain, and nausea for days"
does not cause people to lose earnings or cause shalom bayit issues.

> Moreover, it is by no means clear that the
> every-10-years-no-matter-what booster schedule is always necessary for
> everybody, especially those who don't garden, dissect cadavers, or
> spend time out of doors while not wearing sturdy shoes that protect
> the feet from puncture wounds.

The booster schedule is designed to insure that most if not all maintain
an adequate levels of immune protection.  Yes it may very well be the
case that some might need a booster every 15 years.  Some might need one
every 7 years.  But to test everyone to figure out who should get a
booster when is not a cost-effective way of doing things, even thought
the cost of testing is fairly modest - say $15 for the test.  Could a
person test themselves every 2 years to figure out exactly when they
should get a booster? Sure.  Should society foot the bill for that
(whether directly through government subsidies/insurance or through
private insurance)?  Absolutely not.

> but my "bottom line" question is, to what extent must one risk a
> significant period of debilitation from vaccine side effects
> (especially given a known history), even if these are not
> life-threatening, and especially where the vaccine is against a
> disease not transmitted person to person?

I think this question is sufficiently nuanced as to be unanswerable
without the specifics (what vaccine, what is the local epidemiology,
what is the chance of travel, what is the reaction to the vaccine, etc.
etc.). If we are talking about a tetanus booster for someone who lives
in the US and who has a severe flu-like reaction to the booster, some
might focus on the small likelihood that the vaccination will ever prove
useful (given the rarity of tetanus) relative to the severity of the
reaction, while others might focus on the high likelihood of a horrible
outcome for the un-boosted in the unlikely event that tetanus exposure
occurs.  I'm not even sure, given the balance of issues here, that the
question is even answerable with a "psak" as opposed to an "eitza tovah"
(I recognize that for some the distinction between those two is modest
or even non-existent).  In this case there is no complication from the
herd immunity issue that would support compulsory vaccination (for the
protection offered to society by the herd) or individual leniencies (on
the grounds that the unvaccinated are largely protected anyway).



From: Meir Shinnar <Meir.Shinnar@...>
Date: Mon, 9 Jun 2003 09:13:59 -0400 
Subject: Vaccines and social responsibility

WRT Rise Goldstein's comments:
1) Tetanus (not diphteria tetanus) vaccine is unique, because the disease
being prevented is not communicable - one is not worried about epidemics of
tetanus, and therefore the risk benefit equation is primarily for the

For children, the relevant vaccine is typically not merely tetanus, but
diphteria tetanus - and here one is talking about a communicable disease.

2) For other vaccines, even if vaccinations involve for some  a loss of work
- that is precisely the balancing between the individual and social
responsibilties.  The issue of the abdication of social responsibility for
personal gain is at the root of the issue - and the fact that there may be
some personal loss should not justify refusing vaccinations.  

3) The individual risk/benefit for vaccines is very small.  All studies have
shown that individuals are very poor at assessing and responding to the
level of risk posed by the vaccines, suggesting that any individual response
is ultimately not based on a rational assessment of the risks/benefits.

Meir Shinnar


End of Volume 39 Issue 75