Volume 39 Number 93
                 Produced: Fri Jun 27  5:52:18 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism) (8)
         [Nathan Ehrlich, Akiva Miller, Harlan Braude,
dovb@netvision.net.il, Irving Green, Batya Medad, Warren
Burstein, Goldfinger, Andy]
Eruv in Flatbush
         [Gil Student]
         [Mike Gerver]
Lekha dodi
         [Evan Rock]
The Life of Shabbat Candles
         [Noach Stern]
Medrash Rabba
         [Michael Kahn]
Riding a Bike on Shabbos
         [Ari Trachtenberg]


From: Nathan Ehrlich <nathan@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 07:30:05 -0400
Subject: Re: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

Amitai Bin-Nun wrote:

>What was the earliest use of a computer in the service of Judaism/ 
>Jewish Studies?

As Avi wrote, MJ itself is probably one of the earliest Jewishly related
Internet resources, dating back to 1986.  In 1989 Avrum Goodlatt, Chaim
Dworkin and Ari Davidow founded Jewishnet, a dial-up Jewish BBS that
evolved into Shamash, now a Hebrew College Online project that hosts MJ
and 525 other mailing lists, serving 125,000 worldwide subscriptions.
Hebrew College began offering online courses in 1995.  In 2000, Hebrew
College Online launched the first online MA in Jewish Studies.

Nathan Ehrlich
Dean, Hebrew College Online
http://hebrewcollege.edu/online; http://hebrewcollege.edu/online/degree

From: <kennethgmiller@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 11:58:30 -0400
Subject: Re: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

Amitai Bin-Nun asked <<< What was the earliest use of a computer in the
service of Judaism/ Jewish Studies? I know that this may be vaguely
defined, but I would like to see how far back any attempt to utilize
this modern technology goes. >>>

Very interesting question! I'll be watching to see what others write,
but my nomination goes to Prof. Leo Levi's book "Jewish Chrononomy",
first published in 1967, which contains extensive computer-generated
charts for various time-of-day halachos anywhere in the
world. Prof. Levi's book shows calculated times for sunrise, Shema,
noon, sunset, two different opinions for dawn, and five different
opinions for tzeis hakochavim.

It also includes much computer-generated calendar information, enabling
one to produce a Jewish calendar (including Parshios and Molados) for
any year from 4111 to 6000 (351-2240 CE), and even convert those dates
from the Jewish calendar to the civil one.

This book has recently been republished with the title "Halachic Times".

Akiva Miller

From: Harlan Braude <hbraude@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 09:10:04 -0400
Subject: RE: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

Rabbi Berel Wein, in his Jewish history series, told of David
Ben-Gurion's use of a computer in an attempt to prove that the Torah was
not min haShamayim, but rather that it was written by committee ("Bible
criticism" was apparently a hobby of the Prime Minister).

Amusingly, Rabbi Wein added that someone (as he explained, probably not
one of Ben-Gurion's fans) fed Ben-Guron's inaugural speech into the same
program and it reported that it, too, must have been written by a very
large number of people (sorry, I don't recall the number).

I think the second fellow's use of the computer would qualify as being
in the service of Judaism. :-)

From: <dovb@...> <dovb@netvision.net.il>
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2003 05:51:45 -0400
Subject: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

I recall a lecture about the Jewish calendar given by David Fax in
Pittsburgh, Pa. (he worked for Westinghouse Corp.)  about the Jewish
calendar using computer programs for different calculations such as
Yomim Tovim falling on different dates thru the centuries , Bar mitzva
Parshiot X years in advance and Yahrtzeit calculations for the next
hundred years. I don't remember the exact date but it was no later than
1968 !! and may have been as early as 1965. This was well before many of
us even seen/(heard of) computers. Those were perhaps even before the
days of punch cards which I recall from the early 70's.

Mr. Fax now lives in Massachusetts and I have his address if someone is

From: Irving Green <scanrom@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 07:22:58 -0400
Subject: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

The first major use of a computer for a computer in Jewish Studies
should probably be ascribed to Bar-Ilan University's Responsa
Project. The initial funding for the project came about in 1970-71,
through the efforts of Professor Aaron Schreiber and his proposal to the
National Endowment for the Humanities. This has been an ongoing project
and has resulted in the computerization of many thousands of
Responsa. These are available both on line and on CD-Rom. This effort
led to a revolutionary ability to search Responsa from many different
sources and through a large period of time.

The original work was done on an IBM 360/50 which was located at the
University's computer center in Ramat Gan.The system efforts on this
project undoubtedly served as a unique reference for other projects in
Judaic studies that have evolved since then.

One should understand that this effort was undertaken more than a decade
before the advent of the Personal Computer and at least two decades
before the use of Windows and user friendly tools and of course the
adoption of the Internet in Jewish Studies and research. It also
involved the painstaking transcriptions of the Responsa - at a time
before the use of OCR scanning was available even to researchers. A
truly remarkable achievement for its time and one which certainly
deserves an important place in the annals of Jewish research studies.

Irving Green

P.S. I was priveleged to have participated in the embyronic aspects of
this program and in bringing the IBM 360/50 and its team of computer
experts and the Law Faculty to Bar-Ilan during this juncture.I have a
deep respect for the Project and for the vision of its developers and
proponents. Credit should also be given to the National Endowment of the
Humanities of The United States Government for the funding it gave to
this project. It would have been impossible without it.

From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 19:58:45 +0200
Subject: Re: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

Bar Ilan University was using computers as a computerized Jewish
resource in the early 80's.  That's when we still had those big floppy
disks, and not everyone had a hard disk.  (Yes, I traded in my
typewriter in those days for an early pc.)


From: Warren Burstein <warren@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 13:50:51 +0400
Subject: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

http://www.biu.ac.il/ICJI/Responsa/history.htm says: "The Responsa
Project began in 1963 at Bar Ilan University. An early version of the
system was already running in 1967."

From: Goldfinger, Andy <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 07:43:13 -0400
Subject: Bit of Trivia (Computers & Judaism)

I do not know the answer to this, but I would like to recall another use
of technology in service of Torah.

During the early 1980's, in the Eastern United States, there was an
amateur radio yeshiva called the "Mesivta D'Rekiah."  The Rosh Yeshiva
was Yitzhok Sokol, in Lakewood New Jersey, and members of the yeshiva
stretched from Canada to Florida, and as far West as St. Louis,
depending upon what the radio propagation conditions were on any give
night.  The yeshiva operated every night, except of course Shabbos and
Chagim.  To be a member, a person had to be a licensed radio amateur (I
dare not say "ham").  The yeshiva operated on the 80 meter amateur radio

I was a member of this group for several years.  I do not know if it
still exists, since my antenna fell down and I have not replaced it.

The evening's activity was usually a shiur in Mishnayos, and it had to
be done very delicately since there could be non-Jews listening.  I
still remember one pre-Yom Kippur shiur in which the group went over the
"V'al Chaits," explaining the various transgressions we do Tshuvah
(return) for.  During the question period, a non-Jewish listener entered
the conversation.  He said he had been listening, and did not want to
interrupt what we were doing, but that he was very impressed by the
morality and humanity of the group, and he just wanted to tell us that.
It was really a Kiddush HaShem.

Today, of course, with the Internet, amateur radio is not what it used
to be. Does anyone know if the Mesivta D'Rekiah is still in existence?

-- Andy Goldfinger


From: Gil Student <gil_student@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 10:34:51 -0400
Subject: Re: Eruv in Flatbush

David Shabtai wrote:
>I don't mean to be nit pickey, but the website is a little bit
>misleading and there does not seem to be "the backing of Rabbi Obadiah

I was in Ahiezer the other day for a simcha and saw two signs about the
Sephardic Erub in Flatbush.  One was a letter by R' Jacob Kassin, former
Chief Rabbi of the Syrian Community in Brooklyn, dated 1978 in which he
says that there is not and cannot be an erub in Flatbush.  The other was
from R' Baruch Ben-Haim, the current Chief Rabbi of the Syrian Community
in Brooklyn, dated April 2003 in which he reiterates the sentiment.  I
was also told by a relative that his rabbi, R' Masleton of Har
HaLebanon, is opposed to the erub.

Gil Student


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 19:52:50 EDT
Subject: Kitniyot

Bernard Raab writes, in v39n89,
      I must admit that I was totally unprepared for the information
      that sephardim still buy rice in bulk before pesach and inspect it
      thrice grain by grain before using it. Considering the demands on
      the modern woman today, I am still not certain that these
      respondents are talking about the present or the not-so-recent

Who says it has to be the woman who inspects the rice? My Sephardi
friend Ephraim Feinberg told me he does it himself. He told me this
maybe 10 years ago, but I'd be very surprised if it is no longer done in
his family, and I'd be even more surprised if his wife (Ashkenazi by
birth) has started doing it instead of him.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Evan Rock <theevanrock@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 07:55:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Lekha dodi

The hakham z"l who taught me the customs of the synagogue explained the
reason we stand up for Lekha Dodi are two fold:
1) We are calling on Ha Qadosh Barukh  Hou to accompany us,
2) You always stand up in front of a bride out of respect.

By the way the same teacher taught that during the repititon of the
Amidah the qahal would remain standing, with no talking what so ever.
Here we are beseeching HQBH for favors and the malakhim are our
messengers, it would only appropriate to stand up.


From: Noach Stern <noach@...>
Date: Thu, 26 Jun 2003 21:17:21 +1000
Subject: The Life of Shabbat Candles

I have a question about the length of time Shabbat or YomTov candles
should stay alight.

Recently a friend began a practice of lighting at least one candle that
would last the "life time" of a Shabbat or YomTov, that is to say, more
than twenty-five or twenty-six hours. She felt it reminded her of the
extra level of kedusha, or additional neshama, that stayed with the
Jewish people for the duration of Shabbat.

She questioned why Shabbat candles were designed to go out after (say)
four or five hours, leaving the rest of Shabbat (as she felt) in

CMLOR, he felt that it reminded him instead of a yahrzeit candle, and so
was not to be encouraged.  He also suggested that a shorter "light time"
was preferable for safety, and prevention of a fire hazard while the
household is asleep.

OTOH, is there any restriction on the idea of a ner-tamid, that it has
to be in a shul and not in a home or at a Shabbat table?

Kol Tov
Noach Stern


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 15:02:53 -0400
Subject: Re: Medrash Rabba

>But as that was only 1000 or 1200 years ago, it doesn't prove very much.

Medrash Rabba was only 1000 years ago? Are you referring to the printing?


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2003 10:19:53 -0400
Subject: Re: Riding a Bike on Shabbos

> The new Eruv in NW London (loved by some - hated by others) under the
> authority of  the London beis Din (Dayan Ehrentrau) has the following on
> their website:
> You may not:
> Carry a mobile phone or other items which are muktseh (forbidden to be
> moved on shabbat), carry anything which is to be used only after shabbat.
> Carry or open an umbrella. Engage in weekday activities which are not in
> the spirit of shabbat such as riding a bike, or going shopping (even on
> credit or where payment is not involved).

Is this the exact wording?  I am truly shocked by this statement
because, on the face of it, it could lead people to violate the
halachah.  There are certainly valid and necessary reasons carrying a
mobile phone (e.g. doctors on call, security).  Moreover, it seems
brazen to declare riding a bike an activity not in the spirit of
Shabbat.  Also, what's wrong with purchasing on credit (rather than with
a credit card, where writing/printing is involved) on Shabbat?

At the very least, I would think the statement should read "The eruv
does not enable the following typically forbidden activities on

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


End of Volume 39 Issue 93