Volume 41 Number 10
                 Produced: Fri Nov  7  5:07:25 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Blessings and Grammar
         [Bill Bernstein]
         [Ari Trachtenberg]
Friday night blessing
         [David I. Cohen]
Listening to a Rabbi
         [Carl Singer]
Relying on the Rabbi (4)
         [Ari Trachtenberg, Yakov Spil, Yehonatan Chipman, Allen Gerstl]
Shidduch and Abuse
         [Ari Trachtenberg]
Speaking Hebrew Grammatically
         [Ira Bauman]


From: Bill Bernstein <bbernst@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 08:58:09 -0600
Subject: Blessings and Grammar

<< Also, when I bless my 3 girls Fri. night I use the feminine.  (I can't
say "yevarechecha to a girl.)>>

My understanding is that the blessing "yevarchecha" is a posuk from the
Torah.  As such one is not allowed to alter the wording of it.

Kol Tuv,
Bill Bernstein
Nashville TN


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Wed, 05 Nov 2003 10:17:33 -0500
Subject: Clarification/Apology

In response to an e-mail, I would like to clarify that I have no
first-hand knowledge that any rabbis sanctioned the murder of Rabin.  My
parenthetical remark to this affect was based only on what I perceive to
be "commonly regarded" opinions in the public supported by tertiary
sources (that I am not in a position to verify).  I apologize for
stepping on some well-founded sensitivities.


[As a note, in addition to emails sent to Ari, several posts came in to
mail-jewish as well. From what I remember/understood of the thread, the
point was that there are times that even if a Rabbi gives a ruling, it
is not so clear that one should simply go and follow it, without thought
and challange. Mod.]


From: <bdcohen@...> (David I. Cohen)
Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 12:09:05 -0500
Subject: Friday night blessing

Ben Katz wrote:  

<<On a personal note, when I am in the house of an avalah or avelot I
will say the hamakom line grammatically.  Also, when I bless my 3 girls
Fri. night I use the feminine.  (I can't say "yevarechecha to a girl.)>>

I was in agreement with ben until the last line of the bracha for
children on Friday night. While it might be appropriate to change the
opening words "Yesimcha" to the feminine "Yesimaych" since it is only
paraphrasing the verse in Torah (there is no verse "yisimych k'sara,
rivka etc") it is not appropriate to change the text of the actual
Brikat Cohanim which is written in the Hebrew generic, which is the
masculine grammatical form.  For the same reason, when prayers quote an
actual verse, it is inappropriate to repeat the words.

So for either boys or girls, the Friday night blessing, (after the
introductory phrase) should begin with "Y'varechicha". I believe that is
the text you will find in most siddurim as well.

David I. Cohen


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 08:00:53 -0500
Subject: Listening to a Rabbi

I think we need to draw a clearer line between a P'sak and a
conversation.  I believe a p'sak is in response to a question --
certainly, I would welcome someone coming up to me (a stranger on the
street) and telling me on Friday afternoon "I just heard that the eruv
is down." -- but don't even think of telling me that the decorative
pocket square in my suit jacket is carrying -- my reply, if I even
bother to acknowlege, will be that "I didn't ask you."  (Clearly, I've
previously asked and gotten an answer.)

Re: P'sak -- I wholeheatedly agree with comments re: choosing one's
Rabbi well -- but also constrain that to the understanding that one
lives in a community and "Local or Community Rabbi" is a must for a wide
variety of issues.  Just because I have a telephone and a
(non-community) Rosh Yeshiva or Godol ha'Dor has a telephone is no
reason for me to directly seek a p'sak accordingly.

Now a question -- is there an "immunity" implied in asking a p'sak?  Can
you go to the Rabbi that you normally deal with and say to him.  "I was
asked re: plony as a shiddach -- I know for certain that plony is an
abuser -- What should I do?"  (Where it is evident who plony is, even if
I don't use his name.)

Carl Singer


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 12:32:49 -0500
Subject: Re: Relying on the Rabbi

 >From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
 >So, for example, if my posek said that a certain food was kosher, and
 >I ate it, but it really was not kosher, then my having eaten it is not
 >on my shoulders at all?

I agreed whole-heartedly with your response, but think that,
unfortunately, you chose an inconvenient example at the end.  If a
(knowledgable) person tells you that a food is kosher, my understanding
is that you may, in fact, blamelessly assume that the food is kosher
because for kashrut you may use one witness.  The responsibility for the
kashrut of the food then falls to the other person.

This is a case of *witnessing* (I saw it being prepared in a kosher
fashion) rather than *halachic questions* (does doing so and so render
the food unkosher).

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

From: Yakov Spil <yspil@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 09:35:06 -0500
Subject: Relying on the Rabbi

>Choose your Rabbi well! R. Ovadiah Yosef,...  has indicated that one
should not rely on the halakhic rulings of a rabbi who, despite his
recognized general scholarship, is known not to be an expert in

>So, for example, if my posek said that a certain food was kosher, and I
ate it, but it really was not kosher, then my having eaten it is not on
my shoulders at all? It doesn't count as a sin on my account at all? Not
even as an accidental sin? After all, my posek said it was kosher, so to
me it is kosher, right? Do you know if this response from Rav Feinstein
can be found in print somewhere? I'd love to see it.<

Rav Moshe discusses this at length in Dibros Moshe- maareh mokom
pending- but he says this in a teshuva in Chelek Aleph of Orach Chaim-
siman kuf pei vov.

"v'gam poshut she-kayvan she-hem osin al pi horo'oh leika isur lifnei
iver v'lo isur m'sayah'ah yidei overei aveira she-ha-oseh al pi horo'oh
ain lo shum chet af im ha-halocho she-lo k'moso..."

Translation- "...and it is also poshut that since they do according to a
p'sak they received when they asked their question there is no isur of a
stumbling block placed before the blind (which is an issur from the
Torah) nor helping a person do an aveira( which is an issur m'drabonon)
that the person does according to this p'sak he received he has no sin
HIS [opinion]."

That there is an issue of who one asks and his level of scholarship and
his overall midos and standard of emes, is all to be factored in.  But
once we have done that, Rav Moshe zl assures us that we are clear of any
chet, because we have fulfilled our chiyuv- we have not relied on our
own knowledge- we have gone to our chachomim for guidance.  That is the
way Hashem designed things, and for that there can be no
punishment. Tovo aleihem brocho that rely on our poskim.

Yakov Spil

From: Yehonatan Chipman <yonarand@...>
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 10:57:53 +0200
Subject: Re:  Relying on the Rabbi

Yakov Spil wrote in MJ 41:05: 
<<< ... is all we have is our poskim.  They interpret the Torah for us
and help us in our individual situations to apply the halocho correctly
for our unique situation. ... Once we get an answer from them- and
that's what we follow- we are, for lack of a better expression- in the
clear. >>>

About both that, and this discussion in general:
The really important decisions in life, while they should be guided by
Torah values, are usually difficult to define in terms of objective
halakhic parameters.  I have in mind such questions as:
Whom should I marry?
Or, when marriage goes sour, should I divorce my spouse?
Where should I live?
What profession should I study?
What school should I send my children to?
My friend / child / sibling is involved in something that I judge to be
harmful (substance abuse / a bad relationship / doing business with
untrustworthy people / etc.)?  should I interfere, and in what way?
Or, a question raised in certain schools in Israel:  Is civil disobedience justified?
Can a soldier violate a lawful order of his commanding officer, and
under what circumstances? 

Ultimately, too, this issue relates to a profound philosophical question
(which relates to sheva mitzvot b'nai Noah, from this past week's Torah
portion):  is there a concept of conscience in Judaism?  What is the
relationship between overarching ethical principles and judgment, and
detailed halakhah?

But leaving aside the hashkafah issues, there is a much simpler
practical consideration here. The issue in all these questions is not
whether rabbis are infalible, know halakhah better than us,  etc.  The
question is whether they can possibly understand all aspects of these
personal decisions.  Of course, it's good and advisable and helpful to
discuss important personal issues like these with a rabbi who knows you
and whom you trust and who has acquired wisdom and understanding of life
through his study of Torah and his work with people.  Such conversations
can often help one to see aspects and possibiities one hadn't considered
before -- but as advice and guidance, not as an authoritative pesak

For example, there are voices today in the Haredi community saying that
divorce should only be performed after receiving an actual ruling from a
posek.  But what if a woman, for example, endures intolerable verbal or
even physical abuse from her husband,  or finds the very thought of
submitting to him sexually repugnant?  And this same husband is, say, a
talmid hakahm, or son of a distingished family, and the posek finds it
hard to beleve the woman's account and thus doesn't empathize with her
pain.  And such things happen.  Even the wisest rabbis are also huamn
beings living within a particular socety, and cannot but be influenced
by their environment.  

As for the seemingly simpler, less personally charged questions of issur
veheter, laws of Shabbat and niddah and what not--we should ordinarily
follow rabbis, but this too is a function of how learned we ourselves
are.  If the pesak doess't make sense in terms of our own Torah
learning, one certainly has every right and even duty to ask the rabbi
-- in a respectful manner, of course--to clarify the pesak.   

Yehonatan Chipman

From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 13:36:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Relying on the Rabbi

On Mon, 3 Nov 2003 13:59:25 +0200 Aryeh A. Frimer <frimea@...>

>Choose your Rabbi well!R. Ovadiah Yosef, Yom haShishi, 16 Iyyar 5757
>(May 23, 1997), p. 26 and again on 27 Tevet 5762 (January 11, 2002)
>p. 26, has indicated that one should not rely on the halakhic rulings of
>a rabbi who, despite his recognized general scholarship, is known not to
>be an expert in halakha. Should one rely on such a halakhic ruling, if
>the rabbi's pesak later proves to be in error, the questioner is held
>fully culpable (ne-hshav ki-meizid) for his/her misdeeds. A similar
>position was stated by R. Hayyim Volozhiner, Resp. Hut haMeshulash, I,
>end of sec. 13. See also Resp. Rashba, I, sec. 98 (end).

Perhaps the list members will forgive me again calling their attention
to the clearly defined halacha on this topic as found in the Shulchan
Aruch, CM 25.  IIUC: a Rav may not contradict the Devar Mishnah, that is
the pesak in the Bavli and generally in the Shulchan Aruch and perhaps
also that of the poskim mefursamim (well-known poskim). Other matters
are left to his properly exercised discretion based upon following
proper Halachic methodology provided that he still may not contradict
the Sugya De-Almah (the generally accepted pesak-ruling) without
overwhelming proofs. I believe that Rav Moshe Feinstein in the
introduction to his first volume on YD discusses methodology.



From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 12:36:47 -0500
Subject: Re: Shidduch and Abuse

<< <<I was quite shocked to hear that a rabbi was "telling everyone"
that they could not warn a woman that the man she was considering dating
had been abusive to his previous wife because of lashon hara, and I was
even more shocked that "everyone" was apparently obeying....>> >>

I have purposely refrained from responding to this due to the
potentially volatile nature of my response ... but may I suggest a
plausible alternative:

Maybe, the stories of abuse are actually wrong, and the man did not
abuse his wife.  In this case, it would not be an issue of lashon hara
["evil" talk] but rather slander.  Giving the rabbi the benefit of the
doubt, it would seem that the rabbi "telling everyone ... " would be
because the rabbi was absolutely convinced [at the risk of phsyically
harming this woman!]  that the abuse is untrue.  How a rabbi could
become convinced of this is not clear to me.

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


From: <Yisyis@...> (Ira Bauman)
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 21:06:39 EST
Subject: Re: Speaking Hebrew Grammatically

> I don't see why one needs a "source" to speak Hebrew grammatically

In the first volume of Minhagei Yisroel, Professor Sperber writes about
a difference of opinion between the Rishonei Ashkenaz (Germany)
influenced by the teachings of Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid and the Rishonei
Tzarfat (France).  The topic there is the inappropriate use of the word
Hayom (Today) near the end of the prayer Hayom Haras Olam.  The German
Rabbis were deadset against changing the text since Rav Yehudah says
that any change of the traditional text, especially in regard to the
number of words or letters was forbiden. He refers to hidden meanings
that are represented by the word or letter count.  Apparently there are
limits placed upon how we can amend tefillah texts to fix the dikduk, or
for that matter, any other good reason.  

Ira Bauman


End of Volume 41 Issue 10