Volume 41 Number 13
                 Produced: Sun Nov  9 13:46:45 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Abuse & other things we'd like to avoid acknowledging
         [Rise Goldstein]
Modest Clothing
         [Chana Luntz]
Poisoned baby formula
         [Aliza Fischman]
Reach and grasp
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Simchas Torah Laining
         [Elie Rosenfeld]


From: Rise Goldstein <rbgoldstein@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 06:59:29 -0800
Subject: Abuse & other things we'd like to avoid acknowledging

Carl Singer wrote:

> Disease -- why have I added this to the mix?  Because I'm told that a
> discrete poster re: breast self-examines was banned from a local Mikveh
> -- lest it cause any aggrevation (tsar) to women.  Ignorance is bliss.

I agree that addressing, or not addressing, disease is an issue in our
ranks.  However, as an epidemiologist, I disagree from a professional
perspective with Dr. Singer's use of breast self-examination as an

Unless a landmark study featuring "knockout"-strength findings to the
contrary was published during my recent 2-week trip to Eretz Yisrael,
when I must admit I was less than diligent about reading newspapers and
only heard about one radio news broadcast per day (usually while riding
buses), there is NO convincing scientific evidence that breast self-exam
reduces breast cancer mortality.  Despite the lack of evidence
supporting it, health care providers, at least in the U.S., continue to
"push" self-exam on women as if it were a strongly validated life-saving
measure.  As well, certain breast cancer survivors continue to offer
emotionally wrenching testimonials to the same effect.

(Please note that my remark here is in no way meant, G-d forbid, to
denigrate the experience of breast cancer survivors.  However, what MAY
be true in a limited number of individual cases does not necessarily
translate into appropriate across-the-board recommendations for "good

One issue that has been raised in the medical and public health
literature concerning screening (of which breast self-exam can be
considered an example), particularly for "dread" diseases, whether
breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, or other conditions, is that
false positives inevitably occur.  The prevalence of false positive
screening results reflects both the properties of the screening
procedure and the prevalence of the target disease in a given
population.  Since screening procedures can't differentiate between
false positives and true positives (i.e., cases of disease), they lead
to more invasive follow-up procedures and can result in severe emotional
distress for patients and their families until their situations are

Breast self-exam and screening mammography (particularly for women under
age 50) for breast cancer detection are among the better-known examples
of these problems.  Mammography as a means to lower breast cancer
mortality is well supported in the scientific literature for women ages
50 and older, at least up to about age 70 or 75 or so; for women at very
advanced ages, the evidence base is less clear (e-mail me privately if
you want details).  As I've already said, self-exam does not have a
credible basis in evidence.

Given the lack of scientifically convincing support for the practice and
its propensity to lead to needless emotional distress, and at the risk
of spouting professional heresy (please pardon the unfortunate
expression), it may not be unreasonable for "authority figures" to
discourage, or at least not to push, breast self-exams.  I will say,
though, that the decision to ban a discreet poster on the subject from a
miqveh concerns me on general principles.

Rise Goldstein (<rbgoldstein@...>)
Los Angeles, CA


From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 2003 20:24:15 +0000
Subject: Modest Clothing

Gershon Dubin writes
>The Gemara in the beginning of Pesachim says quite clearly that the idea
>of showing legs separated is a lack of tzenius for women, specifically.

I think that is a little bit of an oversimplification.

The Gemora at the beginning of Pesachim (actually 3a-3b) is discussing
the attribute to use "nice" language in preference to not such nice
language (the example that is given that starts off the discussion is a
pasuk where the term "anno tahora" [is not pure] is used in preference
to using the term tamei or inpure, even though it would be shorter to
use the term tamei.  From this the Gemora learns that one should use
nice terms, such as tahor, or ano tahor, rather than tamei.

The Gemora then moves on to other examples where we learn that it is
better to use nice terminology rather than not such nice terminology.
And the example is brought where in the case of a man (in the particular
context a zav) the term used is "to ride", while the second half which
refers to a woman (a zava) the term used is "to sit".

Now the Gemora itself does not explain why it is not nice to refer to a
woman as riding, but only as sitting, but a number of commentaries
(including Rashi) that it is not nice to recall riding in a woman
because when one rides, there is "pisuk raglaim" (ie a separation of the

The Gemora then goes on to question the whole assumption that one does
not use the term ride when referring to a woman, and brings several
psukim to show that in fact one does.  The first is by Rivka and her
handmaidens, but the Gemora explains that this is because we are dealing
with camels.  Again, the Gemora does not explain why camels are
different, but Rashi explains that this is because of how high camels
are, and because of the fear of falling, women do tend to ride so they
can hang on with hands and feet.

The Gemora then brings a second pasuk that refers to women riding, when
it refers to Moshe and his wife and his sons riding down to Mitzraim,
but rejects that as a proof on the grounds that most of the riding
reference goes on the sons, not on Zipporah.

The Gemora then brings a third pasuk which refers to Avigail riding on
her donkey when she goes off to meet Dovid (soon to be) HaMelech, but
argues that this is an exception as well, for several reasons.

Now there are two ways to try and understand this Gemora.  The first is
that this is no commentary on women riding or not riding, but only on
whether it is nice to talk about it (in the same way as there are tamei
animals out there, it is just whether there is a problem talking about
them). The second is that if there is a problem even talking about women
riding, then even more so there must be a problem with them actually
riding (or, if you accept that the problem is pisuk raglaim, then
possibly there is a problem with any sort of pisuk raglaim).

Now the second understanding would make a lot of sense from what is
written in the Gemora here - especially given the reasons why the Gemora
suggested that the Torah used the term ride when discussing RIvkah and
Avigail, which seemed to suggest that riding (and hence separating the
legs) was an unusual activity, engaged in only by women in extreme
circumstances.  However, there are some problems with this even in the
discussion itself.  If it was such a problem for women to ride, then why
did Avraham Avinu send camels knowing that his future daughter in law
was going to be riding back on them and surely she, as a modest girl,
should have refused to go until more modest transport was provided (and
I am surprised Lavan etc did not use that as an excuse why she should
not go altogether).  However this problem can be surmounted if in fact
camels were the only way of getting there and back (although that rather
seems unlikely - Ya'akov seems to have managed to go there and back
without camels) (The question about Avigail is much easier, as there was
pikuach nefesh issues involved, so you could understand that, in such
circumstances, modesty would need to be pushed aside).

However a more fundamental problem that I have with this second reading
is that it appears (at least to me) to be contradicted by the Gemora in
Baba Meztia 9b - something that, unlike what has been described above,
seems to be brought down in halacha.  The Gemora in Baba Meztia is
describing when one can make a kinyan [acquire] an animal, and
specifically whether riding on an animal is a way that one can make a
kinyan on an animal.  And the Gemora holds that it depends on how people
generally make a kinyan (ie the common custom) and that the custom is
that if one rides in the field, one is koneh the animal, but not if one
rides in the city, because the custom is for men to ride in the field,
but not in the city.  However, if one is an adam chasuv [important
person], or one is a woman, then one is koneh even in the city because
the custom is for them to ride even in the city. Rashi explains that in
the case of a woman, this is because she is not so strong, so it is the
derech [way] of a woman to ride even in the city, because otherwise the
animal might get away from her (BTW although this is there in the Rashi
at the side of our shas, it is even clearer in the girsa of Rashi
brought by the Magid Mishna). This halacha about how one (or
specifically a woman) can make a kinyan on an animal is brought down
l'halacha by both the Rambam in hilchot mechira perek 2, halacha 10 and
Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat siman 197 si'if 5).

So - what this last halacha seems to be suggesting is that it is
customary for women to ride, including among lots and lots of people
(that is why, by the way, that men generally don't ride in the city, it
is too crowded with people) and it would seem slightly odd, to say the
least, if the halacha was that women were customarily acquiring animals
by means of something that was immodest and which they should not be
doing, and that the halacha should give the nod to this without even
commenting on this fact.

So what does that do for this gemora in Pesachim.  One option is that we
do not posken like the gemora in Pesachim (that seems to be true for the
general sugya, in the sense that the gemora concludes that if there is a
contradiction between speaking in learning by the most short and direct
route, and the one that is "nicer" one should go for the short version).
Alternative, we could go back to the idea that the Gemora is not
objecting to riding by women, just the use of the terminology when it
was not necessary.

Chana Luntz


From: Aliza Fischman <fisch.chips@...>
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 2003 18:19:36 -0500
Subject: Poisoned baby formula

I got a call from my aunt in Brooklyn ON SHABBOS.  She left a message on
my answering machine in case I use this formula for my baby.  Baruch
Hashem I do not.  Hatzolah went around Brooklyn today announcing that
immediately.  If you know anyone who might, contact them and tell them
to stop immediately.

I apologize to those of you who multiple copies on this message due to
the multiple lists and individuals I sent this to, but I thought it
important enough.

Here is an article with more info

Another, recent formula recall was found at
http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/11/02/formula.recall/.  This formula goes
under many brand names (not Similac or Enfamil) so check this list to.

Aliza Fischman


From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@...>
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2003 11:04:43 +0200
Subject: Reach and grasp

 Zev Sero <zsero@...> wrote

>Robert Browning would disagree: A man's reach should exceed his grasp,
>or what's a heaven for?

In his yahrzeit shiur of 1964, the Rov, Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi
Soloveichik, gave a homiletical interpretation of a biblical passage to
illustrate this idea.

As is known, at the time of tension between Saul and David, Yehonatan
gave David a sign: David would secretly observe a servant shoot three
arrows. "If I tell the servant 'the arrows are nearby', take them and be
at peace, there is nothing. But if I tell him 'the arrows are way beyond
you', go, for G-d has sent you."

A person is given a life's mission by Hashem, but must always have a
sense that he has not fully fulfilled his mission. If all the arrows
(goals) he observes are nearby, well within his grasp, he may well be at
peace, living in honor and prosperity, satisfied with his achievements,
but "there is nothing", this is no real mission. If, however, the arrows
are beyond him, he still has unachieved goals, "go, for G-d has sent
you", his mission is genuine and godly.

This passage appears in "Yemei Zikaron", a Hebrew rendition of the
aggadic parts of several of the Rov's yahrzeit shiurim,
p.16. Regretably, it does not appear in the English summary of the same
lecture in "Derashot Harav" by Dr. Arnold Lustiger.

Saul Mashbaum


From: Elie Rosenfeld <erosenfe@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Nov 2003 15:12:07 -0500 
Subject: Simchas Torah Laining

In Vol. 41 #01 Digest, Immanuel Burton had an interesting post about the
historical development of the laining on the 2nd day of Shmini Atzeres.
In particular, he points out that the source of laining "Ve'zos
Ha'bracha" on that Yom Tov is in the Gemara, which predates by hundreds
of years the earliest references to the Simchas Torah as we know it an
particularly the concept of finishing the annual laining cycle and
starting again.

This leads me to conjecture that perhaps the original practice was just
to lain part of Ve'zos Ha'bracha on that day - probably the first five
aliyos which encompass Moshe's blessing - but not the latter portion
concerning Moshe's death.  This would also jibe with the fact, as
pointed out by Immanuel, that the original haftarah for that day was
King Shlomo's blessing, the same (but one verse) as is read on the first
day of Shmini Atzeres.

Another corroborating piece of evidence was pointed out to me by my
father years ago: Ve'zos Ha'bracha, like all other parshas, is marked in
chumashim - even to this day - with all seven aliyos.  Yet if it was
originally lained in totality only on the 2nd day of Shmini Atzeres,
which can never fall on Shabbos, why would more than five aliyos be
needed?  Again, this implies that the original custom for the 2nd day of
Shmini Atzeres was to read only a portion of Ve'zos Ha'bracha, and that
the entire parsha was read on a regular Shabbos like all other parshas.

At some later time, the custom then developed of reading all of Ve'zos
Ha'bracha only on the 2nd day of Shmini Atzeres, which became known as
Simchas Torah.  It's not clear what was then done to fill in the "extra"
Shabbos that was thus freed up.  Perhaps, as I once saw conjectured on
this list, Nitzavim and Va'yelech previously constituted one parsha, and
were only separated at that time.

Anyway, these are all fascinating theories.  Does anyone know of primary
sources that could help verify the evolution of the current Simchas

Elie Rosenfeld


End of Volume 41 Issue 13