Volume 41 Number 70
                 Produced: Sun Jan  4 21:24:31 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Avraham's Unmentioned Test
         [Ben Z. Katz]
The DaVinci Code
         [Kibi Hofmann]
Hanukkah miracle
         [Jonathan Sperling]
Original Sin
         [Ben Z. Katz]
Sha-atah (5)
         [Jack Gross, Jay F Shachter, Chaim Tatel, Roger & Naomi
Kingsley, Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Using Church for Directions
         [Tzvi Stein]
Zen and Judaism
         [Michael Kahn]


From: Ben Z. Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jan 2004 09:00:21 -0600
Subject: Re: Avraham's Unmentioned Test

>This is an interesting suggestion.  But we should keep in mind that just
>because hearing voices in our times is a sign of schizophrenia, sure
>doesn't mean that it was then.  

Interestingly, psychiatrists didn't want to label all Biblical prophets
as schizophrenic and therefore excluded ancient man in their definition
of hearing voices (I think the definition includes the words "in our
time" or something to that effect)

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box # 20, Chicago, IL 60614
Ph 773-880-4187


From: Kibi Hofmann <kibi@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jan 2004 16:49:22 +0200
Subject: Re: The DaVinci Code

In mail-jewish Vol. 41 #6, Yisrael Medad  wrote:

      I am reading The DaVinci Code which includes a bit of Atbash
      (Alef-Tav; Bet-Shin) and other references to gematria.  On page
      309 I found this: "...early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic
      sex.  In the Temple, no less...  Men seeking spiritual wholeness
      came to the Temple to visit priestesses - or hierodules - with
      whom they made love and experienced the divine through physical

      The author, Dan Brown, then goes on to intimate that the
      tetragrammaton is based on the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic
      name for Eve, Havah.

      Besides the problem that in Hebrew, Eve is actually Chavah, was
      there any reply to this that appeared anywhere?

Quotes found at http://www.lakemichiganpresbytery.org/_views/0000000d.htm

Basically the book is full of errors. This page is by a Christian and is
very keen on defending Christian tradition against the enormities of
"The DaVinci Code", but this part is quite clear:

p. 309: " Langdon's Jewish students always looked flabbergasted when he
first told them that the early Jewish tradition involved ritualistic
sex.  In the Temple no less. Early Jews believed that the Holy of Holies
in Solomon's Temple housed not only God but also His powerful female
equal, Shekinah. Men seeking spiritual wholeness came to the Temple to
visit priestesses - or hierodules - with whom they made love and
experienced the divine through physical union. The Jewish tetragrammaton
YHWH - the sacred name of God - in fact derived from Jehovah, an
androgynous physical union between the masculine Jah and the pre-Hebraic
name for Eve, Havah."

Where to start??? There is so much wrong with this. First, the hieros
gamos or sacred marriage ritual was a prominent part of Canaanite as
well as Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultic practice. Hierodules, or female
cultic slaves, were a part of almost every known goddess cult in ancient
times. The absence of ritualistic sex in ancient Israel was one of its
most remarkable points! There is no evidence whatsoever that such cultic
practices ever took place in the Temple. The word "shekinah" is not in
the Old Testament. It was used by Jews, however, to denote God's visible
presence. As for shekinah somehow being a female equal of God, this is a
mistake I suppose based on the fact that it is a feminine noun
linguistically speaking. A feminine noun need not point to a female
entity. Linguistic gender has nothing to do with sexual reality. For
example Das Frau is a neuter noun in German but it means "the wife"!!!!

As for YHWH, here is what we need to know. It was only in the Middle
Ages that the rabbis permitted vowels to be added to the text of the
Hebrew Bible. Prior to that, only consonants were written, as in modern
Hebrew today­and the context helped to explain the meaning. Sometimes
the scribes would add a word in the margin of the text to help the
reader.  This margin word is referred to as the "Qere" [what is to be
read out loud] as distinct from the "Ketib" [what is written.] When they
came to YHWH, the name for God, they always inserted a Qere, because
nobody was meant to pronounce the Ketib of this most holy word. In fact,
over the centuries they forgot what the word was to sound like
altogether. Anyhow, the most common Qere for YHWH was the word Adonai,
which means "my Lord."  In the Middle Ages, when the rabbis were finally
persuaded to add vowels to the text, they inserted the Qere vowels of
Adonai to the Ketib consonants YHWH, understanding that the Qere was
still what was to be read out loud. When the translators created the
King James Bible they found the following in the Hebrew manuscripts:
YeHoWaH, and wrongly thought it said "JeHoVaH." Jehovah is not a Hebrew
word at all; it is gobbledygook. The one certainty about the name of God
is that it is not Jehovah. Today some modern English translations use
"Yahweh" but most translate the Hebrew word YHWH as LORD­with a capital
"L" and small capitals for the rest.

The pre-Hebraic name for Eve???? Genesis itself derives her name from
"havah" - pronounced sort of like Eva - and is the Hebrew word for
"living" or "life." There is nothing pre-Hebrew about it. Fiction again.


From: Jonathan Sperling <jsperling@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jan 2004 10:42:47 -0500
Subject: Hanukkah miracle

A few posters have written as if the notion that Chanukah is primarily
about celebrating the victory over the Greeks, rather than about the
miracle of the oil, is novel.  Similarly some have suggested that the
victory either was not a nes or was a lesser nes than was the oil.

The Levush (brought by the Mishna Berura at the beginning of Hilchot
Chanukah, siman 670) writes quite clearly that the essence of the
celebration of Chanuka is the miracle of Hashem's salvation of the Jews
from the forces of Hellenism and assimilation.  While Purim celebrates
our physical salvation, Chanuka celebrate our ability to be
Torah-observant Jews.  R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach went so far as to write
(Halichot Shlomo, Miluim siman 18) that even candlelighting on Chanuka
is an act of Hallel not for the nes of the oil, but for the victory over
the Greeks.  All one has to do is read the plain text of "al ha-nisim"
or "hanerot hallalu" for plain evidence that the victory is the essence
of chanukah; neither one makes any reference to the miracle of the oil.
That Chanuka is primarily a celebration of our spiritual salvation is
"pashut p'shat".  The only novelty is the suggestion that this salvation
-- a redemption of our very ability to be Jews in anything other than a
genealogical sense -- is somehow less miraculous than a can of oil
lasting longer than expected.


From: Ben Z. Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jan 2004 09:14:05 -0600
Subject: Re: Original Sin

Here I find myself disagreeing with both Mr. Cooper and Shalom (a

 To believe that Judaism has never been influenced by surrounding ideas
is ludicrous.  Even haredim are influenced to some degree by the outside
world, altho they try as hard as they can to minimize it (there is now
charedi at least one charedi website, ladaat).  There are many
neoPlatonic and neoChristian ideas in kaballistic thought.  That is why
many eschew that approach.

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box # 20, Chicago, IL 60614
Ph 773-880-4187


From: Jack Gross <ibijbgross@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2004 10:48:58 -0500
Subject: Sha-atah

>From: Stephen Kaye <kayed@...>
>Can anyone please explain to me the grammatical reason why at the
>beggining of Modim in the amidah we say "Sha-atah" with a kamatz on the
>shin and not "She-atah" with a segol.

The word appears in that form in Shoftim 6:17. 

Normally, the letter after "She-" is geminated (doubled), as indicated
by a dagesh, thereby "closing" the syllable.  But in this case the usual
short vowel (segol, or occasionally patach) after (under) the Shin
prefix is lengthened to a kamatz, since the aleph immediately following
cannot be geminated.

This is similar to the treatment of the Heh prefix (definite article):
before letters that cannot take a dagesh, the patach after the Heh
prefix is generally lengthened to kamatz (e.g., "Ha-Aretz").

From: Jay F Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2004 10:32:46 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: Sha-atah

Why do you restrict your question to the beginning of Modim?  Why do you
not ask the same question of the brakha after the Shma` in Shaxarit
("...xoq vlo' ya`avor.  Emet, sha-atta hu' ...")?  Or the second brakha
of Bircat Hammazon ("v`al 'akhilat mazon sha-atta zan umfarnes otanu
tamid ...")?  Or the passage that Ashkenazi [Northern European] Jews
recite Saturday night at the end of ma`ariv ("bkhol maqom sha-atta moce'
gdulato shel haqqadosh barukh hu' ...")?

The Ashkenazi prayerbook -- for reasons that are obscure to me -- was
largely purged of Rabbinic Hebrew, such Hebrew forms being replaced in
many cases with the corresponding Biblical forms.  "Sha-atta" appears in
the Bible, whereas "She-atta" does not.  If the word "sha-atta" does not
strike you as terribly familiar, it is because it appears only once in
the Bible (Judges 6:17).  The entire sh- prefix is uncharacteristic of
Biblical Hebrew; Biblical Hebrew prefers the word 'asher; use of the sh-
prefix is a strong indicator that a document is of postbiblical origin;
nevertheless, the editors of the Ashkenazi prayerbook did find a single
instance where "sha-atta" appears in the Bible, so they made the
correction.  Prayerbooks used by non-Ashkenazi Jews retain the use of

What I find more interesting -- speaking of Modim -- is that in some
non-Ashkenazi prayerbooks the Modim D'Rabbanan ends with the
postbiblical word "'anu" (which in Ashkenazi prayerbooks has been
replaced with the Biblical form "'anaxnu"), but in all versions of the
prayerbook, Modim begins with the Biblical form "'anaxnu".  I am puzzled
at the inconsistency in some non-Ashkenazi prayerbooks between 'anaxnu
at the beginning of the paragraph and 'anu at the end.  I understand
that Modim D'Rabbanan is a compilation of phrases from many sources, but
it is an ancient compilation, and I would have expected the original
editors to have imposed some consistency on its language.

Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
6424 N Whipple St; Chicago IL  60645-4111
<jay@...> ; http://m5.chi.il.us:8080

From: Chaim Tatel <chaimyt@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2004 15:39:20 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Sha-atah

I don't think this will help, but the siddur of the Sephardic Community
of Seattle has She-atah. This is the only place I have seen this.

From: Roger & Naomi Kingsley <rogerk@...>
Date: Thu, 01 Jan 2004 22:44:03 +0200
Subject: Sha-atah

Baer's siddur refers, among later sources, to Shofetim, 6, 17.  On that
subject, the recent discussion of how a Navi knows that the nevua is
"real" should really take Gideon into account: - these things may be
more varied than standard.

Roger Kingsley

From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Sun, 4 Jan 2004 12:45:21 EST
Subject: Sha-atah

I have addressed this issue in Mail Jewish and gave a summary of the
rules. http://www.ottmall.com/mj_ht_arch/v33/mj_v33i99.html

The articles dealing with this phenomenon were written by Kutscher,
Edward Yechezkel, 1909-1971. (If I am not mistaken in _Leshonenu_ prior
to 1965.) It might appear also in some of his English books such as
History of the Hebrew language / Eduard Yechezkel Kutscher; edited by
Raphael Kutscher. 1982, or, Hebrew and Aramaic studies / Eduard
Yechezkel Kutscher; edited by Zeev Ben-Hayyim, Aharon Dotan, Gad
Sarfatti; with the assistance of Moshe Bar-Asher. 1977. This last volume
includes the bibliography of his writings.

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
Date: Thu, 1 Jan 2004 10:50:33 -0500
Subject: Re: Using Church for Directions

I think the "prohibition" on using a church for directions is derived
from a sugya in Avoda Zora where it prohibits saying "meet me by
such-and-such an idol".  I don't think it is settled halacha whether
Christianity qualifies as "avoda zara" and it would be even more of a
stretch to put the church building itself into that category.  However,
it seems to be a common practice to avoid using it in directions,
although some people hint instead, by saying, "there's something on that
corner that I can't mention... turn right there" or some such.

I wanted to bring up a somewhat related concept.  What do you all think
about the permissibility of saying "Merry Christmas" or returning such a


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Wed, 31 Dec 2003 23:59:14 -0500
Subject: RE: Zen and Judaism

>IRC, Zen writings claim that their actices are 'compatible' with and
>enhance any other religion or belief system.

Doesn't the pasuk of "Toras Hashem Temimah," or Hashems Tora is Tamim
("full" or "complete") tell us that our Torah does not require any
"enhancing" from other religion or belief system?


End of Volume 41 Issue 70