Volume 41 Number 78
                 Produced: Wed Jan 14  6:32:15 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chanukah and Christmas
         [Douglas Moran]
Fish, Meat, and Milk
         [Douglas Moran]
Group Theory (was Chanuka)
         [Andrew Jonathan Marks]
Learning Aggadah from Halachah
         [Russell J Hendel]
looking for person who wanted calendar
         [Aliza Berger]
Meaning of "l'zecher" and "zichrono"
         [I Kasdan]
Number Theory
         [David Waysman]
Saying the Names of Other Gods
Shalom Aleichem
         [Brandon Raff]
Silver Spoon
         [Brandon Raff]


From: <Shalomoz@...>
Date: Thu, 8 Jan 2004 02:42:40 EST
Subject: Agada

Thanks to Sammy Finkleman for an eye-opening post.

      It is probably not an absolute requirement at all. First of all,
      it is the Torah which we have to accept as true, but not words of
      Hazal, which aren't even part of the Kesuvim. [[ i assume he means
      agada here.]]

      We also believe that the Torah was passed down to us correctly and
      we abide by their decrees and decisions.

if youre referring to "correct" transmission of Torah Sheb'al Peh or
"mesora" in halakha, i think that's a complicated disagreement among
rishonim (and probably acharonim too).  addressing the issue of how
machloket could originate, some held that human error did occur in
transmission over the generations (based on gemara in eruvin [13?] that
beit shammai & beit hillel were not "m'shamesh" [serve?] their teachers
properly).  I think R. Avraham ibn Daud says this in his Sefer Hakabala.
Others, including the Rambam IIRC, held that not every law was passed
down from Sinai and some were "discovered" through logic or talmudic
exegesis (midot shehatorah nidreshet bahem).  There is a third approach,
i think of the Me'iri, which escapes me.

Moshe Halbertal has an article where he fully details these approaches,
it's on the web at
http://www.law.harvard.edu/programs/Gruss/halbert.html and forms a
chapter of his most recent book ("People of the Book").

      That goes as far as Halachah is concerned, but I think Rav Sherira
      Gaon or Rav Hai Gaon wrote to people from Europe or North Africa
      that we don't have to accept Aggada and in fact cannot since
      various aggadahs contradict each other.

Yes.  It was probably a letter - later Ge'onim wrote frequent letters &
Teshuvot to Jews of Spain/North Africa who asked for Halakha and advice
- but it appears in Otzar Hage'onim to Chagiga 13b (an interesting
gemara to explore if you like agada):

R. HAI GAON: "you should be aware that divrei agada is not like 'shmuah'
[accepted halakha, mesora etc.]; rather each person expounds that which
enters his mind such as [using terms like] 'efshar' or 'yesh lomar'
[='one could possibly say...'].  It is not a cut and dry thing [davar
chatukh], therfore one should not rely on them."  R. SHERIRA GAON:
"midrash and agada are "um'd'na" ['guesswork'?  assumptions? logic?]."

Agada was accepted as "true" if there was an uncontested, established
tradition for it.  Medieval commentators (especially ibn Ezra) sometimes
quote a midrashic interpretation on a verse and then say 'im kabala hi,
nekabel' - if it is accepted as tradition within Chazal, then we will
accept it as avalid interpretation.  Otherwise, they would view it as
the independent suggestion of a Talmudic sage and would freely accept or
reject it.

The Rambam is of course well-known for promulgating the non-literal
interpretation of agada in many instances (intro to perek Chelek;
literary devices in intro to the Guide etc.).  The midrashic 'vort' of
R.  Yitzchak in Taanit 5b is clearly meant to be taken hyperbolically,
as a deep message.  On the other hand, when statements appear in
Talmudic sources such as "the Ishah Kushit (bamidbar 12:1) was Tzippora"
it is probably meant quite literally.

I learned of these sources in Rabbi Hayyim Angel's Tanakh classes at YU,
where he discusses this and related writings about divrei agada in his
course introductions.


From: Douglas Moran <dougom@...>
Subject: Chanukah and Christmas

Yes, yes, I know; enough already with the "December dilemma."  Please
bear with me.  And my apologies for the length of this post.

In years past, my children were in a day school, and we lived in an area
where the Jewish community, though small, was a reasonable buffer for
the kids from the secular and non-Jewish influences as a whole.  Now we
live in an area (Austin, Texas) where the community is *very* small, not
much of a buffer, and my children are in public school.

 From most stand-points, this move has been an exceptionally good one
for the family.  And for the majority of the year, the much larger
Christian majority is not only not a problem, but due to some of the
unique features of the area (very liberal, but at the same time very
religious, especially compared with Northern California), it is actually
a *better* place in many ways, as most of our Christian friends and
acquaintances are not only respectful and non-proselytizing, but curious
about our traditions.  In addition, being observant in a community that
is in general more religiously observant--albiet Christian--is much
easier.  In Norther California, religiously observant people are
considered odd, to say the least.  (Also, the local HEB market has a
kosher butcher.  But I digress.)

The problem is, alas, December.  Not only are our children inundated
with the usual secular cultural insanity of Christmas--somewhat
amplified by being in a more Christian area--but Christianity permeates
the schools to such a degree that they don't even understand they're
doing wrong.  My kids came home with a colored picture of "Pere Noel."
My daughter had to solve math problems based on "How many letters are
there in 'Merry Christmas."  And so forth.  One can of course do some
back-filling to educate the school ("Um, separation of church and state?
Remember that?").  One can make sure that one's Jewishness is
prominent--daily davening, regular shul attendance, celebrating Jewish
holidays, etc.  But the fact is, Chanukah is a minor holiday, and it's
absurd to try to "compete" with Christmas.  And yet as little children
they can't *help* but be placed in that position.

Leaving aside the obvious answers ("Make Aliyah, schmuck!"), what is one
to do?  I know that many people may be tired of this problem, but it is
very acute for our family, and any advice would be greatly appreciated.


To: <mail-jewish@...>

From: Douglas Moran <dougom@...>
Subject: Fish, Meat, and Milk

As I was chomping on my fish the other day, I was wondering: why is
dairy okay with fish?  Or to put it another way, my imperfect
understanding of halacha is that dairy is forbidden with poultry--even
though poultry doesn't lactate--because of the fence-around-the-fence
desire to avoid having dairy with anything that is meat-like.  One could
get used to having, say, a turkey and cheese sandwich, and it's a short
step from there to say, "Yo, what's the big deal?  I'm not seething my
corned-beef in it's mother's milk; I'm just putting a slice of swiss on
it!"  Given that, why not separate *all* non-vegetable main courses from
dairy?  (I don't want to; I'm just wondering.)



From: Andrew Jonathan Marks <ajm58@...>
Subject: Re: Group Theory (was Chanuka)

> From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
> The same is true for the other names of the numbers. They are derivative
> of basic geometric forms. Today, we call these "symmetry distinctions",
> and they're the basis of group theory.

While I can't really speak to the accuracy of the rest of your
statement, I do know that you're definately wrong on the group theory
part.  Group theory was originally developed for the study of algebraic
equations (i.e. Galois Theory) and number theory.  It wasn't until later
that it was used for geometry.  While it is true that a basic,
introductory, undergraduate course in groups will first present the
symmetry group and rigid motions, these are only concrete example of
groups, and are very, very far from being "the basis for group theory."
Indeed, if you're interested in groups with topological significance,
you could argue that one could base group theory on the notion of
homotopies, as a simple corrolary of Van Kampen's theorem states that
given a group G, there exists a space X whose fundamental group is
isomorphic to G.  Personally, I fell that such an approach will do more
harm than good as homotopies of maps of circles into a space are more
abstract than the simple axiomatic definition which is in fact the basis
for group theory. 



From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 2004 19:56:05 -0500
Subject: RE: Learning Aggadah from Halachah

Josh Backon in v41n71 continues the thread that halachah isnt learned
from aggadtah.

Well that is what I was taught also.

But there are the exceptions and I wish someone would explain them. My
favorite is the Aggadtah in beracoth: "The angels asked God about the
contradiction (a) God does not show favoritism (b) May God show
favoritisim to you (Priestly blessing). God responded: Should I not show
favoritisim to the Jews--I commanded them to bless me after eating and
begin satisfied and they bench after eating only an olive size!"

 From this we learn the law that there is a Biblical obligation to bench
after eating an olive size of bread.

Why the exception here. There are others

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.rashiyomi.com/


From: Aliza Berger <alizadov@...>
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 2004 13:10:03 +0200
Subject: looking for person who wanted calendar

Several months ago someone asked about calendars that have yarzeits of
rabbis. I communicated with someone off-list and offered to send them a
calendar, but could not find it. Now I have found it. Please contact me

Aliza Berger, PhD
English Editing: www.editing-proofreading.com
Statistics Consulting: www.statistics-help.com


From: I Kasdan <Ikasdan@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 2004 01:34:02 -0500
Subject: Re: Meaning of "l'zecher" and "zichrono"

The words "l'zecher" and "zichrono" as in "l'zecher nishmas" and
"zichrono l'vracha" are commonly translated respectively as "in memory
of [the neshama of]" and "[of blessed] memory".  It would seem to me,
however, that the more nuanced translations might be "in mention [of the
neshama of]" and "his mention [should be for a blessing]" or "in
remembrance" and "his remembrence."

Is anyone aware of sources that discuss exactly what these words are
intended to convey? Also, for whom is the b'racha intended -- the
deceased or the live individual who mentions the deceased's name or
both?  Also, why is there a b'racha at all by virtue of the "memory" or
"menton" of the deceased?

Finally, the makor (source) for "zichrono l'vracha lechaya haolam haba"
and "zichrono l'vrcaha" are found in Kiddushin 31 and S'A, YD 240:9.
What is the source for the use of "l'zecher nishmas" in the context of
giving or sponsoring a shiur or the giving of t'zedakkah?

See also Mishlei 10:7 on the pasuk "Zecher tzaddick l'vracha . . ." (and
see the Rashi and Ibn Ezra on that pasuk as well as the prior one; see
also the Torah Shleimah on Breishis 7:1 os daled citing the the
Tanchuma), which Artscroll translates -- "Remembrance of a righteous one
brings blessings . . ."


From: David Waysman <waysmand@...>
Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 11:00:35 +1100
Subject: Number Theory

A friend & fellow subscriber showed me an article in the jerusalem
report in which the author observed that the the ages of the patriachs
can be displayed algorithmically.

Avaraham   - 5 * 5 * 7 = 175 years
Yitzchak    - 6 * 6 * 5 = 180 years
Yaacov       - 7 * 7 * 3 = 147 years

It looks very elegant to analyse the numbers this way, BUT, what
significance might the numbers have ?

Best Wishes,
David Waysman


From: <meirman@...> (Meir)
Date: Mon, 12 Jan 2004 02:02:07 -0500
Subject: Saying the Names of Other Gods

Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...> wrote:
>The Gemara in Sanhedrin 63B says: " 'Vesheim elohim acheirim lo
>tazkiru' [Shemot 23:13] -  (do not *mention* the name of other gods)

I think I have observed Jews who are careful not to mention yoshke, but
don't have a problem saying the names of ancient Greek or Roman gods.
Is there a distinction?  What about current Hindu gods, for example?

<meirman@...>  Baltimore, MD, USA


From: Brandon Raff <Brandon@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 2004 11:00:03 +0200
Subject: Shalom Aleichem

Can anyone tell me the reason why we repeat each verse of Shalom
Aleichem on Friday night three time?



From: Brandon Raff <Brandon@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 2004 10:58:22 +0200
Subject: Silver Spoon

Can anyone tell me the origin of the custom of putting a silver spoon in 
front of the Yichud room for the Chasan and Kallah to walk over?



End of Volume 41 Issue 78