Volume 42 Number 07
                 Produced: Mon Feb  9 21:27:30 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Article in Jewish Observer
Kim Li (2)
         [Kenneth G Miller, Sammy Finkelman]
Leningrad Codex
         [Jack Gross]
What's (or Who Was) Jesus?
         [Bernard Raab]


From: <Smwise3@...>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 23:16:01 EST
Subject: Re: Article in Jewish Observer

I was troubled by an article in the current issue of the Jewish
Observer.  It was an oral presentation turned into prose by a
well-respected gadol, one whom I usually run to hear when he speaks
locally.  Given the audience of the original presentation at the Agudah
Convention, I should not be surprised by some of its contents, but at
times the speaker seemed to reveal a posture that offended me.

The theme was how we should separate ourselves from our non-Jewish
neighbors.  He seemed critical of the way people spend their chol
ha-moed or buy products that imitate non-kosher foods.  He seemed
surprised that there were so many "bnai Torah" at Disney World that they
had minyanim and shiurim, and remarks "Many bnei Torah? If that is so,
then I must be mistaken in my definition of Bnei Torah."  While not
addressing the problems of going to aplace like Disney World (I wish he
had), he suggested that children should spend their chol Ha-moed
visiting family or even gedolim, though I can't imagine how one
accomplishes that at will or that my daughters would find it meaningful.

For many baalei teshuvah, or others who live countries away, visiting
family is not an option, but the speaker seems not consider that.  As
for the imitation non-kosher foods, I heard a different respected Rav
say that such creations also show the wonder of Hashem, and we should
not purposely avoid such foods.  But what about the positive aspects of
those foods, if they actually prevent a person from eating non-kosher?

Once again I came away feeling disappointment that a person steeped in
Torah could not see the positive aspects of these activities, and how it
demonstrates the power of keeping Torah.  Instead, these are viewed as
weaknesses or failures.  I wish I knew how to respond to the Observer
article in a way that would not result in a rejection.

But given the real problems among the frum, it seems a more powerful
presentation to address the problems of abuse and divorce and how
parents give priority to their children together with their shiurim and
simchas and fundraising events.

In a separate comment, there were two gathering for tehillim because of
the scourge of the Internet.  Yes, there is bad out there, but the
Internet can be used for good and has brought frum people together in
many ways. I hate to say it, but calling the Internet evil sounds a lot
like the Islam imams describe western civilization.  I would have rather
heard of a gathering to daven that Hashem should guide our leaders to
tackle the real problems our frum people face and come up with solutions
that embrace everyone and not the narrow community they live in.

S. Wise


From: Kenneth G Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 09:01:44 -0500
Subject: re: Kim Li

Andy Goldfinger wrote that for Shimon to successfully defend himself in
a lawsuit, he needs <<< a conflicting halachic opinion that counters
Reuven's claim. ... But -- there are often many opinions that can be
found.  Some are major poskim ... Some are forgotten sources...  Some
are largely discredited... Just how "major" must a source be ...? >>>

This particular case is really no different than how to decide halacha
in general..

For example, we have various established principles, such as ruling
strictly on questions of Torah law, and leniently on questions of
Rabbinic law. Taken literally, this would mean that every questionable
point about Purim must be answered leniently, and every questionable
point about Shema must be answered strictly. Clearly, we don't do that.

We don't worry about every single sefer or opinion that has ever been
rendered. We make a distinction between the which opinions are
intellectually reasonable, relevant to the situation, and authored by a
prominent authority, and the opinions which are unreasonable or
irrelevant or less authoratative.

None of these questions are black-and-white. Rather each beis din or
rabbi gives more weight to some points and less weight to others. This
is a highly subjective matter, which I believe can be learned best by
apprenticeship to one's teacher and seeing how he reaches his
conclusions. Alternatively, a very careful study of the seforim can
help, if one keeps his eyes open to how the sefer analyzes the various
aspects of the question at hand.

For example, one might see a more complicated version of something like
"A says this and B says that. A is difficult to understand because of
XYZ, and therefore the halacha is like B." Or it might say "A says this
and B says that. A is difficult to understand because of XYZ, but our
community normally follows A, and therefore the halacha is like A."

Understanding these very subtle distinctions is the key to learning how
to pasken. Going back to the original question, of how "major" Shimon's
sources need to be, I'd suggest that it is largely dependent on how
"major" Reuven's sources are.

When I was in the Kollel of the Bostoner Rebbe, he one spoke to us on
this topic. One of the points he made was that the local customs and
precedents must be considered, and appropriate weight must be given to
that. He gave several examples: He said an Ashkenazi rabbi in New York
has to give a lot of weight to what Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote on the
question at hand, whereas a Sefardi in Yerushalayim does not need to
give much attention at all to that, but would rather focus on what the
Kaf Hachaim had written. But he continued and taught us other situations
too.  For example, a Sefardi rabbi in New York also has to consider Rav
Feinstein's view, and an Ashkenazi rabbi in Yerushalayim has to consider
the Kaf Hachaim, though they would give it less weight than in the
previous case.

Akiva Miller

From: Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...>
Date: Sun, 03 Feb 04 12:43:00 -0400
Subject: Kim Li

This is my guess. Let me put down my thoughts or ideas and see what
people have to say on it.

The standard is probably that they have to be certain beyond a
reasonable doubt - or higher - that their determination has to be
correct...except that here we are not talking about certainty about the
facts here (where you need only a preponderance of evidence) but
certainty about the law.

But Kim Li is not the beginning of the story, and it is not the end of
the story either.

It is because of "kim li" that most Bais Dins - where there is a
monetary conflict - actually are NOT judging according to Jewish law
exactly but their decisions are arbitrations - even under Jewish law
(not only as far as civil law is concerned) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They make people sign a agreement that this is supposed to be a
"pesharah" (compromise) not according to Halacha but close to Halacha.

The reason for Kim Li is that today there is no real semichah. The
Semichah chain was broken somehow. So there are no real dayanim whose
rulings should be upheld according to Devorim 17:10.

I am sure exactly when that stopped. According to the beginning of
Chapter 8 of the Iggeres of Rav Sherira Gaon (page 84 in the Moznaim
edition) Horayeh stopped after the generation of Rav Ashi and Ravina I
am not sure if by Horayeh he means Takanahs (that's why, in the century
before the year 1000 Rabbeinu Gershom could only institute a Cherem but
not make a Takanah) or if it would also mean Halakhic rulings in
individual cases. I don't know if the stopping of Horayeh and the
stopping of real Semichah are the same thing. I think I read that real
semichah stopped later, but maybe that was an attemt to revive it. I
think the Rambam believed that unanimous consent could revive Semichah.
I think that may be another issue.

In any case Semichah stopped and the Halakhic obligation to obey a Bais
Din just because it was a Bais Din also stopped because there are no
people competent to sit on a true Bais Din.

Wrong rulings have no validity (unlike the way it was in Talmudic times
with Kiddush HaChodesh for instance.)

What this means is that if the Beis Din took money away from one person
and gave it to another they would be guilty of stealing. Or, at least,
at some point, Rabbis started to consider that to be the case!! (Maybe
somebody could research when this started to happen)

They avoided this problem by "kim li"

I don't know why they were not bothered by other kinds of rulings, such
as agunahs and divorces but maybe here the worry was that they were
stealing money personally, while in other cases, it was a situation
where on one side you had the possibility of an Avereh and on the other
side there was the possibility of causing someone some kind of loss, and
telling him he couldn't do something would amount to stealing money or
something worse and you could not just say take no chances. The halachah
from the Gemorah indicates that you do take chances in cases of certain
kinds of sofak. You do not avoid all safekim.

The upshot was, I guess, that all kinds of questions that didn't involve
which of two or more people was entitled to money could be decided
without the Beis din worrying about being wrong on the law, but not
cases that involved just money between two individuals.

But Kim Li of course creates severe problems in that the Bais Din can
almost never order anyone to pay money or return something or void a
transaction. And, if not, what's the purpose of the whole Bais Din??

To get around Kim Li, a Bais Din will ask people to agree to a Pesharah.

Now of course the question becomes how honest and conscientious and
industrious is the Beis Din, because with a Pesharah they could do
anything and it's all right - although they do say "close to the law"

How far they want to take Kim Li - or if they even want to consider it
at all beyond a consideration of the merits of the underlying reasoning
of the Kim Li cite - is completely up to the Bais Din.

> Rabbis

Actually the word rabbi is just an honorific with no real meaning I
think. I mean Dayanim. Tannaim and Amoraim had the title of Rabbi or
Rav, but I think it actuially applied to any married (or once married)
man and maybe still does when someone is called up to the Torah. Maybe
the title deteriated and maybe technically it never meant very much.

What we call Rabbis are just people with greater knowledge of
Halachah. In past times the most practical issue that came up most
frequently was kosher food - was this chicken kosher - did this cooking
error pasul the food - and so the test is if someone knows Chulim and
its dinim. This is called Yore Yore.

There is a higher or more difficult test for purposes of judging
monetary matters and being on a Beis Din - this is called Yore Yadin but
in a profound sense, this is all unofficial and unsanctified.

There can still be a Beis Din because any 3 male observant Jews can form
a Beis Din, but they are still ordinary people and I am not sure what
kinds of powers they have. We don't use such Beis Dinim composed of
ordinary men with no special qualifications except for Hateras Nedarim
on Erev Rosh Hashonah I think.


From: Jack Gross <ibijbgross2@...>
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 21:59:55 -0500
Subject: Re: Leningrad Codex

>From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
>I have a famiscle of the 1971 edition. There are definitely erasure
>marks in it and there are definitely errors. For example PSALM 114 is a
>header for BOTH PSALM 114 and 115 while what we call PSALM 116 is called
>PSALM 115.

But note that Ps "114" and "115" are a single continuous paragraph, in
M.  Breuer's editions based on Aleppo and L. codices (whereas the
remaining psalms are set off as individual paragraphs -- "parsha
pesucha").  That apparently reflects a stream that regards them as "one"
psalm.  There are midrashic sources that peg the number of Psalms at
147, so it's not surprising to find MSS that combine some of our 150.

(Strange that such an important manuscript of Tanach should be
identified with the city named, successively, after two of its greatest


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Tue, 03 Feb 2004 14:22:20 -0500
Subject: What's (or Who Was) Jesus?

From: Tzvi Stein
>>>So now I'm put into the position of having to answer the question
"What's 'Jesus'?".  How do I answer such a question?  Do I give him a
mini-seminar on the Christian concept of the Trinity then immediately
"unteach" it to him to make sure he doesn't incorporate it into his
developing personal theology?  Do I just dismiss it as "goyishe avodah
zara" and risk embarassment the next time he hears the word again in
public and immdidately spouts "goyishe avoda zara!"?  Is there some
middle ground?
And it's not just a question of "don't let them read the
paper... problem solved".  It *is* an issue they'll have to face sooner
or later, no matter what. <<<

How about the following:

There is some reason to believe (I once heard a shiur about a banned and
deleted Gemarrah text to support this point) Jesus or Yeshu appears to
have been a maverick yeshiva student who took great offense at the
corruption of the society and of the Temple priesthood, as many did at
the time, and preached accordingly. He gained a following, and after his
death they worked to sell the idea that he was the moshiach. There have
been several such messiah-candidates in Jewish history, up to the
present day, but none gained the following in the non-Jewish world that
Jesus did. It has been a constant source of friction that he was
rejected for this role by the Jews themselves, but his followers
continue to believe that he was the moshiach, and divine. End of story.

This will give your children a basic understanding of and even a reason
to respect Christianity without the need to accept it for themselves. It
is clear from a study of far-flung Jewish communities that were cut off
from contact with other Jews for centuries after the dispersion
following the destruction of Bayit Sheni, that these Jews carried with
them the firm knowledge that Jews did not accept the Christian messiah
or a division of G-d into components.

b'shalom--Bernie R.


End of Volume 42 Issue 7