Volume 42 Number 94
                 Produced: Wed Jun  9  6:15:49 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Avode Zore and Hinduism
         [Meylekh Viswanath]
Kosher Lamp
         [Gershon Dubin]
Mikva on Friday night (2)
         [Leah Perl Shollar, Martin Stern]
Mikveh on Friday Night
         [Carl Singer]
Not benefitting from avoda zara
         [I. Balbin]


From: Meylekh Viswanath <pviswanath@...>
Date: Wed, 02 Jun 2004 14:25:05 -0400
Subject: Avode Zore and Hinduism

At 03:40 AM 5/25/2004 +0000, Martin Stern wrote in v42/80:
      on 23/5/04 4:30 pm, Meylekh Viswanath <pviswanath@...>

      > I want to emphasize that Hinduism is very complex and includes a
      > multitude of beliefs and practices that vary from region to
      > region.  Hence, in trying to find out what is Hinduism, what is
      > Hindu worship, etc., one should be very careful -- simply asking
      > a friend who is Hindu might be quite misleading.

      This was precisely the point I tried to make earlier regarding the
      parallel with Greco-Roman paganism. It also ranged from a
      spiritual Neoplatonism or intellectual Stoicism to orgiastic cults
      such as that of Bacchus or mystery cults like those of Isis or
      Cybele. The followers of the former would have looked down on the
      latter as being only suitable for the lower orders much in the
      same way as Anglicans looked down on Methodists in the 18th
      century or, lehavdil, Mitnagdim viewed the Chassidic movement.
      However the rites practiced in the Greco-Roman temples were
      considered avodah zarah despite the more intellectualised
      positions taken by the various philosophical schools. I think that
      there is a very strong similarity between this situation and
      current Hinduism. Thus the rituals practiced in Tirupati may well
      be avodah zarah mamash even if there are strains in the Hindu
      tradition which are not. To use a borrowed expression, Hinduism,
      like ancient paganism, is a very broad church.

I don't think it's comparable.  I don't believe there's any strain of
Hinduism that would classify as avode zore, if looked at in its
"official" form.  There may some very small groups whose worship would
classify as avode zore (I can think of any, offhand); however, their
position would be analogous to the position of, say, messianic Jews and
Judaism.  Hinduism is broad church, but so is Judaism -- the question is
what are the areas of diversity that are tolerated; and identity of the
physical representation with God is not tolerated.  It's not, as Martin
assumes, an issue of strains in the Hindu tradition being not avodah
zarah mamash, with most of it being yes avodah zara.  Rather it's pretty
much all not, and maybe, maybe some, yes.  To argue otherwise seems to
me to be a combination of speculation and far-fetched parallels -- based
on what Martin has posted, at least.

      The crucial point is what do the devotees have in mind when they
      shave their heads not the sophisticated gloss put on it by yogi

If so, we have to figure out what people have in their minds, and if
what they have in their minds contradicts the professed tenets of their
religion.  There are several difficulties with that.  One, I hope we
don't have to worry about what's in my fellow Jew's mind when he's
making a donation to the shul, and I can benefit from the chairs that
have been purchased -- even though the idea of a formless God that's
responsible for good and evil is pretty sophisticated.  (Calling it
gloss when somebody else engages in sophisticated theological analysis
does not automatically make the analysis equivalent to gloss.).

Two, I think that most Hindus do realize the non-identity of the idol
with God -- they are certainly told that everywhere.  Not only that,
there are many rituals that have the purpose of inviting the Deity to
manifest Himself in a particular physical representation for the purpose
of worship -- clear evidence that the physical representation is not

Three, if we have to worry for the mi'ut in the case of Hinduism (as
Isaac Balbin in v42n88 suggests), we certainly have to worry for the
mi'ut and probably more than the mi'ut in the case of Catholicism, where
the official version of the religion in avode zore (again, see Mark
Steiner v37n68).  We can probably start several new khumres by the hour.

Finally, it doesn't seem that the rabbis are worried for the mi'ut to
the extreme degree suggested by some posters, who noted the issues of
lack of bitul vis-a-vis avode zore.  After all, the same rabbis did
investigate the issue a few years ago, and were matir the wigs.  Even if
you say that they figured out that attitudes/practices have changed, it
seems unbelievable that these attitudes/practices did not exist at all
some years ago, and now they do.  (It is troubling to me as to how we
end up being de facto meykl vis-a-vis the doctrine of avode zore eynah
botl be mashehu; are there indeed kules here, or issues regarding what
it is that is subject to the no bitul rule?)

      Incidentally, I noticed when surfing through some Hindu websites
      that there is considerable opposition to shaving the head in
      'orthodox' Hinduism and that the Tirupati practice is considered
      to be a hangover from the 'heretical' Buddhist religion prevalent
      in South India (and still practiced in Sri Lanka by the Sinhalese)
      before the Hindu Counter-reformation.  Buddhist monks routinely
      shave their heads when they dedicate themselves and it appears
      that in this region the practice was so popular that resurgent
      Hinduism could not uproot it. Maybe the Sikh custom of never
      cutting the hair is derived from this Hindu abhorrence of

I have not heard of this idea that cutting off the hair derives from a
negation of Buddhist practice.  I see from Isaac Balbin's post that the
source is http://www.dalitstan.org/books/tirupati/tirupati.html For the
information of m-j readers, the dalits are a group that were originally
considered untouchables (probably still by strict orthodox Hindus) and
are currently an aggressive political movement that is anti-historical
Hinduism.  I would be very cautious in taking these claims seriously.
(And you can see this if you go to the website, and see the arguments
that are made there.)

Finally, I am still curious as to exactly how avode zore is defined.


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 07:41:43 -0400
Subject: Kosher Lamp

From: Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...>

<<I'm not sure about a fan, possibly it is a kli shemelachto le'issur and
can be moved if you need the space it's sitting on>>

Or you need the fan itself, such as redirecting its air flow in your



From: Leah Perl Shollar <leahperl@...>
Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 08:41:54 -0400
Subject: Re: Mikva on Friday night

> From: <ROSELANDOW@...> (Rose Landowne)
> I was told by Rabbi Riskin, many years ago, that in case need (sh'at
> ha dhok), one can light candles early, but after plag hamincha, yet
> not accept shabbat, and tovel before shabbat begins, as long as
> husband and wife are not alone together before dark.

I'm not sure how a Friday night dinner invitation would qualify as
"shaat had'chak".  Perhaps if you are the mother of the bar mitzva, and
have 200 people coming for dinner, or some other similar situation.
Also, what one person might have been told at a specific juncture can't
be extrapolated to create a general klal for everyone.

> From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
> [...] Thus sailors have an obligation only once every six months.
> Clearly sailors cannot be there when their wives come home from Mikvah

I would assume that the wives do not go to the mikve whilst their
husbands are at sea.  In fact, the minhag is that if a woman must tovel
when her husband is not at home (but is returning soon) she sleeps with
a knife under her pillow.  This hardly seems practicable for 6 months at
a shot!

Leah Perl

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 2004 14:48:43 +0100
Subject: Re: Mikva on Friday night

on 4/6/04 11:20 am, <chips@...> wrote:
> I seem to be missing a major point. Why can't the hostess simply be told
> "Yes, thank you but I will probably be a few minutes late" and if the
> hostess asks why just tell her there is a mikva appointment. Why can't
> the hostess (as opposed to the host) know?

I would have thought it rather rude for a hostess to ask. Is it really
any of her business? So long as the lady has given warning and comes as
quickly as possible so as not to keep everyone else waiting, this seems
to be a perfectly satisfactory solution. However if the hosts bring
Shabbat in early, at plag haminchah as we do in the summer, this will
not work and it might be better to decline the invitation by 'being
unwell' if this is possible.

Martin Stern


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 04 Jun 2004 07:05:43 -0400
Subject: Mikveh on Friday Night

    I was told by Rabbi Riskin, many years ago, that in case need (sh'at ha
    dhok), one can light candles early, but after plag hamincha, yet not
    accept shabbat, and tovel before shabbat begins, as long as husband and
    wife are not alone together before dark.

Not focused on the halacha above, but the logistics and some
menchlachkite issues:

When we lived in suburban Philadelphia my wife was the VOLUNTEER Friday
night attendant (because among other things we lived only a ten minute
walk from the mikveh.)  The above "solution" would mean the attendant
would need to be available to someone at their convenience before
Shabbos begins -- and then available to others who wish to tovel at the
"normal" z'man -- all while making her own Shabbos with her family -- In
the previous postings (not yours) it seems the reason for all this is
accept a dinner invitation.

More simply put, one would need to find a Mikveh / attendant that would
accommodate their desire to tovel early.  This may be possible in
Manhattan and other communities where the Mikveh is run by paid
attendants, especially those who live at the Mikveh.  But in other
communities you're taking someone who by virtue of being a volunteer
attendant already disrupts their Shabbos meal by as much as an hour
(multiple people, people come late, etc.) to enable others to do an
important mitzvah and putting another burden on them.  I'd strongly
suggest to the original poster turning down the invitation.

Carl Singer


From: I. Balbin <isaac@...>
Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2004 09:36:56 +1000
Subject: Re: Not benefitting from avoda zara

> From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
> On the other hand, it might be that money is merely a placeholder or
> symbol for that which it purchases, and it is not really the money
> that is dedicated to idolalotry but rather whatever the priests
> purchase with the money.  In that case, one would need to ask whether
> the women are dedicating their _hair_ to the idol or whether they are
> dedicating their temporary _baldness_ -- the hair being given to the
> priests to sell merely in lieu of a cash contribution.

I asked one yesterday (by the way, it's not just women who donate hair
of course). She is a respected Medical Doctor. Her husband, also a
Doctor (who is well known in India) undertook tonsure. When I asked
about the hair vs state of baldness, she said that basically there are
so many people and there is so much hair, that you simply cannot donate
it to the getchke (Balaji) She said that commonly people retain four or
five strands and place those in the receptacles. This is what her
husband did (he also was given the bald cut privately because, as she
put it, "he didn't want to contract an infection from the razors."

> If that is indeed the case, then hair is a placeholder for the money
> the priest receives for it (which is in turn a placeholder for the
> goods which the priest buys with the money he got from selling the
> hair).  Under this theory, if money donated to idols is permitted to
> us due to the indirect nature of the real contribution, then how much
> more so is the hair permitted to us -- its participation in idolatry
> is _doubly_ indirect!

It could be argued that the hair has been "exchanged" for practical
reasons (as per the doctor's comments to me above) and they are
knowingly (albeit without utterance) donating the proceeds to Avode
Zora.  (This has been stated to me by Hindus without prompting, in

What is the status of hair that has been redeemed in this way?  I have
begun thinking that in fact what we are dealing with in reality is not
Takroves Avode Zorah but TEMURAH L'Avodeh Zoreh.  I haven't (yet) seen
any Poskim consider a specific Temurah argument in respect of the hair.

> I would also ask whether this ritual supplied hair to sheitels made
> fifteen or twenty years ago.  If there had been any association with
> Avodah Zara, the Lubavitcher rebbe would certainly have smelled the
> Klipah (unholiness) associated with the sheitels -- given his
> well-known supernatural powers of observation and intuition -- and he
> never said anything about it to my knowlege.

I am not sure if you are being tongue in cheek here. If you are not,
then there are many examples of items/issues that Rebbes (Lubavitch or
otherwise) do not "smell" as you put it. We all know that.  If you are
being tongue in cheek, then I think you're being unfair.


End of Volume 42 Issue 94