Volume 43 Number 24
                 Produced: Mon Jun 28  6:28:14 US/Eastern 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chiyuvim  -- One vote or 3 ?
         [Martin Stern]
Clerical garb (2)
         [Immanuel Burton, Martin Stern]
Deliberately Invalid Marriages
         [Martin Stern]
Evening of 17th of Tamuz
         [Martin Stern]
Formally known as Madonna
"Madonna Esther"
         [Stan Tenen]
Mercury vs. Digital Thermometers
         [Sam Gamoran]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 09:15:14 +0100
Subject: Re: Chiyuvim  -- One vote or 3 ?

on 24/6/04 3:44 am, Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...> wrote:

> On this question, Gesher Hahayyim 30:10:2 (if I understood correctly)
> states that the sheloshim man has MORE qaddishim than the yahrzeit man.

This obviously only applies in those congregations which follow the
original Ashkenazi practice of only one person saying each kaddish. It
should be noted that the main obligation is to act as sheliach tsibbur
and saying kaddish was originally instituted for minor sons who could
not do so as described in the Pesikta (see Artscroll Kaddish). From the
sources it is clear that the main purpose of saying kaddish is to prompt
the communal response "Yehei shemeih rabba mevarakh". This can be
difficult in those Ashkenazi shuls where several aveilim say the kaddish
at break-neck speed in an uncoordinated fashion which defeats this
purpose. How this came about is described in my article "Bero Mezakeh
Abba" which can be accessed on


Unfortunately there is a lot of superstition surrounding kaddish
especially those based on the idea that saying kaddish helps raise the
deceased from Gehennom. As a result some people try to say as many
kaddeishim as possible and even go from one minyan to another to do
so. I can't help thinking that this is a dishonour for the departed
since it might be seen to imply that they are so deeply sunk there that
they need exceptional help to get out!

Certainly getting into disputes, let alone coming to blows rachmana
litslan, over who has the 'right' to the amud is the precise opposite of
the original purpose and brings dishonour on the deceased. Perhaps it is
worth noting the concluding words on the subject of the Kitsur Shulchan
Arukh (26,22):

"Even though saying kaddish and [leading the communal] prayers benefits
the parent, this is not the main point which is that the children pursue
an upright lifestyle so that people will remember the departed [through
their exemplary] behaviour - and a person should rather command his
children to be particularly careful about a specific mitsvah which, when
they do so, is considered much more significant than saying kaddish -
and this is applicable to [both sons and] daughters"

Martin Stern


From: Immanuel Burton <IBURTON@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 08:44:55 +0100
Subject: RE: Clerical garb

In MJ v43n19 Art Wershulz asked what the tall hat worn by such chazzanim
is called.  The only word I've heard to describe such hats is a mitre,
which is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as a tall deeply cleft
headdress worn by bishops and abbots, especially as a symbol of office.
I do not know if there is a Hebrew or Yiddish word to describe this
specific type of hat.

Immanuel Burton.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 09:27:23 +0100
Subject: Re: Clerical garb

on 24/6/04 3:22 am,  Art Werschulz <agw@...> wrote:

> Which leads me to ask: What's the name of the tall hat worn by such
> chazzanim?  I've asked a few chazzanim, who were wearing such a hat, and
> never gotten a good answer.

Such top hats were worn by the more prestigious members of Western
society in the 19th and early 20th centuries and it was felt that they
added dignity to the chazzan also to do so. At the time it was the
general practice for most congregants to wear such hats as part of their
'shul outfit'. In some English shuls it was customary until quite
recently for members of the executive to wear them, even when the
congregation generally had adopted other styles, and sit in a 'box'
(enclosed pew) in front of the bima. These customs are similar to the
shtreimlach worn by chassidim which also were the standard headgear of
the nobility in 18th century Poland.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2004 15:16:13 +0100
Subject: Re: Deliberately Invalid Marriages

on 21/6/04 12:14 pm, I wrote:

> Kiddushei biah was banned by Rav because it required witnesses to the
> act which was not proper. Nowadays it is very rare for a couple to ask
> two kosher witnesses to watch them copulate so the possibility mentioned
> is, though technically possible, extremely remote.

I used this wording deliberately for dramatic effect. In reality, as
several posters have written to me, it is impossible to witness the act
as the Gemara puts it "like a pestle in a mortar". Even to convict a
couple for the capital offence of adultery, the witnesses only have to
see them "acting in the manner of adulterers".

What is required for kiddushei biah is in reality even less, that the
witnesses see the couple retire to a secluded place having stated that
they intend there to perform the act as a form of kiddushin, on the
principle of "hein hein eidei yichud, hein hein eidei biah - witnessing
a couple seclude themselves for conjugal relations is tantamount to
witnessing the act itself".

It was noted in a private communication to me that "it was the lack of
tz'nius involved in publicizing the intent for bi'ah that was Rav's
reason for punishing those who did it" which might have some relevance
to the ongoing debate regarding reticence about mikveh attendance when
invited out on Friday night.

Martin Stern 


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 06:27:16 +0100
Subject: Re: Evening of 17th of Tamuz

on 24/6/04 3:04 am,  Seth Lebowitz <SLebowitz@...> wrote:

> Rav Moshe Feinstein allows a wedding to take place on the evening of
> the 17th of Tamuz "l'tzorech" (when necessary).

I have heard that in cases of extreme need, such as avoiding forced
conscription in the Tsarist army, there was a hetter for weddings even
on Tisha beAv! Anyone know of a reference?

Martin Stern


From: <chips@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 2004 22:25:40 -0700
Subject: Formally known as Madonna

> What's up with the artist formally known as Madonna (now "Esther")?
> What is she actually doing? Is it "good for the Jews"?

wow, you have no idea how pleased I am that I have no idea what tumult
Louise Ciccone is causing now :-)



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 08:47:14 -0400
Subject: "Madonna Esther"

In m-j Vol. 43 #20, Tzvi Stein asks,
>What's up with the artist formally known as Madonna (now "Esther")?
>What is she actually doing? Is it "good for the Jews"?

And Jeannete Friedman asks,
>madonna is no longer madonna. She is malka esther.  What's next?  I
>haven't been able to figure out if this is bad or good for the jews.

As I suppose everyone knows, I've spent the last 30 years attempting a
serious research on B'reshit and the alphabet, and their relationship to
Kabbalistic and Talmudic teachings. And, as everyone here knows, there
is often strong resistance to what I'm proposing, no matter how
carefully I word things, and in spite of the fact that my work is under
continuous review by qualified scholars in the Torah world.

One reason why there is so much resistance to what I'm proposing --
which is intended to be (and hopefully, is) serious work -- is because
of all of the "Kabbalah-lite" new-age presumptuous pseudo-Kabbalah that
has become so popular in Hollywood, among gurus, and especially on the
Internet. This "noise" literally buries not only my work, but all other
serious independent scholarship and research on the subject.

And, the "noise" is pernicious. I know one reason why most serious
professionals and scholars won't take the time to look at what I'm
proposing. They're not picking on me, and they're not being up-tight.
They're just worn out. Hardly a week goes by when I don't receive
200-300-pages from some self-appointed genius-guru. Eventually, it
becomes overwhelming, and a complete waste of time, because 99% of this
independent material is just noise. This makes it very hard for people
whose time is valuable to want to have a look at work that superficially
looks just as empty and misguided.

But this is just my personal problem, because of the work I do. There is
a more serious problem. When people who don't know Judaism (let alone
Kabbalah) represent in public that they do, and then when they teach
things that are silly, superficial, insulting, or otherwise distorted,
the public sees this, and doesn't know that it's not legit. Since
responsible teachers who actually know something of Kabbalah do not
teach publicly, those who make public statements without knowing what
they're talking about are the only ones being heard.

I have heard Madonna referred to on cable networks as "Queen Esther of
the Kabbalah religion". The "Kabbalah religion", unlike Judaism, merely
requires proclaiming one's self to be a "Kabbalah-ist". The empty
discussions on the news shows do not distinguish between self-proclaimed
non-Jewish "Kabbalah-ists" and serious, genuine Judaism of any sort. Is
it any wonder that there are so many misconceptions about what Jews and
Judaism actually stand for, when our public face is represented by
Hollywood personalities loyal to the likes of the Kabbalah Centre, and
whose only exposure to Judaism is through that distorted and limited

The advent of (mostly Berg-trained, but not exclusively so)
"Kabbalah-ists" is hardly less damaging to the public perception of what
Judaism is really about, than are the "Jews for J" and "messianic
Jews". I hear from all of these people on a daily basis. Their knowledge
of Judaism is non-existent.  But they don't know that, and they are
very, very resentful that they're not accepted as serious Jews and/or
"Kabbalists". The resentment caused by the need to explain to many
people that this is not a real form of Judaism is a serious social and
political problem.

I don't know what the answer to this is. I'm not expecting people who
really do have a sense of Kabbalah to go on Fox, CNN, or Oprah, and
compete with Madonna, Roseanne, or Britney. But the public does need to
hear from Torah-observant, knowledgeable Jews what Judaism (and
Kabbalah) are really about. And this must include Torah Judaism, and not
just "Judaism-lite" from the Bu-Jew and Ju-Bu school of thought.

Having spent many years in California, I know the allure of the mystical
free-association of Buddhism and Judaism in popular culture there. Most
of the "Buddhists" I know in California are Jewish. <sigh> And the
answer is not more Kabbalah-lite by the Jewish popularizers,
either. Torah Judaism is what's missing from public view. And this is
the problem.

There would be no need to criticize the "not-so-lightness" if we could
effectively light the infinitely brighter candle that actually shines
the light of Torah.

The first step, I think, might be a serious discussion of this issue here 
on m-j.



From: Sam Gamoran <Sgamoran@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Jun 2004 16:39:57 +0300
Subject: Mercury vs. Digital Thermometers

I had the misfortune of coming down with a nasty virus that took me
almost three weeks to shake (B"H a month has elapsed since).  During
that time I was taking my temperature regularly using a trusty old oral
mercury thermometer from before our Aliyah (20+ years ago).

I used this particular thermometer mainly because it is in Farenheit
(the way my head still works) unlike the digital thermometers we've
acquired in Israel which are, of course, Celsius.  I also appreciate the
American thermometer for being very thin and compact unlike the mercury
thermometers used in Israeli hospitals which have a very "fat" outer
glass that is awkward in the mouth and requre a big case.  I also think
there are fewer problems with using the mercury thermometer on Shabbat
(would be waived in a pikuach nefesh case) but this was more a hrribly,
painfully sick and achey situation.  Finaly, I use my favorite
thermometer because I like what I like, it works for me, and it "feels

Alas, the thermometer met an untimely end.  It fell out of my pocket,
case and all, and when I looked inside I could see that this was the
end.  I deposited it inside the closed case in the battery recycling box
(meant to end up in a hazardous materials facility) and that was that.

After I recovered I had a trip to California.  While I was there I tried
to buy an old-fashioned mercury thermometer and could not find one.  All
the chain stores I looked in are selling digital thermometers or "fat"
non-mercury ones.  A quick search on Google for mercury thermometers
convinced me that they may well have been banned (or become politically
incorrect) in California.  Perhaps someone on the list knows for sure.

If I can't get a mercury thermometer, my second choice is a new
state-of-the-art fast-acting digital thermometer.  My question is, what
are the implications for using this type of thermometer on Shabbat.
Let's discuss "thinking I'm coming down with something" vs. "feeling
very ill" vs. "pikuach nefesh" (which is quite clear what to do).

Sam Gamoran


End of Volume 43 Issue 24