Volume 43 Number 31
                    Produced: Wed Jun 30  1:00:36 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
Doubtful Mamzerim
         [Jay F Shachter]
         [N Miller]
Holocaust stories and bubbe maises.
         [Jeanette Friedman Sieradski]
Name Change
         [Douglas Moran]
Naming Customs
Top Hat
         [Leah Perl Shollar]
         [Martin Stern]
"wonder" stories
         [Tzvi Stein]


From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 2004 00:37:47 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Administrivia

Just a quick note, as part of some changes at Shamash, I have moved my
email and management of the main shamash machine. You will probably see a
new From line. This is the first try configuring and sending the list out
from the new site. Hopefully it will go smnoothly



From: Jay F Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 10:25:12 -0600 (CDT)
Subject: Doubtful Mamzerim

In mail.jewish v43n29, someone wrote:

> But then there is also the status of "safek [a doubt of] mamzer" -
> one who is most likely a mamzer but the din [law] is under some
> doubt.  A safek mamzer is of course forbidden to marry a [regular]
> Jew, but also forbidden to marry a mamzer vaday (certain mamzer) -
> because of the chance that he or she is in fact not a mamzer.  Safek
> mamzerim [male] cannot even marry other safek mamzerot [female]
> because of the possibility that the "actual" statuses of the spouses
> may not match.
> The source is Yevamot 37a.
> AFIK, paternity tests have rendered this status obsolete (except for the
> children of such people).  But clearly the idea that "the child was
> conceived from the husband unless we are certain that this was
> impossible" is complicated somewhat by the existence of this category -
> since if one was certain of the mamzerut, there would be no safek.

Paternity tests have not rendered this status obsolete, and the above
analysis is incorrect.

First of all, paternity tests do not help in the case of a foundling,
which is in fact the classic Talmudic example of a "doubtful mamzer".
Except in times of war or famine, when child abandonment becomes more
normal, there is a strong suspicion that foundlings are children born
under very embarrassing circumstances.  We do not know that such
children are mamzerim, but the possibility is strong enough to be
considered.  And obviously, if we do not even know who the mother is,
all the paternity tests in the world are unlikely to clear up the status
of the child.

Second of all, even when we know who the mother is, paternity tests
cannot distinguish the paternity of identical twins, and frequently of
other close relatives.  Suspicions of adultery do not always fall on
total strangers: often -- perhaps more often than not -- they fall on
family members.

Third of all, even when both parents are known, the "doubt" in the case
of a "doubtful mamzer" need not be a doubt of a child's parentage.
Sometimes there is no question as to a child's parentage, and the child
is still a doubtful mamzer.  If a man divorces or widows a woman, who
then, nine months later, gives birth to his neighbor's child, we do not
need a paternity test, we need to know the date of conception.  If a man
fathers the child of his brother's widow, after the brother and the
brother's children all died in an airplane crash, we need to know who
died first.  If the children died first, the surviving brother has
performed a mitzva; if the brother died first, the surviving brother has
fathered a mamzer.

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


From: N Miller <nm1921@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 15:53:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Hats

Shayna Kravetz writes:

> A somewhat complicated series of misunderstandings here, perhaps.  The
> original query by Art Wershulz referred to tall hats worn by chazzanim.
> This hat is a round cap midway between a yarmulke which lies closely
> curved to the head and the tall puffy type of hat commonly associated
> with chefs.  The chazzan's hat has a wide roughly horizontal band
> circling from forehead to nape from which rises a short somewhat
> reinforced cylinder (1-2") made of six or eight panels converging to a
> soft puffy top, with a button or tuft at the center.

Exactly so. They have always reminded me of levadil Russian onion domes.
Not to mention that their general shape is that of the crowns worn by
Russian Orthodox clergy.

> The Spiros give us the Yiddish word "tzilinder", obviously related to
> the root "cylinder".  A "tzilinder" in Yiddish is a top hat (as worn by
> Fred Astaire).  Indeed, in some very traditional British shuls, the
> rabbi, sexton, parnass, etc. wear top hats (as Mr. Stern noted).  (I
> remember being very taken aback when, on a visit to London during the
> Queen's Silver Jubilee, I went on Shabbat morning to the Sloane Sq. shul
> and was confronted by a bima-ful of gentlement who looked as if they
> were about to break out into a snappy version of "Putting on the Ritz".)

And not only England.  I recall top hats in Philadelphia, and--as I
wrote some time ago--I treasure the photo of Rabbi Shmaryahu Gurari, at
the time "Secretary of State" to the former Lubavitcher rebbe, wearing a
topper on his arrival in the U.S. from Japan via Canada.

Noyekh Miller


From: <FriedmanJ@...> (Jeanette Friedman Sieradski)
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 09:01:24 EDT
Subject: Holocaust stories and bubbe maises.

      I have heard Rav Gelley speak about the issue.  He gave an example
      of a group of American Jews who were negotiating with the Nazis to
      release a trainload of European Jews for a sum of money.  At one
      point after the negotiations had begun the Nazis asked the
      delegation whether they were having success raising the money.
      They answered, "truthfully, no".  The deal failed.  Rav Gelley
      said that although the truthful answer was NO, an answer that was
      EMMES would be yes.  Basically Emmes was dependent on what is good
      for the Jews. Jewish legends could also then be called Emmes.  If
      that is the case do we have a word to reflect objective truth.  If
      I look up on a clear day and say the sky is blue without any Torah
      repercussions, can we call that Emmes?

  I am very interested in hearing the details of Rav Gelley's story,
since I am an editor of books about the Kastner transport who has
studied the Holocaust for more than 30 years. I have never heard the
story above, and I find it fascinating, since they did not raise the
money they were originially supposed to raise for the Kastner
transport. The people on the Kastner train were eventually all released
in Switzerland by Dec.  1944, while 17,000 additional Jews were kept on
ice in Austria and not sent to Auschwitz for a guarantee for 40 tractors
that came from the Sternbuchs in Switzerland and the Vaad Hatzaloh in
New York. (This is a long, run-on sentence, but it spills the facts.)
The money that was paid was 750,000 Swiss Francs (exchange rate 4.5 SFG
to a Dollar) that Saly Mayer was forced to hand over to the Germans by
the JDC, which was being pressured by the War Refugee Board under the
influence of the Vaad--and he was told not to tell McCellan. The deposit
from the Sternbuchs went directly to the tractor factory. It was
tractors the Germans wanted for the fall harvest. The Jews paid $2
million to Eichmann in goods for the train itself, that was given to
Becher, Eichmann's economic guy in Hungary.

There was one train, from Slovakia in 1942, where Wiessmandl negotiated
a ransom, and didn't come up with the last $25,000 on time, because no
one wanted to help him--because giving US dollars was illegal at the
time.  Not the Jewish Agency, not Hungarian Jewry, not the JDC--no
one. Until he sent a desperate cable on Yom Kippur to the Orthodox
leadership in "free" Budapest--before the Germans got there. They
responded with the money, but it was too late, and the train had already
been sent to Auschwitz.

(By the way, I am living proof of the Kastner transport, my mother, a
POLISH Jew, was on that train--so much for the additional lies people
tell about that incident--that only Kastner's family from Kluj was on
the train.)

There was also a trainload of people, on another deal, that was released
from Terezin.

Can we please have real stories when it comes to Holocaust history?
There are enough bubbe maisehs already that give the deniers a field day
proving that we lied about the event.  I work for Holocaust scholars,
and this is the first I have heard of this. And I am willing to bet
David Kranzler never heard of it either.  And if he didn't, it didn't

jeanette friedman sieradski


From: Douglas Moran <dougom@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 09:26:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Name Change

On Sun, 27 Jun 2004 00:01:25 +0200, Aliza Berger wrote:

>What is the halachic status of the first and middle names one is given
>soon after birth? If you change your first and/or middle name legally
>(in Israel, at the Ministry of the Interior), what halachic status does
>that have? On a get, I assume all these names would have to be recorded,
>but what about e.g., aliyot to the Torah, ketuba?

A ger is issued a certificate, signed by the three members of the beit
din who oversee the conversion and are there to observe the immersion in
the Mikvah, to confirm that he or she is now Jewish.  The ger's Hebrew
name is recorded therein.



From: HB <halfull2@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 11:27:20 -0400
Subject: Naming Customs

>>Interested in knowing when the custom of naming newborn children after
>>deceased family members began.

>The question is really the other way around. When did the Ashkenazi
>minhag stop naming after the living and began naming only after the dead

Actually the gemorrah in Berachos (Daf Zayin, Amud B) in a discussion of
the reasoning for the names of Reuven and Ruth seems to indicate (or
imply) that by picking a certain name for a child you ultimately
influence the child's future. Obviously at the time of the gemorrah
children were being named after relatives, deceased or otherwise. My
question is when did this custom start and why did it begin. If not for
the custom we would still be naming children and "influencing" their
lives.  To some extent this is still the practice today judging by the
sheer number of "Menachem Mendels" born in the last few years which
seems to combine both customs. However I have mused if naming a son
"Gadol Hador" or "Tzaddik Gomur" would have influenced his outcome.


From: Leah Perl Shollar <leahperl@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 11:13:17 -0400
Subject: Top Hat

> the root "cylinder".  A "tzilinder" in Yiddish is a top hat (as worn by
> Fred Astaire

I think the Yiddish word for top hat is "shpitz".  I wonder if its
related to SH.P.TZ. from Hebrew, but I think not.

L. Shollar


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 09:39:56 +0100
Subject: Re: Wigs

on 29/6/04 4:09 am, <Rebyitzmotcha@...> wrote:

>> There is a principle that "mitsvot lav lehe'enot hen - mitsvos are not
>> for private benefit" so any merit is really not relevant. The problem
>> with donating a forbidden sheitel, if it is an idolatrous offering from
>> which no benefit may be had, is the subjective feeling of 'virtue' felt
>> by the donor in having performed what to them is 'a good deed'.
> True. But the PHYSICAL hanaa a person feels from wearing a wig IS
> considered hanaah, mitzvos laav lehenos notwithstanding, as stated by
> the Ran, second perek Nedarim.

If the recipient is a non-Jew then this only raises the problem of
whether the Jewish donor is transgressing "lifnei iveir" in enabling a
non-Jew to have physical benefit from an idolatrous offering which may
not apply when the wig is given to an organisation which then
distributes them (lifnei delifnei). The problem of the subjective
feeling of 'virtue' felt by the donor still remains.

Martin Stern


From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2004 09:00:12 -0400
Subject: Re: "wonder" stories

People need to exercise judgment when they tell these stories (or even
regular "divrei Torah" for that matter) and carefully consider their
audience and "where they're holding".  I've had quite a few experiences
of being quite disturbed and "turned off" by a story or dvar Torah I was
not really ready to hear.


End of Volume 43 Issue 31