Volume 43 Number 56
                    Produced: Wed Jul 21  5:26:11 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

A bracha in any language is a bracha. God is multilingual (3)
         [Wanderer, Simon, Caela Kaplowitz, Joseph Ginzberg]
Forty Year Rule
         [Stan Tenen]
Origin of the "shtreimel"
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Partial Pesukim
         [Steven White]
Thermometers on Shabbat
         [Shalom Parnes]
What did the Baal Shem Tov do?
         [Alex Heppenheimer]


From: Wanderer, Simon <simon.wanderer@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 13:42:56 +0100
Subject: A bracha in any language is a bracha. God is multilingual

I think if one is going to respond to a legitimate question in such a
dismissive tone, one ought at least to have understood the issues.

1- The question of using foreign languages in prayer and other ritual
contexts is one dealt with at length by many well known classical
sources. This is not the issue in question here, however. Although it is
worth noting that the sources clearly indicate a preference for Hebrew,
which would seem hard to reconcile with <FriedmanJ@...>'s view,
expressed below.

2- If one doesn't remember a Bracha, it is unlikely one will remember
its English translation any better. What <FriedmanJ@...> is suggesting
- presumably - is that one express an appropriate *sentiment* in one's
own language, which I'm sure all would agree, God can
understand. Nevertheless, to paraphrase: the point is, you ARE NOT,
necessarily, making a bracha. Duh. Would a listener have to say Amen to
your formulation? If you later found a Siddur, would you have to (or
would you be allowed to) say the correct Bracha?...

3- Employing <FriedmanJ@...>'s logic, God knows what everyone is
thinking, so why bother to say the Bracha at all, simply *feel* the
appropriate emotions.

Simply put, a Bracha is an Halachic entity, not simply the expression of
some feeling. It has a unique status - quite different from, for
instance, saying Tehilim. One of the key characteristics of orthodox
Judaism is that the 'big' ideas: the beliefs; the emotions are
inextricably linked with the 'small' practical details: the Halachic
minutiae; the seemingly mundane rules. Failure to appreciate this is the
first step to the wholesale erosion of Halachic observance.


From: Caela Kaplowitz <caelak@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 07:18:04 -0400
Subject: RE: A bracha in any language is a bracha. God is multilingual

I strongly object to the tone of the posting from <FriedmanJ@...>

 >The point is, you ARE making a bracha. Duh.

That kind of language makes people feel stupid and will prevent them
from asking questions. There are many things in Judaism which defy
"common sense". And although we often comfort ourselves with "HaShem
will understand my intent" that "understanding" does not necessarily
mean "approval".

Caela Kaplowitz
Baltimore, MD

From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 13:41:53 -0400
Subject: A bracha in any language is a bracha. God is multilingual

>The issue is clear and the answer is use common sense. If you are going
>to eat or do something that requires a bracha, say it in any language.
>God understands. The point is, you ARE making a bracha. Duh.

If this is true, you have negated all requirements to daven in Hebrew,
or to actually wear tzitzis or tfilin, as long as you have the right
thoughts, since of course God knows...

Isn't this approach outside of Halachah, and thus outside of this forum?

If not, how does it differ from the classic "alternative" approaches to

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 17:07:12 -0400
Subject: Re: Forty Year Rule

At 06:17 AM 7/19/2004, Yisrael Medad wrote:
>A while ago, the 40 year rule of not learning Kabbalah until then was
>According to a source I have, Yosef Shapria's B'ishvilay HaGeulah, 1947,
>he claims that the Brody cherem against the Frankists from the summer of
>1756, included an admonition not to learn Kabbalah until passing the age
>of 40 which would mean that they were more concerned about sexual mores
>than other Kabbalistic influences.

This is partly correct. It's not possible to properly understand
Kabbalistic issues which deal with life and death (and in particular,
ego-death) without first having the experience of "the small death"
during the sexual experience. Any person who has not reached full sexual
maturity will naturally misinterpret Kabbalistic teachings, and this is
what has happened repeatedly. It is also prevalent today. Non-Jewish
groups on the Internet routinely confabulate the sexual experience with
Kabbalah, and/or reduce Kabbalah to sex magic, and the modern academic
scholars, albeit far more politely, teach the same thing. This also
explains the current attraction of Hollywood personalities to Berg's
"Kabbalah-Lite", and the many publications by self-professed
"kabbalists" that are also so popular these days.

The essential requirements for real Kabbalistic experience are Shalem
and Bitiul. Akiba, unlike his three companions, was able to reach Pardes
and return because he was Shalem -- completely balanced and at peace. In
order to achieve this level of internal harmony, a person must nullify
their ego.  This is bitul. It is an essential requirement. Persons who
promote themselves, or who confabulate Kabbalah with sexuality,
certainly are neither shalem, nor bitul. People who have raised children
and have experientially faced their own mortality have a better sense of
what it means, and what it takes, to be shalem, and to drop their ego,
because both are required to birth and raise children.

Here is what R. Jacob Immanuel Schochet has to say with regard to the
past prohibitions of the study of Kabbalah.


Mystical Concepts in Chassidism: An Introduction to Kabbalistic Concepts
and Doctrines, ©1979 Jacob Immanuel Schochet. Published by Kehot
Publication Society, 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11213

The following quote, from page 15, includes R. Schochet's footnotes.
Quoting R. Abraham Azulay, R. Schochet begins:

' "The decree against open involvement with Chochmath ha-Emeth (the
Wisdom of the Truth, i.e., the Kabbalah) was but for a set period of
time, namely up until the end of the year 5250 (1490). From then onwards
it is called the 'last generation,' and the decree was nullified and it
is permissible to occupy oneself with the Zohar. Since the year 5300 it
is a most meritorious precept to be occupied therewith in public, for
both the great and the small. As it is by virtue of this merit, and not
another, that the King Messiah will come in the future, it is improper
to be slothful [with this study]." (23)'

(23) R. Abraham Azulay, quoting earlier sages, in his Introduction to Or

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From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 13:59:17 -0400
Subject: Origin of the "shtreimel"

I haven't commented on this until now because I cannot prove my source
any more than anyone else has, but I am a bit taken aback by the
readiness to accept the concept that the Rebbes and Chassidim
appropriated noblemens dress, when the entire concept of Chassidus is to
a large extent based on the preservation of old customs and styles.

It's hard to imagine some any Rebbe just starting something as radically
new as copying a certain style (especially mimicing non-Jewish Lords),
and especially if you consider that they all embraced this
simultaneously - Are you suggestiing that there was a conference about
this at the Rebbes union?

When you look at the stylistic differences in shtreimels over the last
50 years and extrapolate back 200-250 years to the beginnings of
chassidus, a different picture emerges.  In 50 years, they have necome
higher and fuller, but are very much stil recognizable as richer
versions of the ratty skins in the old photos.

The version that I heard (and that fits with this scenario) is that the
conical "dunce-cap" style hat forced upon Jews in the middle ages was
later "improved" by anti-semitic rulers to require the addition of
animal tails hanging down from it.  Over the years, these hats and tails
wre worn as a badge of honor, and the tails were slowly raised from
vertical to horizontal.

Yossi Ginzberg


From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steven White)
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 18:16:22 -0400
Subject: Re: Partial Pesukim

In MJ 43:50, Martin Stern <md.stern@...> writes:
>on 16/7/04 10:06 am, Yakir <yakirhd@...> wrote:
>> Aside from the "technical" aspects of partial psukim, I remember hearing
>> years ago ???? talking about commonly used "fractured pesukim" where it
>> is convenient for many people to overlook part of the original quote.
>> Two that come immediately to mind are:
>> "Let My people go" -  and serve Me.
>This raised objections to use of the slogan by the secular movement for
>Soviet Jewry in some religious circles since it seemed to omit the last
>phrase for anti-religious political reasons.

It seems unlikely, however, that there was any intention at all of that
sort.  Much more likely is that the phrase "Let My People Go" derives
from its use among the black slave population in the United States in
the first half of the nineteenth century CE.  Indeed, one of the most
well-known spirituals of the era uses the imagery of Moses leading the
Jews out of Egypt as a prayer for freedom by the black slaves.  Its
refrain is, simply, "Let My People Go!"

At least in the United States, the phrase exists in popular culture at
least as much from that derived source - and maybe from some further
derived use in the Civil Rights Movement of the '60's - as from its
original source.  Indeed, to anyone not Orthodox, adding "that they may
serve Me" might have obscured the reference altogether.

I assume that Martin Stern is reporting this feeling in "some religious
circles," rather than agreeing with it.  Still, his story does
illustrate why religious Jews should be careful when they accuse the
"not yet observant" of being anti-religious.  Sometimes, the religious
ones do not have access to all the general cultural references that
might be involved. 

Steven White 
Highland Park, NJ 


From: Shalom Parnes <merbe@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 23:08:00 +0200
Subject: Thermometers on Shabbat

I find the Nishmat Avraham series to be an invaluable source in medical
halachic discussions.  Written by Dr. Avraham S. Avraham who was, until
his retirement, the head of the department of internal medicine at
Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

He goes through the four parts of Shulchan Orach and comments , with
sources, on any section that has some relation to medicine.

To briefly summarize his comments on thermometers on shabat (OC 306):

Taking ones temp on shabat is permitted.

Rav S.Z. Auerbach says theat the rabbis prohibited weighing and
measuring on shabat because it is a non-shabat activity used chiefly
while conducting business. Measuring body temp does not fall into this
category and is therefore permitted.

Similiar rulings were issued by : Chelkat Yaakov, Igrot Moshe, Minchat
Yitzchak, Tzitz Eliezer and Shmirat Shabat K'Hilchata.  He then
discusses shaking down a mercury thermometer after use, whether it is
muktza when not in use and sterilizing the thermometer with alcohol.

He quotes the Tzitz Eliezer who permits taking temerature for someone
who is not classified as "sick" like a woman who takes her temperature
every day in an effort to determine fertile days.

He goes on to quote Tzitz Eliezer and Rav S.Z. Auerbach who would permit
a mildly sick person using a celluloid strip thermometer if no letters
or numbers appear as a result of taking ones temperature (either the
letters or numbers permanently appear on the thermometer or the
temperature causes color changes in the strip) . Though it is better to
use a mercury thermometer when available for reasons of maarit ayin.

As far as digital thermometers, he quotes Rav YY Neuwirth, "one is not
permitted to use a digital thermometer for a non-dangerous sick person
(choleh she'ain bo sakanah)". Kuntras Hacholeh paragraph 28 page 207.

Discuss with your l.o.r.

Sholom Parnes


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 2004 09:24:40 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: What did the Baal Shem Tov do?

In MJ 43:28, Andy Goldfinger asked:

> I have asked this question to a number of rebbaim, and have never 
> gotten a clear answer.
> What did the Baal Shem Tov do?
> Did he introduce a new derech (approach) in Torah life, or did he
> re-introduce a derech that had previously been lost?

R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi addressed this issue in the depositions he
gave during both of his arrests, in 1798 and in 1800-01. [These have
been published, along with much other material from Czarist archives
related to both arrests, in Kerem Chabad no. 4, ed. R' Yehoshua
Mondschein (Kfar Chabad: Machon Oholei Shem, 1992).]

One of the "innovations" of which Chassidus was accused was their
favoring of increased time at prayer at the expense of time for Torah
study. R' Shneur Zalman countered this, in both of his depositions
(ibid. pp. 46-47 and 95), by noting that it had been an old practice
among Torah scholars, until about two hundred years earlier (c. 1600),
to pray at great length and with deep kavanah (mental focus). As the
Polish kingdom declined and became corrupt, rabbinical positions in many
cities came to be sold off to the highest bidder, and these individuals
preferred to show off their acumen in Torah dialectics rather than
"waste" their time on devotional prayer; their power - backed by the
local landowner from whom they had bought their position - was such that
most people in their communities felt compelled to follow their example,
and the lone holdouts came to be known as Chassidim. With the loss of
government support for the rabbis due to the breakup of the Polish
kingdom and its absorption into the Czarist empire, R' Shneur Zalman
concluded, Chassidus has resurfaced to restore this ancient practice to
widespread usage.

[This view of the Eastern European rabbinate during the 17th and 18th
centuries may sound overdrawn. However, R' Mondschein (ibid. pp. 134ff)
quotes various Rabbanim during this period, from the Maharsha
(1555-1631) to R' Shneur Zalman's day, who indeed deplored the
increasing number of unsuitable rabbis appointed under non-Jewish

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 43 Issue 56