Volume 43 Number 65
                    Produced: Sun Jul 25  9:12:43 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

DNA Testing
         [Carl Singer]
Hats (formerly the Streimel discussion)
         [Stan Tenen]
         [Nathan Lamm]
Most Unusual Halachic Query
         [Yisrael Medad]
My father's solution to Pinchas
         [Chaim Shapiro]
Origin of streimel
         [Alan Rubin]
Other gematria such as this?
         [Stan Tenen]
Polish Rabbinical Positions
         [Stan Tenen]
Studying Avoda Zara
         [Gershon Dubin]
Teaching about Pinchas
         [Ken Bloom]


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 06:55:53 -0400
Subject: DNA Testing

>The NY Times on July 21, 2004 carried a major article on DNA testing
>that is available before conception, after conception, and continuing
>all the way through newborn testing.  I understand the unlimited
>consequences and problems this may create but I am interested only in
>the following.
>If a couple has DNA testing done pre or post conception amd the results
>are "Bad" may they abort a baby during the first 40 days after
>conception without violating Halacha?

Although this is an interesting halachik question, I think we should
back up a bit and look at a larger context.


1 What genetic testing should people of marriageable age do prior to
entering into a "search" (dating or shiddach) for a spouse.

(Is it me or does there seem to be less publicity, etc., about such
things as TaySachs, today, re: when this was first discovered.)

2 What "disclosure" rules should apply -- and when.

3 What decision rules should apply -- for example: if sound science
tells us that based on their individual genetic tests that persons A & B
have an X % chance of having a child with certain condition - what
should they do (A) prior to possible dating, marriage, or (B) if this
information comes forth after they are married, or (C) as above after

These are questions that aren't answered "al regel echad" and in the
latter cases CYLOR (who will likely see his Rebbe.)

Carl A. Singer


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 07:46:37 -0400
Subject: Hats (formerly the Streimel discussion)

There is an aspect of this discussion that, surprisingly, has not been

I don't think the idea that we should not copy from others is a new
idea.  So, it seems unlikely to me that even though the general public
might understand that we were copying the hats of the Polish nobles, I
doubt that Torah leadership of the time would have responded with this

Instead, consider the fact that kings, priests, and other people of high
standing in general, have worn various headgear.  And what sort of
headgear is appropriate to a king, a priest, or someone else with
learning?  In the trivial sense, any old hat will do. But as a statement
and _measure_, or indicator, of office, a particular sort of hat might
convey a particular meaning.

Priestly garments are not arbitrary, and are not copied from other
traditions. They reflect the purposes and functions of the Kohen.
Similarly, headgear worn by a knowledgeable person in the ancient -- and
not so ancient -- world symbolized what was in the wearer's head.

The sort of turban-like headgear worn by priests is a reflection of what
is in the mind of the priest.  These woven head coverings reflect the
knowledge it takes to make them.  They take the form of what is in the
person's head, and thus may well be vestiges or aspects of the Temple,
or embodiments of the Temple service.

The first word of Torah, B'reshit, can be understood to be based not
only on the word "reshit," beginning, but also on the word "reshet", a
woven network.  Wearing an appropriately woven piece of headgear would
symbolize that a person had internalized this weaving.

Wherever the streimel came from, I think the appropriateness of wearing
it goes back to an echo of this idea, that what one puts on one's head
provides a view of what's in one's head.  I'm pretty certain that this
is the Kabbalistic significance of wearing big hats, even if the current
construction style is only symbolic of this memory.

If anyone has specific references for this perspective, I'd appreciate
being pointed to them.

Good Shabbos.


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 08:44:43 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Kedeisha

A few points in response to Mr. Poppers:

Tamar was clearly neither a zonah or (if there's a difference) a
kedeisha, but Yehuda clearly thought she was a zonah (the pasuk says
so), and she's asked for as a "kedeisha."

> Last but not least, Chirah called her a "k'dayshah" -- Y'hudah never
> used that word in the narrative.

Yes, but it's instructive that Yehuda thinks she's a "zonah," Chirah
calls her a "kedeisha," and when she becomes pregnant, reference is made
to z'nut again.  Perhaps Chirah thought of asking in those terms on his
own ("Yehuda would never sleep with a mere 'zonah!'"), or perhaps Yehuda
asked him specifically to look for one. (Of course, if there's a
difference between the two, asking for a kedeisha when a zonah is sought
will mean you won't find her.)

I wonder about Yehudah not seeing her face. Are there records of
prostitutes, whether sacred or not, or even regular women, from this era
that show that they kept their faces covered at all times, even when
intimate with a man? Is this a practice in those societies today where
women cover their faces?

Nachum Lamm


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 15:48:56 +0200
Subject: Most Unusual Halachic Query

Although all committed to the Halacha, I trust that there are some
Halachic issues that still manage to raise an eyebrow.  Here's one I

In this week's "Kol Tzofayich", Rav Mordechai Eliyahu's sheet, no. 274,
he deals with the question whether the third Beit HaMikdash, which
according to his belief will descend already built from on high, is
obligated to have a Mezuzah since as it is in the air it is not
considered a "permanent domicile".

But the more interesting and unusual aspect of this is the story he
relates there to justify the question.  It seems that during one of the
forced evacuations of an area of Eretz Yisrael not under full Israeli
sovereignty, a caravan (what is called in the States a mobile home, I
think) was lifted up into the air by a crane to be hauled away.  As
luck/fate would have it, there were Jews inside and one of them,
obviously well-versed, called up Rav Eliyahu to ask whether, since the
structure was now in a state of non-permanence which did not require a
Mezuzah, upon being placed down they would have to rerecite the blessing
over fixing the Mezuzah.

Yisrael Medad


From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 12:18:37 EDT
Subject: My father's solution to Pinchas

When I was a little boy, my father would go over the Parsha with my
brother and me weekly (at the time, due to learning difficulties,
neither of us attended a Jewish school).  As we neared the end of
Parshas Balak (one of our favorites as kids) annually, my father would
say, " And then Biliam leaned over to Balak and whispered an idea for
dealing with the Bnei Yisroel."

We of course asked, "What was the idea," to which he responded, "it is
in next weeks Parsha" (never saying, btw he would tell us that secret
the following week).  Of course as small children, we would forget to
ask what the secret was when doing Parsha the following week, and he
would continue from the middle of the Parsha. I was nine years old when
I realized his trick, already in a Day School and more apt to understand
the issues involved.

All quotes are paraphrased.  My memory is not THAT good.

Chaim Shapiro


From: Alan Rubin <alan@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 18:40:09 +0100
Subject: Re: Origin of streimel

Noyekh Miller said

 > I possess photographs of the last two Lubavitcher rebbeim, one in a
 > Russian-style shtrayml, the other in his famous fedora.

I just wonder if the answer to the question is in that observation.
Nowadays all Lubavitchers wear the same natty high fedora with a narrow
band and the brim turned down at the front. All, it would seem, in
imitation of the favoured headgear of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe. Is it
possible that the particular streimlech of various groups of chassidim
is also in imitation of particular founding Rebbes?

Alan Rubin


From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 08:21:28 -0400
Subject: Re: Other gematria such as this?

>From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
>In the Yerushalmi, Shabbat 34b in the edition I have, there is an
>interesting gematria. The Talmud there finds a hint at the 39 categories
>of work forbidden on Shabbat from the word "eileh" in Shemot 35:1, by
>taking the gematria as follows: Alef is 1; Lamed is 30, and Chet is 8,
>for a total of 39. How about the fact that the last letter is a Heh and
>not a Chet? The Talmud says that the two letters are interchangeable as
>they are close to one another.

This is interesting, but perhaps for an odd reason.

First, I am not disputing the Talmudic discussion in any way.

But there is a problem, in a sense: statements like "The Talmud says
that the two letters are interchangeable as they are close to one

This may be true, or have some truth value, from a perspective that has
not been mentioned or quoted here, and I think that possibility should
be considered. Nevertheless, this is a very problematic statement, from
the perspective of respect for Torah in the world. Statements like this
-- what the scholars call "apologia" and/or rationalization -- when
taken seriously in the Torah community, act to discredit and reduce
respect for Torah, Talmud, et al.  When presented without further
comment, statements like this effectively reduce the credibility and
plausibility of our traditions and teachings.

In any other context besides one of faith, statements like this that one
letter is like another letter because they are close (in the alphabet, I
presume, or possibly by shape or phonetic value), while still distinct
letters, would be examples of "fudging".  If a student wrote that 3+3=7,
instead of 6, and then argued that there was no problem because both 6
and 7 start with the letter "S", we either laugh at the joke, or point
out to the student that this was not a meaningful statement, and thus by
diluting knowledge with non-knowledge, reduced the knowledge overall.

If the Talmud has another explanation, then I'd like to hear it -- if
only so as not to reduce my understanding of the issue to apologia.



From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 08:46:44 -0400
Subject: Re: Polish Rabbinical Positions

In m-j Vol. 43 #61, Joseph Ginzberg asks, "Did the Polish lords actually
sell these types of positions?"

I don't know the answer to this. But perhaps things like this, for
various reasons, did happen.

I learned from an email contact that the family name of my mother's
father from Poland, Hilsenrath, came about because several centuries
before, one Baron von Hilsenrath in Alsace-Lorraine gave "his Jews"
(whom he respected) his name (when the locals were attacking "his Jews")
so as to provide them with safe passage to Poland, which at that time
was a good place to go. I haven't traced this story, so I don't know if
it's accurate. But I do think it reflects something that was
common. Titles and symbols of titles were of economic, social, and
survival value, and thus may have been adapted, adopted, and co-opted,
for both positive and negative reasons.

Good Shabbos.



From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 14:21:00 GMT
Subject: Studying Avoda Zara

From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
Someone wrote:
<<I think heads of Sanhedrin were permitted to study avoda zara so that
they might know how to identify, and kill, someone who was ovad avoda
zara. But otherwise, I know of no instance when one may study avoda
and Tzvi answered:
<<I do... Rabbi Dunner just recently conducted extensive studies into
Hinduism, including a visit to a Hidnu temple, in order to research the
sheitel issue.>>

I actually mentioned this originally as a valid reason for studying AZ
in our times when we don't have OAZ to be judged nor authority to do so.
However, this is not an instance of academic study, but precisely an
example of lehavin ulehoros.

The permissibility of academic study of AZ and, kal vachomer, that of
"academic" study of nudes is pretty clearly without basis in halacha.

Finally, I would add what I wrote to someone in private email-the person
for whom this is a practical issue (i.e. the potential art student)
should please ask his/her LOR and get back to us with the answer.



From: Ken Bloom <kabloom@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Jul 2004 09:34:13 -0700
Subject: Re: Teaching about Pinchas

> > >Does anyone have any good solutions to offer here?  I suppose one end
> > >of the spectrum would be not to teach the story at all in case you
> > >get into this kind of discussion, but that does not sound very
> > >appealing.
> > 
> > Why not just tell the kids that Pinchas and Cozbi were worshipping
> > idols?
> umm, Because that would be wrong ?

Aside from the error of naiming Pinchas instead of Zimri (a typo, I
assume), would it still be wrong?  The sin of Ba'al Peor had two parts -
one was sex, the other was idolatry, as the name implies.


End of Volume 43 Issue 65