Volume 43 Number 68
                    Produced: Mon Jul 26  6:11:28 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
DNA Testing
         [Chana Luntz]
False kohanim
         [Sharon and Joseph Kaplan]
         [Gershon Dubin]
The Kohen sign (2)
         [Fred Dweck, Janice Gelb]
Studying Avoda Zara
Yehuda and Tamar
         [Martin Stern]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 05:58:38 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Administrivia

Just a quick note to all, wishing evryone a meaningful Tish'a B'av, an
easy fast and the hope for a 'geulah shelama' - a full and complete
redemption of Am Yisrael. This will be the final issue prior to Tish'a
B'av, I will pick up probably Wednesday AM (US eastern time) again.

Avi Feldblum


From: Chana Luntz <chana@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 22:51:03 +0100
Subject: DNA Testing

HB writes:

>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?

Two introductory comments:

a) you have not defined here what "Bad" means.  At one extreme Bad could
mean something like, to take the classic case, two Tay Sachs genes,
meaning that the baby will die a painful and horrible death during its
first few years of life.  At the other extreme, "Bad" could mean
something that the parents don't particularly like, which in theory
could be as trivial as blue eyes rather than brown (or more likely
female rather than male).

b) You seem to assume here as a davar pashut [matter about which there
is no question] that abortion after 40 days in all cases of "Bad" genes
is not permitted.

This is by no means so clear.  Again there are two extremes.  At the one
extreme is Rav Moshe Feinstein, z'l who holds that it is completely
forbidden and is considered retzicha (murder).  On the other hand, there
are poskim like the Tzitz Eliezer who have no problem allowing abortion
after 40 days in cases like a Tay Sachs baby (see eg the discussion in
vol 9, siman 51, particularly sha'ar 3 of the Tzitz Eliezer).

Rav Moshe disagrees with the Tzitz Eliezer on the whole question of
abortion and the basis on which it should be treated, and you are
certainly are entitled to follow and ask questions in the position of
Rav Moshe. However, you should know that the Tzitz Eliezer brings a
whole host of achronim supporting his position (which allows for
abortion in a number of circumstances - although clearly not "on
demand"), and my impression is that the olam (particularly in Israel)
has pretty much followed the Tzitz Eliezer against Rav Moshe (there
aren't a lot of Tay Sachs babies born these days in Israel, and it is
not just due to the work of organisations such as Dor Yesharim)..

I think it is well worth reading both sets of teshuvas, but particularly
the various ones from the Tzitz Eliezer (the reference I gave is the
main one, but there are a whole collection of others expounding further
along these lines). For Sephardim, it is worth noting that one of the
numbers of achronim the Tzitz Eliezer brings (and one of the most makil
- he allowed an abortion of a mamzer, due purely to its mamzerus status)
is Rav Poelim.

Of course, it must be stressed (as the Tzitz Eliezer himself stresses)
that this does not make abortion mutar or permissible "on demand" and
there are at least issurei d'rabbanan [rabbinical prohibitions] involved
if not issurei d'orisa [Torah prohibitions] (the Tzitz Eliezer himself
appears to lean towards the former, ie that the prohibition is rabbinic,
but brings the latter as an alternative position, ie that abortion
violates certain lavim [negative commandments] in the Torah, although
not retzicha [murder]).

So, your question seems really to be, according to those who hold like
Rav Moshe, is there an issur of aborting within 40 days of conception in
the case of "Bad" genes.

However Rav Moshe himself answers this (eg in Iggeros Moshe, Choshen
Mishpat 2, siman 69) where he holds that while it may be mutar to abort
a non Jewish fetus prior to 40 days, it is forbidden to abort a Jewish
fetus. He gives a number of reasons for this, one of which is that since
one can be mechallel shabbas [violate the sabbath] for such a fetus,
that goes hand in hand with an issur of abortion.  Thus while others on
the more lenient part of the abortion spectrum might see 40 days as an
important watershed, Rav Moshe does not, at least vis a vis Jews.

Now, however, there are other differences in relation to these new
techniques, but these are not so much a question of before or after 40
days.  Rather, the idea of this testing is that the embryo is created
via IVF (ie in a test tube) and tested *before* implantation in the
mother.  So the question then is, is there a problem testing the various
embryos that have been created (and there are invariably more created
than ever get implanted) and not implanting those who have the "Bad"

But in many ways this question arises anyway - because of the fact that,
by the nature of IVF, more embryos are created than are ever implanted,
and (at least in this country, ie England) they get discarded after a
certain number of years.  So the question would apply to those embryos
as well. Should we be being mechallel shabbas to save them and is their
destruction murder?  Is the fact that they will become, if implanted in
a mother, a nefesh, and a Jewish nefesh, enough (which presumably also
gets into the question of who is the real mother, the genetic mother or
the birth mother, if different people - about which there has also been
some halachic discussion).

I do not know if Rav Moshe was ever made aware of IVF (I don't think it
had been used extensively in his lifetime) and the questions involved.
One can understand that somebody might draw a distinction between an
embryo that has never been implanted in the mother, and hence would seem
never to have come within the pasuk of a "man within a man" in any form
(this being the pasuk on which Rav Moshe relies in poskening that
abortion is murder) and one that is already within the mother, even if
less than 40 days post conception.

But in order to ask the question, you already need to be taking a
position within the halachic literature re abortion (or alternatively,
taking the definition of "bad" gene to mean something that the other
more lenient poskim would never define as "bad" sufficient to allow
abortion at a latter stage).

Kind Regards

Chana Luntz


From: Sharon and Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 17:26:23 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: False kohanim

Harold Hersh cl Zvi Greenberg writes: "My father-in-law tells me that it
was not unheard of in Europe for a man to move to a town where he was
not known and claim to be a kohen - for the prestige.  His sons and
grandsons would think that they were real kohanim, but were not."

There's a famous joke about this type of person (which I feel I can tell
since i am a kohen).

The man who moved to a new town and became a kohen was finally caught
when a traveler from his home town visited the new town ans spilled the
beans.  A din torah wsa promptly convened and the false kohen was found
guilty and sentenced to malkot.  After the 49 lashes were given, the
false k0hen started to stand up at which point the av bet din motioned
to the one giving the lashes to start again.  The false kohen protested:
"But you already gave me 49 lashes; why are you giving me another 49?"
At which point the av bet din replied: "Bimkom levi."

Joseph Kaplan


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 23:34:12 -0400
Subject: Kedeisha

From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>

<<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?>>

The Gemara asks this and answers that she covered her face while married
to Yehuda's sons, and therefore he did not recognize her when she later
exposed her face when presenting herself as a zonah.



From: Fred Dweck <fredd@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 09:54:38 -0700
Subject: The Kohen sign

Harold Greenberg writes:"no kohen can really be sure if he is a kohen,
unless he can trace his ancestry back to an accepted family of kohanim
(according to the Vilna Gaon, only the Rappoport family falls into that

I find it interesting, reprehensible and common that only Ashkenazic
Jews are considered. He speaks of the Rappoport family, but doesn't
think to mention the Sephardic Tawil family who trace their ancestry
back to Eli Hakohen of Samuel the Prophet's time. Nor is there mention
of other families, such as the Dweck family who can trace their ancestry
as Kohanim back at least than 600 years or more. Very scrupulous and
faithful records were kept by the Batie Dinim (Jewish courts) in places
like Allepo and Damascus Syria, Cairo and Alexandria Egypt, etc. No one
could "claim" to be a Kohen and get away with it. Unlike in the
communities of Europe.

Mr. Greenberg might do well to visit a Middle Eastern Sephardic
synagogue. He might notice that close to a third of the synagogue gets
up for Bircat Kohanim; which, by the way, is preformed daily! To the
best of my knowledge their families never had slaves that they freed,
who might have pretended to be Kohanim. If Mr. Greenberg is doing
research--as is indicated by his signature--I would be happy, as a
Dweck, to submit to his testing.

I find it offensive and insulting that the Sephardic communities of the
world are, almost never considered by the Ashkenazic communities.  With
this kind of divisiveness we will never see Mashiah.

Fred E. Dweck

[I note, that as I read Harold's comments, Fred's response needs to be
directed mainly at the GR"A, not at Harold, as it is the GR"A, assuming
the quote is accurate, that choose to only identify one Ashkenazi family
and no Sepharadi family. Mod.]

From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 11:47:47 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: The Kohen sign

Harold Greenberg <harold.greenberg@...>

> My father-in-law tells me that it was not unheard of in Europe for a
> man to move to a town where he was not known and claim to be a kohen -
> for the prestige.  His sons and grandsons would think that they were
> real kohanim, but were not.

There is the old joke about someone who did just that, died years later,
and after his requisite year in gehenna, was still stuck there. After
another month or two, he asks the overseeing angel why he's still
there. The angel replies, "Bimkom Levi." :->

More seriously, the rabbi of my synagogue lost his father several years
ago and then when his mother died, he discovered while going through
some old papers that his father was a kohen! He confirmed this through
his still-living paternal aunt, who told him that his father hadn't
believed in that sort of thing and so had not told anyone. This, as you
can imagine, presented some issues for my rabbi and his four sons!
Evidently, the could choose whether to take up the cohanut or not, and
some of the sons decided to do so while others did not. My rabbi did
(helping us with aliyot, because we have a surplus of levi'im and very
few cohanim :-> )

-- Janice


From: Adereth <adereth2003@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 17:18:15 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Studying Avoda Zara

Please see Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah II #53 and #111, in which Rav Moshe
is clearly matir academic courses involving k'fira and inyanei a"z.

The issue of nudes in art class is separate (and presumably different
for men vs women).

I should add that my reading of this t'shuva is that Rav Moshe is saying
that the heter of l'hovin u'l'hoyroys applies in principle to everyone,
but is in practice restricted to those who have need to be moreh halocho
- however, that is interpretation.  Be that as it may, Rav Moshe clearly
says that the issur of studying A"Z only applies to works that speak in
praise of A"Z and advocate belief.  He says that there is no issur to
study works that simply describe A"Z practices without advocating



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 2004 17:00:33 +0100
Subject: Re: Yehuda and Tamar

on 25/7/04 2:12 pm, Nachum Lamm <nelamm18@...> wrote:

> 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?

Perhaps the reference to Tamar covering her face was a euphemism, 'she
covered her face but other more intimate parts she exposed', hence
Yehudah assumed she was zonah in the sense of a woman of loose sexual
morals (not necessarily a prostitute as such).

I remember reading somewhere about Moslem customs in which it was
recounted that peasant women would not wear their veils while working in
the field in the absence of men. However should men appear they would
immediately cover their faces, even if that meant raising the hems of
their dresses to do so.  The resulting exposure of more intimate parts
did not seem to inhibit them.  Does this also perhaps shed light on
Tamar's behaviour?

Martin Stern


End of Volume 43 Issue 68