Volume 43 Number 70
                    Produced: Thu Jul 29  5:32:07 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Carl Singer]
Hats (formerly the Streimel discussion)
         [Michael Rogovin]
Kohanim and the Vilna Gaon
         [Mike Gerver]
The Kohen sign
         [Chana Luntz]
Roshei vs Rashei
         [Martin Stern]
         [Shlomo & Syma Spiro]
Sleeve Length (2)
         [Jay Bailey, Aryeh Frimer]


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 07:55:00 -0400
Subject: Dress

    I beg to differ. in fact, one of the major issues for those against the
    "litvishe" yeshiva world was that the litvitish boys, when outside the
    Bet Medrash, were not visibly different from the "maskilim". Look at
    any old photo of the Mir or Chevron yeshivas, and you'll see bouffant
    hairstyles, spiffy modern suits, walking sticks, and white Panama hats.
    I am not saying that the Chasidic mode of dress is more authentically
    jewish, or that it somehow dates back to the Avos. I am only saying
    that the derivation had to have been slower and far less direct than
    some Rebbe waking up one day and deciding to mimic his local "Poritz".
    The same would apply to the "authentic" litvish "rok" or long coat.

It's a pretty sick society that judges people by their dress style -- or
more charitably, that pays so much attention to style and makes so many
assumptions based on nuances such as Yarmulkes with or without rims.
(We aren't talking about issues of snius.)

There is little logic to frum dress codes and origins -- of clothing
that tried to mimic the wealthy or royalty, of clothing that tries to
"freeze" time, of clothing that tries to distinguish us (whoever "us"
is) from others and clothing that tries to let us fit into society, or
of clothing that tries to proclaim which "team" we play for.  In a purim
schpiel I once advertised bekeshes with team colors and logos -- In the
Army we used shoulder patches to identify what unit we were with, but at
least we were all in the same army.

Does "authenticity" have value when it comes to clothing -- authentic to
what?  What of the Sefardim and of the Falasha and others?

I'll let the sociologists posit about the social pressures for
conformity, etc.  But, today's frum "uniforms" seem to respond very
heavily to such pressures.

While taking an afternoon walk yesterday, I spied a gentleman wearing
black suit pants, a long sleeve white shirt and a tie playing baseball.
Is this practical wear when it's 80 degrees outside and your playing
ball?  That's his business.  If I choose to wear a T-shirt and shorts,
that's my business.  And if someone attempts to draw deep conclusions
about either of us based on what we're wearing they are fools.

Carl A. Singer


From: Michael Rogovin <rogovin@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 09:56:22 -0500
Subject: Re: Hats (formerly the Streimel discussion)

Stan Tenen writes in relevant part:

> Priestly garments are not arbitrary, and are not copied from other
> traditions. They reflect the purposes and functions of the Kohen.

A related point: I recall the story told by my Rabbi (and perhaps some
of our UK mj contributors know or can check this out), that when he
visitied the British Museum, he wandered into the Egyptian section and
found himself "surrounded by Talaisim." The Egyptian presthood
apparently wore something akin to our talit. It made sense: if Jews were
to be a nation of priests, then why not have everyone wear garments that
the nation would naturally associate with priesthood. Of course, by
adopting certain practices, the Torah transforms them from their
idolatrous associaton into something positive (worship based around
death into the Torah focus on life, as reflected in the functions and
limitations of the Kohen, etc.)

As to the particular garments worn by the Kohen, it would be interesting
to see if any of the garmets worn by Egyptian or other ancient cultish
priests resemble the specific garb prescribed for Kohanim.

Michael Rogovin


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 07:42:22 EDT
Subject: Kohanim and the Vilna Gaon

Harold Greenberg, in v43n64, quoted the Vilna Gaon as stating that only
the Rappoport family had adequate evidence that they were really
kohanim, and Fred Dweck, in v43n68, criticized the Vilna Gaon for
ignoring Sephardic families of kohanim who have equally strong evidence.

This statement of the Vilna Gaon appears in a book called Ruach Eliahu,
on page 65 (samekh-he), in a chapter titled "Eidut Ne'emanah." The book
was edited by Rabbi Eliahu Moshe Bloch, and published by Balshon
Printing and Linotyping, in Brooklyn, NY, in 1953-54. I don't have the
book, though I noted the exact reference in a family history I wrote up
of my Rappoport relatives. Maybe someone can look it up and see exactly
what the Vilna Gaon does say.

As I recall, and it was many years ago, he says that he would always
give pidyon ha-ben to any kohen he met, just in case this was a real
kohen, and the other kohanim he had given pidyon ha-ben to were
not. When he finally met a Rappoport, and gave him pidyon ha-ben, he
felt it was no longer necessary to keep giving pidyon ha-ben to every
kohen he met, since he was sure that the Rappoports were real
kohanim. If this recollection of what the Vilna Gaon says is accurate,
then it doesn't necessarily mean that he thought only the Rappoports had
adequate evidence that they were real kohanim, only that they were the
only kohanim he had ever met who had adequate evidence. Probably, living
in Vilna, he never met anyone from the Tawil, Dweck, and other Sephardic
families of kohanim.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Chana Luntz <Chana@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 15:02:37 +0100
Subject: The Kohen sign

Fred Dwek writes:

>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 category)."

>I find it interesting, reprehensible and common that only Ashkenazic
>Jews are considered.

On another mailing list [Avodah/Areivim] I coined a new word
"Ashkenazocentric" to describe this phenomenon - and at one stage I was
starting posts "Ashkenazocentric alert".

In the case of the Gra, however, it is rather more understandable.
Since he never actually made it to Eretz Yisroel, the only kohanim he is
likely to have been familiar with were Ashkenazi cohanim and the quote
does have to be understood in the Lithuanian context. {Actually,
according to one of my relatives who is very into genealogy, there were
Sephardim all over Lithuania at the time of the Gra.  He traces his
[Elias] family back to a family from Rhodes, and he seems to suggest
there were quite a few families who seem to have made the trip.  Come to
think of it, there may have been an Elias/Rappaport connection, although
I am not sure).

However, in today's global village, it does behoove people to be more
aware - and probably a better way of making the quote would be to say
"(according to the Vilna Gaon, only the Rappoport family [of the cohanim
with which he was familiar] falls into that category)"

>He speaks of the Rappoport family, but doesn't think to mention the
>Sephardic Tawil family who trace their ncestry back to Eli Hakohen of
>Samuel the Prophet's time.

This, funnily enough, came up shabbat a week ago, where the Rabbi at the
little minyan they were running in our house that week [since Aish
HaTorah in London was destroyed by anti- semitic arson a few weeks ago,
the little Sephardi minyan that also used to daven there has been made
homeless] made some statement about the Douek family being descended
from Eli HaCohen (my mother-in-law was a Douek by birth, and we had my
husbands' maternal uncle over).

I was in no position to ask questions at the time, but over shabbas
lunch I queried this, on the basis that I understood (from the straight
pasuk, and also from the discussion re Abaya and Rava in the Gemora)
that descendents of Eli HaCohen are all supposed to die young.  My
husband's uncle got a bit nervous about this - although I insisted to
him that since he is now well into his eighties, if there was any such
gezera against his family, it clearly did not apply to him.

Anyhow, my husband was supposed to ask the Rabbi when they all came back
for mincha how a connection to Eli HaCohen fitted with the evidence that
such families are not dying young, but I don't think he ever did (he
never reported it back to me) - so maybe somebody with Tawil/Dwek family
connections can answer the question.



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 12:41:36 +0100
Subject: Re: Roshei vs Rashei

on 26/7/04 10:54 am, <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu) wrote:

> Martin Stern (MJv43n64) argues that it the Plural of Rosh Chodesh should
> be Roshei Chodashim as if there Kamatz under the letter Resh is Kamatz
> Katan and not as most say it Rashei Chodashim with a Kamatz Gadol.
> In order not give misinformation on this issue, although I trust Rabbi
> Tal's siddur spelling Rashei, I directed the question to Prof. Asher
> Laufer from the Department of Hebrew Language at the Hebrew University,
> who regularly deals with these issues. He replied in Hebrew which is
> hereby translated: "This word "Rashim" appear at least 23 times in the
> Bible and always with Kamatz. According to the Tiberian method of
> vocalization this is a Kamatz Gadol, and this is being supported by
> following the readings of all the eidot. The only time that one has a
> Kamatz Katan is in closed sylable which is unaccented.

May I draw attention to the most interesting discussion of the problem
of identifying the type of a kamats found in chapter 8 (The Qamats Qatan
structures) of Werner Weinberg's "Essays on Hebrew". As an introduction
he writes:

"There are three ways of identifying a qamats as a qamats qatan: one is
etymological - tracing back the history of a given qamats to a Semitic
/u/; another is phonoogical - considering such factors as a closed or
open syllable, the place of stress, the proximity of anothe /o/ sound;
the third is morphological - focussing on the grammatical pattern of the
word which contains the qamats. This essay concentrates on the third
approach because it is most practical: the first requires an expert
knowledge of Semitic languages, and the SECOND IS UNRELIABLE (my

While I do not claim to be fully following the first approach, I would
suggest that the argument that a cholam being shortened becomes a kamats
katan and not a kamats gadol is based thereon, whereas the approach of
Gilad and others is based on the second approach with all its

Weinberg discusses how the two vowels came to have the same symbol in
the Tiberian system and the problems this caused for Sephardim who had a
variant tradition of vocalisation. Anyone intereseted can consult the
original for further information.

Martin Stern


From: Shlomo & Syma Spiro <spiro@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 13:54:31 +0200
Subject: shtreimel

bh, yom revi'i  ve-etchanan

In my youth I used to daven in a Hasidic shtibel (Talner).  Many
prominent rebbe's used to daven there when they visited Montreal.  I
even remember the Satmar Rebbe, Reb Yoelish z"l , was there one shabbat.
When I remarked about the different headwear and called them all
shtreimelich, I was corrected by an old hasid.  He told me that in order
for a shtreimel to be called a shtreimel it must have tails.  The more
tails and, of course, the more expensive the fur the more elegant the
shtreimel .( There was also a critical minimum, but I forgot what it
is.)  And he told me that the Galicianer Jews wore shtreimelich. The
shtreimelich I saw were about three to four inches high consisting of
circle of tails with a sort of yarmulke in the center for the head.  The
fur hats that we see on hasidim today, which are about five or six
inches high and have no tails, just flat fur, are spodiks.  They are
worn by Russian and Polish hasidim.  ( Today I think they are worn by
almost all hasidim) And from this comes the yiddish expression for
circular reasoning "drei mir nish kein spodik" --"don't turn me a
spodik", because no matter which way you turn the spodik it is always
the same, no front or back.  This is in contrast to the cap which many
east European Jews used to wear.  That was called "a hittel."


From: Jay Bailey <JayB@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 15:47:44 +0300
Subject: Sleeve Length

> My impression is that the members of this list come from the various
> different groups of Orthodox Judaism and share a commitment to
> Halachah. Now one of the issues that divide what is loosely referred to
> as modern Orthodoxy from Chareidi Orthodoxy is sleeve length.
> ...
> Again, I will be happy to hear of any source of which I am not aware ,
> but one respectful request: Please let's stick to sources (preferably
> primary), and not, "My Rabbi says.... and he is a musmach of..." or "I
> think it should be ..."

As a (layman) representative of the Modern Orthodox branch of
Halachically dedicated Jews you mention, I'm going to respond with (what
I'd hope) a response that represents the thinking of a lot of American
as well as "dati leumi" Orthodox Jews here in Israel.

Your final sentence: "Please let's stick to sources (preferably
primary)," is pretty much the sticking point. I'd be shocked to find a
primary resource from a European society 200-600 years ago who wouldn't
be scandalized by any woman - Jewish or not - who "revealed" her elbows.
If that was our criteria for things like dress, we'd have women wearing
veils as is "required" by the Rambam as was the custom in Muslim
countries. The sources you mention couldn't fathom a society where women
were newscasters, members of Knesset, CEOs and prime ministers.

Before the usual objections come in: I'm not suggesting we just dip down
in the Britney-Spears-like dress codes around us in which more is
uncovered than covered, simply because it's now an available mode to
emulate; I simply posit that exposing elbows is not in the same league.
Anyone thinking now "Slippery slope ahead: first elbows and then
topless" may as well skip to the next post - this discussion isn't about
that. I think most adults would consider Ms. Spears as being fairly
extreme, and not necessarily the way they'd want their children to look
- ever.

What Modern Orthodoxy very delicately - and yes, not always effectively
- tries to recognize is that in a society where women do exist in the
workplace, in the "shuk", so to speak, short sleeves are no longer a
sign of Ervah. Yes, it's more complicated than that, because then the
issue of Kol Isha naturally arises and this is probably one of the most
hotly debated issues between the Conservative and every "flavor" of
Orthodoxy (with the left wing Orthodox actually taking careful steps
that acknowledge this point).

I'm not making a judgment here, or even making a case for a specific new
delineation or measurement - I'm simply pointing out that you're loading
your question in a way that eliminated everyone else from the debate.
Unless you're talking about demonstrations of Ruach Hakodesh, primary
sources are NOT providing us with the objective, eternal framework of
what is considered arousing to men - they are telling us not to show
parts of the body considered erva. What those parts are is an assessment
that requires us to open our eyes and answer the question honestly.

Jay Bailey

From: Aryeh Frimer <Aryeh.A.Frimer@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 09:21:15 -0400
Subject: Re: Sleeve Length

Re' David Oratz's Comments on sleeve length, I refer the readers to an
article by Rav Yehuda Henkin in the latest Techumin who discusses tefach
at length.

	Be-nehamat Tsiyyon vi-Yerushalayim


End of Volume 43 Issue 70