Volume 43 Number 71
                    Produced: Thu Jul 29  5:38:29 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cole Porter's reference (2)
         [Leah S. Gordon, Shayna Kravetz]
         [Nathan Lamm]
Polish Rabbinical Positions
         [Alex Heppenheimer]
Respect for our Differences
         [Nachman Yaakov Ziskind]
Teaching Pinchas
         [Michael Rogovin]


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 2004 19:17:03 -0700
Subject: Cole Porter's reference

>as Cole Porter's song of the 1930s put it "In days of old a sight of
>stocking was absolutely shocking but now, who knows, anything
>goes". Even he would be appalled at what has transpired over the last 70

Regarding Cole Porter's tshuva on seeing stockings, I believe the
correct quote is:

"In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
was looked on as something shocking.
Now Heaven knows...
Anything Goes!"

from his 1930 musical _Anything Goes_

--Leah S. R. Gordon

From: Shayna Kravetz <skravetz@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 10:18:52 -0500
Subject: Re: Cole Porter's reference

Martin Stern wrote, incidentally:

>Pe'or is still with us in its attempt to destroy the essence of modesty,
>as Cole Porter's song of the 1930s put it "In days of old a sight of
>stocking was absolutely shocking but now, who knows, anything

Mr. Porter's wonderful lyrics deserve to be quoted accurately:

In olden days a glimpse of stocking
was looked on as something shocking.
Now Heaven knows
anything goes!

Two fine differences relevant to our discussions (although I wouldn't
have thought of Mr Porter as a heavyweight theological thinker!): the
status of the stocking is a product of human perception, not absolute;
and it's not just humans but the divine that is involved in setting

Kol tuv and looking forward to the return of music and laughter in a
rebuilt Zion.

Shayna in Toronto


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 07:10:08 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Kohanim

Re: Fred Dweck's post (and Janice Gelb's, below), a few points:

-The Rapaports, I believe, were not Ashkenazim (nor Sephardim), but
originally Italian, the name being explained as "Doctors (Rofim) from
(the city of) Porto." (Is there also a Porto in Portugal? That would
make them Sephardim.) How kohanim could be doctors is a question I've
long had.

-Are there still records among Sephardim going back to the times of
Ezra? I've heard about such records many times among Ashkenazim (along
with alleged genealogies going to David Hamelech, etc.), always with
excuses like "lost in the War." I doubt any such records exist today. (I
say this as a Kohen with no claim to records at all.) Furthermore, when
one speaks of Sephardic communities of, say, Syria or Egypt, one should
remember that there was at least one major upheaval affecting those
communities, in 1492 (and again in the late '40's). Can claims actually
be made that there are unbroken traditions going back to before then?

-Mr. Dweck says that a third of a Sephardic synagogue will be
kohanim. There is something not quite right here. Unless Sephardim have
historically been heavily kohanim (I know some communities, like
Tunisian Jews, were), I don't see how more than 10% can be. (Kohanim
were a small portion of one of twelve tribes.)  Ashkenazim tend to have
a much smaller percentage than even that, and if they had a higher
percentage of "fakes," then Sephardim should not be more.

Then again, the numbers never seem right among Ashkenazim
either. Kohanim account for higher than expected percentages all over,
and there seem to be an equal or lesser number of Leviim than kohanim,
which seems wrong on the face of it. (What is the Sephardi proportion of
Leviim?) I once heard it explained that since they are already
restricted in marriage, kohanim were more careful than many Jews in
matter of intermarriage and so on, thus leading to their higher than
expected numbers. But then again, I don't think this was as much of an
issue for Sepharadim.

-Sephardim have been tested for the "Kohain gene" just as Ashkenazim
have, and have been found to have it in the same proportions, about
80%. This, of course, speaks to the fact that both groups are descended
from the same population (not always a given to some scholars who felt
that Ashkenazim were descendants of Khazars), but also that, perhaps,
there are those kohanim whose "yichus" is not quite right in both
communities. (There's no halakhic import here, though.) My comments here
are not meant to denigrate Sephardim at all- there are simply kohanim
with fine lineages and those with questionable ones in both
communities. I ask Mr. Dweck not to make comments like, "No one
[Sepharadi] could "claim" to be a Kohen and get away with it. Unlike in
the communities of Europe." That is uncalled for. All Jewish communities
can claim to be solidly Bnei Yisrael (and should realize and actively
promote that idea of Achdut) without denigrating another.

-Janice Gelb states that when her Rav discovered he was a kohain, he and
his children were free to decide if they "wanted" to be. I can't see how
this is true- kehuna is not matter of "wanting to be something." One
cannot, for example, "give up" kehunah to, for example, marry
someone. There are opinions that as no kohain today has proper yichus,
this is fudgeable, but it doesn't seem right. Perhaps- just perhaps- if
some had already married women who would otherwise be forbidden to them,
there might be some wriggle room.  But there isn't much "choice"

Nachum Lamm


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 08:04:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Polish Rabbinical Positions

In MJ 43:61, Joseph Ginzberg commented on a post of mine in 43:56:

>>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
>Can you supply a source for this?
>It's a radical concept, mirroring the situation at the time of Jesus,
>but sounds odd to me.

I think I can well ask in return: can you supply a source for the
"situation at the time of [oso ha'ish]" besides the Christian
scriptures, which of course were written by people who had a vested
interest in making the Sages ("Pharisees") look bad? It's true that the
High Priesthood was sold by the Roman procurators, but this was not
something unique to that era; it had been going on since at least the
era of the later Chashmonai kings (see Yevamos 61a). Furthermore, the
position had become primarily a political rather than a religious office
- cf. the Gemara, Yoma 8b, which refers to them as "parhedrin" (Rashi:
"royal appointees"). I know of no reliable source which says that
anything similar was happening with Torah leadership positions, such as
membership in the Sanhedrin.]

>In the responsa literature I have seen many questions about
>them selling rights to make liquor, run inns, deal in wood, etc.,
>but never anything about them being involved in selling rabbinical

I can't claim familiarity with the responsa of that period (and I don't
have available a copy of Kerem Chabad, which cites various contemporary
sources about this issue). But see, for starters, Maharsha to Sanhedrin
7b (s.v. Bishvil), who gives a blistering denunciation of rabbis
appointed "because of the gold and silver that they offer the king or
the prince" with the expectation of being able to recoup their
investment via rabbinical and judicial fees. (He refers to this as
something that "has become common in contemporary times," which fits
with R' Shneur Zalman's characterization of this practice having begun
about 200 years earlier, since Maharsha lived from 1555-1631 and R'
Shneur Zalman was writing about 1800.)

>Also, of course, the logic that one who had to buy a position would
>be fluent in pilpul but not be a "davener" requires a suspension of

On the contrary, the logic is quite simple. The Eastern European rav's
basic responsibilities were to teach Torah to advanced students (in
those pre-Volozhin Yeshivah days) and to decide questions of Torah law.
To put it in human resources terms, then, a candidate for such a
position would need certain "hard skills" (Torah knowledge) plus certain
"soft skills" (Yiras Shomayim, empathy, a "sixth sense," etc.).  Someone
who lacked those "hard skills" would be less likely to apply for the job
in the first place, since his ignorance would soon be exposed and he
would lose all influence in the community; he would be more likely to
try for a lay leadership position (such as community parnas), in which
Torah knowledge (or lack thereof) is not a factor.

Now, anyone can daven at great length, if they want (indeed, a simple
person might be more likely than a scholar to do so, just because the
words are less familiar), but it takes skill and knowledge to deliver a
complex pilpul. Furthermore, and related to this: davening with kavanah
is fundamentally a private act (even if the person davens with a minyan,
who knows whether they're thinking deep kabbalistic thoughts, or just
daydreaming?), whereas delivering a shiur is done in public, and
therefore can serve as a better vehicle for self-aggrandizement.

So in short, a person who has the "hard skills" necessary to be a rav,
but is not interested in developing the "soft skills," would indeed be
more likely to disparage davening (not to abandon it altogether, of
course, but to minimize the time and energy devoted to it) in favor of
Torah study and teaching. Chassidus aimed to redress the balance.

>This sounds to me like an apologia from some Chassidic "source",
>trying to do away with the issue of intense learning vs. heartfelt

I'm not sure why you put "source" in quotes, as though we're talking
about some anonymous writer who might have distorted the facts out of
ignorance or tendentiousness. The material I cited comes from a
deposition by R' Shneur Zalman of Liadi, one of the prominent Chassidic
leaders of his era, and a recognized authority in the "revealed Torah"
to boot. (Which means that he would have had no need to minimize the
importance of intensive learning to make his position look better.)

Kol tuv, v'yehafchu yamim eilu l'sasson ul'simchah,


From: Nachman Yaakov Ziskind <awacs@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 11:01:51 -0400
Subject: Re: Respect for our Differences

> From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
> Re your comment about the last two Lubavitcher Rebbes changing hat
> styles: Lubavitch is different in many ways from mainstream Chassidus,
> and one of these is their odd connection to Minhag.  On the one hand
> they proclaim that Minhag is more important than Halacha, on the other
> they change their own minhagim often, witness the last Rebbe refusing to
> wear a shtreimel, or the change to not wearing silver Ataros on the
> talis that became a custom only when they needed the silver to bribe the
> Rebbes way out of prison, or the "shinui Nusach" re the messianic issue.
> This incidentally may also be why they don't seem to respect other
> peoples customs, such as getting little girls in religious schools to
> light Shabbos candles without checking the family customs, or having
> Iranian immigrants change from their presumably purer heriditary nusach
> to nusach Ari.

Personally, I was upset by the tone of this remark. It seems, so close
to Tisha B'Av an ill-advised thing to say. In any event:

1) Lubavitch values minhagim very greatly (and so do Sephardim; in fact,
I daresay, more so than Chabad); but I don't think it's fair to say that
a Chabadnik would keep a minhag in contravention of halacha.

2) "Refuse" to wear a Shtreimel? Is this like a child "refusing" to do
their homework? Perhaps the Rebbe saw a positive reason to wear a

3) The Lubavitcher Rebbe believes that it is appropriate for all women
and girls over three to light Shabbos candles. This appeal was always
directed at non-religious people, with no established minhag.

4) The folks who were induced to daven Nusach Ari in general were those
who did not have a strongly established minhag for tefillah (that they
were congnizant of). There are Kabbalistic reasons to eschew Nusach
Ashkenaz for Sephard; likewise Sephard for Ari. Many/most of my Iranian
Chabad friends daven Nusach Sephard (citing their minhag as the reason);
some others weighed the pros and cons and switched to Nusach Ari.

Remember, Sinas Chinam destroyed the Beis Hamikdash; Ahavas Chinam will
rebuild it.

Nachman Yaakov Ziskind, EA, LLM         <awacs@...>
Attorney and Counselor-at-Law           http://ziskind.us
Economic Group Pension Services         http://egps.com
Actuaries and Employee Benefit Consultants


From: Michael Rogovin <rogovin@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2004 10:32:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Teaching Pinchas

Because I received (off line) a critical comment about teaching that the
avot were flawed, rather than idealized heros, I would like to expand on
a point I made. While the question of whether or not to teach young
children the avot as great, but flawed human beings, or as idealized
heros, is interesting and worthy of discussion, I assume for purposes of
this discussion that the schools will teach the latter. My point is not
this decision, it is that, having chosen this pedagogical
approach, schools proceed to teach stories of the avot (and other
idealized Jewish characters) that have the protagonists acting in ways
that we would not want our children to emulate.

If we want to teach that George Wahsington would never tell a lie, it is
to teach the value of honesty. If we are going teach that Yaakov was
perfect, and loved and honored his father, then we should pick stories
that illustrate this character trait, and not teach about his deception
of Yitzhak (at lea st until the students are ready to understand the
different Rabbinic approaches to this story). The point of teaching
Torah to children is, at least to me, to inculcate a love of learning,
teach Jewish moral and ethical values, and provide the basis for our
ritual observances and laws. I see no value in teaching children that a
flawless Jewish hero lies to his father to get a bracha, or other
stories that teach values contrary to what we expect from our
children. Idealizing actions of the likes of Pinchas can, over time,
lead to justification for the most horrific acts of zealotry, as we have
witnessed in our time.

Michael Rogovin


End of Volume 43 Issue 71