Volume 43 Number 78
                    Produced: Sun Aug  1 17:46:50 EDT 2004


Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Alarm Clock on Shabbat
         [Batya Medad]
Alexander as a "Hebrew" name
         [Edward Ehrlich]
Gematria
         [Nathan Lamm]
"Glimpse of Stocking"
         [Leah S. Gordon]
Higher percentage of Kohanim?
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Kohanic "Choice"
         [Nathan Lamm]
Kohen Gene
         [Iris Engelson]
The Kohen Sign
         [Edward Ehrlich]
Meshullachim during Tefilah
         [Harlan Braude]
Question about Ribis (Interest)
         [Chaim Gershon Steinmetz]
Rappaport
         [Mike Gerver]
Why can bread be touched before washing?
         [Eli Delman]


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From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 13:24:05 +0200
Subject: Re: Alarm Clock on Shabbat

    presents a problem during the winter. If candle-lighting time is
    say, 4:30 pm, and I set the alarm to go off at 7:00, it will sound
    at 7 PM.  In order to have it go off at 7 AM, I would have to set
    the alarm after

A few years ago I picked up a small battery-powered alarm clock,
digital, that turns the bell of automatically.  Also my cell phone does
the same.  There's no need to touch it.  I used the cell phone to remind
me to say sfirat ha'omer this year.

Batya

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From: Edward Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 13:21:29 +0300
Subject: Alexander as a "Hebrew" name

My Hebrew name is Alexander after my grandfather. I was told that there
is a tradition that as a sign of gratitude towards Alexander the Great
who maintained a friendly attitude towards the Jews, all male babies
born in a particular year in Eretz Yisrael were named Alexander and the
name has since been handed down generation to generation. Has anybody
ever heard of this tradition?

Ed Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Jerusalem, Israel

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From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 06:41:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Gematria

Michael Poppers writes:

> In k'sav Ashuris...the letter haih is actually composed of a daled and
> a yud, gematria 14, and the ches is composed of two zayins, gematria
> 14.

In Sephard Ashurit, a chet has a solid top. In "Ari" Ashuris, a ches is
a vav and a zayin (the main difference between "Ari" and Ashkenaz
Ashuris is that most "zayins" in the latter get turned into "vav"s in
the former).

It seems likely the two-zayin design comes from the way the hay and chet
were written in Bayit Sheni times (see, for example, the Dead Sea
Scrolls): They're identical- no space in the hey- except the hey has a
horizontal projection at the upper left, and the chet has a vertical
projection at the top center (or left).  This vertical projection may be
the ancestor of the "hook" connecting the two zayins (or vav and zayin)
today, and the horizontal one may have led to the "dropping" of the leg
of the hey.

Two points to rememeber:

1. It's entirely possible- likely, even- that k'sav Ivri was the
original Hebrew. Hey and Chet look nothing like each other in that
alphabet. A Hey is a sideways "E", and a Chet is an enclosed "H"- in
fact, that's where the Latin alphabet letters come from.

2. Gematria makes no appearance in Tanach, and little in Shas (compared
to how widely it's used today). It's very possibly a late introduction
to Judaism, influenced by Greek practice, hence the Greek name.

Also, Moshe Kranc writes:

> He contends that there were more sounds in ancient Hebrew than there
> are letters.

Actually, there are less (consonantal) sounds in modern Hebrew than
there are letters. Ancient Hebrew seems to have had one sound per
letter, plus sin/shin and the six extra beged kefet with dagesh sounds,
for a total of 29. Modern Ashkenzai Hebrew has about twenty, and
Sephardim may add three or four, and Yemenites one or two more than
that. "Resh" can be different among different communities, but not
within.

Nachum Lamm

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From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 04:45:52 -0700
Subject: "Glimpse of Stocking"

As I mentioned to Mr. Martin Stern off-list, I think it is all well and
good to quote Cole Porter:

"In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
was looked on as something shocking..."

However, if you loook at Cole Porter's work, specifically including
_Anything Goes_ (1930), he meant those lyrics with great irony.  His
overriding message IMO in that musical is that *every* generation thinks
that things have gone to heck and were wonderful beforehand.

By the way, I think that both traditions have Jewish backing:
-every generation changes (usually for the worse) vs. the olden days
vs.
-we are all struggling, and someday people will think of *now* as olden

--Leah S. R. Gordon

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From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 13:53:12 +0300
Subject: Higher percentage of Kohanim?

Since a number of posters have speculated about why there seems to be a
disproprionately high percentage of Kohanim, let me thrown in another
speculation:

Maybe the fact that a person is a Kohen was considered by Jews to be
some type of Yichus, and as a result Kohanim were more likely to marry
into better-established families. And of course, such families were able
to better withstand disease (they could afford doctors, medicine, etc.)
and were better-nourished and less susceptible to such factors as
malnutrition, etc.

Shmuel Hakohen Himelstein

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From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 06:47:38 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Kohanic "Choice"

Jay Schachter quotes me saying:

> Perhaps- just perhaps- if some [kohanim] had already married women who
> would otherwise be forbidden to them, there might be some wriggle
> room.

And adds:

"This is more than a "just perhaps".  It is the black-letter law.  For
example, whereas a kohen who marries a convert must divorce her, a kohen
who marries the daughter of two converts is permitted to stay married to
her, even though the marriage was a forbidden one before the fact."

He misunderstood my point: I meant to say that perhaps the issue with
the family in question was that they had already married women 100%
forbidden to kohanim and then found out who they were. Then, they may
have some wriggle room to "deny" their kehunah. But I still doubt it.

I've never heard that a daughter of two converts is (l'chatchilah) assur
for a kohen, although I've had similar experiences with other
"lechatchilah" cases- a woman whose father wasn't Jewish, for
example. Is this the same category?

Nachum Lamm

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From: Iris Engelson <iris.engelson@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 09:48:10 -0400
Subject: Re: Kohen Gene

Martin Stern wrote:

> We are talking about the Y chromosome which can only come from the
> father, so absence of a "Kohen gene" on it should be conclusive
> evidence that the presumed kohen is not one.

I feel compelled to point out that this statement is factually
incorrect.  Genes are not, in fact, immutable and the absence of such a
gene merely decreases the probability that the individual is a direct
decendant, via the paternal line, of Aharon HaKohen: it is certainly not
'conclusive evidence'.  It is perfectly possible, for example, for two
brothers to exhibit slight differences in their Y chromosomes.

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From: Edward Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 13:15:46 +0300
Subject: The Kohen Sign

Stan Tenen wrote:

>This anecdote may or may not be related.
>
>I once asked my uncle about his being a Levite, because his name was
>Levy.  He told me he wasn't a Levite.  The name Levy was given to the
>family by the immigration people, because they couldn't make out the
>real family name.  Apparently, that day was "Levy Day" for all Jews
>with long and difficult-to-spell names.

I can't be certain about this particular case but apparently most of the
stories about name changes at Ellis Island are urban legends. They had
translators there (one of them was Fiorello LaGuardia who later became
mayor) who were quite comfortable in Yiddish and other European
languages and were able to accurately record the immigrants' names.

Alexander Ben Aharon Ha-Levi (Ed Ehrlich) <eehrlich@...>
Jerusalem, Israel

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From: Harlan Braude <hbraude@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 10:28:48 -0400
Subject: RE: Meshullachim during Tefilah

> give more whenever meshullachim come round?  I have a friend whose
> brother was being plagued by meshullachim ringing on his doorbell more
> or less constantly that eventually he had to put up a sign saying that
> donations are not given at the door.  I think that those meshullachim
> who behave in perhaps not quite the best possible way ruin things for
> the others.

It was my understanding that this was exactly the issue Elimelech had
when he left Eretz Yisrael for Moav. My assumption (sorry, no source,
just my own impression. Exceptional people merit exceptional punshment
for failure, so I assume Elimelech must have been exceptional in this
regard) is that Elimelech gave more than the minimum required, but that
there was just no end to the line of hands asking for more.)

Weren't we supposed to learn from this not to turn our backs on these
people just because they annoy us or because we've given our %10-20?

Harlan

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From: Chaim Gershon Steinmetz <cgsteinmetz@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 10:22:14 -0400
Subject: Question about Ribis (Interest)

Concrning the question in v43#64 - though my knowledge of this subject
is not wide as should be, I believe it poshut that it is permitted in
this case, which is (if I understood it correctly) a situation of a
discount if you pay immediately upon the reciept of the goods. Since you
have the goods already, paying now at a cheaper price is not ribis at
all. All what happened is, that the seller sold it (and deliveredit) for
less, which is no problem at all. [I believe there are situations where
this would be permitted even without immediate delivery, but I don't
think that was the question].

Chaim G Steinmetz
<cgsteinmetz@...>

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From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 09:27:04 EDT
Subject: Rappaport

Eitan Fiorino writes, in v43n75,

      Far more likely, the Gra was simply convinced that of the kohanim
      he encountered, this family [the Rappaports] possessed an accurate
      accounting of its genealogy.

The more interesting

      question is, what did he know that we don't?  Today, there does
      not appear to be a trace of the family from before the 15th
      century, so from where did the Gra's conviction stem?

>From what I remember reading in the source I referenced in my posting in
v43n70, the Gra knew that the Rappaports had at one time had a
manuscript listing a family tree going back to Aharon (or maybe to
Zaddok). Although that manuscript had already been lost by the time of
the Gra (destroyed in a fire, maybe, in the 1600s?), he felt that this
was sufficient proof that the Rappoports were really kohanim.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

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From: Eli Delman <eli.delman@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 09:12:13 -0400
Subject: RE: Why can bread be touched before washing?

> I have heard that in a situation where one can't wash their hands
> before eating bread, it is acceptable to not directly touch the bread
> when eating it (say with a plastic bag or napkin). If that is indeed
> true, why is it permitted in general to touch bread - let's say in the
> preparation of a sandwich - without washing one's hands?

In the days of the Temple, Kohanim were required to wash their hands
before eating Terumah, to avoid making it Tamei and thus unfit to
eat. In order to enforce this habit among the Kohanim, all Jews were
required to wash their hands before eating bread, since most Terumah was
generally consumed as bread. Even today, when Terumah is no longer
eaten, the ruling remains in force, so that when the Temple will be
rebuilt, eating only Tahor grain products will be a familiar
routine. When the original decree was applied to all Jews in order to
enforce the habit, it was felt that its purpose was served if the
restriction was limited only to those who going to eat bread (even if
they wouldn't necessarily touch it); extending it to everyone who
touches bread would be going a bit too far. [based on Aruch HaShulchan
OC 158:1, citing earlier sources]

We trace the requirement to wash for bread back to the Talmud (Chullin
106a), where two reasons are given: a) "s'rach Terumah" (described
above), and b) "Mitzva lishmoa Divrei Chachamim" -^ it is a Mitzva to
follow the decrees of the Sages. In response to the obvious question
[since reason (a) is the entire basis for reason (b), aren't they one
and the same?], we'll cite one approach: this practice would be in order
even if the Sages hadn't decreed so, given its rationale; all the more
so now that they actually instituted it. [Rashi as per the Shitta
Mekubetzes; Rashba]

The extreme circumstance of being without any water for washing helps us
comprehend the fine distinction between reason (a) and (b). In
consideration of the situation, the Sages relaxed their decree, and one
may eat bread without actually washing, so reason (b) does not
apply. But the compelling force of reason (a), conditioning our habits
for the return of the Temple, still dictates that we must cover our
hands and not touch the bread. [R.  Yitzchak Ze'ev Soloveitchik, cited
in the MiBeis Levi Haggadah].

Eli

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End of Volume 43 Issue 78