Volume 43 Number 80
                    Produced: Mon Aug  2  7:45:25 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Corruption in the 18c Polish Rabbinate
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Kohen sign
         [Eitan Fiorino]
Lubavitch Practice for newbies
         [Shoshana Ziskind]
Origin of Jewish Clothing Styles (2)
         [Joseph Ginzberg, Avi Feldblum]
RambaM or RambaN - or both? (2)
         [<chips@...>, Avi Feldblum]
         [Perets Mett]
Sleeve Length
         [Aliza Berger]


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 11:07:53 -0400
Subject: Corruption in the 18c Polish Rabbinate

Somehow I feel that the tenor of this thread is deteriorating, and I am 
eager to end it, but the original posters' response to my query demands 
another response for the dignity of  the Torah scholars involved.

[And your response will evoke another response from those on the other
side of the discussion, so this will clearly not end this thread. Mod.]

>>>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

While we are all aware of rabbinical abuses, old and new, to insinuate
that many or even a significant percentage of the Polish Rabbis of the
18th century were "showoffs" who wouldn't "waste their time on
devotional prayer" is a charge that borders on sacrilege, and certainly
requires substantial proof.

I thus asked:

>>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]" ... I know of no reliable source 
>which says that anything similar was happening with Torah leadership 
>positions, such as membership in the Sanhedrin.

I don't know the precise level of congruence necessary to use the word
"mirroring", but isn't the Cohen Gadol (which you stipulated) a "Torah
leadership position"?

I am not arguing with either of the sources that you mention, the
Maharsha or R' Shneur Zalman, that this may have occurred at times, I am
only saying that the inference that started this, that many /most Rabbis
that stressed "pilpul" over prayer were in bought positions, is a very
strong accusation that is disrespectful, and thus requires solid proof.

>>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. Chassidus aimed to redress 
>the balance.

Hunh? Simple logic tells me that someone who fails to possess what you
call "soft skills" will not be a successful Rabbi and will not earn a
living as one.  A teacher of pilpul might.  Buying a position for such
an individual would gain him nothing.

I am not anti-chassidic, I am simply pro truth.  To imply that the
Polish Rabbinical world of the Gra's time was corrupt in both it's
relationship to devotion and in its pulpit Rabbis holding of positions,
and that chassidus came to correct matters, is a serious charge that
demands either solid proof or a protest for the honor of Torah.

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Eitan Fiorino <Fiorino@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 11:11:39 -0400
Subject: RE: Kohen sign

> From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
> 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. Its 
> presence however would not be conclusive since such genes 
> would also be passed on to challalim and mamzerim.

A few points about the so-called kohen marker, or the "Cohen Modal
Haplotype" - I don't think its utility as a marker has been sufficiently
determined such that one can claim that its absence is "conclusive
evidence that the presumed kohen is not one."  For starters, since we do
not have any definitive kohanim (meaning, there is some safek about the
lineage of all kohanim today - perhaps not halachically, but objectively
I think that is fair), we cannot say for certain that this marker was
present in the DNA of Aharon.  Secondly, the marker is not uniquely
found among Jews claiming to be kohanim - it is found commonly among
Southern and Central Italians, Hungarians, Iraqi Kurds, and is also
found among Armenians and South African Lembas.  Thus I would agree "its
presence . . . would not be conclusive" - in fact, at this point one
must say its presence is not conclusive of Jewish ancestry.  Based on a
number of technical issues with the initial studies, the utility of the
marker as an indicator of descent from a particular ancient ancestor has
been questioned by some geneticists.  It remains a very interesting area
for research, but I wouldn't stop anyone from performing birkat kohanim
one the basis of a DNA test just yet :-)



From: Shoshana Ziskind <shosh@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 10:57:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Lubavitch Practice for newbies

On Jul 30, 2004, at 5:21 AM, <Joelirich@...> (Joel Rich) wrote:
> It was explained to me a number of years ago by a Lubavitch Rabbi that
> Lubavitch is "the crown jewel" of judaism and so if someone is not
> PRACTICING a firmly established minhag, they should practice Lubavitch
> as everyone will eventually.  No value judgement being made by me on
> this, I'd appreciate hearing from an authoratative Lubavitch source if
> this is openly(or behind the scenes) Lubavitch doctrine.

I think, as Nachman Ziskind wrote, this is mainly about the nusach of a
siddur and about nusach Ari versus nusach Sefard or nusach Ashkenaz.
Apparently the nusach Ari is the siddur that would work best if you
don't know which tribe you belong to.  (Btw, there was an article in
last week's Mishpacha (English edition) about someone who has been
working on the "authentic" Nusach Ari siddur which goes into how you
should check with your Rav before changing your nusach)

I hope that this person wasn't saying that Lubavitch and all its
minchagim are the "crown jewels" of Judaism which seems to imply that
other minchagim are lesser, G-d forbid.  If so then I think he's a bit
misguided.  Rabbis who make new Chabad houses are not there to influence
people to become Lubavitchers but to influence people to want to learn
Torah and do Mitzvos.  Yes, there are people who become frum through
them and some of them decided that the Lubavitch way is for them
(including myself) but not everyone does that and that's perfectly fine.
The main thing is that they're doing mitzvos.  I don't think everyone
will eventually be Lubavitch. Personally, that would be to me, a bit
sad. There have always been ways that diversify Jews: kohen, levi and
Israel for example and of course the 12 shevatim with the different
degalim. We're not meant to all be either Young Israel or Aguda or
Breslov or Lubavitch and so on and so forth.

Shoshana Ziskind


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 11:18:40 -0400
Subject: Origin of Jewish Clothing Styles

>A last word.  I hope no one interprets my remarks as an effort to
>belittle or scorn any group.  But Jews are human and human beings
>interact.  Were it otherwise there would never have been a period when
>the Jewish mameloshn was Aramaic, Greek, Persian, Arabic, German or
>English.  If language, why not clothing?  It's not a matter of
>'mimicry'; it is a matter of accomodation to changing circumstances.

I imagine few would disagree with this.  In fact, with the small choice
of goods (especially popular-price textiles) available due to poor
transport, there is little doubt that there had to be a large overlap
between clothing materials among all residents of any given place.
Tailors too would presumably only be able to sew designs they knew,
leading no doubt to anamolies such as both the Rabbinic long coats and
the chassidic bekeshes having two buttons in back to hold the tails up
while horse-riding, which is of course forbidden on most of the
occassions that one would wear them.

My issue, though, was slightly different: I feel that if a distinct
group among the larger Jewish people took on the wearing of a certain
article of clothing and consider it almost "holy", there had to be some
better reason for wearing it than that the local wealthy poritz affected
the style.

Yossi Ginzberg

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Mon, 2 Aug 2004 07:25:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Origin of Jewish Clothing Styles

On Fri, 30 Jul 2004, Joseph Ginzberg wrote:

> My issue, though, was slightly different: I feel that if a distinct group 
> among the larger Jewish people took on the wearing of a certain article of 
> clothing and consider it almost "holy", there had to be some better reason 
> for wearing it than that the local wealthy poritz affected the style.

I think that part of the problem in this discussion, is contained in your
comment above. You "feel" that "there had to be some better reason", but
have no sources to back it up. There are other members of the group, that
unless you can show better sources than what you "feel", see you reason to
accept that there actually are "better reasons", and that cultural
borrowing is the reason best supported by the available evidence.

Avi Feldblum


From: <chips@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 15:01:56 -0700
Subject: Re: RambaM or RambaN - or both?

> I think you mean the RambaN , in his debate before the king with the
> converted priest.
> -rp
> [Actually, I think he means the RambaM - I believe it is in the
> introduction to Perek Chelek, where the Rambam identifies three
> approaches to how different people approach aggadic material. Mod.]

I can't find the synopsis of the debate, but I'm pretty sure "Pablo"
brought up some midrashym that were fantastical and said that since the
RambaM held midrashym were true that therefore the RambaM was not
valid. RambaN's response being a proof that the RambaM did not have
access to all the midrashym that were known in Europe and that if he
had, the RambaM would not have made that statement.

I could be wrong :-)


From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Mon, 2 Aug 2004 07:41:18 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: RambaM or RambaN - or both?

While Pablo may have made that statement about the Rambam, I think it is
pretty clear that it is incorrect. See the actual description of the
Rambam about those who hold that all midrashim are to be taken literally.
He very clearly says that such people are causing others to reject Torah
and to hold Torah in low regard. 

Avi Feldblum


From: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 16:38:07 +0100
Subject: shtramlekh

Shlomo Spiro wrote:

> 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.

Your old chosid was obviously a galitsyaner and , as a previous poster
put it, was galitsyocentric

I can assure you that the chasidim in Congress Poland (and their
modern-day counterparts) call their shabos headgear a shtraml. It is
only their galitsyaner neighbours who describe it disparagingly as a

Besides being crafted into a single piece, instead of a collection of
tails, the Polish shtraml is made of beaver fur.

It is also a lot cheaper than a galitsyaner shtraml

Perets Mett
(descended from a long line of Polish chasidim)


From: Aliza Berger <alizadov@...>
Date: Fri, 30 Jul 2004 18:09:59 +0200
Subject: Sleeve Length

Jay Bailey wrote, among other eloquent words:

<<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. >>

This point underlay the psak I received from Orthodox Rabbi Charles
Sheer, Hillel rabbi at Columbia University. He said (I am paraphrasing
here) that women are required to dress one degree more modestly than
women in general society, e.g. loose pants instead of tight jeans, short
sleeves instead of sleeveless.

What you have to wear if you live in a closed community where everyone
dresses more modestly (e.g., Meah Shearim, a particular yishuv
[settlement or small town]) could be a different question, however, I

I am not sure what Jay was alluding to when he mentioned Kol Isha. He

<<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 >>

Jay, what aspect of Kol Isha are you saying all Orthodox agree on, and
Conservative disagree with?

Sincerely, Aliza
Aliza Berger, PhD - Director
English Editing: editing-proofreading.com
Statistics Consulting: statistics-help.com


End of Volume 43 Issue 80