Volume 44 Number 01
                    Produced: Mon Aug  9  7:05:23 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Basis of Discussion about Rabbinate
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Cohen Modal Haplotype
         [Eitan Fiorino]
The Cohen Modal Haplotype
         [Ken Bloom]
Jewish Genetics
         [Seth Ness]
Kohanic "Choice"
         [Janice Gelb]
Kohen Gene (some basic genetics)
         [Martin Stern]
My Uncle did not get Smicha from his Father in Law
         [Ira L. Jacobson]
Pants and Psak
         [Martin Stern]
Spelling of names
         [Nathan Lamm]
Three Kohen Points (v43n95)
         [Nathan Lamm]
The word "Meshulach"
         [Andy Goldfinger]


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Thu, 05 Aug 2004 14:05:44 -0400
Subject: Basis of Discussion about Rabbinate

>[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.]

I agree that my own opinion is just that, as long as there is no proof
or Rabbinic authority behind it.

However, even open-mindeddiscussions in Torah should have a "baseline"
to meet in order to stay within a halachik framework.  Everyone knows
"innocent until proven guilty" or "muchzak" or "hamotzi Mchavero" (rules
of possession) or similar concepts, which indicate that a certain
"given" is to be the standard ruling until proven otherwise.

Orthodox Judaism has always insisted on the concept of "Yeridat
Hadorot", the lowering of spiritual level from one generation to the
next. This is why Rabbis today are (generally) not allowed to debate the
rulings of earlier accepted decisors.  An example would be the famous
dicta "If the Rishonim were angels, we are only men.  If they were men,
we are only donkeys, and not even like the donkey of R. Pinchas ben

It appears clear to me from this that the honor of the Rabbis of
previous generations is to be strictly respected until there is
indisputable evidence that they have misbehaved in some way.

It is known and I think undisputed that at various times there have been
"Rabbis" that have been appointed by various governments for secular
reasons, and that these persons have for the most part been unsuited for
the position.  However, the original posting implied that many/most of
the Polish Rabbis in the 18th century were not only such, but that they
were the "promoters" of the Pilpul style of Torah learning.  This is, to
me, highly derogatory and disrespectful, in addition to being suspect
for the illogic mentioned in the earlier posting.

My issue is thus that as an orthodox site, the "given" should be a
rejection of slurs on any Rabbi, let alone an entire nations admitted
Talmedei Chachomim, especially those of earlier generations, until

There were many reasons for the emergence of Chasidut, but putting it on
the shoulders of the established "corrupt" Rabbinate and their stress on
pilpul seems to me to reveal a non-acceptable and non-halachik agenda.

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Eitan Fiorino <Fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 12:33:02 -0400
Subject: RE: Cohen Modal Haplotype

>From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
>So Aharon's Y chromosome haplotype would be shared by most men who had a 
>common paternal line ancestor with Aharon within about 1500 years 
>before him.  This includes not just kohanim, but all of the sons of 
>Yaakov, as well as Esav, Ishmael, Lot, Moab, Ammon, and, for all we 
>know, many ancestors of the Southern and Central Italians, Hungarians, 
>Iraqi Kurds, and Armenians. In the case of the Lembas though, the 
>simplest explanation is that they are indeed, as they claim, descended 
>from Jews who migrated from Yemen about 1000 years ago.

I knew there was something wrong with this; it took me a while but I
finally figured it out.  The whole idea behind the Cohen modal haplotype
is that it was discovered as a marker somewhat unique to kohanim.  In
other words, the investigators looked for genetic markers - little
snippets of genetic code - that were found regularly in the Y
chromosomes of self-identified kohanim but not among non-kohanim.  So
the idea that the high frequency of the kohen modal haplotype in these
various non-Jewish populations could be explained by a shared common
ancestor such as Avraham doesn't make sense, since the marker is not
found commonly among Jews who are not kohanim.

The numbers from the original paper describing the phenomenon are not
incredibly mind-boggling, by the way.  The Cohen modal haplotype was
found in 45% of 44 Ashkenazic kohanim and 32% of 81 Ashkenazic
yisraelim; for Sephardim the numbers are 71% of 24 kohanim and 33% of 39
yisraelim.  A second study by the same group found the marker to be
found in 45% of 49 Ashkenazic kohanim and 13% of 68 Ashkenazic
yisraelim, and 56% of 57 Sephardic kohanim and 10% of 51 Sephardic
yisraelim.  The marker is even less frequent among leviim, 81 of whom
were included in the second study.  There is no commentary on why the
frequency of the marker in non-kohanim is so different in these two
studies, which is a little strange.  I have not looked to see if further
studies on the frequency of the marker in kohanim vs. non-kohanim have
been published since these were in the late 1990s.

Another word of caution before getting all hyped up about this so-called
kohen gene - the same methodology that led to the conclusion that this
modal haplotype was a good marker for kohanim also found broad genetic
diversity among the Y chromosomes of Leviim and concluded "contemporary
Levites, therefore, are not descendants of a paternally related tribal



From: Ken Bloom <kabloom@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 09:31:05 -0700
Subject: Re: The Cohen Modal Haplotype

> I think making any assumptions about ancient ancestry based on modern
> looks is extremely difficult and even dangerous.  In general studies of
> genetic markers have revealed tighter groupings between geographically
> diverse groups of Jews than between Jews and their local non-Jewish
> populations.  Obviously there has always been some influx from the local
> gene pool owing to conversions of locals to Judaism, and this modest
> influx could potentially account for some of the physical differences
> one can observe between mizrachi and European Jews.

This is also very close to arguments concerning a "master race". To my
knowledge, there is no significant genetic difference between the
various races in America, despite the early intent of some to prove that
blacks were inferior by demonstrating that they were genetically

The biggest physical difference I can see between Sepharadim and
Ashkenazim is that Sepharadim have darker skin, attributable as an
adaptation to a warmer, sunnier climate (darker skin is more effective
against sunburn and the cancers that can come with it.) (Rather, since
we all came from Eretz Yisrael, it's more likely that Ashkenazim lost
the darker skin because they weren't adapting against sunburn)

To: Mail Jewish <mail-jewish@...>

From: Seth Ness <sln8@...>
Subject: Jewish Genetics

Anyone interested in the subject of the cohen modal haplotype and levi
and yisrael genetics may benefit from looking at this recent paper which
should be freely available to all.


The article discusses the ashkenazi levi haplotype and reviews and
provides references to major previous works on jewish genetics.

Allow me to add two nitpicks...

1. there is no cohen 'gene' ; the haplotypes are generally composed of
   anonymous microsatellites and polymorphisms that are not part of
   genes. they differ between groups by variation not by presence or

2. the Y chromosome can indeed recombine with other chromosomes (X). the
   haplotype happens to be in a non-recombining portion.

Seth L. Ness 


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 16:24:16 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Kohanic "Choice"

<MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver) wrote:

> Several posters have pointed out that a kohen cannot, in general,
> decide to give up his kahuna and marry a divorcee or a convert. [snip]

I did not mean to imply that this was a halachically valid or approved
choice. What I was trying to say was that if a kohen *did* marry a woman
forbidden to kohanim (in defiance of the law), he would then have to
give up the privileges of his kahuna and would be in a state of
impurity. Similarly, if my rabbi and his sons had continued living as
they had been before they learned that they were kohanim, without
restricting themselves to the laws for kohanim, they would be in a state
of impurity and not be able to take on the privileges of kohanut.

-- Janice


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Thu, 05 Aug 2004 17:05:59 +0100
Subject: Re: Kohen Gene (some basic genetics)

on 5/8/04 2:19 pm, Ken Bloom <kabloom@...> wrote:
> Now, supposing a Kohen were to have a child with a non-Jewish woman. The
> result would be a non-jewish child with the Kohen gene. So I can say
> tentatively that a child is a kohen if and only if he has the kohen
> gene, and he is known to be Jewish.

This is not true. The son of a kohen from a woman forbidden to him as a
kohen is 100% Jewish but is a challal and not a kohen. If the mother
were forbidden to him as an ervah (incest or adultery) the child is 100%
Jewish but is a mamzer and not a kohen. In both cases he will carry the
kohen gene.  Ken should have stated his test as "if a child does not
carry the kohen gene there are strong grounds to suspect that he is not
a kohen". Another case of where the converse of a true statement is not

Martin Stern


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Fri, 06 Aug 2004 17:09:02 +0300
Subject: Re: My Uncle did not get Smicha from his Father in Law

<FriedmanJ@...> (Jeannette Friedman) stated the following on Fri, 6 Aug
2004 08:23:32 EDT, first quoting me:

            the Minhas Elozor gave semikha to the Munkacser Rov.

      No he did not. My mother says no way. SHE WAS DEFINITE.  BARUCH
      FATHER IN LAWS. He got the smicha from a group of rabbis, and I
      have a call into the Dinever Rebbe to get the names.

I seem to have made an error.  What I meant to have written was that the
Minhas Elozor gave semikha to the Minhas Yitzhok (who was actually the
subject of my post).

I apologize for the error, and also point out that I believe the surname
of the Minhas Yitzhok, as he wrote it in English, was Weisz and not

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, 06 Aug 2004 13:05:03 +0100
Subject: Re: Pants and Psak

on 6/8/04 11:41 am, <Shuanoach@...> wrote:

> Can someone explain to me why people are making diyyukim in a statement
> of R. Sheer as if it were a teshuva of Rav Moshe Feinstein?

Because it is almost impossible to believe that it was a general hetter
as quoted. When we see what he really said I am sure it will prove to
have been either a misquote or a hora'at sha'ah to a certain person in
certain very limited circumstances and not for general publication.

Martin Stern


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004 07:07:38 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Spelling of names

Batya Medad writes of the spelling of her cousins' names. It should be
recalled that spelling in general was not standardized until relatively
recently (which is why a Briton would spell it "standardised"), and
names specifically were not- Shakespeare, for example, never seems to
have spelled his name the same way twice (see the opening scene of a
recent film for a cute exposition of this).

This, in fact, is true of two branches of my family who are related to
each other maternally closely and paternally distantly- and the spelling
of the last name is slightly different.

Nachum Lamm


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Thu, 5 Aug 2004 19:13:14 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Three Kohen Points (v43n95)

-Andrew Marks wonders if a safek can cause one to "choose" not to be a
kohen. Mike Gerver (in v43n94) asked about two s'fakot, for the kohen
and his prospective wife.

I imagine this is the most likely scenario, but like Mr. Marks, I still
wonder: Safek D'Oraysa L'Chumra, and we are dealing with D'Oraysot here.

-Gershon Rothstein gives the original source for the Gra story. I wonder
if I'm reading it right: It seems the Gra had a specific issue with how
his father redeemed him, and so did it himself again as an adult.  Then,
because kohanim don't have a yichus, he gave five rubles to many others.

At least, I hope that's the story. Because if the main issue with the
original (by his father) pidyon was the lack of yichus, then how would
he make a bracha (safek l'kula)? He could give five rubles to any kohen
he wanted, of course, but I can only see him making the bracha once, and
not even that if it was just a safek.  -Akiva Miller wonders if kohanim
assimilated less.  Indeed, I once heard Rebbetzin Faige Kahane (wife of
Rav Nachman Kahane, both noted for a number of accomplishments,
including the Center for Kohanim) say that it's quite possible that as
kohanim had a number of other marriage restrictions, they were more
careful about intermarriage as well, hence their greater numbers. And,
as Mr. Miller says, even a small difference could add up.

Nachum Lamm


From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004 08:24:15 -0400 
Subject: The word "Meshulach"

There has been much recent discussion calling charity collecters

Am I correct in assuming this word comes from the root "Mem-Shin-Ches,"
and hence that the word means "one who is sent," i.e. a messenger or an
agent.  Hence it would originally have been used to refer to a person
collecting money on behalf of another person or institution.  Isn't it
then incorrect to call a person collecting for themselves a "meshuach?"
Is there a more correct term?


End of Volume 44 Issue 1