Volume 44 Number 14
                    Produced: Thu Aug 12  6:14:16 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Credit Cards/Ribis (Prohibited Interest)
         [David Charlap]
MIxed Weddings and Mixed Marriages
         [Benschar, Tal S.]
Rabbinic violations for pre-barmitzva (2)
         [David Ziants, Gershon Dubin]
Rabbinical positions, again
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Stem Cell Research
         [Janice Gelb]


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 11:27:21 -0400
Subject: Re: Credit Cards/Ribis (Prohibited Interest)

Rhonda Stein wrote:
> Have any of you done research into which credit card companies do not
> involve any problem of ribis (Jews charging interest to other Jews)?

I think this is a much more difficult area of research than you may
realize.  What you're really asking is which of these companies are
owned by Jews and which ones are not.

Credit card companies, like banks, are rarely owned by individuals any
more.  These days, they are public corporations.  Which means the
"owners" are the stockholders.

I think it would be rare to find a company (at least in the US) where
the majority of the stock is held by Jews.  But I would also expect
every such corporation to have at least one Jewish stockholder.  And
stocks are traded on a daily basis, so the makeup of the ownership is
constantly changing.

So your implied question ("what specific credit cards are Jews allowed
to hold?") is one that will be very difficult (or maybe impossible) to
definitively answer.

My personal opinion (and please CYLOR if this is important to you - I am
not a rabbi, and this is not a psak) is that you have to choose between
"all of them" or "none of them".  Although opinions in between may be
logical, I don't see how you could practically come to a decision, given
that ownership (via the stock market) is always changing.

And if you choose to follow the "none" opinion, then you must also make
sure to not own stock in any bank, and not hold shares in any investment
fund that owns bank stock.  Because in doing so, you'd place yourself on
the "lender" side of the ribis problem (as opposed to being on the
"borrower" side with a credit card.)

And it doesn't stop there.  If Jewish stockholders render a bank
unsuitable to get a credit card from, then you can't take any kind of
loan from them.  Meaning no mortgage and no car loan.  And if you put
any money in their accounts, they can not be interest-bearing.  It also
means no mortage from anyone else, because lenders routinely sell
mortgages to each other.

Although I can see the logic in the "none" opinion, I don't see how you 
can function in modern society under those constraints.

-- David


From: Benschar, Tal S. <tbenschar@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 10:56:25 -0400
Subject: MIxed Weddings and Mixed Marriages

>My contention is that opposing intermarriage in a way that one does not
>oppose chillul Shabbat is hypocritical if one takes halakhic categories

I must strenuously disagree.  The assumption of this argument is that
the only halakhic category worth considering is the severity of the
prohibition (as reflected by its punishment).  That is not always the
case, however.

Consider a Cohen who is duchaning.  I once heard in the name of Rav
Soloveichik that we would permit a Cohen who is Mechallel Shabbos to
duchan, whereas a Cohen married to a gerusha (divorcee)would not be
permitted.  Why?  After all, chillul shabbos is more severe than a Cohen
marrying a divorcee?  The answer is that a Cohen who is married to a
gerusha is contradicting his own kedushas Cohen (special status
associated with being a Cohen), whereas a mechallel shabbos is not.

The point is, severity of a prohibition is not always the determinant of
a particular halakha -- less severe prohibitions may have other halakhic
aspects which may or may not be important to the issue at hand.

With respect to intermarriage, marriage is definitely a social
institution. A wedding is preferably performed before a minyan --
representing Klal Yisrael -- and we bless the bride and groom that they
may build a "bayis ne'eman b'yisroel" -- a faithful house in Israel,
meaning among the Jewish people.  There are many other halachos and
customs all of which indicate that a marriage is more than simply a
private contractual arrangement between the man and woman.

For that reason, I cannot see how a person committed to the Torah could
possibly attend a mixed marriage -- where the attendee is expected to
wish "congratualations" and "mazel tov" to the couple.  Such a marriage
represents a serious breach of the holiness of the Jewish people, if not
the end of the line of a family which conceivably stretches back to Har

Likewise, inviting a mixed-marriage couple to a celebration implies
social approval -- "Mr. and Mrs. John Doe are cordially invited to the
Bar Mitzvah of Plony bar Almony etc."

None of the above applies to a Mechallel Shabbos -- particularly today,
where the overwhelming majority are in the category of tinok shenishba.

Of course, there are special family situations and pressures which might
permit one to bend a bit in certain situations.  That is for a qualified
posek to determine.  In general, however, the approach should be that
such a marriage is a terrible tragedy to the Jewish people and we cannot
blithely treat it as simply a person lifestyle choice.  As another
poster pointed out, in prior generations the family would sit shiva -- a
clear indication of the severity of the matter.

Tal Benschar
Clifton, New Jersey


From: David Ziants <dziants@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 16:39:36 +0300
Subject: Re: Rabbinic violations for pre-barmitzva

I wrote concerning children carrying the chulent pot from the baker to
home when no eruv:

> In later life, I was able to confirm, that this was in fact halachicly
> permitted because: a) The streets are a "karmelit" (= halachic "side
> streets") according to all opinions, thus carrying is here a Rabbinic
> prohibition.  b) It is permitted to enable a boy below bar-mitzva, or
> girl below bat-mitzva to do a Rabbinic prohibition, even l'hatchila
> (on the outset), for the needs of a mitzva - and in this case the
> mitzva is the Shabbat meal. The boy may be bar-mitzva (or girl
> bat-mitzva) the next day and it is fine.>>

Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...> replied:

> No, this is incorrect.  Or, actually, it is the halacha with respect
> to a nonJew.  For a child, the halacha (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim
> 343:1) is that "it is not permitted to habituate him/her in chillul
> Shabbos, even in matters that are only rabbinically forbidden.

> The Mishna Berura gives an example of giving the minor a key to carry
> in a carmelis; quite similar to your case.  Only if the person doing
> the rabbinical melacha is a nonJew, AND it's for a mitzva (or public
> need or kavod haberios) would it be permitted.

Possibly the Rav (who is a posek) who told me that this activity was
acceptable for a child, was basing himself on the responsa of Rabbi
Akiva Eger that is quoted in the biur halacha of the above citation, who
allows the child to bring a siddur or chumash to shul when a karmelit,
although no eruv.

There is the qualification that the siddur has to be for the child's
use, and not for adult use, although an adult may pray out of it with
the child.

This is explained clearly in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchato (Vol 1 18:54),
and adds that the law only applies to a siddur, and not to any other
object.  In the foot note (238), the case of a child bringing the keys
of the shul is mentioned. I don't know why he doesn't allow this in the
main text. I can understand that chulent pots are not mentioned, because
this was an activity that was of the previous generation, and this book,
written in the 1970s, concentrates on activities of his (and our time).

It seems that Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchato on one hand doesn't want to
forbid something, contradictory to Rabbi Akiva Eger who permitted, but
on the other hand refuses to extend the law to similar and equally
pressing situations.

Could it be that the Rabbanim who permitted the activity of children
carrying the chulent pot, were basing themselves on Rabbi Akiva Eger and
willing to extend the law to other mitzva situations, like the chulent
pot (from which the child will obviously benefit with the rest of the

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 16:59:28 GMT
Subject: Re: Rabbinic violations for pre-barmitzva

-- David Ziants <dziants@...> wrote:

<<There is the qualification that the siddur has to be for the child's
use, and not for adult use, although an adult may pray out of it with
the child.>>

I did not see the BH there, but I'm not sure why Rabbi Akiva Eiger would
have to address this.  The halacha is that a child may do melacha for
his own benefit but not for an adult.  This is one illustration thereof.

<<This is explained clearly in Shemirat Shabbat Kehilchato (Vol 1
18:54), and adds that the law only applies to a siddur, and not to any
other object.>>

I'll have to look at that as well; the halacha of carrying something for
his own use is universal and not limited to a siddur. Perhaps the heter
for an adult to share it?

<<Could it be that the Rabbanim who permitted the activity of children
carrying the chulent pot, were basing themselves on Rabbi Akiva Eger and
willing to extend the law to other mitzva situations, like the chulent
pot (from which the child will obviously benefit with the rest of the

The primary purpose must be for the child.  It is a longstanding, WRONG
practice for children to carry their father's talis bag to shul, but
there is no basis in halacha to permit this.



From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 09:32:24 -0400
Subject: Rabbinical positions, again

> >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.

>But you are the one who assumed aspersions, not the original
>poster. There is a BIG differerence between "many" and "most". The fact
>of the matter is that many of the Rabbinates in that part of Europe
>were purchased and the problems caused thereby was a major factor in
>the rise of Chasidus in that part of Europe. You don't have to like it,
>but to refuse to acknowledge it is to spit into the wind. And I
>disagree with your position that the old time Europeans were so much
>better than us.

I repeat the original post below, for you (and probably others) who have
lost the start of this thread. As you can see, "many individuals
preferred to show off their acumen in Torah dialectics rather than waste
their time on devotional prayer". The plain reading of this certainly
seems to indicate that the writer felt that many Polish Rabbis who were
obviously learned Talmedei Chachomim (since they were able in
dialectics) had little interest in prayer, and considered it a "waste".
To say this of the contemporaries of the Gr'a is nervy.

The corrupt Rabbinate in Europe that I know of was composed of ignorant
people who were appointed by the government to "influence" the Jews. An
example is Russia, where they were asked to promote secular schooling.
Maligning that type would not raise hackles.

Re the "old time Europeans were so much better than us", I have no idea
where you got that.  The "average" European Jew of the 18th century was
certainly an ignoramus living on a farm, who saw a minyan a few times a
year and did not own a single book.  I agree that secularization enticed
them away as soon as they were exposed.  I also am pretty sure that
never before in history have so many Jews learned so much Torah, or had
so many Jewish books, or so many synagogues, or had the availability of
kosher foods, etc.  I'd bet that there are more people alive today that
have finished the Talmud than ever before in history. Ther is little
doubt in my mind that today is the "golden age" of Judaism, despite all
the problems.

>From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
>Positions In MJ 43:61, Joseph Ginzberg commented on a post of mine in 
>>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


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 09:00:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: Stem Cell Research

Irwin Weiss <irwin@...> wrote:
> I didn't find anything by searching, but maybe I didn't do it well.
> In any event, is anyone aware of any Teshuva relating to Stem Cell
> research?

I don't know about a teshuva per se, but here are some articles on the
subject. You can also find a collection of links to articles about
genetic issues and stem cell research at

"Stem Cell Research in Jewish Law" (Jewish Law Journal)

"Judaism and Stem Cell Research" (Jewish Action magazine, OU)

"Religious Views on the Use of ES Cells for Therapeutic Research"
   Weizmann Institute

-- Janice


End of Volume 44 Issue 14