Volume 44 Number 28
                    Produced: Thu Aug 19  6:04:21 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Adding to Birkat HaMazon
         [Ben Katz]
The alleged hijacking of Kabbalah
         [Ira L. Jacobson]
Parent in Charge (eruv)
         [Leah S. Gordon]
Political Correctness and Significant Others
         [Steven White]
Prayer vs. Learning (2)
         [David Riceman, Joseph Ginzberg]
"Unmarried Girls" [sic] (3)
         [R E Sternglantz, Irwin Weiss, Ken Bloom]
"Yir'at Shamayim"
         [Shmuel Himelstein]


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 19:15:50 -0500
Subject: Re: Adding to Birkat HaMazon

         I agree with our esteemed moderator.  I don't think there are
any serious issues adding any "harachamans" and am told that such
distinguished luminaries as the chatam sofer stopped his birchat hamazon
after the 4th beracha.

         I have seen people add the harachaman for medinat yisrael after
the one for returning us upright to our land, which makes good
contextual sense.

         At my daughter's simchat bat celebrations we have modified some
of the harachamans that are done at a brit and no one objected.


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 08:51:39 +0300
Subject: The alleged hijacking of Kabbalah

In a thought-provoking article entitled, "Who Hijacked The Kabbalah?",
Joel Bainerman provides some insights into the use of Kabbalah in
certain circles today.

Among other things, he asks:  "Why the hijacking of the Kabbalah?"

He answers that "It could be said that this hijacking of the Kabbalah
from the Jews took place 15th and 16th century from Spain, through Italy
and then to Zefat in the Galilee."

He quotes Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok, who explains that Kabbalah is the
Hebrew term for that which is received.  What is received is nothing
less than the metaphysical and spiritual teachings practiced and handed
down by the schools of the Biblical prophets."

Bainerman claims that "practitioners of the occult" use the form of
Kabbalah that is most popularly known around the world.

If one is to go to a bookstore and see the selection of Kabbalah books
in English, one will find that the vast majority of them do not come
from bona fide Jewish Kabbalistic authors, says Rabbi Tzadok.  "The
honor of true Kabbalah is at stake."

Rabbi Tzadok claims that this means that true Kabbalah contains the
wisdom of the prophetic schools of the Biblical prophets.

"It must be made known what is legitimate Kabbalah and what are the
impostors and forgeries," he points out.  "Only in this way can the
true and holy Kabbalah, ordained and given by G-d, be preserved,
treasured and safeguarded.  It is for this purpose that I address this

He says that it is important to understand that authentic Jewish
Kabbalah, as handed down by the Prophets, contains great concepts of
social justice, morality and human rights.  These teachings have had a
tremendous influence on the development of post Renaissance western
philosophy. Yet the role of Kabbalah in influencing these matters is
known to only a small few.

The entire article can be read at
http://www.joelbainerman.com/articles/who_hi.asp .

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 04:09:22 -0700
Subject: Parent in Charge (eruv)

>> <<< ... except in cases of great need which would certainly include
>> mothers with small children ... >>>
>> and *fathers* with small children as well, of course.
>Of course but it is usually mothers who are housebound with infants
>while the fathers are in shul.
>Martin Stern

Akiva Miller, I presume, was noting that it is offensive to assume that
the mother is the default parent who would have to be housebound in the
case of a family with young children.  Family structure is not that
monolithic, thank goodness.

--Leah S. R. Gordon


From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steven White)
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 19:31:59 -0400
Subject: Re:  Political Correctness and Significant Others

In MJ 44:20, Leah Gordon writes:
>It is my strong opinion that if someone describes his/her own life with
>certain language ("wife" or "SO" or "partner" or whatever), that it
>behooves the rest of the world to respect that language and use it to
>describe them as well.  Can you imagine the rudeness, not to mention the
>logical obstacles, if you decided to use your own descriptors: "Hello,
>how is your adopted son and also your IVF-conceived daughter?  How about
>your opposite-

On the whole I agree with Leah.  Yet I believe the guiding principle
here must be promoting Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of the name), and
reducing Chillul Hashem (desecration of the name).  Because of that, I
can understand the position of someone like Martin Stern, who simply
registers his view that society's acceptance of the
SO/partner/unmarried-partner-of-either-sex relationship is itself a
Chillul Hashem.  That view is appropriate halachically, but there are
ways to deal with this that don't magnify the Chilul Hashem.

>If it amuses you to torture the poor bureaucrat who asks for your
>"partner," then please realize that it was probably the decision of
>someone else to choose the most general term for all people who will
>use the form.

You are not going to change anyone's mind, not to mention the form, in a
single bureaucratic interaction, so the goal can be no more than to make
your opinion known.  So rather than torturing the bureaucrat, simply
smile at him/her and say, "I prefer to strike the word 'partner' and
substitute the word 'wife' (or 'husband' or 'spouse').  That gets your
point across without being rude or Holier Than Thou, which inevitably
backfires into Chillul Hashem.

>If there is a way to use words that will refrain from insulting another
>person's life circumstances, then so much the better.  I suppose this
>makes me a proponent of 'political correctness'.

I'm actually an opponent of "political correctness," as it is commonly
understood.  I'm a proponent of polite, careful speech that actually
conveys my meaning.  I don't think it inevitably "behooves the rest of
the world to ... use [people's self-descriptions] to describe them as
well."  At the same time, just because one doesn't want to describe Tom
and Dick as "partners" doesn't mean that they aren't, whether one likes
it or not.

BTW:  "SO" can change with context, and isn't exactly the same as
"partner" AIUI.  It invariably encompasses a fiancÚ(e), whether s/he
lives in or not, and whether s/he is also a sexual partner or not.  It
does _not_ necessarily mean a live-in partner or a lover, though it
often (even usually) does.  Sometimes, it can even mean what my parents'
generation quaintly called "being pinned."  It's simply a shortcut term
of convenience meaning "someone I'm not married to [yet], but am
sufficiently serious about that if you don't invite her/him, I'm not
coming either."  And it's more polite, because it doesn't explicitly
state the threat.

Steven White
Highland Park, NJ


From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Mon, 16 Aug 2004 09:47:24 -0400
Subject: Re: Prayer vs. Learning

> From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
> This is probably a polemic position against Chassidism with its greater
> emphasis on prayer as opposed to learning and must be taken with a pinch
> of salt.

A previous poster previously complained that accusing contemporaries of
the Gra of preferring study to prayer is "nervy".  Don't you think that
accusing R.  Haim Volozhin of lying (even if you call it "a polemic
position") is also "nervy"?

David Riceman

From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 14:58:23 -0400
Subject: Prayer vs. Learning

Your quote of R. Chaim saying that he would exchange all his prayers for
one novel Torah interpretation is very far from our subject.  His point
was the primacy of Torah lishma.

The issue here was considering prayer as a "waste" in favor of learning.
Does anyone think that R. Chaim Volozhner did not pray daily?  It would
be a novel position!  His point was that Torah is supreme to even
prayer, and service of God is best done by learning Torah.

How does that jive with the issue, that the original posting claimed
that many/ most of the Gra"s contemporaries were learned but considered
prayer a waste of time?

I believe that every halacha book requires prayer, even at the expense
of learning.  I have never heard of a serious yeshiva that did not have
daily prayer.

The main point is that there were many causative factors in the creation
of Chassidus, including emphasis on prayer, but to be respectful it is
unfair to say that the "misnagdim" considered prayer a waste of time.

Yossi Ginzberg


From: R E Sternglantz <resternglantz@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 08:40:30 -0400
Subject: "Unmarried Girls" [sic]

I suspect that unmarried men over the age of [insert whatever the
typical age for marriage is in your particular community] rankle at
being referred to as "bochur" (as in "alter bochur").

And I Love Lucy notwithstanding, *it is a fact* that within at least
some segments of the frum community you do not graduate to adulthood
until marriage, and this is reflected on the most superficial level in
the language used to refer to unmarried community members of whatever
age.  It's not malicious, and I would guess that not every person on the
receiving end of it cares, but it is part of an overall infantilizing of
unmarried adults in the frum community, which is a real problem ("girl"
and "boy" being symptoms).  Another real problem is that once an
unmarried adult is *obviously* no longer a 'girl' or a 'boy' the
community erases him/her entirely, having no productive space for
unmarried men and women, because this creature is not really supposed to

Language is powerful, and it should be used with care.

Ruth Sternglantz

From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 08:27:11 -0400
Subject: "Unmarried Girls" [sic]

Ben Katz , in response to Leah S. Gordon, writes: 
>"Just look at old TV shows like the Honeymooners or I Love Lucy - Ethel
>and Lucy or Alice and Trixie often referred to their husbands as "the
>boys" and vice versa.  This seems to me an example of an epithet that a
>few vocal prominent leaders have decided was insulting and therefore is
>not often used anymore.  Another example is "African American" for
>Black.  I know white South Africans who are now US citizens - no one
>calls them African Americans because they are white!"

True enough. But, would you refer to Black Americans as "colored" since
this term was also used in the era of I Love Lucy?  Or, would you refer
to Asian Americans as "Nips" or "Japs" or "Chinks"?  If so, there are
some choice derogatory terms for Jewish Americans that I prefer not to
repeat or hear.

In general, I don't think we should adopt as role models the characters
of 1950's TV, and certainly not the characters of modern television.
(Although the Seinfeld episode on "double-dipping" appears to come
directly from Gemara).

Irwin E. Weiss, Esq.
Suite 307, 920 Providence Rd, Baltimore, MD 21286

From: Ken Bloom <kabloom@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 19:30:30 -0700
Subject: Re: "Unmarried Girls" [sic]

It seems that the female half of the population of my college campus is
still "girls", and it will continue to be that way as long as I forsee
it. Maybe they'll turn into "women" when they get married. Or maybe, the
girls of my generation will be "girls" all their lives - after all, we
have a good 20 years of training using that word.

On a partially related note, if anyone thinks that we need to avoid
using "politically incorrect" language so as not to offend someone, you
obviously haven't been paying attention to what "Palestinian
freedom-fighers", and "Palestinian militants" have been doing in the
field of PR with their language. Just like we hope to convey to the
world that the Palestinian-arab terrorists are trying to destroy Israel,
we also want to convey Torah to the world. And that needs to start by
calling a spade a spade.

Does anyone get the impression that "girls" and "boys" have less
responsibility in their lives (particularly less responsibility to
behave appropriately and morally) than"men" and"women", even if they're
all 20 years old?

Maybe we should be agreeing with Leah, but making the change just feels
so unnatural for my generation.

(I'm 21.)

	--Ken Bloom


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Aug 2004 13:12:57 +0300
Subject: "Yir'at Shamayim"

All this talk of "frumer than you" reminds me of what I was told decades
about by someone I respected highly.

He said that the problem of our generation is that everyone is afraid of
what the other person will say.

They even have a name for this phenomenon: they call it "Yir'at Shamayim"

Shmuel Himelstein


End of Volume 44 Issue 28