Volume 44 Number 42
                    Produced: Tue Aug 24  6:08:06 EDT 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Beer and Yayin Nesach
         [Andrew Marks]
Brit - kvatter/in (2)
         [Jack Gross, Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Fake Marriages
         [Yitzchak Scott-Thoennes]
Genetic Differences Among Jews
         [Sam Saal]
Jewish Genetic Differences
         [Rhonda Stein]
Ktav Ivri
Matrilineal descent and more
         [Martin Stern]
Names of Rabbis
         [Sam Saal]
New discussion topic - Vegetarianism
         [Martin Stern]
Parent in Charge (eruv)
         [Akiva Miller]


From: Andrew Marks <machmir@...>
Subject: Re: Beer and Yayin Nesach

> [I believe that the issue is not Yayin Nesach (which would be a Torah
> level prohibition) but rather the Rabbinic level prohibition of Stam
> Yanum. It is that prohibition that could be argued should be extended to
> beer. Mod.]

The prohibition on (non-mevushal) wine moved (or possibly even touched
by goyim, see Shach - YD 124:40) is d'Rabanan instituted for fear that
the goy may have used or dedicated the wine to avodah zara.  See Rambam
11:4.  I totally forget about the stam yeinam issue though.


From: Jack Gross <ibijbgross@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 13:27:11 -0400
Subject: Re: Brit - kvatter/in

From: Aliza Berger <alizadov@...>
>Kvatter/in is a Yiddish word. Is there an equivalent word in Hebrew, or
>do only Ashkenazim have this custom?

My conjecture on the origin of the term:

The childs mother needs to convey him to the father, but (if the Brit is
on time) cannot hand anything to him directly.  So a couple (engaged, or
otherwide able to serve) is designated -- she (die Kvatterin) takes the
child from the mother, hands the child to her partner (der Kvatter), who
hands the baby to the father.

Since four parties are involved, perhaps "kvatter" mean on who performs
one-quarter of the operation.

Other communities must have an equivalent, for practical reasons.

From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 14:50:24 EDT
Subject: Brit - kvatter/in

Aliza Berger (MJv44n35) asks: <<Kvatter/in is a Yiddish word. Is there
an equivalent word in Hebrew, or do only Ashkenazim have this custom?>>

According to the Mishnah Berurah (551:3) "Ba'al Brit" is the person who
holds the baby boys on his knees during the circumcision, also known in
Rabbinic literature as Sandak (Yalkut Shim'oni Psalms 723). The MB
(ibid.) calls the Kevater "ha-machnis ve-ha-motzi ha-tinok."  Harkavy,
Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary (1928, p. 450) bring the Hebrew of
Kevater as "ha-ish ha-machnis et ha-yeled le-himol."  Weincheich
translates the Kevater in English as Godfather, but Godfather in Hebrew
is Sandak with a different meaning. So it appears that there is not
direct Hebrew term for Kavater, only a description.

The chabad URL below:


suggests that initially the term Kavater meant Sandak, and included both
the bringing of the child from his mother and holding him down on the
knees, and that only later generations split the job (increase the
number of kibbudim!) into 1. Kavter the person who brings and 2. Sandak
for the person holding the baby on the knees. If this is correct, it
might explain the lack of Hebrew term for the first part.

Leon da Modena (1571-1648), the Italian Rabbi in his autobiographical
book (Chayei Yehudah) describes his own birth and the birth of his sons.
In each of the cases he gives the name of the mohel and the male-female
relatives who are "ba-alei berit." In the first case it is his father
and his female cousin, in the second case his father and his mother, in
the third case his father and mother-in-laws, and in the forth case his
wife's uncle and his wife. The word "sandak" is not mentioned at all,
and of course "k'vater" [from German 'vater' =father] is not mentioned
either. (I used the _Leket Ketavim_ edition culled by Penina Naveh,
Jerusalem, 1968, p. 20, 36, 39, 41)

The implication of his description is that the female brought the child
to the male ba'al berit who held the baby on his knees for the
circumcision act. I would assume that the father of the child took the
child from the female and gave it to the male, but that is not in the

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: Yitzchak Scott-Thoennes <sthoenna@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 05:24:36 -0700
Subject: Fake Marriages

A few posts have raised the issue of fraud; I don't think this is
applicable (though the original poster didn't provide precise details).

I believe usually tuition assistance is based on an assessment of the
parent and student's combined resources up to a certain age, unless the
student is married.  While this general rule is intended as a measure of
independence, it isn't applied with any flexibility.

A student living on her own, working and paying rent, may still be
obliged to get the parent to submit financial records and, based on the
assessment, perhaps be required to come up with a parental contribution
toward tuition.

Similarly, a married student may be let out of these requirements, even
though she is dependent on the parent.

A natural consequence of creating hard and fast rules for eligibility is
that those rules have a disjunction from their intent.  And there's
nothing wrong with following the rules to one's own advantage, so
there's no fraud here.


From: Sam Saal <ssaal@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 07:38:54 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Genetic Differences Among Jews

Mike Gerver wrote:

>Is there anything known about the history of Ashkenazic Jews that would
>preclude an average female conversion rate into Judaism of 1% of the
>population per generation over the past 1200 years? This represents only
>about 30 or 40 conversions per year throughout northern Europe from 800
>to 1400 (when the total Ashkenazic population remained steady at about
>100,000), gradually rising to 300 or 400 per year by 1700. If such
>conversions did occur, no one would have been publicizing them, since it
>obviously would have been very upsetting to the local Christian

I understood (maybe from mail.jewish, but it reasonated with me) that
early Jewish traders shipped out to new areas without their wives
(dangerous journeys). They stayed long enough to establish families, but
ithout Jewish women around, converted women from the local population.
Before Rabbeinu Gershom - the timeframe Mike mentions - polygamy issues
were not a problem even if their original wives later joined them. I
imagine this population correlates nicely to Mike's estimate of "only
about 30 or 40 conversions per year throughout northern Europe" at least
until Rabbeinu Gershom's monogamy bruling spread to the Jewishly sparse

Sam Saal


From: Rhonda Stein <rhondastein@...>
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 2004 20:20:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Jewish Genetic Differences

I'm surprised no one has mentioned another possibility for the reason
that Jews came to resemble the residents of the countries where they
lived.  Remember Yaakov Ovinu putting speckled and striped sticks at the
watering troughs?


From: <asapper@...>
Date: Sat, 21 Aug 2004 23:52:42 -0400
Subject: Ktav Ivri

Stan Tenen wrote (No. 44, Vol. 8):

"When you look at both the Ktav Ivri and the Ashuris letters carefully,
it becomes obvious that they are independent.  A Ktav Ivri Ayin is a
circle, while an Ashuris Ayin is Y-shaped.  There is no smooth
orthographic drift that can account for this and other inconsistencies
[in shape]."

With all respect, this is just not correct.  I refer Mr. Tenen to Joseph
Naveh, Origins of the Alphabets (published by Palphot Ltd., Jerusalem,
1994).  On page 65, the orthographic progrssion between the ayin in Ktav
Ivri (i.e., Paleo-Hebrew script) and that in Ktav Ashurith (i.e.,
Aramaic script) is demonstrated quite clearly.  As Mr. Tenen correctly
notes, the ayin in Ktav Ivri is a circle.  Dr. Naveh observes, however,
that over the centuries, the top of the circle got cut off by hurried
scribes, resulting in a U-shaped letter in the Aramaic script of the 7th
century BCE.  Quoting Dr. Naveh, this was "written mainly with two bars
(first to the left and then to the right) meeting at the base [Dr. Naveh
then has a graphic showing a letter looking much like a script Y with a
tail hanging down the right side, but without any curve in the tail --
AGS].  Since there is always a tendency when writing to draw the pen
towards the next letter, the right bar becomes longer and longer
[Dr. Naveh then has a graphic showing how the tail of the letter
progressed over the centuries to look very much like a Y with a curve in
the tail -- AGS].  In this way, the classical shape of the letter
develops [to the form] known in Jewish script to the present day [i.e.,
Ktav Ashurith]."  Dr.  Naveh demonstrates such progressions with respect
to every letter.

       Furthermore, photographs showing intermediate forms between Ktav
Ivri and Ktav Ashurith generally are displayed on pages 29, 30 and 32 of
his book.  They show writings in Ktav Ashurith (i.e., Aramaic script)
from the 8th century BCE (looking then much like Ktav Ivri), from 600
BCE, and 5th century BCE, as well as a chart showing the differences
between the two scripts by the 6th century BCE.  The evidence is
unmistakable that Ktav Ashurith was a development of Ktav Ivri, or more
precisely, the nearly identical Phoenecian script used by Caananites,
from which the Greeks and the Arameans developed their scripts.


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 12:20:10 +0100
Subject: Re: Matrilineal descent and more

on 22/8/04 11:19 am, Yakir <yakirhd@...> wrote:

>> I believe that most rabbis regard this (Matrilineal descent) halacha to
>> be a d'Rabbanan
> I have been trying to understand the significance and ramifications of
> this (as an intellectual/halachic exercise):

As far as I am aware, matrilineal descent is considered to be d'oraita
so it is possible that Yakir might have misunderstood a previous posting
which I must not have noticed. Perhaps one of our more learned
contributors could supply a list of those on either side of this debate.

Martin Stern


From: Sam Saal <ssaal@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 07:38:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Names of Rabbis

>>So, the query gets murkier.  And it is still "why?".  Why does a famous
>>Rabbi adopt his mother's maiden name out of respect for Torah learning,
>>thus overriding his father's family name?

>I think a better question is, why not?  As Avi said, this seems to have
>been common.

You can't chose your son, but may have some influence in choosing your
son-in-law. A rabbinic dynasty need not end when (1) there are no sons
or (2) the sons do not reach a level of learning, wisdom, etc to take on
their father's mantle. But if the sage has a daughter, she may marry a
man who not only meets her matrimonial, family, and life needs, but also
those of her father's dynastic expectations. In turn, when the
son-in-law does take on his father-in-law's mantle, he (may) adopt his
name, as well, as a further symbol of his leadership/acceptance/etc.

Sam Saal


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 07:00:15 +0100
Subject: New discussion topic - Vegetarianism

At dinner on shabbat, the topic of Vegetarianism came up and it struck
me that this might be something we might find worth discussing on
mail-jewish.  Basically the problem is "Is Vegetarianism compatible with
a Torah lifestyle?" I think that the problem is not whether
Vegetarianism per se is, or is not, allowed or encouraged by the Torah
but what is the motivation for its adoption. I will list a few possible
ones and give my comments before throwing the matter open for others to

[Little is new on mail-jewish, and this has been discussed in the past,
but it has been a while, so why not one more round. After all, we do
that with every other topic as well :-)  Mod.]

Vegetarianism may be adopted because:

1. The person does not like the taste of meat
2. The person has witnessed animals being slaughtered and feels traumatised
by the experience
3. The person believes that meat eating is not as healthy as a vegetarian
4. The person believes that killing animals for human consumption is wrong
i. e. we have no right to put our diet above the right to life of other
sentient beings

There may well be other motives which will come up in discussion but I
would accept that the first three may be permissible in present
circumstances though, when the Temple is rebuilt and sacrifices are
offered, there may be a problem. However the fourth one strikes me as
being basically a form of neo-paganism and is prohibited to us since the
Torah has expressly permitted the eating of meat (and commanded it in
the case of sacrifices); we have no right to be frummer than the Torah
itself. What do others think about this matter?

Martin Stern 


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2004 11:10:28 -0400
Subject: Re: Parent in Charge (eruv)

Martin Stern wrote <<< Women have no obligation to attend communal
prayers whereas men do. At other times it may be possible to apply the
concept of gender-equality but it is incorrect to do so in regard to
shul attendance. Therefore women will tend to be default parent who
would have to be housebound for a couple of hours, which is all I meant
in previous postings. >>>

Yes, I totally agree. But for the rest of the day, the wife is not
necessarily the default housebound, and that's all that *I* meant in
previous postings.

Akiva Miller


End of Volume 44 Issue 42