Volume 45 Number 83
                    Produced: Tue Nov 23  5:26:32 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Bilha and Zilpa
         [Ilana Goldstein Saks]
Importance of Parts of Tefilah
         [Martin Stern]
Lateness to Shul - symptoms, root causes and suggestions
         [Martin Stern]
Passing in front of someone during Tefilah
         [Jeffrey Kaufman]
Prenupital Agreements - more links
         [Aliza Berger]
         [Samuel P Groner]
Translating Tanakh
         [Alex Heppenheimer]
Whatever happened to Bilhah and Zilpah?


From: Ilana Goldstein Saks <lonnie@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 15:12:20 +0200
Subject: Bilha and Zilpa

>I have often wonderd why these two women, mothers of 4 out the tribes,
>are not considered "imahot."  We do know that Leah and Rachel regarded
>the children of these two as, somehow, to their totals, giving Rachel 4
>and Leah 8 of the tribes, but that somehow doesn't parse for me.  We
>don't know much about these women, but they did contribute their genes
>to our people.
>Wendy Baker

Rahel and Leah gave Bilha and Zilpa to Yaakov for the purpose of bearing
children for them (see: Bereishit 30:3,9 Some say that the phrase
"vateled al birkai" is an adoption term).  As such they were really
surrogate mothers.  Note also that Rahel and Leah - not Bilha and Zilpa
- named the children.  It seems this might have been Sara's intention as
well (see 16:2, she sees giving Hagar to Avraham as an opportunity to
"build" herself, not (only) Avraham) - had Hagar not begun to "question"
Sara's position as "g'vira" (primary wife) (16:4).  "Legally", then, it
seems Bilha and Zilpa were not "imahot."

[E-mail scanned for viruses]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 09:43:16 +0000
Subject: Re: Importance of Parts of Tefilah

on 21/11/04 12:52 pm, Michael J. Savitz <michael.savitz@...> wrote:

> It seems to me that a good measure of the "importance" with which a part
> of the davening is regarded is the time alloted to it, divided (as it
> were) by the length of the text.  By this measure, "Vehu Rachum" must
> rank very low indeed.  At most shuls I have been to, reciting Vehu
> Rachum on-pace with the sheliach tzibur is, for me at least, a near
> physical impossibility, even though I have been saying it for years.
> It's as if the kahal is collectively pretending to recite the whole
> thing, with most people (I suspect) skimming or skipping.  (Other
> examples of "low-ranking" tefillot where this phenomenon seems to apply:
> Brich Shmei, Pitum Haketoret, Eizehu Mekoman, Shir Shel Yom, Slichot,
> Asher Heini [after megilla reading].)

I agree wholeheartedly with Michael on this perception of relative
importance. The only way to get round it is to start davenning before
the official time and get sufficiently ahead so that the congregation
'catches up' with oneself at a suitable time, either barekhu or the
beginning of shemonei esrei which is the main obligation of tefillah
betsibbur anyway. I cannot comment on Berikh Shmeih and Pitum Haketoret
(at the end) since our minhag is not to say them at all. As regards
Eizehu Mekoman, one can certainly say everything up to that point at
home before going to shul since it is not really part of the tefillah
betsibbur at all (In some siddurim these are printed before the berakhot
for putting on tallit and tefillin).  One can also say the Shir Shel Yom
early or, since it is usually said at the end, stay back a few minutes
to say it after the end.

As regards Selichot, there is no solution other than only saying as much
as one can manage and skipping to the Kel Melekh when the shats starts
saying it. This may not be desirable but if needs be one may have
to. One does not have to sing Shoshanat Ya'akov with the congregation
which might give enough time to finish Asher Heini of which it is in any
case the last few lines.

As Michael says there is a major problem with the long Vehu Rachum. What
I do is to start saying it after shemonei esrei while waiting for
chazarat hashats, usually managing one or two of the seven paragraphs,
and usually manage to finish it before kaddish. This is not ideal but
one has to remember that some people have to get away to work and one
cannot extend the davenning unduly. Of course one could start a bit
earlier but that might not be very popular!

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 13:49:23 +0000
Subject: Re: Lateness to Shul - symptoms, root causes and suggestions

on 22/11/04 11:17 am, Carl Singer <casinger@...> wrote:

> Has davening gotten too long -- that is over the generations has too
> much content been added? Do some ba'al tefilla stretch?  Or mechanically
> is there too much "dead air" as Gabbaim fumble with this that or the
> other thing (for example, time between aliyahs), are speeches and
> sermons too long, even the announcements can run to 5 minutes or so.)
> Or has our "modern clock" become so tightly wound that 3 or 4 hours
> spent davening (Shabbos Schaharis) seems too long -- as if we have
> something better to do?

I sympathise with anyone who is forced to be in shul for that long on
Shabbat morning; we take between two and two and a half hours (not much
more on Yom Tov) which is quite sufficient even if we do have a short
derashah or say piyutim. However, that cannot apply to weekday mornings
let alone mincha or ma'ariv. Perhaps those whose shul takes so long
should organise an alternative 'no frills' service in the hall.

Martin Stern


From: <D26JJ@...> (Jeffrey Kaufman)
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 11:12:04 -0500
Subject: Re: Passing in front of someone during Tefilah

Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...> wrote

> I believe that story is a Bein Adam laMakom story, not leChaveiro at
>all. The prohibition of passing in front of someone praying is because
>of haShem's presence there, and exists even when the person in question
>doesn't mind or is oblivious to your passing (e.g. with eyes closed).

You are correct. The story was misplaced. It was meant more in
connection to my first comments regarding a previous post

>> It is rude and obnoxious to muscle your way past someone in the
>> middle of saying the Shema or the Amida."

And I wrote

>Might I add that it is also contrary Halacha.   (see story about Rav
> Moshe below)

It was not meant as a proof to my second comment - I may not fulfill
my "Ben Adam LeMakom" at the expense of my "Ben Adam LeChavaro" which I
think still applies to someone who comes late and disturbs a fellow
Mispallel, similairly to someone who blocks a driveway so he can "Chap a

Jeffrey Kaufman


From: Aliza Berger <alizadov@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 18:11:20 +0200
Subject: Prenupital Agreements - more links

These pages contain numerous links:


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


From: Samuel P Groner <spg28@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 10:33:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Rashi

Noyekh Miller writes, "Great as he was, where is it written that [Rashi]
was infallible?"

This reminds me of the discussion we had here on mail-jewish in May 2002
regarding whether Rashi had Ruach Hakodesh ("divine spirit").  See the
archives at 36:31-47.

If Rashi on Chumash WAS written with Ruach HaKodesh, that would explain
its infallibility.

Sammy Groner


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 11:09:35 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Translating Tanakh

In MJ 45:80, Noyekh Miller commented at some length on the issue of
translation, giving a few examples from Artscroll - everyone's favorite
"whipping boy" in this as in many other matters - and their
(over-)reliance on Rashi for their Chumash translation.

I don't feel qualified to address the larger issue of whether a
translator should rely exclusively on one commentary, or use a more
eclectic approach. But some observations on Mr. Miller's specific
examples are in order.

> I wrote that translating 'tohu v'bohu' as 'bewilderment and empty'
> (Sapirstein Edition, published by Artscroll) is wildly inaccurate.
> My interlocutor (he prefers to remain anonymous) replies that my
> argument is with Rashi, not with the translator.  In short, Rashi
> defines 'tohu' as 'bewildering' or (n"a) 'astonishing'.


> Now R. Aryeh Kaplan, also Orthodox, renders Rashi's tranlation as
> "without form and empty" and gives that as his own as well.

"Bewilderment and empty" doesn't sound like very good English anyway.
But let's look again at Rashi's comments (all translations are my own):

"'Tohu' is an expression of amazement and astonishment: one would be
amazed and astonished at the 'bohu' of it. 'Tohu' is astordison
(astonishment) in the vernacular."

"'Bohu' is an expression of emptiness and void."

If I'm understanding this correctly, it seems that Rashi considers
"tohu" an adjective that modifies "bohu," so that the English
translation would be "astonishingly [or bewilderingly] empty."

Granted, there are other commentaries that explain "tohu" differently:
Ibn Ezra prefers the Targum's rendering ("tzadia" - empty), and Rabbeinu
Bachya (and perhaps Sforno) explain it as the primordial unformed
hyle. (R' Kaplan's translation also fits with this latter explanation,
although I confess that I don't understand how it's possible to
interpret Rashi as saying this.)

I don't currently have access to the supercommentaries on Rashi, but I
would suggest that he chose the rendering "tohu = astonishment" for its
simplicity: it avoids the duplication of "tohu" and "bohu" being
near-synonyms, and it doesn't require the introduction of Aristotelian
philosophical concepts regarding matter and form.  (Which, of course,
also makes it suitable for a contemporary translation - nothing to do
with Rashi's "infallibility" or any other such concept.)

> Or take the tree that Avrohom ovinu planted in Beer-Sheva.  Our
> translators call it an 'eshel'.  Why?  Because Rashi couldn't or
> wouldn't decide between two Amoraim.  Fine, but I want to teach my
> grandson Khumesh.  What do I do when I get to 'eshel'?  Shall I
> tell him that Rashi was undecided or shall I tell him that there's
> been a little progress since the Amoraim in the matter of Biblical
> Hebrew and that most people know that the eshel Avraham as it's
> called today in Israel is a tamarisk?  Better yet, why can't I
> tell him first about the Tannaim and then about the tamarisk?

Well, that last approach may be exactly why the translators decided to
leave "eshel" untranslated - so that you can run down all of the
possibilities. But rather than saying that "we know better than the
Amoraim and Rashi," it would be more meaningful to explore why they
chose to translate "eshel" as they did. [Even if we suppose that Rav and
Shmuel - let alone Rashi - were unfamiliar with the specific genus
Tamarix, they might well have translated "eshel" as a species of tree
(as does Ibn Ezra on this verse), or as a generic term for tree (as does
Radak to I Sam. 31:13).] I would suggest that they took the following
into consideration:

In all other places where it speaks of Avraham proclaiming the name of
Hashem, it was in connection with the building of an altar. Why would
Avraham have acted differently here, particularly since "sacred" trees
were used in pagan worship (and indeed, for that reason, the Torah
forbids one to plant a tree anywhere in the Beis HaMikdash)?
Furthermore, even if he was planting it not as a place of worship but as
a project for the public good (so that they could enjoy the shade -
Be'er Sheva being on the edge of the desert), why not plant a fruit tree
instead (in which case the Torah would have specified the type), so that
they could enjoy the fruit as well?  (Indeed, Rashbam - who is much more
literal-minded than his grandfather Rashi - also translates "eshel" as
an orchard, although he sees it as a place of prayer rather than

With the above in mind, then, it may well be that "eshel = tamarisk" is
the least-likely explanation in this context.

I might also adduce the fact that "eshel" is mentioned in only three
places in all of Tanach, and in another of them (I Sam. 31:13), the
parallel passage (I Chron. 10:12) refers to the tree as "elah," a
terebinth. Here, translating "eshel" as tamarisk creates a contradiction
between the two accounts, and indeed this is why Radak to I
Sam. ibid. explains that "eshel" is the generic term and "elah" is a
specific species. Thus, in two of three places, the translation "eshel =
tamarisk" seems to be contraindicated, proofs from linguistic researches
notwithstanding. (Which, of course, is not to say that such research is
worthless in understanding the Torah, just that it needs to be assigned
its proper role. But that's a separate discussion.)

Kol tuv,


From: Minden <phminden@...>
Date: Mon, 22 Nov 2004 14:08:10 +0100
Subject: Whatever happened to Bilhah and Zilpah?

Freda B Birnbaum wrote:
> And I knew a lady, now deceased, who would be well over 100, whose name
> was "Pesha bas Bilhah".

Are you sure she wasn't an israelised "bas Beile" or even "bas Bella"?
Often names aren't understood by native speakers of this Ivrit thing,
and de-corrupted according to their natural competence.

ELPh Minden


End of Volume 45 Issue 83