Volume 46 Number 07
                    Produced: Fri Dec  3  4:29:47 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

         [Nathan Lamm]
Brit - Mother Drinking Wine
Chanakuh Candles/Shul
         [Roger Jefferson]
Correctness of old sifrei Torah
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
         [Nathan Lamm]
Evolving customs re: funerals
         [Carl Singer]
Kashrus of old tefillin
         [Mike Gerver]
Old Tefillin
         [Nathan Lamm]
Parsha Derash Questio
         [Janice Gelb]
Red strings and normative Judaism
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Seating problems
Shul seating
         [Joseph Ginzberg]


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2004 05:46:25 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Bilhah

Abigael Franks, 1696-1756, was a renowned Jewish woman of the colonial
American era; her full name was Bilhah Abigael Franks. I'd assume she
was of Spanish-Portuguese descent.


From: <chips@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 07:03:46 -0800
Subject: Re: Brit - Mother Drinking Wine

> In your community, how common is it for the mother to drink from the
> wine at her son's brit?

I believe it is more a matter of practicality than anything else. In
some situations it could take many minutes for the cup to get to the
Mother, in which case it isn't done , at least as part of the service..



From: Roger Jefferson <rogerjefferson1975@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2004 06:13:18 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Chanakuh Candles/Shul

Does anyone know where the custom comes from to ONLY light the chanakuh
candles in shul on Friday night.  There is a shul in my area that
follows this and I would like to the source, if any.



From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 11:39:44 -0500
Subject: Correctness of old sifrei Torah

When the computer examination of Sifrei Torah began about 15 years ago,
I remember hearing that of the first 100 checked, not a single one was
kosher.  If this is correct, the obvious conclusion would be that the
Rambam and the Chazon Ish (just as examples) most likely never heard a
"kosher" Torah reading....Hard for me to accept.

Do the standards change with the improvement of the checking technology?

Yossi Ginzberg


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 08:41:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Emori

In response to the question of why the Emori are singled out with the
term "Darkei Emori":

I'm working off memory here, but I seem to recall that Emori is a
generic term for Western Semites used by Mesopotamian peoples (such as
Avraham's ancestors), meaning, in fact, "Westerners." "Canaani" is also
a generic term for those peoples; the name is related to the purple dye
they made a traded, and the Greek "Phoenician" and Latin "Punic" are
translations of that.

The Perizi (which literally would mean those in open towns) and Yevusi
(centered on Jerusalem?) would seem to be distinct peoples within these
generic categories, as would the Girgashi. It's been suggested that the
"Hivvi" are related to the Hurrians, a major nation not mentioned in
Tanakh. Finally, the Hittites were a major Indo-European empire based in
Asia Minor; whether they are related to the Hitti (or Bnai Het) of
Canaan- such as those Avraham bought the Mearat HaMakhpela from- is

This all has implications as to whether there are really "seven
nations," or whether there are far more or far less.

Molekh, incidentally, was a Phoenician god, but child-sacrifice wasn't
unknown among others, like the Moabites, for example.

Nachum Lamm


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 09:03:59 -0500
Subject: Evolving customs re: funerals

My mother-in-law passed away this week and funerals became a topic of
discussion.  I want to focus on the "timing" of the funeral and of

Much has been written over the ages (pre-telephone, telegraph, email,
etc.) re: notification, etc.  Clearly it was not uncommon for someone to
find out about the passing of a loved one (more specifically a relative
for whom one observes mourning) well after the kuvurah (burial.)  The
halachic literature discusses in depth how one acts under such
circumstances: When one begins mourning, etc.

Today we have virtually instant notification -- but no teleporting.  So
one can be notified of the death of a loved one but be unable to get
there in time for the burial.

Two categories of questions arise:

1 -(and I pretty much know the answer to much of this but want to see if
there are other prevalent opinions - my answers, i.e, what I've heard /
learned, or think I've heard / learned are in brackets, below.)

What does one do when they are so notified yet know (or think) that they
cannot make it to the funeral on time.  When do they start shiva?  [If
they know that they won't make it to the funeral shiva starts
immediately upon notification, not after the burial.]

May they travel during shiva (may they drive?) in order to join other
 members of the family who are sitting shiva, [No travel during the
 daytime is all I remember learning.]

Can / should an Ovel be menachem ovel for a fellow mourner -- i.e. is
the child menachem ovel the surviving parent.

May the ovel travel to visit the grave (after the funeral), or perhaps
even in an attempt to make it to the burial on time.

2 - What are the current minhagim of various communities (outside of
Israel) re: timeliness of the burial.  It seems more and more common to
delay the funeral (to next day or even 2nd day) for several reasons: (a)
to allow out of town relatives (usually children / siblings) to make it
to the burial or (b) logistic / union issues -- Sunday or Legal Holiday

My mother-in-law was buried at the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue
(Shearith Israel) Cemetery in New York.  We were told (and don't quote
me as my rendition may not be fully accurate) but their minhag is to
avoid a same day funeral unless all the family is present -- that it is
not kovedik to the mayse to rush or to have the burial before children
and siblings can be present.

Carl Singer


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 17:21:57 EST
Subject: Kashrus of old tefillin

I have a single data point to add to this discussion-- and, as with many
of my postings, a good excuse to tell an interesting story. I don't
think I've told this story here before. At least I can't find it in the
mail-jewish archives.

A number of years ago, when I was living in the US, I had a neighbor
whose grandmother had been a first cousin of Lev Landau, the famous
Soviet physicist (1908-1968). Although Landau was a believing Communist
in the days before he was arrested by Stalin, he apparently did have a
bar mitzvah, and had a pair of tefillin. Somehow the tefillin ended up
in the possession of his cousin, my friend's grandmother, and he had
inherited them from her. My friend had them checked by a sofer. I'm not
sure if the sofer had to make any repairs, but when my friend showed
them to me, they were kosher. So (my single data point) at least they
were not hopelessly posul at the time they were made. The batim were
very small, as one would expect for tefillin from that era, and were in
nearly mint condition. I wouldn't be surprised if Landau never wore them
again after his bar mitzvah.

My friend offered to let me take them to shul and wear them one morning,
an offer which I of course eagerly and gratefully accepted. Fortunately,
there was another physicist in shul that morning, who was suitably
impressed when I told him whose tefillin these were!

Together with the tefillin, there was a cloth strap with some kind of
cheap medallioni hanging from it, probably a school prize of some sort
that Landau had won when he was about 13. I noticed something that my
friend hadn't noticed. The strap was buckled so that it formed a Mobius
strip! Evidently Landau had done that when he was about 13, and it had
remained that way ever since. That seems very much like the kind of
thing a future Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist would have done
when he was 13.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 09:04:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Old Tefillin

The issue here is that certain chumrot of how to form certain letters
that are now seen as absolute necessities for STaM to be kosher are, in
fact, not so. Most famous is the "kutzo shel yud" on the lower left of
the letter- a hand forming this is, in fact, the symbol of the Vaad
Mishmeret Stam. There are many examples of this- but most are either
recent inventions of simply chumrot which are, moreover, very difficult
to make when writing small letters as on small tefillin. In fact,
there's no real requirement, l'halacha, that the letters even be "thick"
or "square"- certainly Sefardim don't make them that way.  So I'd double
(and triple, and more) check before discarding old tefillin as pasul.

Furthermore, it's rather difficult for tefillin to "go bad." The sofer
who taught me the above also said that if they're worn every day, even
the retzuot will stay fresh (from oils in the skin) and the parshiot
won't deterioate. The only tefillin that were actually pasul that he
ever checked, he said (apart, I suppose, from those that were in water
or in the sun too long) were those that hadn't been worn in years and
had worms or the like in them. In other words, if the batim seem OK, the
insides probably are too. Of course, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be
checked now and then.

Nachum Lamm


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 09:26:29 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Parsha Derash Questio

Joshua Sharf <jsharf@...> wrote:
> In this past week's parsha, Jacob asks the name of the angel he's been
> wrestling with, and the angel refuses to tell him.  There's a drash that
> connect "shem" with "sham," meaning that Jacob is asking the angel his
> essence.  In fact, he's the Satan.  Since the essence of anti-semitism
> changes from occurrence to occurrence, the angel's refusal to tell his
> name is saying, in effect, "it doesn't matter what my name is, there's
> no universal secret to beating me, you'll have to struggle with me in
> every generation."
> Does anyone know the original source of this drash?

Found this online at

"This approach explains the Midrash that claimed that Yaakov's opponent
was the "angel of Esav" (see Bereishis Rabbah 77:3, Tanchuma 8 and
Rashi's comments on Bereishis 32:25). [...] The Sages also equate the
"angel of Esav" with Satan. In addition, Satan can be equated with the
yetzer hara (Evil Inclination) since "Satan, the yetzer hara, and the
Angel of Death are one and the same" (Bava Basra 16a)."

-- Janice


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2004 13:49:46 EST
Subject: Red strings and normative Judaism

During the last 10 years or so I noticed people tying a red string or
strings around their wrist. These red strings, according to them,
circled the tomb of Rachel in Beth-Lehem and are used as good omen or
against evil eye (kabbalistic reasons). When one reads the Tosefta
Shabbat (Lieberman) chapter 6 is says explicitly: "Elu devarim mi-darkei
ha-Emori...ve-hakosher...hut adom al etzba'o...harei zeh mi-darkei
ha-Emori" [=These items are the ways of the Emorites.. [he] who
ties...red string around his finger..these are Emorite practices] My
free translation-GJG.

How do we explain the practice among the Orthodox which appears to be
specifically prohibited by the Tosefta? I noticed that we discussed it
briefly in
http://www.importersparadise.com/mj_ht_arch/v27/mj_v27i04.html#CZ but
would like to bring the issue back as now it became more abusive with
Kabbalah centers selling it as a cure all-protect all for Jews and
Christians, and for hefty fees to boot.

The Forward reported recently: "Thanks to The Kabbalah Centre, various
celebrities can be spotted donning red strings on their wrists that
Jewish mystics say can ward off evil spirits. Apparently the threads,
also known as bindles, do not work against the United States Patent and
Trademark Office." (www)

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: <chips@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 07:03:46 -0800
Subject: Re: Seating problems

> Many years ago someone asked me: What is the phrase most heard in an
> orthodox shul? The answer was : "You are in my seat."

   Probably due to the fact that having a set place to pray (mokome
kavua) is not a trivial matter and the 'old timers' knew that.

> , but your obligation to your makom kavua needs
> to be balanced against the severe prohibition against embarrassing
> your fellow man in public.

   I've never been embarassed by someone telling me I was in his seat
and don't understand why there is an assumption that being told can only
be done in an overly verbose manner.

> I will admit that I was surprised to find how uncomfortable I felt
> sitting in a seat not my own, but nevertheless I waited until shul was
> over before speaking to him privately,

   So why didn't you quitely tell him when you got there? Why did you
think you can only tell him in a loud, rude manner while shul was in

What strikes me is the advantage of a pew system where there are storage
bins for the seats. 99 times out of a 100 the person moves (or offers
to) when I come over and open the bin to get my tefillin.



From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 2004 11:44:13 -0500
Subject: Shul seating

I remember hearing long ago from either Rabbi Rackman or Rabbi Feldman
(sorry, I can't remember which) that after the fall of the Iron Curtain,
he attended the re-opening of the Choral Synagogue in Moscow, and after
the ceremony was sitting alone in the shul thinking about the miracle of
this re-opening after 70 years of disuse, when he was tapped on the
shoulder by someone who said..."you're in my seat"!

Yossi Ginzberg


End of Volume 46 Issue 7