Volume 46 Number 17
                    Produced: Sat Dec 11 18:00:02 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Deep mystical intentions (was Shul Pet Peeves)
         [Martin Stern]
Ecology - endangered species
         [Perry Zamek]
Internet Phone
         [Eli Turkel]
Men displacing women in the women's section of the shule
         [Dov Teichman]
Passing wine to mother during/after a brit
         [Carl Singer]
Rashi on Jacob's messengers
         [Jeffery Zucker]
Red string (2)
         [Pinchas Roth, Avi Feldblum]
Srating in Shul
         [Yisrael & Batya Medad]
         [Alex Heppenheimer]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 08:35:30 +0000
Subject: Re: Deep mystical intentions (was Shul Pet Peeves)

on 6/12/04 10:26 pm, Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...> wrote:

> I heard a story about a hassic rebbe (IIRC, R' Natan of Breslav) who was
> asked by his students what kavanot (spiritual thoughts) he thinks while
> putting on his talis.
> His answer: "I concentrate on not hitting anyone with my tzitzis".

This reminds me of a story told of the Ropshitser Rebbe, well known for
his sense of humour. Once, one chassid noticed that he cut his toe nails
after coming back from the mikveh each Friday afternoon. He queried this
because of the association of the cuttings with the klipot (unholy and
polluting aspects of the world) and asked the Rebbe why he did not cut
them before purifying himself in the mikveh. The Rebbe answered him
quite angrily and told him he could not reveal such tiefe inyonim (deep
mystical intentions) to someone like him unless he did complete teshuvah
by completing 40 consecutive fasts and saying the whole of sefer
tehillim, followed by immersion in a cold mikveh, 10 times on each
day. Six weeks later, the chassid returned having completed the
prescribed ritual expecting to be initiated into some profound
kabbalistic mysteries. He entered the Ropshitser's room and informed him
that he was now prepared for the revelation of the reason for this
strange custom. The Ropshitser answered "You fool, the reason is
obvious: after soaking in a hot mikveh the toe nails are softened and
easier to cut."

Martin Stern


From: Perry Zamek <perryza@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 14:30:58 +0200
Subject: Ecology - endangered species

What is the Torah view on the preservation or otherwise of endangered
species. Does the Torah see a problem in the extinction of species, or
is it within Man's prerogative to develop the world as he sees fit, even
at the risk of wiping out species. Are we required to delay or abandon
plans for development because of the risk to other species (or even the
potential for risk)? Is financial loss a factor here?

Open for discussion...
Perry Zamek


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 10:54:01 +0200
Subject: Internet Phone

> As a matter of interest we used my son's Treo (internet enabled phone)
> to download / view a "Kayle M'lay Rachamim" from the web -- as the
> Sephardic tradition / siddur didn't have such and we wanted to include
> it in the service.

However, the rabbis of Agudah/Degel haTorah in Israel have recently
prohibited internet enabled cell-phones.  Makes this a mitzva ha-ba
be-averah :-) .

Eli Turkel


From: <DTnLA@...> (Dov Teichman)
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2004 07:45:08 EST
Subject: Re: Men displacing women in the women's section of the shule

Didn't men usually occupy the Ezras Nashim in the Beis Hamikdash?

Dov Teichman


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 07:22:29 -0500
Subject: Passing wine to mother during/after a brit

> I've never seen it done and I'm not sure how it could be done, since
> according to the Rama (YD 285:11) the mother is not supposed to enter
> the men's section of the shul.

Is it the pevailing custom to have the bris in the "sanctuary" -- I've
attended where the bris was elsewhere (the "kiddish hall") and, of
course, at home.

Carl Singer


From: Jeffery Zucker <zucker@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 2004 23:41:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Rashi on Jacob's messengers

I should have mailed this two weeks ago -- it concerns Parshas

At the beginning of that parsha we read: "Vayishlach Yaakov malachim..."
("And Jacob sent messengers").  Here Rashi comments: "Malachim mamash"
-- "actual angels", i.e. not ordinary but divine messengers.

I find this hard to understand.  To me the pshat (simple explanation)
for "malachim" here is obviously (human) messengers.

What could Rashi's motivation have been for his explanation?



From: Pinchas Roth <pinchas2@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 14:19:11 +0800
Subject: Red string

Regarding the apparent contradiction between this practice of the red
string and the Tosefta:

In Saul Lieberman's commentary to the Tosefta ad loc (Tosefta Kifshuta,
Shabbat, p. 82), after referencing classical sources on the topic, he
reminisces how in his home town (in Ukraine?) they used to tie red
strings around the necks of children to protect them from scarlter
fever. What I found striking is how he uses that custom to decide that
the Tosefta was talking only about tying the string around the finger
(which is, in fact, what it says: vechut adom al etzbao, and a red
string on his finger).

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 2004
Subject: Re: Red string

In a similar manner, and partially bringing together a few of the
threads going on in this discussion, Dr. Sperber has a fairly long
discussion in the second chapter of his second volume of Minhagei
Yisrael on a related issue. The Gemara explicitely identifies a number
of activities as "Darkei Ha'Emori" (one of our other current topics) and
states that they are prohibited. One of those practices, R. Yehuda
HaChasid includes as something that should be done in his famous
Tzava'ah. Dr. Sperber then brings a significant number of authorities
over the next several hundred years who deal with how to reconcile this
contradiction. A number of them basically try and re-interpret the
Gemara or argue that the vedrsion of the Gemara must be incorrect. So it
is clear that the basic issue of local practice being at odds with the
earlier halacha, is an issue that goes back quite a long time.

Another similar example, but more on the line of how much weight to give
to Kabbalistic practices, is evident in the way many people make Kiddush
on Friday night. It is argueable (I would never say that anything is
completely clear, I'll always find someone on the list here to argue)
that from a Halachic perspective, the correct way to make Kiddush is
only by sitting for the entire Kiddush. The customs that many people
have to stand for some or all of the Friday night Kiddush, comes from a
Kabbalistic influence, that views the initial portion of Kiddush as a
form of testimony, and then pulls in the halachaic requirement of
testimony into our performance of the Kiddush. Whether you sit, first
stand and then sit or stand for the entire time, is a function of what
relative weight is given to the kabbalistic elements vs the strictly
halachic elements.

Avi Feldblum


From: Yisrael & Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, 07 Dec 2004 11:00:32 +0200
Subject: Re: Srating in Shul

> The other reason for sitting in the same seat each time is so that one
> who misses the minyan feels a sense of embarrassment when his
> neighbors ask where he was. The idea is to give oneself additional
> incentive *not* to miss minyan.

That's not the reason.  Many people are sensitive to light, air,
placement and take a while to get oriented, which disturbs their
concentration, kavanah.  Honestly, I'm one of those people.  It's much
easier to focus on dovening in my spot.  Also when I teach, I'm lucky to
have almost all of my lessons in the English Room, where I'm very
comfortable.  One lesson a week is in a different room, and expecially
the first couple of times was excruciatingly disorienting.

Study tricks for tests include same time of day as tests, becuase the
routine is helpful.  Also repetative scheduling, same time of day
increases learning.  There are statistics that prove it.

So our makom kavua is important, and we should get there on time.  And
we should catch the eye and help people find empty seats, so they don't
disturb anyone.  And so they can get on with their dovening without
worrying that someone will say, even very politely: "please move to
another seat."  And if you find yourself saying it, then it's nice to
point to a seat the person can sit in without problems.



From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Dec 2004 14:44:02 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Translation

In MJ 46:03, Noyekh Miller wrote in response to me:

> >To begin with, then, we find the commentaries giving two basic
> >derivations of the word "tohu": from a root meaning "emptiness" (Ibn
> >Ezra following Targum), or from a root meaning "to think deeply"
> >(Ramban). [I'm not sure I understand what's any more "speculative"
> >about this latter possibility: the root THH, with this meaning, is
> >often found in Rabbinic Hebrew, so it's not that much of a stretch to
> >assume that it was present (though unattested) in Biblical Hebrew
> >too.

> Two basic derivations?  I count one.  Ibn Ezra wisely looks to an
> earlier translation, one made a millenium before and therefore
> providing a valuable clue as to the meaning of the words in question.
> Rashi does no such thing: he relies on a shoresh that _may_ have been
> found in Biblical Hebrew, that _may_ not be too much of a stretch,
> etc.  That's not speculative?

But Ibn Ezra provides no etymological grounds for his translation; he
simply relies on the Targum, presumably in the absence of anything
better (since, I suppose, he didn't find the derivation "tehom < THH"
convincing, although note that he doesn't actually say so). Sure,
Onkelos lived a millennium before Rashi or Ibn Ezra, but what of it?
Biblical Hebrew was no longer the common spoken language in his day
either. If I understand your position correctly, Rashi's status as a
classical commentary - and his having lived a millennium before us -
grants him no particular authority vis-a-vis modern researchers; by that
logic, then, why then should Onkelos' greater age, per se, confer on him
any greater authority vis-a-vis Rashi? If anything, Rashi - who has
etymology on his side - should trump the Targum.

> First, I have strong reservations about any attempt at psyching out an
> author's intentions, especially one about whom we know nothing.

Granted. However, since I didn't know Rashi personally, nor do I know
anyone who did, all I'm left with is guesswork. I lay no claim as to its
correctness, and I would be eager to hear your surmises, or anyone
else's, as to why Rashi chose this particular rendering; "between me and
you, the topic will be clarified" (Pesachim 88a).

> Second, the matter of "needless duplication".  Tohu v'bohu are, as
> A.H. surely knows, a hendiadys, a figure of speech common in Tanakh,
> and in no other case that I've looked at does Rashi exhibit this
> tendency.

But neither does Rashi treat them as simple figures of speech, where the
two nouns mean essentially the same thing; in many (perhaps most) cases,
he tries to find a meaning for each of the two expressions. Thus, for
example, Rashi explains the hendiadys "wicked and sinful" (Gen. 13:10)
as "wicked in [the actions they performed with] their bodies, and sinful
in [how they used] their money." Similarly, he explains "a stranger and
a settler" (ibid. 23:4) as either describing two stages in Avraham's
life ("[I was] a stranger from another land, and I have settled among
you") or as a veiled threat ("if you agree [to sell me a burial plot], I
will remain a stranger; otherwise, I will become a settler and take it
based on my legal rights"). Granted that he doesn't take this to the
lengths typical of the Malbim and Daas Soferim, who go to the trouble of
explaining the parallel stiches of Biblical poetry as having different
referents; but I think it's fair to say that Rashi is indeed concerned
about "needless duplication" and tries to avoid it where possible. (I
agree, though, that this case is somewhat unusual in that Rashi sees
"tohu" as subordinate to "bohu," unlike the other cases where he treats
the two parts of a hendiadys as fully independent nouns.)

> If I may be allowed a wild surmise : the nearest I can come to
> accepting Rashi's "astonishment" is by construing it thusly: "tohu
> v'bohu, chaos and formlessness, but when I say chaos I mean CHAOS, the
> kind that would knock your socks off if you could see it--which of
> course you can't".  I don't expect anyone to agree with me on this
> one.

Well, first of all, Rashi pretty clearly understands "bohu" not as
"formlessness" but as "emptiness" ("leshon rekus ve-tzadu").  But that
quibble aside, your idea does have the merit of explaining why Rashi
doesn't cite the Targum, as he usually does when he disagrees with its
rendering. The problem, as I see it, is that this leaves the main point,
"tohu=chaos," completely unsaid; we might have expected Rashi to explain
how he makes the semantic jump from "astonishment" to "chaos."

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 46 Issue 17