Volume 46 Number 40
                    Produced: Fri Dec 31  9:59:00 EST 2004

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Checking Sifrei Torah (2)
         [Ari Trachtenberg, Avi Feldblum]
Coming Late to Minyan
Coming late to shul -- A Curious Anecdote (3)
         [Mike Gerver, Tony Fiorino, Avi Feldblum]
Important Chesed/Kiddush Hashem Opportunity
         [Al Nadaf]
Indian Jews
         [Nathan Lamm]
JDC:  South Asia Tsunami Relief
         [David Rosenthal D.O.]
Lateness to Shule
         [Bernard Raab]
Silk Screened Torahs
         [Nathan Lamm]
Tsunami Relief
         [Shari Hillman]
Watches, (RINGS) and Tefillin
         [Dov Teichman]


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 09:14:57 -0500
Subject: Re: Checking Sifrei Torah

<remt@...> wrote:
>         Incidentally, the claim that "with a precise enough check not a
> single one would likely be kosher" is not quite so.

I suspect that this was referring to my post, which was simply a
technical statement.  Though I'm not intimately familiar with the Torah
checkers, I suspect that they train a neural network to recognize
acceptible Hebrew characters, and then translate a digitized version of
the Torah into Hebrew text for comparison with a known correct copy.
Many variables effect the behavior of such a checking program, most
notably the chosen training samples and corresponding system weights,
and the decision criterion (when does the computer decide that a letter
is an "aleph").  As such, if one is not sufficiently broad about what
consistutes an "aleph", for example, then even small halachically
acceptable deviations could be misjudged.

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 2004
Subject: Re: Checking Sifrei Torah

I think Rav Teitz's point was somewhat different (and if it is not his
point, then it is mine), but is well developed from your explanation
above. Let's assume the method is a trained neural network. As has been
pointed out, there are two issues that can be checked for. One is
missing / extra letters, the other is incorrectly formed letters. In the ideal
case, the training samples and decision weights are chosen such that
with a set of letters that the Posek defines as marginally acceptable
and marginally unacceptable, the neural network returns the same
results. In a more likely real scenario, the details will depend on
whether you are looking for missing / extra letters or incorrectly
formed. Here again, I would suspect that you would want to have the
software first use a relatively inclusive decision weight to err on
accepting incorrectly formed letters, and based on that decision, report
out all missing / extra letters. If any are found, you have a high
likelyhood of having a invalid sefer torah. I would then expect that you
could rerun the logic with a set of tighter decision weights that would
now flag any suspect letters. In this case, the software is just being
used as a tool to find for the checker which letters he should pay
attention to, and then have the checker make the actual determination of
valid / non-valid status.

Avi Feldblum


From: <chips@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004 21:09:39 -0800
Subject: Re: Coming Late to Minyan

> Let me put it another way: Suppose this person was going with somebody
> and someone inquired from you about him. Wouldnt it be slanderous to
> say that this person comes late to minyan. Rather we should simply say
> that he is one of those rare individuals who goes to shule every day.

Let me then make it an announcement that if someone asks about me you
can tell them without fear of my considering it slander: I'm tardy to
get to Shacharis during the week, do my best to be on time to Mincha
during the week (including winter), and am on time (if not early) Shabos
and YomTov Shacharis.


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 04:38:19 EST
Subject: Coming late to shul -- A Curious Anecdote

Tal Benschar writes, in v46n38,

      Lo and behold, practically everyone came at the same time relative
      to 6:30 a.m. as they normally would relative to 9:00 a.m.; the
      early birds came early; the five minute laters came five minutes
      late; the come-in-at-Shochen-Ad came in then, etc.

What they should have done was announce that they would be sending email
to everyone to inform them what time davening would start. Then they
would adjust the time in the email sent to each person, so that everyone
would arrive exactly at 6:30 am. (Years ago, I heard a story about
someone having a party, and writing a different time in each invitation,
according to what time each person had come to the last party he had--
everyone showed up exactly at the same time.)

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

From: Tony Fiorino <Fiorino@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 09:19:22 -0500
Subject: RE: Coming late to shul -- A Curious Anecdote

> From: Tal Benschar <tbenschar@...>
> I think this shows that, for most people, when they make it
> to shul is preimarily a matter of how much importance they
> attach to shul and minyan.

Once again, this thread takes a turn into judging the internal states
(and moral character!) of others on the basis of their shul arrival
time.  An alternate and preferable interpretation (and more simple, thus
fulfilling Occam's Razor too) is that people are consistent about which
aspects of the synagogue service they do not mind missing.  I don't
think from their typical arrival time one can read ANYTHING about what
importance they attach to shul or minyan; IMO anyone who regularly
attends attaches a good deal of importance to it.  I am certainly not in
a position to judge the relative importance of minyan in the heart of
one who arrives before birkat hashachar every day versus one who arrives
at ashrei every day.


From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Fri, 31 Dec 2004 09:56:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: RE: Coming late to shul -- A Curious Anecdote

On Thu, 30 Dec 2004, Tony Fiorino wrote:

> Once again, this thread takes a turn into judging the internal states
> (and moral character!) of others on the basis of their shul arrival
> time.
> <snip>
> I am certainly not in a position to judge the relative importance of
> minyan in the heart of one who arrives before birkat hashachar every
> day versus one who arrives at ashrei every day.

I am in full agreement with Eitan's point above. I personally find this
pre-occupation with when others arrive to shul as strange, and maybe
even unhealthy. For the most part, we are not talking about cases where
the congregation is not able to have ten people present by the first
Kaddish.  I think we have relatively successfully seperated the issues
of people being disturbing to others during davening from when they come
(my view is that people who disturb others during davening, it is
probably better if they come late, so that they disturb less. If they
came early, they would probably end up disturbing more). As far as the
discussion of people who are coming to fulfil the (probably) rabbinic
requirement of tefilah with a minyan, as to whether they choose to
ensure that they participate with the minyan from the portions that were
once part of the private tefilah, likely before shul but are now part of
shul (birchat hashachar), the custom to recite the karbonot passages,
the portion of the service that is meant to get one ready for the main
tefillah sections (pirkei d'zimrah), or only from the main portion of
the tefilah - Borchu and the Shema with it's blessings, I really do not
see that as a critical issue facing Jewish communities today. Those who
are there prior Borchu, each in his own time, are fully contributing
members of the minyan.

There is, in my opinion, a significant issue to address, which leads to
many people coming well after Borchu. Here it behooves us to understand
why that is happening. Is there a lack of appreciation for the value of
Tefilah B'Tzibur (Communal Worship), is the service too long, is there a
lack of appreciation for Tefilah completely and people are really coming
for the kiddush and social activities, with Tefilah really being just
the "excuse" for the communal activity? If we are going to expend
effort, here is one area I think would be of more value. In addition,
even this discussion is focused on the people who are coming. There is a
probably equal or larger group who do not come at all. Understanding
what will attarct that group to just show up is probably of even greater

Avi Feldblum


From: Al Nadaf <alnadaf@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004 18:02:53 +0000
Subject: Important Chesed/Kiddush Hashem Opportunity

Jewish/Israeli Tsunami relief efforts have been extensive and exemplary,
but largely unacknowledged in the media.  For details, go to:



Chabad of Thailand is deeply involved in the relief work and in
desperate need of funds for its efforts.  An e-mail on the subject from
Chabad of Thailand follows.

Your financial support of the relief effort would be a great chesed
("v'rachamav al *kol* ma'asav") and an excellent means of acquiring a
share in this tremendous kiddush Hashem.  You can donate online at:

[For a message from the Chabad Rabbi in Thailand, here is a link into
their site:


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 05:48:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Indian Jews

>From what I've been reading, the Cochin Jews have been in India (or
claim to have been) even longer than the Bene Israel. Why then was there
no similar question of their halakhic status? Was it because they were
separate from the later-arriving Baghdadi community and so were not
ostracized? Or, conversely, is it because they did live in close
proximity to more recently arrived Jews?

Note that I'm not questioning their halakhic status- I'm just wondering
why others who had issues with other Jewish groups didn't with them.


From: David Rosenthal D.O. <davidr@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 06:26:03 -0500
Subject: JDC:  South Asia Tsunami Relief

[Note: this is being taken from the JEWISH-ANNOUNCE mailing list. Mod.]

For those wishing to help with Tsunami Relief, contributions be made
through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

Contributions can be made by credit card via JDC's website:

via phone: 212-687-6200, ext. 851,

or by check payable to:
"JDC:  South Asia Tsunami Relief"
Box  321
847A Second Avenue
New York, NY 10017


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2004 15:37:30 -0500
Subject: Lateness to Shule

>From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
>Let us return to the synagogue issue. I have spent my whole life going
>to synagogues. I know what it is like in the morning to try and get a
>minyan. A person who comes to synagogue in the morning is not
>middle-of-the-road person. He leans towards righteousness. It is our
>obligation to judge him favorably.
>In short....our discussions should not be on judging people....our
>discussions should be on the opportunities for kindness and social
>interaction. I for one would like to see this thread continue with
>real-life stories.

I have been waiting for the opportunity to jump into this discussion,
since I am a person who is habitually late, but also has a history of
being on time "when it matters". Let me elaborate: As a child, I was
late to school every day(!) My poor mother was frequently called to the
principal's office for this infraction, which was far more my fault than
hers. My teachers frequently warned me that I would amount to no good
since no employer would tolerate habitual tardiness, as they quaintly
called it. Fortunately, my employers turned out to be more tolerant than
they predicted, probably helped by the fact that I was in a professional
field. Be assured that I was on time to my Bar Mitzvah, my wedding, the
births of our children, etc. Also I never (well, almost never) missed a
train or a flight because of lateness, although running through the
terminal was an occasional necessity.

It should not surprise anyone at this point that I am habitually late to
shule. But wait! That is only true on Shabbat and Yom-Tov. For a weekday
minyon I am punctually precise at least 90% of the time! When I was
saying kaddish, I always arrived 5-10 minutes before time so as to be
able to put on talis and t'fillin before davening. One more data point:
For many years I davened in a hashkama minyon on Shabbat and Yom-Tov
which started at 7:30 AM and ended precisely by 8:45 AM, when the
"regular" minyon began. I was almost always there at the start, a
phenomenon which startled even me.

My conclusion? Our Shabbat and Yom-Tov davening is just too long for the
average Yosel. Who can maintain the requisite attitude of reverence and
attentiveness 2-3 hours? Look at it this way: a Hollywood movie
(lehavdil-eleph-havdolos, of course) is carefully crafted to hold the
audience's attention with all sorts of "osot and mofsim" (special
effects), but is judged too long if it runs much beyond 90 minutes. The
average classroom lecture is 40 or 50 minutes. A simply fascinating
lecturer will start to lose his audience after 50 minutes. Am I excusing
my tardiness? No, I never sought an excuse for it. But looking back at a
lifetime of experience, I think I am able to explain it.

b'shalom--Bernie R.


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 05:41:46 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Silk Screened Torahs

Rabbi J. David Bleich wrote a typically exhaustive review of responsa on
the question in a recent issue of Tradition. Short answer: Likely not


From: Shari Hillman <shari_h_613@...>
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 11:39:54 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Tsunami Relief

After sending out information telling how to donate to Jewish relief
efforts for the victims of the Asian tsunami, I was shocked to get back
a handful of responses saying, in essence "the Sri Lankans don't want
Israeli help, why should we help them?" and "they're all Muslims who
hate us; let 'em die".

This is wrong on so many levels, I was furious; but my response was to
tell them what Chabad is doing in the area.

Chabad in Thailand has dedicated tremendous effort to helping Jews and
non-Jews in the area. They have provided shelter, food, clothing, and
free telephone and email connections to Israeli tourists and others
affected by the disaster. They are the home base for Jews all over the
region, for the Israelis who have come in search of relatives, and for
the Israeli relief workers. They are involved in helping to identify the
dead, to reunite families, and to help the injured get medical
care. They were preparing Shabbat for over 500 people, in the last
report I read.

You can donate to the Chabad effort by visiting their web site at
www.lubavitch.com. Information about other Jewish organizations
collecting funds for relief efforts can be found on www.rjchq.org.

I doubt that a Sri Lankan fisherman much cares who the help comes from,
but the Talmudic statement "one who saves a single life - it is as if he
has saved the world" does not specify a Jewish life as far as I know.

If you can help, please do.
Shari Hillman


From: <DTnLA@...> (Dov Teichman)
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 09:06:44 EST
Subject: Re: Watches, (RINGS) and Tefillin

Y. Askotzky <sofer@...> writes:
<< It is true that most Ashkenazim remove their watch (or ring)>>

Speaking of rings, when and how did the practice of men wearing wedding
rings (bands) catch on in the Orthodox world? (Especially Modern
Orthodox vs. Chareidi) Do we find such a practice in Chazal? As far as I
remember only signet or ornamental rings are mentioned.  For that
matter, I was always puzzled about men wearing jewelry too, which in
general is much less common among ashkenazim vs. sefardim and even among
ashkenazim its primarily among modern orthodox rather than chareidi. Can
some explain these phenomena?

Dov Teichman


End of Volume 46 Issue 40