Volume 46 Number 52
                    Produced: Thu Jan  6  6:26:00 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cake Substituting for Bread
         [Yisrael & Batya Medad]
Can we say things about Judaism - Occams Razor
         [Russell J Hendel]
Cost of Simchas, or, once you've paid, how to avoid bal tashchit
         [Adina Gerver]
Making Recipes Kosher
         [Harry Schick]
More on Ockham's Razor
         [Bernard Katz]
Refusal to Grant Aliyot
         [Nachum Hurvitz]
Torah checking
         [Ari Trachtenberg]
Wedding Rings
         [Andy Goldfinger]


From: Yisrael & Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Jan 2005 19:56:08 +0200
Subject: Cake Substituting for Bread

Restating something I have confirmed with my LORs: if one is "kovei'a
seudah", one purposefully substitutes cake for bread, that is, like with
seudah shlishit, one washes and says Birkat HaMazon in any case.

> Cake is much more *convenient* than bread (since it doesn't require
> washing or benching),


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 2 Jan 2005 22:07:05 -0500
Subject: RE: Can we say things about Judaism - Occams Razor

I recently claimed that Judaism does not believe in Occam's razor.
Yeshoshua Berkowitz disagreed and also didnt think it appropriate it to
make statements of the form: Judaism does not...

First (The easy answers): We spend all our time on mail-jewish making
comments of the form 'Judaim does or does not...' I think the issue is
whether the comment can be defended and whether anyone can find

I think Joshua's comment that such apodictic statements have their place
in other religions is a bit biting---the truth of the matter is that
anyone who can think can make such comments.

As to Occam's razor: Let me first strengthen Joshua's question: It is
well known that ifyou go to a wedding then you are obligated to say that
the bride looked pretty even if she doesnt. We have here a clear
distinction between moral obligation and scientific inference.

So Joshua argues that occam was making statements about science and
Judaism is making statements about moral obligation.

Unfortunately this is not so! Judaism's laws about judging favorably are
not moral obligations but scientific evaluations.

If a person has spent his whole life doing good and then goes to visit a
prostitute then the simplest explanation is not that he wanted to sin
but rather that he was trying to redeem captives.

True we have used occams simplests explanation criteria, but the point I
was making was that it is not well defined: Simplest with respect to
what---to his visitation or to his life. Relative to the visitation if
you see someone with a prostitute he wants to sin. But relative to his
life, the simplest explanation is that he was trying to help captives.

Respectfully Russell Jay Hendel;http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Adina Gerver <gerver@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 21:58:49 +0000 (UTC)
Subject: Cost of Simchas, or, once you've paid, how to avoid bal tashchit

Tzvi Stein wrote:

>> From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...> I have noticed that a large
>> part of the food is not consumed and is simply thrown out at the end
>> [snip] This might also possibly violate the prohibition of bal tashchit
>> (unnecessary waste).
> One great thing I saw in Israel is that they give the excess food to the
> poor.  Somehow it hasn't caught on in the U.S. (probably because of
> government regulations)

I am behind on my reading (as usual), so someone else may have mentioned
this, but in New York City there is a wonderful group called City
Harvest <http://www.cityharvest.org/> that "rescues" leftovers from
functions (food that would otherwise be tossed) and brings it to
homeless shelters.  Tzvi's right that there are U.S.  government
regulations that require food to be kept at a certain temperature if it
is to be saved, but City Harvest takes care of that. I think that they
can only "rescue" food that has not been set out, but that could be a
lot of food.

You just need to call them up ahead of time and let them know when the
function will end, and they come with their truck and pick it up. It's
very easy and only takes a little bit of planning.

America's Second Harvest is a national food bank network, and on their
webpage <http://www.secondharvest.org/>, you can search for food rescue
programs and food banks by zip code. Alternatively, you can Google "food
rescue" and the city of the event and that should give you some useful

Kol tuv,
Adina Gerver
New York, NY


From: <Harry459@...> (Harry Schick)
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 07:15:48 EST
Subject: Making Recipes Kosher 

      From: Stan Tenen <meru1@...>
      Unless the recipe calls for some form of solid fat, it's always
      best to avoid all of the solid fats, whether natural (dairy, palm
      oil, meat fat) or hardened margarine.  All of these are unhealthy
      for the heart and arteries.  There certainly are a wide range of

Although this is not a health forum, I must respond to the "information"
given in the last round of recipe suggestions. Avoiding "solid fats"
also known as saturated fats is a major aspect of the problem that is
currently plaguing Westerners today. The seed industry and their lies
about polyunsaturated and monosaturated superiority has cost countless
lives and money--continuing to devastate families and economies to this
day. The only oils which are safe to use on any regular basis are
Olive--for light cooking and Coconut or Palm (which I have not found
Kosher) for deeper frying. Anything else is a health hazard.  Butter is
also fine, unless it turns brown from heat in the cooking, which means
it has turned rancid. Additionally, the idea about keeping cholesterol
of any type low in children is based on the deadly cholesterol myth
which is at the route of infertility among other issues these days. And
there is no good margarine. Its a shame that people who are able to keep
kosher are unable to make good food choices because it is too difficult
or they don't want to deprive their children. Don't we have some
obligation to keep ourselves healthy? If so, aspartame, margarine,
etc. should all be traif. I know, kosher is not a health issue in
food. I wish it was.

Harry Schick 


From: Bernard Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2005 11:37:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: More on Ockham's Razor

 Various contributors have referred to Ockham's Razor in support of the
 notion that one should opt for the simplest explanation that fits the
 fact. I don't see that Ockham's Razor says any such thing.

 Ockham's Razor, as it is usually formulated, is the principle that
 entities are not to multiplied beyond necessity (Entia non sunt
 multiplicanda praeter necessitatem). This is a doctrine of ontological
 parsimony, which says, in effect, that one should refrain from positing
 entities (or kinds of entities) in the absence of compelling reasons
 for doing so. In other words, one should not affirm the existence of
 something unless one has sufficient positive grounds for doing so.

 Yehoshua Berkowitz links the principle with William of Ockham, the 14th
 century scholastic philosopher and Franciscan theologian. I think that
 Ockham would have approved of the foregoing principle, but despite its
 name, it was not actually formulated by Ockham (or at least does not
 occur in that form in any of his texts); rather it became associated
 with Ockham because it vividly reflects his general philosophical
 outlook. In fact, the idea underlying the Razor is much older than
 Ockham; one can find similar sentiments as far back as Aristotle.

 (Btw, William of Baskerville, the central character in Umberto Eco's
 medieval mystery novel, The Name of the Rose, is loosely based on
 William of Ockham; this is the character Sean Connery plays in the
 movie version.)

 Taking the Razor as the idea that one should select the simplest
 explanation that fits the facts, Russell Hendel contends that "Judaism
 rejects Occam's razor" and sets out a Talmudic story which, he claims,
 clearly shows this. He goes on to say:

    Now Occam would undoubtedly have looked at the simplest explanation
    of a person speaking with prostitutes and then going into seclusion
    with them. But Judaism rejects Occam--it says that we must consider
    his personality and let it override inferences.

 In fact, I think that Russell Hendel is attacking a strawman. As I've
 indicated, Ockham's Razor does not commit us to the view that we should
 select the simplest explanation. (In fact, it doesn't even commit us to
 the idea that we should select the ontologically simplest explanation;
 what it tells us, perhaps, is that all else being equal, we should opt
 for the explanation which increases our ontological commitments the
 least.) But quite aside from Ockham and the Razor, it seems a bit
 bizarre to suppose that anyone would urge that we should try to explain
 a human behaviour without considering the attitudes, values,
 prejudices, and preferences that make up personality.

 I doubt that the notion of the simplest explanation of some event even
 begins to make sense in the absence of specified criteria of
 simplicity: e.g., entities or kinds of entities presupposed, number of
 hypotheses introduced, and the like. But even relative to specified
 criteria, simplicity only makes sense as a guide for selecting amongst
 explanations if one begins with explanations that have the same
 explanatory power. And a plausible explanation -- simple or
 otherwise--of why some person is speaking with a prostitute has to
 explain why that particular person, taking into account that person's
 personality and the like, is speaking to the prostitute. A plausible
 explanation, e.g., of why a police officer is speaking to a prostitute
 is apt to be very different from a plausible explanation of why a pimp

 Bernard Katz   


From: Nachum Hurvitz <Nachum.Hurvitz@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 11:41:51 -0500 
Subject: Re: Refusal to Grant Aliyot

I believe as large part of this issue stems from the current
"convenience" of minyanim wherever and whenever you want. Missed the
7:00 AM? Down the street is the shiebel that starts 7:15 AM.  Got a
shaila/question for a rabbi? Pick up the phone and call. Can't reach
him?  No problem, I'll call someone else (possibly vetting out other
candidates based on leniencies or chumrot based on experience so I can
get the answer I need). Granted this is not common in small places with
one shul, but they are probably in the minority (Opinion).

While it is wonderful to have such a plethora of choices, what begins to
happen is that people "daven around" and "ask around" without retaining
a specific kehilla or community to associate with. Therefore, why should
I feel an obligation to support this community?

I heard a tape of Dayan Dunner at the Agudah convention several years
ago, where he discussed this issue at length. If a person does not
associate with a kehilla, then who is he really? Who does he identify
with as a group that holds of the same religious ideals? Where is he
going to make his simchas, and who is he going to share it with? Who is
going to be his primary Rabbi that he will develop a close relationship
with and ask all his shailos and request advice, thus getting a derech
(way) in life? Someone who does not feel anchored to a community will
not feel any association=lack of communal responsibility=not willing to
participate. If today's society would emphasize the need to identify
with a kehillah, I don't think this would be such an issue.

I personally belong to 2 synagogues. My "primary" is the one I identify
with, daven on shabbos, our family has a relationship with our Rov, and
make every effort to attend during the week. It is about a mile away,
and I have explained to my children why I feel strongly the need to hike
there and the importance the kehilla and Rov plays in our lives. There
is a much closer shul that I frequent during the week when I cannot get
to my "primary" - I approached the board, explained to them my situation
and sense of obligation, and worked out a mutually agreeable reduced
membership fee as I would be unable to pay 2 full ones.

Nachum Hurvitz


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, 03 Jan 2005 10:55:25 -0500
Subject: Torah checking

 >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.

The problem is that it is not easy to characterize the region of
acceptance of the neural network.  In other words, even tighter weights
could result in some strange acceptances.

The real problem is that one cannot rely on the mythical intelligence in
a computer algorithm to "do the right thing" unless you explicitly and
concretely define what this means (something not done in halacha, to the
best of my knowledge).  As such, I feel that computer Torah checkers can
only be legitimately used to disqualify a Torah by noting something that
a posek (or youth) thereafter confirms to be a problem.  A computer
Torah checker can neither declare a Torah kosher nor even find a
(non-trivial) superset of possible problems for later hand-checking.

Ari Trachtenberg
Boston University 


From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Jan 2005 13:21:00 -0500
Subject: Re: Wedding Rings

I do not wear a wedding ring.  I am a physicist, and we physicists have
no problem keeping women away.


End of Volume 46 Issue 52