Volume 46 Number 91
                    Produced: Thu Feb 10  6:17:00 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Administrivia - Some serious thoughts on recent topics
         [Avi Feldblum]
Calendar Question
         [Ira L. Jacobson]
Late to Shul
         [David Neuman]
Metzitzah- how prevalent is it?
         [Ira L. Jacobson]
A Puzzling Story
         [Shmuel Himelstein]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2005 05:59:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Administrivia - Some serious thoughts on recent topics

Hello All,

We have had a number of posts recently that give some rise to some
serious thoughts for me. Part of the motivation are a few posts that I
have not yet either sent through to the list or returned to the

I'll start with some thoughts on the Slifkin ban controversy. We have
discussed on the list a number of times in the past our differences as a
community on the concept of Daas Torah. Those on each side have weighed
in with their opinions. For those who are firmly in one camp or the
other, I do not think the Slifkin ban will make any difference. However,
for many who may be somewhat in the middle, I think that we will find a
greater relunctance to accept the current concept of Daas Torah, when
what appears to many is that Daas Torah is taking a position that is
contrary to common sense and basic reality. Obviously those who hold by
Daas Torah and believe that the signers of the ban represent Daas Torah,
do not agree the position is contrary to reality, but rather that the
scientific community has reality wrong. That is their perogative, but I
believe that will drive the gap between the two sides further apart.

The discussion on the Milah / Metzitza be'peh issue is similar, in that
there is the view that some portions of the charedi community hold that
since this is the way it has been done for many generations, it is
forbidden to change it, even if there would be clear evidence that this
practice could lead to problems and there are alternate halachically
valid approaches. Here, what exactly the evidence is and what exactly
the position of the members of Daas Torah are is less clear. However, if
quotes, such as the one in the Jewish Week are accurate (and I fully
realize they have often not been impartial reporters in respect to
Orthodox issues), it will be troubling to many of us. This is the quote:

 "Our teachers taught us to use our mouths," said Crown Heights-based
mohel Rabbi Israel Heller, who is the official mohel of Methodist
Hospital in Park Slope, Brooklyn. "The saliva cleans wounds. God gave us
saliva in our mouth to clean things".

OK, if you've read along this far, then we get to the set of submissions
that most directly drove this long sharing of thoughts with you. It
started with the discussion on understanding R. Moshe's teshuva
regarding Conservative shuls. I think it is pretty clear by now that
R. Moshe viewed the Conservative movement as a major threat to the
community he felt responsible for, and came out very strongly against
it. I think it is also clear that some of the language is polemical and
some purely halachic.  Some members of the list have suggested that it
is necessary to understand the writings in the context of the times, and
that today the Orthodox community should not view the Conservative
movement as a major threat. In as yet unposted submission, other list
members disagree. The question of what level, if any, of official
contact between leaders of the communities should exist is definitely
still an active issue.

So what does this have to do with anything I wrote earlier? I think that
there is a view, which likely has a reasonable amount of validity to it,
that the pronouncements of Daas Torah in opposition to the Conservative
movement are not based on a correct understanding of the Conservative
movement ideology. Therefore, if what is said or written does not
represent what one believes is a more correct statement of the ideology,
then one is required to reject the opinion of the posek and in that
persons frame of reference, it possibly taints the rest of the authority
of the posek. Similar to the cases above, if a Gadol is making
statements based on incorrect information in an area that the person
feels that they know, that they question how accurate the information is
in other areas.

I am very unsure about whether any value will be gained by engaging in a
discussion about a correct understanding of Conservative ideology and/or
the relative strengths of the two movements today in respect to the
choices by people taking on additional Jewish identity and religious
attachment. One the one hand, I think this is actually a fairly
significant and serious discussion that has the potential for improving
undertanding and communication between serious members of our
community. I think it is at least as important as many of the topics
that do get discussed here. At the same time, it has very high potential
for taking a negative path. For one thing, I think there are many people
who would not agree that improving understanding and communication is a
good thing. In their view, the higher the walls the better. The second,
is that even if we decided to go the path, the potential for a negative
discussion is very high.

So for now, I've spent most of the time allocated to creating the issues
in writing this. I'll continue to ponder over the weekend, and any of
you who have thoughts on the issue are free to send them to me. I'll
come back to you all on this after I've had a chance to pass a Shabbat
and think about it.

Your dedicated moderator,
Avi Feldblum
<mljewish@...> (or if not for posting: feldblum@rcn.com)


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 15:03:10 +0200
Subject: Re: Calendar Question

On Mon, 7 Feb 2005 15:29:06 EST, <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver) stated
the following:

      I've said this before, but it bears saying again. The molad
      is primarily a tool for calculating what day Rosh Hashana
      (and hence the other chagim) falls on. There is no
      significance to the time of the molad in a physics sense of

I've said this before and I'll state it again.  Halakhically, the time
of the molad has significance, in that we calculate the period during
which we may recite qiddush levana with respect to the average molad,
and not with respect to the actual molad or any other astronomical

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: David Neuman <daveselectric@...>
Date: Tue, 8 Feb 2005 07:43:18 -0500
Subject: Late to Shul

 I hope the subcribers wil not mind going back to a previous discussion
on coming late to shul.  In this past weeks Peninim on the Torah, Rabbi
A. Leib Scheinbaum of the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland put it in
respective.  Below is a reprint with permission.

                            Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
                          Hebrew Academy of Cleveland


" You shall worship Hashem, your G-d, and He shall bless your bread and
your water, and I shall remove illness from your midst. 23:25)

Hashem is a personal G-d, Who can be reached directly, without having to
go through intermediaries. In prayer, we speak directly to Hashem, a
worship which results in our receipt of His blessings. The effect of
Tefillah is even more compelling when prayed b'tzibbur, in a public
forum of ten or more men. The Ma'or Va'shemesh derives the significance
of Tefillah b'tzibbur from the above pasuk. He notes that the pasuk
begins in the plural, va'avaditem, "and you shall worship", and ends
with a blessing to the individual in the singular, lachmecha, meimecha,
mikirbecha, "your bread, your water, your midst." Why the change? He
explains that if one prays in a communal forum, the effect will be so
powerful that the individual will be blessed with parnassah, a
livelihood that is easy to come by, and good health. Alternatively,
"your bread and your water" are a reference to spiritual achievements
which will be gained only by he who prays to Hashem b'tzibbur.

The Ma'or Va'shemesh adds that one who prays b'tzibbur will have access
to spiritual opportunities that are beyond the purview of the average
person. Indeed, he interprets this into the meaning of the pasuk in
Mishlei 14:28, B'rov am hadras melech, "A multitude of people is a kings
glory." The word hadras, which is translated as glory/beauty can also be
translated as being derived from hadar, as in hadarna bi, "I changed my
mind," remorse, or a reversal of one's earlier decision or opinion. We
thus praise Hashem, that He reverses His decision, so to speak, in favor
of those who pray to Him, b'rov am, in a large communal forum.

The early commentators distinguish between Tefillah b'kavanah, prayer
amid concentration and devotion, and Tefillah without kavanah. They
compare the Tefillah without kavanah to a guf b'li neshamah, a body
without a soul, which obviously has no sustaining life force. Likewise,
without concentration, the prayer has no life to it. Individual prayer
can easily fall into the category of Tefillah without kavanah, because
one who prays alone is usually in a hurry, swallowing his words and
certainly giving very little thought to them. The feeling of exaltation
that one has upon praying with a large group, the enthusiasm, the
excitement and fervor is overwhelming and inspiring. The words take on
new meaning as one concentrates on their inner meaning, bringing one
closer to Hashem.

The Ramban in his commentary to Shir HaShirim writes that one who prays
b'tzibbur will have his prayer accepted by Hashem, even if he did not
concentrate on every word. So great is the power of the tzibbur.

The significance of Tefillah b'tzibbur was recognized by the gedolei
Yisrael throughout the millennia. Many stories are told of their
overriding mesiras nefesh, devotion to the point of self-sacrifice, to
be able to pray with a minyan. Rabbi Paysach Krohn in Reflections of the
Maggid cites the Talmud in Berachos 47b that teaches us: "A person
should always rise early (to go) to the synagogue, so that he should
merit to be counted among the first ten." Chazal explain that the first
ten to arrive receive a reward equivalent to all those who came
afterwards. The Maharasha explains, that the Shechinah, Divine Presence,
graces a place where people pray only after there is a minyan in
attendance. Therefore, it is only the first ten who receive credit for
"bringing" the Shechinah to their place of prayer. Those who come later
certainly receive reward for praying in a place where the Shechinah's
Presence is manifest, but it is the first ten who get the credit for
availing them the opportunity. Chazal are telling us that the initial
reward for those first ten is equal to what everyone else receives for
praying in the presence of the Shechinah.

Rabbi Krohn tells an intriguing story that should inspire us. There was
a young man who owned a furniture store in a small community. One
morning he noticed smoke rising up between the slats of his parquet
floor. He quickly ran to the basement to see what was wrong, and soon
had his worst fears realized. A fierce fire was raging in the basement.
He was unsuccessful in his attempt to extinguish the fire with a
portable extinguisher. By the time he ran upstairs, the fire had already
spread to the first floor. The furniture was all aflame. He ran to the
phone to call the fire department and then returned to his store, to
watch helplessly as it burned to the ground.

The fire department finally arrived, but, alas, all they could do was
water down the adjacent store to make sure the fire did not spread. His
business was gutted. It would be months before he could even dream of
opening up again.

A few days after the fire, this young man came to shul and remarked to a
friend, "You know, a few days prior to the fire, a fellow came over to
me and commented about my late arrival to Minyan. 'You come to shul
everyday,'he said, 'but why do you always come so late? You are never
there at the beginning of davening."

I replied to him, "What difference does it make when I come? The main
thing is that in the end I am there!" 'Now I realize that the fire
department also came - in the end - when my store had already been
turned to rubble. It was too late. Hashem showed me that coming in the
end is not good enough. It is no different than the fire department. It
was too late.'"

While this may address those who are not there at the beginning of
davening, there is another group that is equally disdainful - those who
leave early. There are Kaddeishim which are recited at the end of
davening for a reason. Apparently, they must be important since it is a
point when the yasom, orphan, or one who is reciting Kaddish for the
deceased, says Kaddish. There are those of us who feel that this portion
of davening is not pertinent to us. We leave at will, or we justify our
absence with some form of contrived need. Regrettably, those who must
stay for that part of davening are those who say Kaddish. Let us not act
in a manner that Heaven has reason for criticizing our behavior. The
alternative to leaving at will is being compelled to staying for reasons
beyond our control.

duvid neuman


From: <aliw@...> (Arie)
Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2005 16:52:23 +0200
Subject: Re: Metzitzah

 Y. Askotzky wrote in 46/86

> In Israel, within the Torah community, metzitzah is only done by
> direct contact as far as I'm aware. I understand in the US and likely
> elsewhere many mohelim do metzitzah with a glass straw, which 

To my best knowledge, most mohelim do not do metzitzah with direct
contact. I have 4 boys, and the two mohelim (2 each - we moved), both
well known, both used glass straws. I have been at a few britot where
there was direct contact, but they are few and far bewteen. At one of
them, the father of the rach hanimol even told me of the difficulty he
had finding a mohel who would not use a glass straw, (he only wanted a
mohel who would do direct metzizah) but that he finally found one.



From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 15:03:47 +0200
Subject: Re: Metzitzah- how prevalent is it?

      See the most comprehensive report to date in Pediatrics (URL:
      http://www.pediatrics.org/cgi/content/full/114/2/e259) where all
      tested mohalim (4/8; the others did not consent to be tested) were
      positive and 7/8 tested mothers were negative

I am not taking a stand on the issue.  My reaction is shock that a
medical journal of any sort would report on "research" with such a tiny
sample size and assign any degree of reliability to such a study.

Let us bear in mind that Mr. Kaufman was referring to a specific case (in
which the mohel tested negative), and not to a statistically
insignificant sample.

IRA L. JACOBSON         


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Wed, 09 Feb 2005 14:46:29 +0200
Subject: A Puzzling Story

In one of my books, I quote the following anecdote:

Once the mashgiach of the yeshivah came to R' Yosef Leib, the Rosh
Yeshivah of Telshe, and complained that a certain student was not
praying with kavanah, the proper concentration.

"And who," R' Yosef Leib asked him, "does pray with kavanah? Had we
really prayed with kavanah, how would we remember to add ya'aleh veyavo
on Rosh Chodesh or al ha'nissim on Chanukkah?"

 *  * *

This story has often puzzled me - maybe more so because today is Rosh
Chodesh. How does one indeed draw the line between davening with real
kavanah and yet remembering to add the appropriate special passages?

Shmuel Himelstein


End of Volume 46 Issue 91