Volume 46 Number 99
                    Produced: Wed Feb 16  6:59:31 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Are there two classes of Jews? (3)
         [Nachum Klafter, Jonathan Sperling, Shayna Kravetz]
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Metzitza halachic summary
         [Eitan Fiorino]
Mixed Pew Seating
Mohel's knife
         [Nachum Klafter]
Siyum HaShas
         [Joshua Meisner]
Superstition and mazalot
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
Water Fountains and Fauctes
         [Ari Trachtenberg]


From: Nachum Klafter <doctorklafter@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 22:37:14 -0500
Subject: Are there two classes of Jews?

> From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
> I was troubled by one comment in an otherwise most helpful explanation
> of the current situation regarding metzitza.

> > In light of the above, a Rosh Yeshiva poskinned for me personally that I
> > may not perform metzitza be-peh under any circumstances, and when among
> > Jews who do not know the difference I should omit metzitza entirely.
> > When among observant Jews who will protest if metzitza is omitted, he
> > poskinned that I should perform metzitza through a sterile glass tube or
> > syringe in a manner which will prevent any saliva-blood contact. 

> Many years ago the board of the Torah Academy in Philadelphia purchased
> a table at the Jewish Federation's annual dinner.  The dinner was kosher
> and as a board member I was among those folks attended.  As we entered
> the banquet room the masgiach approached the Dean of the school, a very
> choshiv Yid and basically said "don't drink the water" -- that he would
> provide us with different meals.  So apparently there was
> kosher-enough-for-them and kosher-enough-for-us.  Although I was on the
> "us" side of this, I thought it was a terrible distinction.

I think Carl is bringing up a very important point.  I am also
disheartened when halakhic Jews treat more observant Jews differently
than they do less observant Jews.  This case, I believe, is somewhat
different.  The Rosh Yeshiva essentially contends that there is no
obligation to perform metzitzah in our times, at all.  However, he
thinks that there will be widespread opposition by the parents and
guests at Bris Milah gatherings who are accustomed to seeing metzitzah
done whenever there is a circumcision.  They may also be aware that the
Shulchan Aruch states that mohalim who omit metzitzah should not be
appointed for future circumcisions, and they will not understand the
reasoning behind why this Rosh Yeshiva asserts that this ruling is no
longer applicable even as a minhag.  Among totally unknowledgeable and
unobservant Jews, he sees no reason to perform metzitzah at all since he
contends that is no longer an obligation.  Perhaps the fact that there
is any distinction at all, regardless of the reasoning, would bother
Carl anyway.

-nachum klafter 

From: Jonathan Sperling <sperling@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005 00:54:58 -0500
Subject: Re:  Are there two classes of Jews?

Metzitza is not a necessary component of the mitzva of mila (see Iggerot
Moshe Yoreh Deah I, siman 223)- i.e., a bris without metzitza is
entirely kosher.  Thus, the mohel here is not being told to perform
brisim according to different standard of kashrus, but is being
instructed to perform a kosher bris in all instances in the manner least
likely to cause controversy in the particular community in which the
bris is being performed.  A distinction that ensures kashrus for all and
machlokes for none isn't so terrible . . .

From: Shayna Kravetz <skravetz@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 22:33:21 -0500
Subject: Re: Are there two classes of Jews?

I agree very much with your objection to the situation you described,
but I'm not sure that the analogy to Dr. Klafter's psak is accurate.  In
your situation, the implication was that eating the generally available
food would have involved lowering your presumed standard of kashrut, as
the mashgiach believed that the hashgachah must have been 'shvach'
(weak) although still technically adequate.  Therefore to protect your
higher standard, he advised you not to eat -- although the hashgachah
was 'good enough' for those who were presumed to be less observant and
thus presumably less particular on stringencies.

In the brit situation (if I understand the psak correctly), the posek
believes that the milah is kosher without metzitzah but recognizes that
some observant Jews whose expectations for kosher milah include
metzitzah would not be prepared to accept a milah without it.
Therefore, by way of (I presume) darchei shalom, he allows the mohel to
perform a halachically unnecessary but socially expected metzitzah.  But
where there is no such expectation, the principle of darchei shalom need
not be invoked and the milah can proceed without metzitzah in a
perfectly halachic way.  It is not a question of lower standards for
less halachically knowledgable people, as in the kashrut situation.  The
halachah is the same for both groups.  The addition of metzitzah for
some families is a response to social pressures, not a halachic

Kol tuv and have a frivolous Adar.

Shayna in Toronto


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005 05:51:32 +0200
Subject: "Ma-doch"

In learning Gemara, one often hears: "Ma-doch this, then certainly that."

Does anyone know what the word/s "Ma-doch" come from? And how would one
spell this in Hebrew letters?

I'm surmising that the "doch" part comes from the Yiddish.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Eitan Fiorino <Fiorino@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2005 01:59:37 -0500
Subject: Re: Metzitza halachic summary

> From: A. Adereth <adereth2003@...> 
> This is the quote from Nefesh HaRav (p. 243), courtesy of Hirhurim blog 
> (http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2005/02/metzitzah.html): 
> "Our teacher's view was that nowadays there is no need for metzitzah at 
> all, like the Tiferes Yisrael's view in the Mishnah [sic!] (see the 
> Sedei Hemed for a long treatment of this). He told us how he a mohel 
> once wated to perform metzitzah be-feh and our teacher asked him not 
> to. When the mohel refused, our teacher told him that if his father, 
> R. Moshe Soloveitchik, were there, he would definitely not have allowed 
> him to perform metzitzah be-feh. However, I am more tolerant and since 
> you are refusing, I will let you." 
> I think it is unclear from this story, as recounted, whether R. Moshe 
> Soloveitchik would simply have objected to someone overruling his p'sak 
>- any p'sak - or whether he agreed in principle that metzitzah befeh is 
> unnecessary and would not have allowed that specific p'sak to be 
> overruled.

You are right the story is somewhat unclear - it could be that the Rav
was simply noting that had his father was less tolerant of someone
"refusing" to abide by a request, and that we have no idea what Rav
Moshe Soleveitchik's views were on oral metzitza.  I do think the easier
reading is that the Rav was more tolerant of oral metzitza since the
story relates specifically that the Rav merely asked that oral metzitza
not be performed, but not that the Rav issued a psak that the mohel
could not perform it.  Of course I think one can't get too crazy over
the specific wording of any story in the book; it is not like this is
the Yad.

I have to thank Adereth for the referral to the blog mentioned in his
post, which had a reference to a chapter in a Jacob Katz book which I
happened to have recently purchased and which I had not yet even opened.
It is a very detailed article covering much of the history and piskei
halacha related to the topic.  A few interesting points emerge from this

1.  The polemics and piskei halacha in favor of the maintenance of oral
    metzitza arose in the context of reformers not merely doing away
    with metzitza, but rather a broader attempt by the reformers to do
    away with brit mila entirely!  This included attempts (based in part
    on the medical cases described below) to have the secular authorites
    ban circumcision.

2.  There were cases documented then of syphilis being transmitted from
    mohelim to babies through oral metzitza.  In Vienna several children
    are thought to have died as a result of contracting illnesses from
    one or more mohelim.  There was some debate about this because sores
    were not found in the mouth of the mohel(im) but the ability to
    document infection back then was limited to physical exam, which can
    certainly be normal despite the presence of herpes or syphilis.
    Cases of illness and death associated with oral metzitza ocured in
    London as well.

3.  Interestingly there appears to be a clear distinction in the derech
    of those who insisted on oral metzitza versus thoe who favored
    abolishing it - those who supported oral metzitza seem to have
    generally reconciled contemporary medical facts that contradicted
    remedies offered by chazal with the view that "nature has changed."
    In contrast those who supported abolition held the view that chazal
    were simply lacking in their knowledge of medicine and thus their
    medical advice could in fact be incorrect, particularly if better
    methods had been developed.  In this case, I would suggest is a
    third possibility, which is that oral metzitza represented a better
    antiseptic than other alternatives at the time and that since chazal
    made their observations before the emergence of venereal diseases
    like syphilis, there may have been no known cases of mohel to infant
    transmission known to chazal.  In other words, SOMETHING had/has
    indeed changed since the time of chazal - not something metaphysical
    about human disease, but rather changes in antispetic techniques and
    in the prevalence and/or existence of certain diseases.  Oral
    metzitza may well have been preferable to the alternatives at the
    time of the gemara and chazal's observation of that may have indeed
    been correct.



From: <MRosenPSI@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 22:14:15 EST
Subject: Re: Mixed Pew Seating

The late Professor Petechowski of HUC stated that mixed pews seating was
a uniquely American contribution to synagogue practice. In Europe the
churches had separate seating so the issue of mixed seating did not
exist. The reform innovation in the US was "family style seating" which
was a direct borrowing from the prevalent Protestant custom in the US.


From: Nachum Klafter <doctorklafter@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 22:45:35 -0500
Subject: Mohel's knife

> From: <RWERMAN@...>
> The standard mohel's knife is double edged [herev pipiyot] and is cold
> sterilized in alcohol or other disinfectant solution.  It has been shown
> that such sterilization does not kill either HIV or Herpes viruses.
> Thus, there may be a danger of transferring the virus from an infected
> boy to a healthy one.  Hot sterilization, involving boiling water, is
> not used as it may nick the knife and make it halachilly invalid. What
> to do?  In Israel, at least they are now selling double edged DISPOSABLE
> blades, at about 10 Shekels a piece.  Previously disposable blades were
> avoided as they were all single edged.  I strongly advise potential
> ba'ale brit milah to insist that their mohel use such blades and avoid
> any chance of infection.

Many mohalim autoclave their instruments or use antimicrobial agents
that would destroy HSV and HIV.  I personally use disposable surgical
blades.  I put a traditional double edged blade on the table but then
use the disposable blade.  In addition to being sterile, they are
extremely sharp and cut very nicely.

-nachum klafter


From: Joshua Meisner <jmeisner@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 23:15:47 -0500
Subject: Siyum HaShas

Are there any satellite hookups to the Siyum HaShas in the greater New
York area?  A friend of mine has been trying to find a ticket to the one
of the live events, but the only remaining seats available are out of
his price range.

Responses can be on or off list, depending on the relevance to the


Joshua Meisner


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 17:39:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Superstition and mazalot

I've been asked by a young friend, and don't know the answer, so am
posting here:

If the torah forbids superstition and mazalot (such as saying that
such-and-such a day or month is "good" for something), then why do we
say that the month of Adar has the mazal of fish and that it is "lucky"
for going to bes-din and making weddings? Specific citations, if known,
are preferred.

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2005 10:58:37 -0500
Subject: Water Fountains and Fauctes

The whole issue of shabbat sensor use (and the special case of the use
of electricity on Shabbat) is rapidly becoming a serious issue for the
frum community, and it must be dealt with with common-sense,
source-based halacha before it cripples our community.

Trivial annoyances include electronic hotel door locks, traffic "walk"
lights that are push-button operated, and infrared faucet sensors, but
sensors are quickly becoming an intrinsic (and invisible) component of
modern Western life.  Consider, for example, that most large American
cities are canvased with cameras (not to mention the space-based
satellite cameras that film us around the clock at various levels of
detail) - every move you take in the vicinity of such cameras is
directly recorded and stored on tape (sometimes to be rewritten later,
but sometimes not); some of these cameras are even motion-activated (to
save tape), so that there is a direct connection between your movement
and the recording.  Infrared door sensors are also abundant, causing
doors to open whenever you walk too close, and standard homes are
rapidly incorporating automated sensor technology (e.g. burglar alarms,
heating/cooling sensors, water monitors/controllers, refrigerators

When I was an undergrad, I remember the Conservative Hillel rabbi once
outlining two conditions that should be met to allow indirect action on

1)  the resulting activity must be undesired
2)  one should not gain any benefit from the activity

I never discussed the exact source of this opinion with him, but it
seems to be an issue of growing importance.  Any ideas?

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


End of Volume 46 Issue 99