Volume 47 Number 13
                    Produced: Sun Mar  6 11:44:28 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Are there two classes of Jews
         [David Mescheloff]
Bris Sensitivity (was Metzitza discussion)
         [Rachel Swirsky]
Early New York Jewish Community
         [Shaya Potter]
         [Perets Mett]
Metzitzah B'peh
         [David Mescheloff]
Question about American Askenazi pronunciation
         [Frank Silbermann]
Separate Seating At Funerals
         [Orrin Tilevitz]


From: David Mescheloff <david_mescheloff@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 09:02:50 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Are there two classes of Jews

I'm completely in favor of equality for all us Jews - largely, I
confess, not out of the healthy ideology urged on us by our prophets and
sages of every generation, but out of fear that I'll be put into one of
the "less than equal" classes by somebody or other.  In fact, I'm sure
that there are many who do just that to me - maybe the worst fear is
that they are right in doing so...

Be that as it may, when it comes to halachic decision-making, it seems
we must acknowledge that rendering different decisions for different
Jews not only has several justifications, but has a long history.  The
term "b'nei Torah" appears in four different Tractates in the Bavli
(Shabbat 139a-b and 145b, Eruvin 40a, Yevamot 46a, and Avoda Zara 58a
and 59a) , each worthy of study and attention.

For the purpose of our discussion let me just point out that, in Shabbat
139a-b it is reported that the people of Bashkar (?) sent three
questions to Levi (first half of the third century, Babylonia), who died
before he could answer.  The questions were then assigned by Shmuel to
R. Menashya, with the instruction that "If you are wise, send them an
answer."  R. Menashya responded in no uncertain terms: the answer to
each question was "it is completely forbidden".  In each instance the
gemara shows that it is possible to be lenient, or to distinguish
between different cases and, at least, to be lenient in some; so why did
not R. Menashya answer accordingly?  Each time the answer is: "because
they (the Jews of Bashkar} are not B'nei Torah (Rashi: and they will be
too lenient)."  People who are not b'nei Torah have a hard time with
distinctions - in this case it's okay and in that case it isn't - so the
best way to keep them from doing wrong is to forbid all cases, without
distinction.  Obviously this is not a general rule in halacha, and it
can't be.  But the posek must use his best judgment - it's all he has -
and sometimes answer the same question differently to different groups
of Jews.

David Mescheloff 


From: Rachel Swirsky <swirskyr@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 09:53:25 -0500
Subject: Bris Sensitivity (was Metzitza discussion)

On Fri, 25 Feb 2005 10:27:28 EST, <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)

> Just a note about Birssin in general.  While I understand the Simcha
> people are experiencing at the birth and bris of their son, sensitivity
> MUST be employed when handing out Kibudim (honors).  And although it may
> seem counterintuitive as it is a wonderful Segula, many people who are
> having fertility issues are quite sensitive to the Kvater concept.

There is no mekor for kvattering being a segulah for infertility.  There
is some semblance of a mekor for the SANDAK being a segulah for many
things though.  There is also a mekor for helping to MAKE a bris.

> It is not that they don't appreciate the thought, they do.  Think of it
> as an older sister walking down the aisle at her younger sister's
> wedding, self conscious to all the stares and thoughts people are having
> or she thinks people are having.

No, many do not appreciate the thought even.  The words "ma tovu
ohalecha ya'akov" teach us that what is going on in someone else's tent
is absolutely 100% none of our business.  If someone wants our help or
our assistance on matters of such a personal nature, they will ask for
it.  If they are not comfortable asking, you should not be comfortable


From: Shaya Potter <spotter@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 10:10:41 -0500
Subject: Re: Early New York Jewish Community

>From: W. Baker <wbaker@...>
>> From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
>> The earliest religious freedom in the colonies was in Rhode Island. 
>> Roger Williams ran away from Mass Bay to start Providence RI. His 
>> experience motivated him to insist on religious freedom in his colony. 
>> As a result, one of the earliest Jewish communities in the US was in 
>> Newport RI. The Touro synagogue there is now the oldest synagogue still 
>> standing in the US.
>Touro is the oldest synagogue BUILDING, but not the oldest songregation. 
>That is Shearith Israel in NYC, the one we have been talking about.

well, Touro is part of Shearith Israel now :)


From: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 12:11:55 +0000
Subject: kvater

Chaim Shapiro wrote:

> Just a note about brisn in general.  While I understand the Simcha
> people are experiencing at the birth and bris of their son, sensitivity
> MUST be employed when handing out Kibudim (honors).  And although it 
> may
> seem counterintuitive as it is a wonderful Segula, many people who are
> having fertility issues are quite sensitive to the Kvater concept.
> ...
> Please approach the request with sensitivity.

This can be a difficult one to tackle. Some people may get upset at
being offered the kibud. Other couples with no children may be equally
upset at NOT being offered the kibud. So, as Chaim says, one needs to be
especially sensitive when offering the kibud.

(Personally, I don't know where this segulo comes from. At my sons'
brisn we offered the kvatershaft to the couples we wanted to offer a
kibud to, including my parents and my parents-in-law. In fact I don't
think I ever gave it to a childless couple. However, naharo naharo
uposhtei - let each follow his own minhog.)

Perets Mett


From: David Mescheloff <david_mescheloff@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 05:15:35 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Metzitzah B'peh

I would like to share with mail-Jewish friends what may be a new thought
on this issue.

I had always understood the medical purpose of metzitzah (b'peh) as
explained by chazal to be to draw out and away from the wound any blood
which might have been infected in the course of the milah, so as to
ensure it would not / could not remain or go deeper and cause infection,
either in the area of the wound or systemically.  In that way I
understood the position of those poskim who suggested - when this issue
came to the fore over a hundred years ago, as awareness of microbial
infection grew - that it may be time to use different, more effective
means of treating the wound with antiseptic, to achieve the same medical
purpose chazal had in mind while avoiding risk of transferring newly
discovered infections between the infant and the mohel.

However, an article I read recently, published just a couple of weeks
ago, shed a different light on the issue for me.  It reminded me that
one should be very careful in suggesting that chazal knew only primitive
methods for dealing with issues we can handle much better.  I am not
suggesting there is no room for change or improvement, only that we
should be modest and cautious.  In this particular case, after what I
read - see below - I believe there is no substitute for metzitza b'peh,
except that doing it via a glass tube, creating a distance between the
mohel and the wound, should be the preferred method used today, in light
of the risk of infection of which we are now aware (or the only method,
if no way can be found to supervise the health of mohalim and of infants
- remember, the risks go in both directions, so checking the health of
mohalim is not sufficient).

In any event, it seems to me now that the purpose - or an additional
purpose to what I suggested above, and this is a purpose still valid and
important - of metzitza is to hasten significantly the healing of the

What I read was a report, in a news item called "Patents Spark
Conflicts" by Catherine Clabby and news researcher Brooke Cain, of a new
"hot-shot invention that helps heal wounds."  It seems Wake Forest
University, in North Carolina, has raked in record profits from "sales
of the Vacuum Assisted Closure System. Invented by two professors on the
Winston-Salem campus in 1990, it improved treatment of burns, surgery
incisions, diabetes lesions, bedsores and other hard-to-heal wounds ...
plastic surgeon Louis Argenta and bioengineer Michael Morykwas created
the breakthrough instrument on the Winston-Salem campus.

The VAC uses a specialized foam, which is slathered on the wound, then
covers the area in an airtight seal. A pump that produces subatmospheric
pressure draws out fluids, enabling the body to heal faster by returning
blood flow to the damaged area.

Wake Forest patented the technology and in 1994 licensed the
manufacturing and marketing rights to Kinetic Concepts. The university
collects royalty payments totaling 7 percent of annual sales.

It took years for medical professionals to accept the VAC, but now it is
widely used. Kinetic Concepts executives predict their revenues will
reach $1.2 billion in 2005, with much of that from VAC sales and

In 2001, Kinetic Concepts accused a company of selling a pump in Europe
that too closely resembled the VAC. The company, Medela AG, settled with
Kinetic Concepts and stopped, court records say. But in 2002, a former
Medela employee started a company that sells a similar device in the
United States, the records say.

In a suit pending in U.S. District Court in San Antonio, Wake Forest and
its commercial partner accuse that company, California-based BlueSky
Medical Corp., of patent infringement. The suit also accuses BlueSky of
falsely advertising that its device is better.

BlueSky founder Richard Weston said his company operates within the law.
He said the company sells a product based on technology developed 20
years ago that predates the Wake Forest invention. He said Wake's
technology was not truly innovative and never should have been issued a

"When you look at their claims, there is nothing there," Weston said.
"But there is so much money involved."

End of quote from news story.

I don't know, of course, whether the modern technology is new or not -
the court will decide - but "slathering a special foam on the wound,
creating an airtight seal," and producing "subatmospheric pressure
[which] draws out fluids, enabling the body to heal faster by returning
blood flow to the damaged area," sounds to me like an accurate
description of what a mohel does in metzitza b'peh.  The drawing of the
blood "from far away", as chazal described it, may not be so as to pull
out any possible infection created by the incision, as I previously
thought, but rather to hasten healing, as is now understood by those who
are raking in billions with their "new" invention.  I imagine that no
mechanical "pump that produces subatmospheric pressure" can be as
sensitive and as finely tuned so as to draw blood in just the right
amount to the area of the infant's fresh incision - not too much so as
to do harm to the wound, but not so little as to be ineffective - as the
experienced, trained human mouth of the mohel.

Decades ago, I did insist that my two sons' mohalim do metzitza b'peh
(they both did so gladly).  Each of my sons has done the same for each
of his two sons born so far.  I will discuss the matter with them for
their next children - perhaps it is time to insist on using a glass
tube.  But I would not suggest, in a million years, in light of this
"new" knowledge and understanding, to give up the metzitza b'peh done by
our ancestors and required by chazal.

One last note.  To my dismay, the variety of activities I engage in and
the unbearable slowness with which I write will undoubtedly prevent me
from writing up the above for one of the halachic journals in which such
issues are and should be discussed.  I will be very grateful to any
mail-Jewish reader who will bring the above thoughts to the attention of
any of my rabbinic colleagues who may write on the subject, in my name.

Rabbi Dr. David Mescheloff
44 HaTamar
Moshav Hemed 50295
Tel:  03-9607156


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 06:37:17 -0600 (CST)
Subject:  Question about American Askenazi pronunciation

Most American Askenazim pronounce Vov with a dot over it as "o" as in
"go", and Vov with a dot inside as "oo" as in "cool".  This is similar
to the Sephardi pronunciation (except that the latter are purer sounds
rather than dipthongs).

It seems that Polish Jews pronounced Vov with a dot over it as "Oy",
Jews from Lubavitch pronounce it as "Ay", and I've been told that German
Jews pronounced it as "Au".

>From where did this American Ashkenazi pronunciation originate?  Did any
European Askenazi communities also pronounce the Vov with a dot over it
the way American Jews do?

Frank Silbermann	New Orleans, Louisiana		<fs@...>


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 07:36:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Separate Seating At Funerals

Must men and women sit separately at a funeral, and if so, is there any
source for the requirement?  (In response to this question, my rabbi
showed me a zohar at the beginning of parshat Vayakhel.)  Also, if so
and one must attend a mixed-seating funeral, is the best practice to (1)
sit with one's wife, (2) sit in the corner away from one's wife, or (3)
stand in the back?

If not, is separate seating at funerals the prevailing practice?  My own
limited experience, going back maybe 40 years, at Young Israel-type
funerals is that people sort of sat separately.  A new funeral home in
Borough Park, Brooklyn, has a built-in mechitzah, but I don't think its
predecessor did.  And what about at the gravesite, where kaddish is
said?  Again, my limited experience is that most of the men sort of hang
out together, but non-observant couples do not and nobody seems to care.

Orrin Tilevitz


End of Volume 47 Issue 13