Volume 49 Number 07
                    Produced: Tue Jul 19 22:04:10 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cellphones while driving. (2)
         [Frank Silbermann, Immanuel Burton]
Free Market
         [Harry Weiss]
Mi shebeyrach
         [Irwin Weiss]
Seat belts (was: Cellphone while driving)
         [Mike Gerver]
Where is the Border
         [Russell J Hendel]
Why the Disparity (Formerly: Secular translations of Torah)
         [Russell J Hendel]


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 11:10:43 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Cellphones while driving.

In V49 N03 Carl A. Singer <casinger@...> asked about the
halachic aspects of using a cellphone while driving.

> ... let me begin with a premise that (A) not wearing a seatbelt
> is a sacuneh and (B) using a cellphone while driving is a sacuneh.
> 1 - Is it permissible to do so?  If not what specific aveyreh does it 
>     violate?  (is this similar to "smoking")
> 2 - with B there is also a danger to others as one may cause an 
>     accident.  (Is this similar to "secondhand smoke")

While we have a general principle to guard our lives and respect those
of others, in the absence of a rabbinical ruling Halacha usually relies
on us to use our common sense and judgement.  Naturally, some
individuals tend more towards caution than others.

That a state legislature and governor have decried the danger of using a
cellphone while driving is irrelevant; for measuring danger their
opinions are no more relevant than those of any other few dozen random
gentiles.  Outlawing the practice may create an issue of Dina d'Malchus
Dina (obedience to the laws of a gentile government -- which I don't
know enough about to discuss), but this has nothing to do with safety.

Personally, I think use of a cellphone while driving is something that
one should try to avoid, but in any given situation I would balance the
small danger against any other relevant practical considerations.  For
rabbis to issue a ban on the practice seems to me too heavy a hammer for
striking such a small nail.

One day automobile control systems may become so sophisticated that it
will be perfectly safe to use a cellphone while driving.  In that case,
I would be a shame for future generations to be restricted by a
rabbinical gezera whose reason no longer applied -- but which continued
to stand because later rabbis, in their humility, were unwilling to
consider themselves greater in number or greatness than the ban's
promulgators.  (It's a good argument for rabbinical restraint in

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

From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Tue, 19 Jul 2005 14:29:00 +0100
Subject: RE: Cellphones while driving.

In MJ v49n03, Carl Singer asked about the Halachic aspects of using a
cellphone without a hands-free kit while driving.

Two incidents occurred to me recently which I think might help explore
the Halachic aspects.  The first was when someone using a cellphone
pulled out from a side street into my path.  As he was holding his
cellphone in his right hand, he wasn't able to turn his head fully to
the right to see clearly if there was oncoming traffic.  He probably
made as best a glance as he good, perceived that nothing was coming, and
pulled out.  An emergency stop on my part prevented an accident.

The second was when I was queuing to turn right off a main road at a set
of traffic lights.  (In the UK, turning right off a main road means
crossing the path of the oncoming traffic, and inevitably involves
waiting for a break in traffic.)  The motorist in front of me was
talking on his cellphone when the traffic lights turned green, and
instead of advancing as far as he could (in the way that one should), he
inched forwards about one car-length, stopped and carried on nattering
on his cellphone, even though there was enough space beyond the stop
line for three or four cars.  This meant that when the traffic light
turned red I was unable to turn right as I was still stuck behind the
stop line, which was quite frustrating to say the least.

The first incident highlights, I think, the danger aspects of using a
handheld cellphone while driving.  The driver in the first incident was
not able to give proper care and attention to driving, and therefore
almost caused an accident.  Had I been travelling faster, it is quite
likely that a crash would have occurred.  I am therefore of the opinion
that using a handheld cellphone while driving constitutes a danger to
oneself and other road-users.  It is therefore likely that this is a
breach of the prohibition of putting oneself (and others) in a dangerous

With regards to the second incident, while not in itself dangerous, it
would probably constitute an example of what, in English law, is called
driving without due consideration to other road-users.  By holding up
other drivers in this way, one may be in breach of "Love your neighbour
as yourself".  (Failure to drive without consideration to others and
obstructing the road by parking illegally have long been things I've had
a bee in my bonnet about.)

One other aspect of using a cellphone while driving is not having both
hands free to operate the car.  This might not be so critical in a car
with automatic transmission, but if one has manual transmission
(stick-shift?), one does need both hands for driving.  Not being in
proper control of one's car may also therefore be putting oneself in

Lastly, the law of the land in the United Kingdom states that one may
not use a handheld cellphone while driving.  Breaking this law is a
breach of dina de'malchusa dina - the law of the land is the law.

Immanuel Burton.


From: Harry Weiss <hjweiss@...>
Date: Fri, 15 Jul 2005 14:34:33 -0700
Subject: Free Market

> <FriedmanJ@...> (Jeanette Friedman) wrote
> If Plony, the cab driver in Monsey is making a living driving people to
> the doctor and the hospital, and suddenly the service is provided for
> free by others, that IS DISGUSTING.

We could extend this to every Mitzvah we do.  We should cancel Hachanas
Orchim, since having guest over cuts back on busenss to the take out
food stores and to the are hotels.  People shold be banned from cooking
and baking at home since it hurts the business of those who do it for

We should close all volunteer Chevrah Kadisha organiztions, since there
are people who could do it for a lviing.

It is rediculous saying that doing a favor for an individual is hurting
people who are in the busienss.  Perhaps they are in the wrong business.
Hasagas gvul has very specific guidlines and it is no way is supposed to
limit Gemilus Chassidim.


From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 22:39:53 -0400
Subject: Mi shebeyrach

Does anyone know an online source for a special Mi Shebeyrach for a
100th birthday?



From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 17:43:38 EDT
Subject: Seat belts (was: Cellphone while driving)

Carl Singer writes, in v49n03,

> let me begin with a premise that (A) not wearing a seatbelt is a
> sacuneh and (B) using a cellphone while driving is a sacuneh.

> 1 - Is it permissible to do so?  If not what specific aveyreh
> does it violate?  (is this similar to "smoking")

> 2 - with B there is also a danger to others as one may cause
> an accident.  (Is this similar to "secondhand smoke")

(A) might not be a physical danger to others (though one could imagine
reasons why it might be). But, if it is a danger to the driver, then it
does affect others financially, by raising everyone's insurance
rates. It could also cause terrible feelings of guilt on the part of the
other driver involved in an accident, if the driver who is not wearing a
seat belt is killed, or maimed, while he would not have been if he had
been wearing a seat belt.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Mon, 18 Jul 2005 22:03:00 -0400
Subject: Where is the Border

 My understanding is that it is prohibited to pray for time reversal
(The Talmud's example in Beracoth has to do with praying for a gender
change in an infant after it has been fixed).

However praying for miracles is allowed and encouraged. A well known
dictum tracable to the King of Prayer, King David states: "Even if a
sword is on your throat you should not desist from supplicating for

It follows that praying for resurrection is perfectly permissable.

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


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 17 Jul 2005 20:55:49 -0400
Subject: Why the Disparity (Formerly: Secular translations of Torah)

A recent poster stated that when he finds a religious commentary dealing
with a literary approach he would gladly give up Alter and read them.

But such commentaries do exist: Malbim and Rav Hirsch are good examples.
Here is a quick example: In last weeks parshah Rav Hirsch makes an
insightful literary insight: The 3 places that Balak took Bilam too
represent 3 possible vulnerabilities by which to curse the Jewish
people: (A) The BAAL god symbolizing idolatry(Nu22-41),(B) the FIELD OF
SEERS (Symbolizing prophecy) (Nu23-14) (C) the UNCOVER god symbolizing
sexual immorality. Here Rav Hirsch INTERPRETS three disparate episodes
as three aspects of a people(Nu23-28). The Jews had no vulnerability in
idolatry,prophecy or sexual immorality.

I believe the above insight is as good as any that a modern scholar can
make. Indeed when I did the research for my article on symbolism located
at url http://www.Rashiyomi.com/gen-1.htm, I had occassion to read many
scholarly books--- I found no work on symbolism as comprehensive and
thought provoking as Rav Hirsch's.  Rav Hirsch is the only scholar I
know who "translates" the entirety of the Leviticus Sacrificial code
into a laymen's guide to psychology and therapy.

But The answer I typically get when I recommend that people study Rav
Hirsch or Malbim vs people like Alter is that "But Alter is a scholar
while Rav Hirsch is only a _____________"

I am not sure how the blank is filled in. But why the disparity? Why is
Alter a scholar but Rav Hirsch is just a _________? Is it because Alter
has expertise is certain literary methods....but if in applying those
methods he sometimes changes the Biblical text (as has been reported);
but then he really doesnt understand the Bible. He has expertise in
literary methods not in the Bible. By contrast Rav Hirsch, Malbim and a
host of other scholars give deep and insightful comments. Why then the

I think one basic problem is that we our embarassed about Talmudic
biblical exegesis. We dont see it as real. Here is a quick example from
a recent paper I published on the Meaning of the Hebrew word AKH (Jewish
Bible Quarterly, June 2005). In the article I show that AKH can mean
MOST. Using this translation (which applies to many verses) I give an
elegant defense to the midrash on Nu31-22--"MOST of the copper and iron
utesils...shall be passed thru fire and purified" Chazal explain "MOST
of the utensil is purified--but not all of it---one must first remove
the rust on it(so that only most of the utensil--the non rust part--- is

I frequently meet resistance to such explanations. People should be
aware that the so called Bible scholars do not comment! For example even
the JPS translation (a rather good one) ignores translating the AKH in
Nu31-22. Another type of resistance is that Rashi calls this explanation
Midrashic; the inference seems to be that THEREFORE any explanation
cannot be the simple meaning of the text. Again there is an embarassment
at seeing Chazal at giving simple meaning (My opinion is that the
translation AKH=MOST does occur frequently but is not the main
translation and therefore Rashi dubbed this Midrashic....Rashi however
had no intent in denying this as the simple meaning of the text). My
point here is we do not jump at the opportunity of defending
chazal...instead we are embarassed and must apologize using such words
as mnemonics, homily etc.(Anyone who wants a copy of the article simply
email me with your snail address)

I close with a story from my college days. A professor had come (to MIT)
to give an invited lecture on BIblical items. The stoning (death
penalty) to animals with whom a human had committed a (sexual) sin was
mentioned. The professor mentioned one theory: The animal enabled the
human to sin and hence is executed. I got up and pointed out that there
were actually two explanations: The second explanation is that as long
as the animal is around the sinning person is embarassed since people
point to the animal and say 'there is the animal that so and so sinned
with.' The point of the execution is to protect the honor and dignity of
the sinner.  The professor nodded and agreed there were two
explanations. I then asked: 'But if you had two explanations why not
pick the explanation that makes the Talmudic sages look mature and

This indeed is our problem: Professors dont care how the Talmudic sages
look. If we dont defend ourselves no one will. I have dealt at length
with this topic since I believe it important. We never had a good
Mail-jewish thread on attitudes toward Midrash.  Maybe now is the time.

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


End of Volume 49 Issue 7