Volume 49 Number 14
                    Produced: Fri Jul 22  5:33:11 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Aramaic, Systematically
         [Allen Gerstl]
         [Andy Goldfinger]
Cellphones while driving
         [Mike Gerver]
Cellphones while Driving and Competition
         [Jeanette Friedman]
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
Dina d'malchusa Dina (2)
         [Jonathan Sperling, Joel Rich]
exploring Web sites (WAS: Friedman the Tutor)
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
         [Ed Greenberg]
Terrorist Attacks On London / Kohanim (3)
         [Stephen Phillips, Shmuel Himelstein, Josh Backon]


From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 08:15:19 -0400
Subject: Aramaic, Systematically

Yeshaya Halevi <c.halevi@...> wrote
>In day school and yeshiva I was taught Hebrew, of course, but never,
>ever was given a class in Aramaic. Since one can't learn Babylonian
>G'mara (Talmud) without knowing Aramaic, everybody is at a huge
>disadvantage. Why is this?

I don't know of any policy anywhere AGAINST learning dikduk, whether
Hebrew or Aramaic.  People and institutions priorize. Dikduk isn't
considered by many as a particularly interesting subject (its an
acquired taste with some).

In addition until recently, while there were several Academic grammars
(and a few verb and noun paradigms in some introductions to Gemorah)
there weren't any (at least of which I know) non-academic easy to use
Aramaic Grammar TEXTBOOKS suitable for use by High School age students
or by a general reader.  Now there is!

See: Yitzhak Frank, Grammar for Gemara and Targum Onkelos, Ariel,
Jerusalem:2003. Its available in most Jewish Bookstores. There is also a
companion volume Dictionary written by R. Frank. These are readable and
user friendly (if that reader has a basic knowledge of elementary Hebrew
grammar). It even has an introduction to Mishnaic Hebrew Grammar. My
wife and I try to give those books as Bar Mitzvah presents when we think
such may be used by the recipients.

As a sidenote: R. Frank was a student of the late Ezra Zion Melamed who
himself wrote several Aramaic-Hebrew dictionaries for students (the one
for Talmud Bavli has been edited by R. Frank and is now even available
with an English translation. It is published by Feldheim.) and R.
Melamed also wrote an excellent (Hebrew) introduction to Talmud study -
Eshnav Ha-Talmud.



From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 10:01:03 -0400
Subject: Re: Berakha

A Seinfeld quotes R. A. Tarcher:

>Hirsch understood the essence of "bracha" to be the concept of spurring
>new growth, which is exactly the function of a source.

Therefore, a more accurate translation of "Baruch atoh" would be, "You
are the source..."

I recall R. J. Soleveichik saying that the word "bracha" is derived from
the word "braycha," which means a spring (which he called a
"springwell," possibly meaning the more common term "wellspring").
Thus, he said, a bracha recognizes HaShem as the source, just as
R. Tarcher comments.  However, R. Soleveichik went further and explained
that the reason for the concept of "bracha lvatalah" (in unneeded
bracha) is that we have no right to "tap" the source of all benefit at


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 18:32:30 EDT
Subject: Cellphones while driving

Yisrael Medad writes, in v49n11,

      Another problem I have come across, as a trempist (hitchhiker), is
      that those drivers who have a so-called new "hands free" phone in
      any case wind up holding the microphone bit up closer to their
      mouth as it usually dangles too low.  So they still use their
      other hand.

>From what I have read, the main reason cell phones are dangerous while
driving is not because the driver is using one hand to hold them, but
because he is concentrating on the conversation instead of on the
road. I read somewhere that using any cell phone while driving,
hands-free or not, increases the chance of having an accident by about
the same amount as being legally drunk while driving.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: <FriedmanJ@...> (Jeanette Friedman)
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 09:55:46 EDT
Subject: Re: Cellphones while Driving and Competition

Here's what I don't get:
so they make using a cellphone not handsfree an aveyrah, and illegal too,
because you drive with one hand.

So that leaves:
Eating and drinking (not alcohol) behind the wheel
changing radio station if you don't have buttons on the steering column
(which is even more distracting)
changing the media in your entertainment console
dvd players in the front seat
getting a tissue
reaching for change
lighting cigarettes
Etc. etc. etc. etc.

The whole thing, IMHO, gets nuts. As long as people don't take
responsibility for their own actions, I don't see how creating more and
more prohibitions gets anyone anywhere--they will still do all of the
above and G-d knows what else behind the wheels of their vehicles. You
cannot legislate against stupdity. It doesn't work.

Also when I made the analogy of the cab driver, people assume that I was
talking about poor people using a cab to take them say to hospitals or
anywhere else. No. I am saying there is a paying car service in an area,
and a bored, retired person has nothing to do, so he starts driving
people around. Then what happens to the cab driver? That situation is
much more analogous to the situation with freelancers being replaced by
free writers.

No one can compete with free.



From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 09:17:24 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Competition

Carl Singer suggests:

> [...] The buyer need not subsidize the Jewish vendor -- even to the tune 
> of 20 cents.
> I recall hearing two chasidishe bochurim saying that they only buy Plony 
> brand potato chips -- it cost a nickel more but they'd rather support a 
> Jewish business. (Kashrus was not at issue here.)  I suggested instead 
> that they buy the national brand and put a nickel directly into the 
> tzedukkah box.

But isn't helping the guy to make a living a lot less demeaning than
having to accept charity?  And in the suggestion above, someone ELSE is
benefiting from the charity.  IMHO, the bochurim are well within their
rights to prefer to help Plony than to help general tzedaka.

(I realize there may be a fine line between helping one's co-religionists 
and boycotting other folks.)

I recall, over 50 years ago, my mother preferring to buy buttons from the 
guy with the small shop than from Woolworth's because she felt he needed 
the business more.  I'm not sure how far that would have gone if the 
prices were significantly different, the family being on a rather tight 
budget.  (I realize the situations aren't 100% analogous, but you get the 

(Halevai there were still small button shops, and even Woolworth's!)

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


From: Jonathan Sperling <jsperling@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 10:47:08 -0400
Subject: Dina d'malchusa Dina

Carl Singer and others have inquired about dina d'malchusa dina
recently.  R' Hershel Schachter presents a useful overview of the
parameters of this principle in a shiur which can be heard at

From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 09:51:37 -0400
Subject: Dina d'malchusa Dina

> In various discussions on this forum and elsewhere I've seen dina
> d'malchuso dina restricted by some as applying ONLY to monetary matters
> and unbounded by others as applying to just about everything.  Can anyone
> expound on the transition from the original (restricted) interpretation
> to the open (literal) interpretation?
> Carl Singer

There are a number of theories on the source of the power of Shmuel's
famous statement, most flow from the power of the king.  Since the
king's power is broader than monetary issues, it would stand to reason
so would dina dmalchuta.  The dvar avraham says it flows from hefker bet
din - which could be more limited.

Joel Rich


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:57:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: exploring Web sites (WAS: Friedman the Tutor)

I had private email asking:
> You wrote: DO poke around the entire site -- it's great!
> I went there and didn't find any way to poke around. Can you explain how?

Sorry!  I'm sneaky... I worked back:
e.g. it points you to

I read the thing at ... /ddd, then go to the box at the top with the
full name in it, and backspace over the /ddd to the next higher bit:

I keep doing this, reading as I go along, until I get to the top, or as
far as it will let me (sites may have some level of privacy protection).

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


From: Ed Greenberg <edg@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 12:56:25 -0700
Subject: Re: Prayer

--Bernard Katz writes:

>   Clearly, prayer makes sense only concerning what is possible, at
>   least with divine intervention, but I doubt that it makes sense
>   concerning everything that falls into this category.

Of course, the little boy can pray that G-d will change the answer on
his paper to be the correct one, though why G-d would find it in the
boy's best interest to answer such a prayer is beyond me.

We do this all the time though... The simplest form is, "Dear G-d, make
it didn't happen."  It's really just denial, I guess (which is not a
river in Egypt) and I suppose that doing it is either a taking of G-d's
name in vain, or, at the other end of the spectrum, it's just a crying
out in desperation.

I'm reminded of the Bill Cosby routine:

G-d: You have two males down there.
Noah: You change one of them.
G-d: You know I don't work that way.

and later, the precious line:
G-d: Noah, how long can you tread water?



From: Stephen Phillips <admin@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 15:08:46 +0100
Subject: Re: Terrorist Attacks On London / Kohanim

> From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
> I presume that the general MJ readership has heard of the terrorist
> attacks on London on 7th July 2005.  My sympathies and condolences are
> with the injured and bereaved.
> A colleague of mine who is a Kohen told me that his Rov advised him to
> avoid using the London Tube (subway/metro/underground railway) until the
> authorities have finished removing the victims of the attacks.  This is
> because a dead body imparts tumah (ritual impurity) to anyone or
> anything under the same roof (a rule called Tumat Ohel), and not just by
> physical contact.  A mere kezayit of a dead body also imparts ritual
> impurity.  A Kohen has an obligation to keep away from such ritual
> impurity, even if he is already ritually impure.
> [snip]
> Does my colleague have to be concerned that the authorities may not
> completely remove everything?  If he does, then he might not be able to
> use the Tube ever again!

If one is certain that the only dead bodies that remain are of non-Jews,
then perhaps one can rely on what the Pischei Teshuva writes in Yoreh
Deah Siman 372, Seif Katan 9 in the name of the Dagul MeRevava that the
Raavad wrote that a Kohen who is already Tamei [impure from contact with
a dead body] (as all Kohanim are presumed to be nowadays) need not be
careful about further Tuma from the dead body of a non-Jew. Therefore,
there is room to say that perhaps one need not prevent a Kohen from
coming into contact with a non-Jewish dead body.

Also, the Rama in Siman 372 quotes those who are lenient with Tumas Ohel
of a non-Jew, although he says it is better to be strict. But certainly,
the prohibition is by no means clear cut, as the Mechaber also only
writes that it is better to be careful about such Tuma.

Stephen Phillips

From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2005 18:40:14 +0300
Subject: Terrorist Attacks On London / Kohanim

It would appear to me that whichever Rav ruled that a Kohen may not
enter the subway until it is thoroughly cleaned might not be right.
Tum'at Ohel, as I understand it, applies to Tuma'ah of a Jewish corpse,
and not of a non-Jewish corpse.

Considering the percentage of Jews in London, even if there are still
fragments of a K'zayit or larger around, the overwhelming chance is that
they are not of a Jew.

Furthermore, as I remember it, a Safek regarding Tum'ah in a public
place is to be ruled as Le'Kulah; i.e., one adopts a lenient view in
such a case.

Shmuel Hakohen Himelstein

From: <BACKON@...> (Josh Backon)
Date: Thu,  21 Jul 2005 17:24 +0300
Subject: Re: Terrorist Attacks On London / Kohanim

The Rambam Hilchot Tumat Met 9:4 ("ha'akum ein la'hem tumat kevarot")
indicates that there's no "tumat ohel" for a gentile [what's forbidden
is direct contact] and this is the halacha in the TUR and Shulchan Aruch
YOREH DEAH 372:2 (see also Shach there YD 372 s"k 4 and Aruch haShulchan
YD 372 # 5 quoting a YEREIM).

PEYRUSH RASHI: unless the Kohen is a tunnel worker who may actually walk
over areas where there may be body parts, there really is no problem.

Josh Backon


End of Volume 49 Issue 14