Volume 49 Number 58
                    Produced: Wed Aug 17  5:56:20 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Immanuel Burton]
Chassidic stories
         [Art Werschulz]
Church and State- Perspective
         [Nathan Lamm]
Jews and Jewesses
         [Frank Silbermann]
Language... and Pidyon-ha-Ben
         [Martin Stern]
Pidyon Haben Certificate, Party
         [Nathan Lamm]
Pidyon-ha-Ben (2)
         [Gershon Dubin, Art Werschulz]
Separation of Church and State
         [Chaim Shapiro]
Separation of Church and State in America
         [David Charlap]


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 14:37:24 +0100
Subject: Blackberries

Having recently discovered a blackberry bush growing in my garden, I was
struck by the following:

According to "The Halachos Of Brochos" by Rabbi Yisroel Pinchos Bodner
(published by Feldheim), the blessing on blackberries is Ho'Aitz, i.e.
that for the fruit of trees.

Given that blackberry plants are considered as fruit trees with regards
to the blessing, does orlah [prohibition on the eating of the fruit of
the first three years] apply?  Perhaps more relevant to my gardening
exercise, does the prohibition of uprooting fruit trees (as per
Deuteronomy 20:19) apply, even through a blackberry bush does not have
the same physical appearance as a tree?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 10:13:56 -0400
Subject: Re: Chassidic stories

>> 1) a person who didn't know how to daven, so on yom kippur in shul
>> he, according to different versions, either whistled or said the
>> aleph bet instead of the text of the tefilot, and was criticized
>> by baale batim next to him, until the end when it was revealed, in
>> diff.  ways in diff.  editions, that his tefilah is the greatest
>> of all those in the shul.
> No, it was a mute boy who took out a flute...and it was Reb Nachman, if
> I remember correctly who said that his flute opened shaarei shamayim to
> the tefillah of the kehilla.

I've heard both variants.

This opens up a topic that I've always wondered about.  It seems to me
that there are (for the lack of a better term) Chassidic tale templates.
That is, there appear to be variants of a Chassidic tale that are nearly
identical, except that a couple of details differ from from one version
to another.  For example, see the exchange above.  Sometimes, the same
story appears, but attributed to different Rebbes.

Has anybody ever followed the history of such tales, trying to figure
out the original version, or exactly how such stories originated in the
first place?

This is not to denigrate the lessons taught by such tales.  As the
lawyer told the judge when speaking of the Chafetz Chayim's probity (so
that the Chafetz Chayim wouldn't be forced to take an oath), "It doesn't
matter whether it happened or not.  Has anybody ever told such a story
about me or you?"

Art Werschulz (8-{)}   "Metaphors be with you."  -- bumper sticker
GCS/M (GAT): d? -p+ c++ l u+(-) e--- m* s n+ h f g+ w+ t++ r- y? 
Internet: agw STRUDEL cs.columbia.edu
ATTnet:   Columbia U. (212) 939-7060, Fordham U. (212) 636-6325


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 07:01:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Church and State- Perspective

It should be pointed out that many countries do not separate (or have
not separated, in the past) church and state, and still have full
religious freedom. The UK springs to mind, as does Israel, to a
degree. Of course, the opposite is also true, such as in Communist

Establishing a church in the US would be a very long shot anyway, as
there's no dominant sect. (The largest religious group is Catholics, and
they're still a minority.) Overturning Supreme Court decisions of the
last thirty years reagrding a mythical "wall" would do nothing to impact
the religious freedom of Jews.

Nachum Lamm


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 08:38:39 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Jews and Jewesses

Yeshaya Halevi :
>> The late Harry Golden Sr. (author of "Only in America" etc.)  was
>> very much against using the word "Jewess." He pointed out that nobody
>> ever called anyone a "Christianess" or a "Protestantess" or
>> "Catholicess."

Edward Ehrlich <eehrlich@...> V49 N56:
> The first time I heard my South African born mother-in-law use the
> term "Jewess", I was shocked.  It sounded like something out of
> "Ivanhoe".

That's just it.  The word Jewess is old-fashioned.  The image I get of a
person who uses that word is someone who has had virtually no personal
exposure to Jews from which to discover what we call ourselves -- and
whose knowledge of Jews comes mainly from having read the King James
Bible.  (This would probably describe most Southerners at the time Harry
Golden began living in North Carolina.)  I think our discomfort at
hearing this word reflects our discomfort of being among such people.

Edward Ehrlich continues:
> In some English speaking cultures, "Jewess" is simply the correct way
> to refer to a female Jew.  There is nothing implicitly or explicitly
> derogatory about the word. A little familiarity with different
> cultures can sometimes prevent unnecessary hurt feelings.

Yes, varieties and dialects of English differ as to which words are
still in common use, versus which words are considered archaic.  (For
example, southerners still use the word "fetch" a general synonym for
"retrieve" or "get" -- whereas New Yorkers only use the word "fetch" in
the context of playing with dogs.)

charles halevi <c.halevi@...>:
> How about non-Jews being sensitive to **OUR** culture and not using
> the word "Jewess?"

That would be nice.  Will frum Yidden return the favor, so that we all
become knowlegeable about other people's cultures, nationalities and

charles halevi continues:
> In American English, it used to be correct to say that somebody
> "Jewed" somebody down on a price.  That never made it right.

How do you feel about the _act_ of making a counter-offer (rather than
merely accepting or rejecting the posted price)?

A few generations ago in Anglo-American society, polite conversation was
expected to avoid topics which were considered either vulgar or likely
to trigger conflict -- e.g. discussions of sex, money, politics or
religion.  Necessary exceptions (such as negotiations between
businessmen at the wholesale level or discussions about sex among
doctors) were kept very private.

To avoid "vulgar" conversation in public, the practice was for
shopkeepers to discreetly post their prices and for customers to buy or
not buy as they pleased.  If people didn't buy, shopkeepers lowered
their prices.

The stakes were too large to maintain this etiquette when dealing in
big-ticket items such as horses, automobiles and houses; one consequence
was that people tended to view horse-traders and used-car salesmen with
suspicion and perhaps even a bit of disgust.

Jewish immigrants a hundred years ago did not have this custom (of
limiting talk about money), and would initiate bargaining even at the
retail level of trade.  Gentiles noticed this difference in behavior.

Was it OK for us to do it, but not for them to say it?

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


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 11:43:36 +0100
Subject: Re: Language... and Pidyon-ha-Ben

on 15/8/05 10:44 am, Leah S. Gordon <leah@...> wrote:
> For all this talk of "don't say 'gender' if you mean 'sex'," I notice
> that very few people are describing birth correctly (re e.g. pidyon
> ha-ben).  The kind of birth that qualifies for a p-h-b is a "vaginal
> birth" not a "normal birth"!
> The use of the word "normal" instead of "vaginal" in this context is, to
> quote Meir, "misplaced modesty".  It also sort of insults the birth
> experiences of women who have had C-sections.  (I would actually like to
> hear from women who have had C-sections if they mind; I am not in that
> category so I can't say definitively if it is offensive.)

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. The Hebrew term usually used
in Rabbinic literature is "leidah kedarkah" i.e. birth in the usual way,
which is best translated idiomatically as "normal birth".

> Also, I have a technical question.  The term "opens the womb" doesn't
> seem to mean necessarily "comes out the vagina," though I can see that
> it would mean "comes out the cervix."  What would happen, theoretically,
> if a baby made it out of the cervix but then not out through the vagina?
> I think this could only happen under the most catastrophic
> circumstances, of course, e.g. mother dies during pushing phase?  Or
> maybe obstetrically, the baby would still be pulled out through the
> vagina?  (Let us never be faced with this situation, Gd willing.)

AFAIK, for these purposes the vagina is treated as an extension of the
womb so "peter rechem" means complete delivery. If forceps are used the
boy is deemed not to be a peter rechem, since he did not himself 'push
open' the orifice, and does not require a pidyon haben.

> Finally, I have a practical question.  We had a p-h-b for our eldest
> son, and it was kind of a pulled-together ceremony with a Cohen that we
> didn't know (chosen by our local rabbi).  We were not in the most
> organized state of life at the time, and events sort of happened around
> us.  Do most parents organize a big party or celebration or kiddush etc.

It is normal to make a seudat mitsvah but this does not have to be a big
party, any more than any other seudat mitsvah. There are unfortunately
too many social pressures to put on such extravagant affairs and those
who either cannot afford, or are unable for other reasons, to do so feel
guilty as a result. One should do what one feels adequate which might be
only a family gathering with a few close friends and not be forced to
"keep up with the Cohens". The saying is that too many bar mitsvos are
all bar and few mitsvos!

> Is there supposed to be a certificate?


Martin Stern


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 05:49:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Pidyon Haben Certificate, Party

A few years back, we bought Pidyon Haben Shekalim minted by the State of
Israel. They came with a certificate to be filled out for the redeemed
child, but that's just a cute "extra"- there's no need for one.

Personally, I've attended both extremely modest and extremely lavish
pidyon haben ceremonies. (Alas, I have yet to officiate at one.) I
suppose some sort of seudah is appropriate, but not really required.


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 13:11:28 GMT
Subject: Pidyon-ha-Ben

From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>

> Do most parents organize a big party or celebration or kiddush
> etc. like they do for a naming/bris?

Big is in the eyes of the maker/beholders, but yes it is customary to
make a party.  In fact, it is said that attending the party associated
with a pidyon haben is a tremendous privilege, more so than some other
seudos mitzva (which, BTW, it is).

> Is there supposed to be a certificate?


> If so, we don't have one (a fact often mentioned by a family friend, a
> Cohen, who threatens playfully to take our son home with him)

Rest assured that even if he were the officiating kohen at the pidyon
haben, and the father refused to hand over the money, the kohen still
would not get the child.


From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 10:18:30 -0400
Subject: Re: Pidyon-ha-Ben

We had a small melave malke at home (the phb was on Saturday night) for
Aaron's first phb.  Our cohen eventually discovered that he wasn't a
cohen, and so we had a phb at shul on a Saturday night; we sponsored
seudah shleesheet and a dessert afterwards.  YMMV.

> Is there supposed to be a certificate?  If so, we don't have one (a
> fact often mentioned by a family friend, a Cohen, who threatens
> playfully to take our son home with him).

I'll bet that he didn't make that threat until *after* your son was toilet
trained and slept through the night!  :-)

Art Werschulz (8-{)}   "Metaphors be with you."  -- bumper sticker
GCS/M (GAT): d? -p+ c++ l u+(-) e--- m* s n+ h f g+ w+ t++ r- y? 
Internet: agw STRUDEL cs.columbia.edu
ATTnet:   Columbia U. (212) 939-7060, Fordham U. (212) 636-6325


From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 09:43:08 EDT
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State

 Bernie R writes regarding my claim that a "wall of separation" does not
appear in the Bill of Rights:

      Of course it is. It is called the "establishment clause" in the
      first amendment. It reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting
      an Establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise

I don't see the mention of any "wall" in that establishment clause.  The
"wall" is based on the misreading of a letter by Thomas Jefferson and
first appeared in Case Law in the Everson case in 1947.

Chaim Shapiro


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 10:53:36 -0400
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State in America

Frank Silbermann wrote:
> ... it is probably more than a little paranoid to obsess over the
> little longstanding nods towards Christianity that various levels of
> America's government have traditionally engaged in.  To make a big
> deal out of them is not only unnecessary, it probably invites a
> backlash.

A backlash that has been taking place for several years now.

A lot of the Fundamentalist Christian activity to promote Christianity
in public schools and government is a direct response to groups like the
ACLU seeking to eliminate all hints of Christianity from the public

There have been several cases where a local town set up holiday displays
for several religions at once (a display for Christmas, alongside one
for Chanuka, alongside one for Kwaanza.)  The ACLU sued to eliminate the
Christian one, but had no complaint about the others.  Ditto for
displays in schools.

The Christian groups are (rightly) seeing this as an attack on their
faith and are responding by supporting those in government that seek to
establish Christanity as a state religion.  When they succeed, it will
be a disaster for all of us, and it will be a direct result of this
overzealous paranoid attempt to root out Christianity from society.

-- David


End of Volume 49 Issue 58