Volume 49 Number 62
                    Produced: Thu Aug 18  5:53:18 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Eruv question
         [Allan Baumgarten]
Establishment Clause
         [Carl A. Singer]
J/J Campaign
         [Andy Goldfinger]
Language... and Pidyon-ha-Ben
         [Art Werschulz]
Pidyon habein
         [Perets Mett]
Pidyon-ha-Ben (2)
         [David Maslow, Martin Stern]
Separation of Church and State (6)
         [Tom Buchler, Michael Kahn, Michael Kahn, Bernard Raab, Mike
Gerver, David Charlap]


From: Allan Baumgarten <baumg010@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 10:41:16 -0500
Subject: Eruv question

I am looking for information about insurance coverages for community
Eruvs - how did you describe the potential liability, amounts of
coverage, premium, name of company that issued the policy, did you work
through local agents, and so on.  We have had an Eruv for many years but
a proposed expansion is raising issues of liability that we need to

Allan Baumgarten
952/925-9121    Fax 952/925-9341


From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 05:54:01 -0400
Subject: Establishment Clause

I heard US Supreme Court Justice speak at Congregation Shearith Israel
(The Spanish Portuguese Synagogue) in Manhattan (New York City) as part
of the celebration of the 350 anniversary of Jews in the United States.

He spoke strongly and clearly that the establishment clause was against
the government's establishment of any specific religion -- not against
religion and belief in God.  The presentation was impressive, more so
the response to rather pointed questions from the audience.

Carl Singer


From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 09:56:38 -0400
Subject: J/J Campaign

I live in Baltimore, Maryland, and starting tomorrow the Jews for Jesus
are starting a massive and well funded campaign to convert Jews in our
neighborhoods.  Yesterday, I received their first mailing.  They offer a
free video tape to any non-believer who requests it.  The phone number
to call is: 1-800-MESSIAH.

I have called this number and ordered a tape.  I do not intend to watch
it.  Instead, I will discard it.  But doing this does cost them money.
If we would inundate their phone number with requests we could cost them
even more money, and prehaps prevent vulnerable people from receiving
this material.

-- Andy Goldfinger


From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 10:39:50 -0400
Subject: Re: Language... and Pidyon-ha-Ben


Regarding a seudat pidyon haben, Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote:

> 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".

There's no danger of that in this case, since the Cohens wouldn't be
holding a seudat pidyon haben. :-)

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: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 13:57:42 +0100
Subject: Pidyon habein

Nathan Lamm wrote:

> 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.

The source for a seudo is YD 305:10 (ReMO)
In practice the custom is to perform the pidyon **during** the seudo  
(TaZ 305 sk 10)

Perets Mett


From: David Maslow <maslowd@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 09:40:53 -0400
Subject: Pidyon-ha-Ben

Martin Stern wrote (MJ 49:58)
>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.

It is my impression that the forceps are used to help remove the baby
after he/she has crowned and the orifice is open, and serve as an
extension of the hands of the delivering physician/nurse/midwife.

In any case, is Mr. Stern's statement normative halachah?  Does an
episiotomy to facilitate delivery also remove the need for a
Pidyon-ha-Ben?  If either is true, the number of boys eligible for a
Pidyon-ha-Ben will drop greatly.

David E. Maslow

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 15:51:53 +0100
Subject: Re: Pidyon-ha-Ben

> It is my impression that the forceps are used to help remove the baby
> after he/she has crowned and the orifice is open, and serve as an
> extension of the hands of the delivering physician/nurse/midwife.
> In any case, is Mr. Stern's statement normative halachah?

If one looks at Sefer Otsar Pidyon Haben ch. 1, one finds this is a
matter of dispute if the forceps are inserted before the child leaves
the womb proper (par. 13), some holding pidyon is required with a
berakhah, some that the boy is completely exempt and some that pidyon
should be done without a berakhah or on condition that the money be
returned. If the forceps are used after this stage, pidyon is required
according to everyone, though someone not wishing to recite the berakhah
has opinions on which to rely (par. 14).

> Does an episiotomy to facilitate delivery also remove the need for a
> Pidyon-ha-Ben?

This has no halachic significance and pidyon is required (par. 12).

Martin Stern 


From: Tom Buchler <tbuchler@...>
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 12:59:45 -0400
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State

> From: <resnicoff@...> (Arnold E. Resnicoff)
> The reality is that "In God We Trust" on our money and "One Nation Under
> God" in the Pledge of Allegiance are absolutely an establishment of one
> (or two) religions over the rest.  The only reason they haven't been
> removed is that the public outrage by people who are adherents of those
> religions is too great.
> I think it is positive to take a passionate position on important
> issues, but it is not helpful to make statements like this one that
> indicate that one's own position is "absolutely" the only correct one,
> and the only reason that others disagree is cowardice.  Many
> constitutional lawyers -- AND supreme court judges -- clearly disagree
> with this posting.  What does or does not constitute "establishment of
> religion" in the constitutional case is NOT clear.  One Jewish
> perspective that we might bring to the debat is the difference between
> l'hatchila and b'deavad, an understanding that there is a difference
> between adding new references to God at this point, and removing ones
> that the courts have (so far, at least) recognized as passing tests such
> as the "ceremonial deism" test, which includes both a "historical" test,
> as well as the perception of the "reasonable person" test, where that
> perception would be in a case such as the ones cited, that the words
> have evolved to the point where they now could be perceived as adding a
> heightened sense of importance or "solemnity," rather than an attempt to
> establish or endorse religion.

It is my understanding that both "In God We Trust" on all our money
(although it appeared spordically earlier), and "under God" in the Pledge
of Allegiance were added by Congress in the 1950s as a proactive response
to "godless communism." It isn't clear to me that many during McCarthy's
reign would have proposed subjecting those phrases to "ceremonial deism"


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Tue, 16 Aug 2005 14:30:54 -0500
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State

> So called religious freedom has always been a two-edged sword. The first
> Lubavitcher rebbe chose to pray for Tsar Alexander to defeat Napoleon,
> even though Bonaparte offered Jews civil equality under French law. He
> believed that such civil freedom would lead them to abandon Torah.

I do not doubt what you are saying. However, I am curious if anyone can
point me toward the source material (historical documentation) that
backs up the above assertion.


From: Michael Kahn <mi_kahn@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2005 01:00:59 -0400
Subject: RE: Separation of Church and State

>Overturning Supreme Court decisions of the last thirty years reagrding
>a mythical "wall" would do nothing to impact the religious freedom of

During the 50's Jewish kids were expected to sing Christmas Carols in
public school. I think a priest actually addressed my fathers high
school in upstate NY and spoke about "their guy." I don't think we want
America to return to such practices. Bringing down the wall would.

From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Aug 2005 03:42:00 -0400
Subject: RE: Separation of Church and State

>From: <Dagoobster@...> (Chaim Shapiro)
>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
>       thereof...."
>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.

Of course the phrase "wall of separation" does not appear in the
constitution. It is a phrase which Jefferson apparently coined in a
letter dated January 1, 1802, and which he which clearly connected to
the establishment claus. This letter is in the Library of Congress. The
relevant portion is quoted below and you can decide for yourself how to
"read" it:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between
man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his
worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only,
and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the
whole American people which declared that their legislature should make
no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and

The height, depth, and permeability of this "wall" continues to be
debated and decided on a case-by-case basis. It is, of course, only a
virtual and symbolic wall, so let's not get carried away with debates
about its provenance.

b'shalom--Bernie R.

From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Mon, 15 Aug 2005 17:23:50 EDT
Subject: Separation of Church and State

Ari Trachtenberg writes, in v49n53,

      But specifically taking God out of existing material (such as
      coins) is an establishment of a different religious point of view
      - atheism.  The correct stance for the government is
      non-religious, not anti-religious.

Why would that constitute an establishment of atheism? If not having "In
God We Trust" on coins, originally, was not establishment of atheism,
then how could returning to that situation be the establishment of
atheism? Stopping putting "In God We Trust" on coins does not really
constitute the government doing something. The only thing the government
would be doing, is minting coins without "In God We Trust" on them, and
that is the same thing that the government was doing before. Surely the
First Amendment prohibition on establishment of a religion, whatever its
limits are, is a prohibition on the government doing certain things, not
a prohibition on the government changing what they are doing in a
certain direction.

In any case, if stopping putting "In God We Trust" on coins would be a
violation of the First Amendment, then the government violated the First
Amendment in 1883. That's the year they stopped putting "In God We
Trust" on nickels, which started having the phrase on them in 1866,
together with two-cent pieces from 1864 to 1873. From 1883 until 1892,
no U.S.  coins had the phrase "In God We Trust." In 1892 they put it on
quarters, and on pennies in 1909, on dimes in 1913, and on nickels again
in 1937.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel

From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Aug 2005 09:49:42 -0400
Subject: Re: Separation of Church and State

Martin Stern wrote:
> As an outsider, living in England with an established church, I always
> understood "religion" in the context of the first amendment to refer to
> a specific religious organisation like a church, rather than religion as
> an abstract concept

This has been the understanding until very recently.

When I was growing up, I was taught (by the public schools) that the
First Ammendment guarantees that no particular religion can be favored
above any other.  Government is free to support religious groups as long
as they provide that support to all groups without bias.

Opposition to government sponsorship of religious groups has
traditionally been on the grounds that it is impossible to sponsor them
all, or undesirable to sponsor some, and so you are forced to not
sponsor any.

Recently, however, there has been a new stream of thought.  It is
commonly expressed as "freedom of religion means freedom from religion",
meaning that there can be no government support of the very concept of
religion, because that offends atheists, who have an equal right to
their faith.  This concept has been gaining much traction, leading to
advocates for the complete abolishment of religion, except in people's
own homes.

-- David


End of Volume 49 Issue 62