Volume 49 Number 77
                    Produced: Sun Aug 28  7:26:41 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Are we ever permitted to lie?
         [Immanuel Burton]
Class Assignment--Observing a church service (2)
         [Immanuel Burton, Martin Stern]
Hot Water on Shabbat
         [Immanuel Burton]
Mihag v. Secular Law
         [Asher Grossman]
Mordechai and Esther
         [Abe Brot]
Revisionist history?
         [Ira L. Jacobson]
Revisionist History
         [Jeanette Friedman]
Separation of Church and State
         [Bernard Raab]


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 10:35:29 +0100
Subject: Re: Are we ever permitted to lie?

>> Is there a commandment for Jews to be honest?
> Definitely. The Tora says, "Midvar sheker Tirchak," or, stay
> far from falsehood. Honesty is a cornerstone of Judaism.

Isn't this commandment phrased a little oddly?  The Torah doesn't say,
"Do not lie", but "Distance yourself from a false thing".  Is it because
of this odd phrasing that there is leeway to allow the bending of the
truth in some circumstances?  (Imagine what would happen if the Torah
had said, "Distance yourself from theft"...)

What about Jacob lying to his father Isaac that he was Esau?  Yes, I
know that Rashi explains this by interpolating words into the verse -
the verse reads "I am Esau your firstborn", and Rashi interpolates, "I
am [whoever I am] - Esau [is] your firstborn".  Strictly speaking, what
Jacob said was true, but since it misled Isaac isn't it a lie?
Furthermore, later in the same verse Jacob asks Isaac to eat of the game
which he had prepared.  Which game would that be?

There are other instances in the Torah of the bending of the truth, for
example Abraham and Isaac both hiding the true relationship with their
wives by saying they were their sisters.

Some time ago I posted on this list a question concerning loshon ho'ra
about oneself.  If someone were to ask one if something that they heard
about one was true (and it is true), then if one confirms it one is
telling loshon ho'ra about oneself, and if one denies it one is lying.
One solution to this impasse that was posted to this list (apologies for
not remembering who you are) was to reply, "If anyone asks you, tell
them you don't know".

Immanuel Burton.


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 11:08:51 +0100
Subject: RE: Class Assignment--Observing a church service

In reply to Nitzchia Bat Sela's posting in Mail.Jewish v49n76 concerning
a class assignment of observing a church service, if the purpose of the
assignment is to gain knowledge of how "the other side" does things,
wouldn't a video or film of a church service be sufficient?

There are Halachic issues with entering a place where idolatry is
practiced, so is it fair or right to ask a Jewish student to compromise
his or her religious practices by requiring them to enter a church when
a video of a church service could suffice?

Immanuel Burton.

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 12:27:34 +0100
Subject: Class Assignment--Observing a church service

on 26/8/05 10:27 am, Nitzchia Bat Sela <petersig@...> wrote:
> I teach a course on Judaism at a large university in the Eastern U.S. In
> submitting my course description for the Introduction to Judaism Class
> in Spring 2006, I included the "absolute course requirement" that
> students attend a synagogue service. The Department Chair wrote back,
> that we can't make them go.

Perhaps the "absolute course requirement" should be that the students
OBSERVE a synagogue service which, in effect, is the same as attending
but implies non-participation and may be more palatable to the
Department Chair.

> I replied that of course we can't *make* them go, but there could be
> consequences for ignoring this requirement. My thought, later, was
> that cutting the grade in half (an A to a C, a B to a D), announced
> ahead of time, would be a suitable consequence. I also have before,
> and would again, provide that any student could be exempt if he or she
> brought me a signed note by his/her spiritual advisor letting me know
> that the student had serious spiritual concerns about observing a
> service in a different faith.

 Cutting the grades for non-attendance seems unduly harsh even if
announced ahead of time but it might be better to warn that it might
adversely affect a student's ability to answer all questions on the exam
paper. Exemption on conscientious grounds would not then be necessary.

> On the other hand, the Department Chair wrote back that "we can't make
> them go" referred to the yeshiva kiddies who won't go to observe a
> Christian (probably read Catholic, although I'm not sure). My
> understanding of the halakha of this, and I'm not talking about
> custom, but of halakha, is that 1)based on majority rabbinic opinion
> starting from Avoda Zara, Christianity is not avoda zara. The
> Department Chair will next ask "What about going to a mosque?" AFAIK,
> Islam is not A.Z.  either. If not prohibited as A.Z., is observance of
> their services permitted?

There is a major halachic difference between Islam and Christianity, at
least in its Catholic and Orthodox versions. Islam is definitely not
avodah zarah since there are no images whatsoever in a mosque and there
is no compromise on the unity of the G-dhead.

It is possible that some Protestant churches may also not have any
images but, apart from the Unitarians, all Christian churches believe in
the Trinity which is halachically considered a form of avodah zarah
known as 'shittuf' which is permitted for non-Jews but forbidden to

Thus entry into a mosque or a Unitarian chapel may not be absolutely
forbidden unlike Catholic and Orthodox churches, the position regarding
other Protestant denominations being somewhat unclear, though this does
not imply that Jews are permitted to participate in any acts of worship
taking place.

Martin Stern


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 12:38:13 +0100
Subject: RE: Hot Water on Shabbat

In Mail.Jewish v49n74, Gershon Dubin wrote:

> I don't know enough about the technology to discuss the pesak, but
> clearly from the halacha, something cooked DIRECTLY in the sun is
> called Chamei Chama and is permitted (mutar lechatchila) while
> something heated by the sun (e.g. the panels) that heats food is
> Toldos Chama and is asur miderabanan (rabbinically prohibited).

What would be the situation regarding using a parabolic dish to cook
food using sunlight?  (Have a look at
http://www.sunspot.org.uk/Prototypes.htm for example.)  The parabolic
dish itself doesn't get hot, but food placed at the focus does.  Is this
Chamei Chama or Toldos Chama?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Asher Grossman <asherg@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 00:58:48 -0400
Subject: Re: Mihag v. Secular Law

In vol 49 #71 Orrin Tilevitz writes:
> And as far as a valid custom with an invalid premise, the classical
>example is the minhag not to eat gebrochts on pesach.

I'm sorry, but gebrochts on Pesach is the classical attack point on
minhagim, which usually results from a lcak of comprehensive knowledge
of the subject. The premise is certainly not invalid.

Originally, Matzos were made in a fashion similar to the arabic pitot
(known in Israel as Iraqi Pita, and in Yerushalaim as "Esh
Tanur"). These are made with a large quantity of water and produce a
soft dough. such Matzos are soft, pliable, easily wrapped around a slice
of meat and bitter herbs (for Koreich) and fit in better with many
descriptions and explanations regarding Matzah.

These Matzos, however, must be made fresh every day or two as they get
stale quickly. Approx. 150-200 years ago, a worry arose that people were
not skilled anymore in the process of baking these Matzos, and therefore
were liable to allow them to become Chometz. A new type of Matzah was
created, which had a long shelf-life, so that the whole amount could be
prepared beforehand. The method was to cut drastically on the water
content, thus providing us with the familiar "cracker" style Matzah of

At this point, a serious doubt arose as to whether all the flour in the
dough had become sufficiently wet before baking. If this didn't happen,
then the leavening process had not started for this bit of flour. Once
this flour becomes soaked in water - even after it was baked - the
leavening process would begin and you would be left holding Chometz on
Pesach and eating it (when the Issur is on any amount). This chashash
(worry) didn't exist in previous generations, and therefore you do not
find reference to this chumra in early writings (although there is a
reference brought down in one of the Rishonim - I forgot which one right

Whether you are choshesh or not, will depend on your minhag. Granted,
the chance of something like this happening is extremely remote, but as
it is a possibility, you may choose to be makpid on that.

In today's bakeries, a second aspect arises. I have seen Matzos, from
several famous bakeries, which had a light dusting of powder on them.
This powder is flour dust, which fills the air in the bakery, (due to
incomplete separation of the flour room from the rest), and eventually
lands on the Matzos. This flour dust, when wet, will become
Chometz. This is already a question which should be referred to your
Rav, upon examination of your Matzos.

There are minhagim that arose from an invalid premise, Gebrochts is not
one of them.

As an aside, (and I'm opening a can of worms here), the change in the
baking process also brought about the development of Matzah machines,
and the controversy surrounding them. It also creates a severe question
of the proper Brocho on Matzos, as the Shulchan Aruch clearly defined a
flat crispy cracker-style bread to be Mezonot.....

Best wishes
Asher Grossman


From: Abe Brot <abrot@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 15:04:18 +0300
Subject: Mordechai and Esther

I know that it isn't Purim, but I am troubled by what I learned recently
in Masechet Megilla.

On page 13a, "Tana meshum Rabbi Meir" proposes that where it states that
Mordechai raised Esther as a daughter (bat), we should read it as ba'it
(home), the essence of which is his wife. Therefore we should understand
this to mean that Mordechai and Esther were husband and wife.

This changes totally our understanding of the Megilla. Instead of
Esther, an unmarried orphan raised by her uncle, being forced into the
king's harrem, we have a married women being forced to submit to the
king. There are severe moral and religeous implications of this, leading
to the question whether Esther should have refused the king, even under
penalty of death. Nowhere, in the Megilla, is it reported that Mordechai
and Esther are troubled by this disruption of their mariage. Only when
Mordechai asks Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jews, she is
wary of the consequences of appearing before the king without an
invitation. But she never questions her marital relationship with the
king and Mordechai.

Later on page 13b, the matter becomes even more extreme. "Rabba bar
Leima mishmei d'Rav" states that "Esther would rise from the king's
bosom, immerse herself (in a mikveh) and then lie in Mordechai's bosom".

How are we to understand this?  Are we to take Tana meshum Rabbi Meir's
words literally? Is there any halachic justification (even under penalty
of death) for a married woman to alternate between her husband and
another man? Interestingly, the Gemara does not state another opinion on
this matter.

Since none of the Rabbis of the Talmud were present in Shushan during
this period, and apparently have no other written sources for this
matter, how are they permitted to write, what sound like lashon hara,
about Esther?

I would be very interested in anyone's comments on this matter..

Best Regards,
Avraham Brot
Petah Tikva


From: Ira L. Jacobson <iraeljay@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 13:21:46 +0300
Subject: Re: Revisionist history?

>  borsolinos and biber hits were all that was available in the hat 
> store on B'way in Williamsburgh. That and shtreimlach.

>  In fact, Borsalino's were rare, most guys wearing Stetsons.

Just for information, Stetson is still alive and kicking.  And you can
even order Stetson hats on-line http://www.stetsonhat.com/dress.htm.


From: <FriedmanJ@...> (Jeanette Friedman)
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 07:01:09 EDT
Subject: Re: Revisionist History

    [ Part 1, Text/PLAIN  15 lines. ]
    [ Unable to print this part. ]

Revisionist History? New York is STILL the center of the Jewish world,
whether we care to admit it or not.

Excuse me, but I remember when the edict came from Reb Moishe to the
boys at MTJ that there was now a "uniform" to wear--and everyone else
picked up on it. One day you could wear what you wanted to wear to
school, and the next day you couldn't.

In fact, people began to judge exactly how frum you were by the color of
the clothing you wore. Colored hats, hats with feathers, hats with thin
brims....stetsons....it all made a statement about where you fit on the
orthodoxy scale.  In fact, if you wore the wrong hat, you couldn't go
out with certain girls.



From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Fri, 26 Aug 2005 03:56:02 -0400
Subject: RE: Separation of Church and State

>From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
>Art Werschulz wrote <<< You can only imagine how the Jewish kids felt
>under such circumstances. In fact, the incidents from my childhood
>*still* make me wince with pain. >>>
>I too painfully remember singing those carols in school.

And I thought my experience was unique! Yes, we sang those
carols. Somehow, in the 5th grade, Mrs. Pinkerton must have suspected my
reluctance to do so (was it the pained look on my face?--I thought what
I was feeling was more like humiliation), so she actually put her ear to
my mouth to make sure I was really singing and not just
"lip-synching". In retrospect, she probably strengthened my Jewish
identity by making such a public display of it. Of course the class was
probably about 80% Jewish, and mostly really vulnerable children of

Fast forward a few years to college German class. Our instructor, A
Jewish woman, decided it would be a good break from Gothe to sing a few
German carols as the season approached. Much to my astonishment,
however, she asked my permission to do so. When did I become the chief
Jew? I was flabbergasted, but of course I graciously granted permission,
and we stuck to songs like O Tannenbaum and the like--nothing very
religious, as I recall. By college years, nothing much could be lost,
but as Art Sapper pointed out, the damage done in the elementary grades
was serious.

b'shalom--Bernie R.


End of Volume 49 Issue 77