Volume 50 Number 15
                    Produced: Wed Nov 23  5:40:34 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Martin Stern]
Ibn Ezra -- He Was Frum -- Why he said the things he did (2)
         [Ben Katz, Avi Feldblum]
Interdenominational and the New York Board of Rabbis (3)
         [Eitan Fiorino, Nathan Lamm, Joseph Kaplan]
Lechol Mar'eh Einei Hakohen
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
Orthodox Legal Source encouraging Observance of Thanksgiving
         [Martin Stern]
Quoting and reading the Rav and others (was: The Rav on mixed seating)
         [Sarah Beck]
Text of Torah
         [Ben Katz]
Thanksgiving in U.S. and Canada
         [Michael Mirsky]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 17:16:27 +0000
Subject: Re: Brit/giur

on 22/11/05 10:55 am, Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
> I think that a tevilah is done in order to actually change the level of
> kedusha involved.  Thus, a person who is tamei becomes tahor, a woman
> who is asur becomes mutar, a female ger goes to the mikvah *after*
> having been megayer by the bais din, etc.  Similarly, a male ger could
> not undergo tevilah until after the geirus is complete and all that is
> lacking is the change in status.  I think that is why he must wait until
> after the bris.  Beforehand he has the status of a nonJew.  After, he
> has the status of a Jew who must change his level of kedusha.

With all due respect, a non-Jew does not become a Jew until he or she
comes out of the mikveh and then only if all the required preliminary
steps of kabbalat ol mitsvot in front of a Beit Din and, where
applicable, milah, have already taken place.

Martin Stern


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 11:36:39 -0600
Subject: Re: Ibn Ezra -- He Was Frum -- Why he said the things he did

>From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
>I was surprised to see the anti religious citations against Ibn Ezra
>(IE) cited by Dr Backon, Dr Katz, and Maharshal. Let me therefore set
>the record straight:

         To clarify my position: As Dr. Hendell mentioned, IE was an
extremely religious man.  One typical comment that comes to mind is when
he castigates those who do NOT wear tefillin all day, just when they
daven.  He says that it's easy to concentrate on God when you daven,
it's when you are in the marketplace that you really need the tefillin.

         Nevertheless, IE had no problem interpretting Torah differently
from Chazal.  He does this numerous times.  (Rashbam did this even in
halachic contexts.)  IE does not believe Isaac was 37 at the time of the
akeidah.  He does not really believe in "shamor bvezachor bidibur
echad".  And, he believed that the last 12 verses of the Torah and
probably 4 other phrases were added to the Torah after the time of
Moshe.  So, if the word "frum" today (a la ArtScroll) means that you
can't contradict Chazal then IE was not frum.  But he was deeply

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box #20, Chicago, IL 60614
e-mail: <bkatz@...>

From: Avi Feldblum <avi@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005
Subject: Re: Ibn Ezra -- He Was Frum -- Why he said the things he did

In this past weeks parsha is another interesting example. In his
interpretation of the beginning of the Parsha, he starts with the well
known Hazal that identifies the three individuals who visited Avram as
angels of HaShem. However, if you continue along, toward the end of the
first portion of the story, he introduces an alternate interpretation,
that the three individuals where human prophets / messengers of
HaShem. He then concludes with the statement that if the reader wants to
know which interpretation the Ibn Ezra thinks is correct, read what he
says in the beginning of Shemot. The Abravanel states that the opinion
of the Ibn Ezra (and the Ralbag, if I remember correctly) is that the
latter interpretation is the correct one. I dare to say that there are
many places today, that if you tried to give this latter interpretation,
you would be branded as an unbeliever. I think it is critical to
understand that the range of allowed opinions is much greater than many
of our current groups would like to allow.

Avi Feldblum


From: Eitan Fiorino <AFiorino@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 09:07:30 -0500
Subject: RE: Interdenominational and the New York Board of Rabbis

> From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
> In the same era, Rav Soloveitchik also paskened that YU rabbis should
> avoid joining rabbinic organizations, such as the New York Board of
> Rabbis, together with Conservative and Reform rabbis. As a result, the
> voice of the Jewish community was weakened when it should have been
> influential. I believe the same polemic was at work there amd I wonder
> if he would pasken the same today considering the growing strength of
> Orthodoxy and the declining status of the other streams.

I am pretty certain that the opposite was the case - the Rav allowed his
talmidim to join such organizations provided the organization wasdevoted
to communal needs of the entire Jewish comminity (the NY Board of Rabbis
being an example).

It was the Agudat Yisrael that vehemently opposed participation in such
"mixed" communal organizations and issued an issur signed by the Moetzet
Gedolei haTorah - interestingly, the only communal rabbi on the Moetzet,
Rabbi Eliezer Silver, refused to sign the issur.  Much has been made of
and written on this incident as it relates to the estrangement of the
Rav from the Yeshiva world (or perhaps that should be, the estrangement
of the Yeshiva world from the Rav).  If I recall, Rabbi Rakeffet has
written on this incident in one or more books - check his biographies of
the Rav, of Bernard Revel, or of Eiezer Silver (all of which are good
reading for those interested in the history of Orthodoxy in America).


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 12:25:19 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Interdenominational and the New York Board of Rabbis

Bernard Raab writes:
> In the same era, Rav Soloveitchik also paskened that YU rabbis should
> avoid joining rabbinic organizations, such as the New York Board of
> Rabbis, together with Conservative and Reform rabbis.

Quite the opposite, actually.

From: Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 13:30:14 -0500
Subject: Interdenominational and the New York Board of Rabbis

My impression has always been that when the Rav was asked about the
Synagogue Council of America and the NY Board of Rabbis, he never gave a
response, which is why the OU was a member of the Synagogue Council and
many YU rabbis were memebrs of the NY Board of Rabbis.  But my
impression may be wrong.  Does anyone have a written citation that would
clarify this?

Joseph Kaplan


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 07:42:41 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Lechol Mar'eh Einei Hakohen

 In the middle of layning, a baal koreh finds a gap in the vertical line
of a nun.  In the region of the gap, instead of a line there are
discontinuous dots on a grayish background.  If the dots and background
are ignored, the letter and Torah are clearly passul.  The rov--a gaon
who won't aknowledge that his vision isn't very good anymore--looks at
it and, instead of paskening whether the mess invalidates the nun,
adamantly declares, "I don't see the problem--there's a line."  Nobody
else around sees the line, but also nobody else contradits the rov, who
is the only other person in the room even marginally capable of layning.

What's the baal koreh supposed to do?  The only possibilities are (1)
continuing to layn or (2) walking away.  A possible, though unlikely,
analogy is that a nega (blemish) is not impure until the kohen
pronounces it so.  (The rov is kohen.)


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 16:58:58 +0000
Subject: Orthodox Legal Source encouraging Observance of Thanksgiving

on 22/11/05 10:32 am, Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...> wrote:
> If the BEN ISH CHAI supports Birthdays (Which have no element of
> thanksgiving) how much more so would he support a holiday like
> Thanksgiving whose PURPOSE is to thank God.

Surely the Jewish view of a birthday celebration is precisely this, to
thank HKBH for having preserved one for another year.

Martin Stern


From: Sarah Beck <beckse@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 11:40:58 -0500
Subject: Quoting and reading the Rav and others (was: The Rav on mixed seating)

In Joseph Kaplan's post on this topic, he writes, "[b]ut let the Rav say
it in his own words," and then quotes a readily available published
source. I know that no one means any disrespect, but because there _are_
writings of his extant, ken yirbu, perhaps one should, like Mr. Kaplan,
try to use actual quotes when discussing what the Rav, z"l, [might have]
held. Of course this is true when invoking anyone at all, but even more
so when there are rel. few writings to work with. And a large part of
what the Rav did write was in English to start with. One does not even
have to trust a translation. So there is no excuse for not citing.

Imagine--in the next generation, when people who had firsthand contact
with the Rav are in jener velt, will we so quickly be reduced to stories
and unsupported assertions? Think of the Gr"a, who did leave behind
plenty to read. One hears educated people, people who are otherwise
conscientious, say things like, "well, I read [in a collection of
stories from an English-language Judaica outfit] that the Gr"a ordered
his esrog in such and such a month, so..."

Of course reliance on the sources goes both ways. I think that the
reason why so many largely ignorant people, MYSELF INCLUDED, think that
they know something about the Rambam is PRECISELY BECAUSE he has such a
beautiful clear Hebrew. Anyone at all can go into _Sefer ha-Madda_.
People who would never DREAM of publishing on, say, the Gr"a feel
perfectly comfortable writing about the Rambam. I guess a great
multiplication of articles is all right as long as it brings an
attendant increase in yirat Shamayim. But better to quote too easily
than not to quote at all.

All the best,
Sarah Beck

P.S.: Do not even start me on Yiddish. That is another polemic entirely.
Why students of nineteenth- or twentieth-century Jewish history cannot
read newspaper editorials in Yiddish is utterly beyond me.

P.P.S.: I may be a nasty unrepentant intellectual elitist, but, as Woody
Allen says in _Annie Hall_, "a bigot, yes...but for the Left."


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 11:09:03 -0600
Subject: Re: Text of Torah

>From: <slefkowitz@...>
>Some questions regarding the text of the Torah:
>What is the source of the text we use? We use the Masoretic text, but
>what did the Masoretes use as a source document?
>From the time of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, was there a
>standard source document that copyists could check against?
>There were about 1000 years between the destruction and the Masoretes.
>Why are we so sure there were no copying errors during that period?
>How did the Masoretic text become the standard?

         There is a vast literature on this topic.  The oldest complete
manuscript of Tanach is the Leningrad B codex from 1019 upon which many
Bibles are based.  The Keter Aram Tzovah (Alleppo Codex) is a century
earlier, but missing most of the Torah.  See the introductory essays
accompanying the published versions of these manuscripts, the
introduction to the Haketer series published by Bar Ilan, the
introduction to the JPS Hebrew-English Tanach, the introduction to the
Koren Tanach, CD Ginsburg's Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical
Edition of the Pentateuch, works by Breuer, etc. for starters.

         It is not clear that the earliest publishers had available the
best manuscripts, yet most chumashinm are offsets of those early works.
Many of the earliest manuscripts have many differences (usually trivial
ones) between them and "the" masoretic text (whatever that is).

         There are 9 differences today between taymani sifrei torah and
ashkenazi/sefaradi sifrei torah, one of which changes the meaning of the
word (from vayhi yemay noach to vayihyu yemai noach - singular to
plural, at the end of chapter 9 of bereshit.  Because taymani torahs
match the manuscripts better, Rav Breuer has suggested that a community
without a tradition on how to write siferei torah should use the taymani

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box # 20, Chicago, IL 60614
e-mail: <bkatz@...>


From: Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 14:04:05 -0500
Subject: Thanksgiving in U.S. and Canada

I've always found the fact that frum Jews in the U.S. celebrate
Thanksgiving rather curious.  I hear that the family sits down to a
turkey dinner etc just like other citizens.

In Canada, (where Thanksgiving is in October BTW), frum Jews ignore it -
it's just another statutory holiday - a day off from work.  In any case,
it usually comes close to the yom tov that we Jews observe for the
harvest - Sukkot!

I'm not being judgemental or critical, but I just find it a bit odd that
American Jews would adopt all the trapping of this holiday. Perhaps it
was accepted because AFAIK it has no specific Christian religious

And maybe it was part of the concept of "the melting pot" - becoming an
American and not being a "greener" anymore.  Canadians embraced
multi-culturalism, so people were "hypenated Canadians" eg.
Italian-Canadians, Polish-Canadians and ethnic groups kept their customs
alive.  So maybe Jews here didn't feel any pressure to conform.

Does anyone have any information on this?



End of Volume 50 Issue 15