Volume 50 Number 17
                    Produced: Thu Nov 24  4:03:00 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Comparative Linguistics (was: Cover)
         [Yehoshua Steinberg]
Hebrew source of English words?
         [Nathan Lamm]
Internet Bans
         [S Wise]
Mem Het Lamed
         [Yehoshua Steinberg]
Mesira and Sanitation
         [Joel Rich]
Rabbi's Salary Divulgence
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Sephardic-Ashkenazic stops in the Torah
         [Joseph Mosseri]
Starbucks (2)
         [Andy Goldfinger, Nathan Lamm]
Yeridas Hadoros
         [Nathan Lamm]


From: Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 11:03:35 -0500
Subject: Comparative Linguistics (was: Cover)

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
>As I see it, the speculations of comparative linquistics are considered
>weak when all they have to go on are a few isolated roots or word
>endings (e.g., when trying to compare Asian with Native American

Thank you, Frank, for this considered reply. I could understand this
approach if all there were to go on were an amateurish list that someone
put together on the fly.  However, this is not the case, as Mozeson is
an academic and former professor at CUNY who devoted ten years to his
research . It seems there may be more to his work being ignored by the
scholastic community than purely technical considerations.

>The hypothesis of a language relationship is strongest when one can
>cite a whole list of words whose sound shifts from one language to
>another show some regularity (eg. "Pfeffer<->paper, Pfund<->pound,
>Pfennig<->penny).  Also important is whether presumed common roots
>appear in words that a pre-schooler might know.  (The words used by
>small children are the ones least vulnerable to replacement by
>foreign-language borrowings.)

That's reasonable, but again, for such an obvious influence as the Bible
to be so consistently ignored continues to strike me as suspicious,
particularly since the virtual creators of these 19th-century sciences
scarcely attempted to disguise their overarching agenda.

Another example that comes to mind offhand is the word "ashamed."
Disgrace often comes as a result of misdeed, such that in a moral
society the infraction would constitute the fall from grace in
itself. Is it then a coincidence that the word in the Bible for guilt
and transgression is "asham?" (See also Rabeinu Bachya on Lev. 5:17,
Ramban ibid. v.  15, Hirsch on Gen. 42:21 and Ps. 5:11, who posit that
the leading aleph of "asham" is extraneous, hence the underlying root is
shin-mem or shin-mem-mem, desolation. Thus, another connection with the
English, where the word "shame" is prefixed by an 'a' to yield
"ashame."). Yet, our friendly editors at American Heritage have a
different theory:

Middle English, from Old English[IMAGE]sceamod.

All I am saying is that the etymological attributions of the linguists
from the 19th-century on should perhaps not be sacrosanct. Maybe it's
time for a reexamination of their suggestions, by researchers divested
of possible ulterior agendas.

Yehoshua Steinberg


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 11:56:04 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Hebrew source of English words?

Yehoshua Steinberg writes, for example:

> Or for that matter the root chet vet lamed which denotes ropes as in
> e.g. I Kings 20:32.

> At the very least I'd like to know why sources such as these are
> rejected out-of hand without so much as mention in passing.

Simply because the theory has nothing to back it up.  Too often, it
takes words whose origins are well known and removes "roots" from them
that don't really exist, and then tries to find a Hebrew source.

I'm afraid that some people have a mistaken notion that a religious Jew
*must* believe that all langauges come from Hebrew, or that Hebrew was
the "original" language. These theories come from this belief; however,
there is no such requirement.

Nachum Lamm


From: <Smwise3@...> (S Wise)
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 22:28:39 EST
Subject: Internet Bans

I was troubled to hear the latest "decree" coming out of Lakewood --
that all 43 yeshivos and schools joined to say that basically bans use
of the Internet at home, and those who violate it, their children may be
suspended and expelled.

I am curious to hear opinions on this latest attempt to make the
non-Yeshiva people feel unwelcome.  It sounds discriminatory and taking
it out on innocent children.  The "decree" seems the type of things
Islamic extremists might do to control the private lives of citizens.

The more I hear about Lakewood, the less I like it.
Any thoughts?

S. Wise


From: Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 22:04:13 -0500
Subject: RE: Mem Het Lamed

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Yehoshua Steinberg stated the following in Vol. 50 #04:

>> I'm afraid you may have to concede this one, Ira. Again not one of
>> the sifrei Hashorashim, not Radak nor Rabeinu Yona, not to mention
>> Menachem and Yerios Shelomo or 4 other traditional sources I know of
>> list mem-chet-lamet as a root. What books are you looking at?

>I must say that I am at a loss on how to handle this one.  I say three
>times a day, "Mehal lanu malkenu ki fasha`nu."
>I cannot find a dictionary that does NOT list mem het lamed as a root (in
>Rabbinic Hebrew).

I'm not quite sure I understand the difficulty. Here is the quote you
omitted (perhaps you didn't see it?):

>>Thank you indeed for that great example. As a matter of fact, I'm sure
>>you realize that the term "mechila" is not used in Tanach for
>>forgiveness - it is a leshon Chazal.

The term "leshon Chazal" is synonymous with "Rabbinic Hebrew." I was
pointing out precisely the fact that the rabbis coined a new "root,"
which is obviously not listed in any of the sifrei Hashorashim, which
treat only biblical roots. However, mem-het-lamed is in fact based on a
biblical root: chet-lamed, or chet-lamed-lamed (depending on your
preference for biliteral or triliteral roots). For the significance of
this action, see the previous posts, but in any case both "meichallelo"
and "machul" share the same biblical root (just curious, Ira, did you
check the sources I cited?).

>Do I really need to supply more examples?  How many?  I suspect that the
>gemara alone has 100 or several hundreds.

You're right on target with that. I have been examining "al tikrei"
statements and variations thereof for several years and indeed have
found several hundreds. I have found that many people either skip over
them or flippantly dismiss them as plays on words. I believe there are
indeed profound lessons being taught not only on a philosophic level,
but on a philologic level as well. The work "Korei Be'emes" by R.
Y. Bamberger attempts to demonstrate the genius of these
drashos. Lehavdil, your humble servant has slowly been analyzing them
and I hope eventually to publish my findings. But in short, it ain't
just a bunch of word games.

>Then let me try again.  Do you think that Hazal did not understand that
>mehal'lo and mohel are linguistically unrelated?

I guess you meant "related." And it doesn't really matter what I think,
because you have but to look at the sources I've already cited to see
that I've added nothing on my own. The great Rishonim do quite well
enough on their own.

>> It's unfortunate that these arguments tend to stray from the issue by
>> insinuating that anyone with a different opinion is a simpleton. To
>> return to the intellectual plane, I firmly believe that there are
>> connections between Biblical words stemming from the same root.

>Yes, but you have been claiming just the opposite.  You seem to claim
>that Hazal confused different roots, while in fact they were relating to
>similar sounds (not linguistically related) for the sake of hermeneutics.

I don't recall saying anything about Chazal "confusing roots."

I think we ought to get on the same page, so to speak. I have cited
Rishonim and Acharonim (early and letter-day authorities) who dedicated
their lives to these issues and who believed that the biblical Hebrew
language, unlike any other, is a coherent system based on roots with a
kernel of meaning (hanachat hayesod) shared by all its derivatives.

>And it has already been pointed out that there are even several
>unrelated words that share the same root letters, as in bet resh kaf,
>for example.

I would ask that you take the time to reread the previous posts citing
several commentaries connecting the derivatives. I don't see how you've
drawn your conclusion.

>By coincidence, Avshalom Kor on the radio this morning referred to the
>roots `ayin resh peh, which have three separate derivations, the most
>interesting one of which is from the Arabic, meaning knowledge.

I'd be interested in hearing about this. I have met Prof. Kor and hold
him in high regard. However, the popular radio talks he gives are rarely
on biblical Hebrew per se, which is the topic here.

Yehoshua Steinberg


From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 07:47:29 -0500
Subject: Mesira and Sanitation

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>

> The issue of the permissibility of mesira (turning a Jew into
> governmental (?) authorities) has come up periodically in this list, most
> recently in relation to child abuse (where the response seems to have
> been that it's required) and building violations (where the response was
> mixed).  I'd be interested in a response to the following:
> [Snip]
> Incidentally, the local posek seems to think that turning a Jew into the
> authorities is forbidden in all cases, sakana included.

For a brief summary of the issues see 
http://orthodoxcaucus.org/informing.html (suffice it to say - it ain't so

I imagine there's more texture in your local posek's opinion.
Joel Rich


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 09:13:35 +0200
Subject: Rabbi's Salary Divulgence

Our Shul has a policy of not divulging the rabbi's salary to Shul
members, with only the Shul Committee privy to this information. (The
salary is subsumed under different clauses in the budget.) Some members
of the Shul have claimed that there are halachic prohibitions against
divulging this information.

I'd be interested in hearing the policy of other Shuls in this regard.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Joseph Mosseri <joseph.mosseri@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 07:32:42 -0500
Subject: Sephardic-Ashkenazic stops in the Torah

Before attempting to respond to Russell Hendel's question regarding
different stops in the Torah, I propose a more fundamental question.

Where did the 8  Shabbat stops as they are printed in most Houmashim today
Where did they come from?
Who put them there and when?
Are they really adhered to by everybody?
What about the stops for Monday & Thursday?

Thank you,
Joseph Mosseri


From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2005 02:11:51 -0500
Subject: Re: Starbucks

Since there has been some discussion of Starbuck's policies, I thought I
would post the text of a letter I wrote to this company concerning
another issue:

---------- TEXT OF LETTER -----------

I have seen the full page advertisement you placed this past weekend in
support of the legitimacy of homosexual behavior.  Now - you are
certainly entitled to your opinions.  However, in the advertisement you
describe those who disapprove of this behavior as having "homophobia,"
as if something is wrong with them.

For religious reasons, I believe that homosexual activity is morally
wrong, and that in a spiritual sense it damages the world.  You may not
agree with me, but this is the United States and I believe (perhaps
naively) that my right to express my opinion should be respected.  The
use of narrow minded and bigoted terms such as "homophobia" is extremely

I have been a loyal Starbuck's customer for a long time.  I shall no
longer buy your products."

-------- END OF TEXT ---------

I sent this letter via ordinary mail ("snail mail").  I received a reply
that thanked me for my "email."  It was a form letter stating that
Starbucks opposes discrimination of any kind.  I did not pursue the
issue further.

-- Andy Goldfinger

From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 12:16:04 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Starbucks

I'd like to thank the person who pointed out how non-Jewish even
"Jewish" areas are. I'd also like to throw in my own two cents on the
matter: Not only are we a tiny minority, I, for one, get offended when I
see token mentions of Chanukah. The throwaway line about what Starbucks
customers can order should offend any thinking Jew- and I don't blame
Starbucks in the least.

Last year, Chanukah ended some weeks before Christmas.  And yet the
token menorahs stayed up through January.  The two holidays are
completely separate. Ours is relatively minor, and commemerates, of all
things, resistance to a majority religion and culture. And yet mostly
through the efforts of some Jews, it's become "the Jewish Christmas."

If we live in galut, we have to accept some things.  Let's not make
things worse, in more ways than one, by pushing what are essentially
meaningless (or harmful) gestures.

Nachum Lamm


From: Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2005 12:21:54 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Yeridas Hadoros

Bill Bernstein wonders about this concept. I believe Rav Kook stated
that it applies only to Torah- as is logical, as machloket arose when
people forgot halakha. He felt that in general knowledge- and perhaps
even in the spread of Torah knowledge- we've clearly grown greater,
which is a blessing in some ways, but, in lessening the gap between
ordinary people and our leaders, has led to an increase in brazeness as


End of Volume 50 Issue 17