Volume 50 Number 22
                    Produced: Sat Nov 26 18:33:03 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Leah S. Gordon]
Canadian and US Thanksgiving
         [Frank Silbermann]
Ibn Ezra
         [Mark Steiner]
Internet Ban
         [Ruth Sternglantz]
The Mystical Understanding of Chanukah
         [Avi Lazerson]
Where do your children go to school?
         [Carl A. Singer]


From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 08:37:35 -0800
Subject: Betulin

I find galling the glib discussion of whether to use hymen-existence as
a proof of female virginity.  I realize that this was historically
something halakhically significant, but today it is universally known
that hymens are born in all shapes/sizes, and their
size/health/existence is independent of penile penetration for modern
women (who use tampons, exercise regularly, have vaginal medical
examinations, etc.).  Some women are born without a hymen in the first
place; some women have frequent sexual relations and still have a very
small vaginal opening.

It is also my impression that (if it was ever done before) it is not
done now - to check for "wedding night blood" or other such signs as
evidence.  Never-married [Jewish] women are assumed to be of "betulah"
status without vulgar/inaccurate tests.

I also find it disturbing that men are discussing this sensitive topic
in such an objectifying manner.  I request that everyone use care to
avoid discussing a bride (or a groom) as a material substance with
debatable "price" and "value" depending on atavisitic ideas of "use".

--Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 11:06:32 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Canadian and US Thanksgiving

> Michael Mirsky <mirskym@...> Volume 50 Number 21:
> Thanks to Joel Rick and Lawrence Feldman for the interesting article
> from Torah from Dixie on the halachic ramifications.  I'm pretty sure
> that halachic concerns aren't the issue for Canadian Jews.

I, too, enjoyed that article.  It brings down three different approaches
to celebrating Thanksgiving, one seeming to approve
(Rv. Y. Solevetchik), one permitting not encouraging (Rv. M. Feinstein),
and one which the author claims discourages its celebration
(Rv. Y. Henkin).

I had trouble understanding the author's analysis of the third view.  He
quotes Rv. Henkin:

"... On a Gentile religious holiday, it is prohibited to do business [to
assist the Gentiles] since they use that which we provide for worship.
For this rule, it makes no difference what is the purpose of the
holiday, even the coronation or birthday of the king is included.  Such
is not the case regarding rejoicing and celebrating alone; in this case
one must examine the holiday to determine if its origins are primarily
idolatrous or not. . . .However, if the reason for the celebration is
primarily secular it is permissible to celebrate, such as the coronation
of the king, the Fourth of July in America or Thanksgiving.  For this it
makes no difference that some Gentiles celebrate these holidays in

This sounds explicitly permissive to me.  The author of the article adds:

"This, however, comes with one significant caveat, that Rabbi Henkin
notes.  As stated in Shulchan Aruch, it is clearly prohibited to
celebrate even a completely secular holiday (such as the coronation of a
king) with those Gentiles who are celebrating that `secular' day with
religious observances.  However, one may join with a Gentile if one is
certain that this particular Gentile does not worship in a manner or
faith prohibited to Gentiles according to Jewish law."

This also sounds permissive.  Christian celebrations of Thanksgiving Day
have nothing to do with the Roman Catholic saints or their statues.
Christianity in general _is_ permitted to gentiles -- at least according
to the normative interpretations of Jewish law.  But the author adds
this apparent non-sequiter:

"Thus, even those authorities who would permit marking Thanksgiving with
a meal would not permit doing so with Gentiles who are religiously
celebrating the day."

That seems to be in direct contradition to his previous sentence.  Is
the author unwilling to accept the normative view that Christianity is
permitted to Gentiles?  Is he perhaps poskening instead according to the
Rambam, who thought otherwise?

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 15:51:52 +0200
Subject: RE: Ibn Ezra

I think I have made my view clear on Ibn Ezra, just one closing posting
in response to two points made by Dr. Katz:

1. The final verses of the Torah are the subject of a dispute by Hazal
themselves--Moshe writing of his own death.  IE just took sides.
Otherwise, I believe that both Hazal and IE believed in the Mosaic
"authorship" of the Torah (meaning that Moshe wrote it down by

2. As for IE's mysticism; the commentary is full of mystical insights
including numerological commentaries.  I don't have time to set down the
mystical material on how G-d knows the world.  This does not mean that
IE was a kabbalist in the sense that the Ramban was.  As most readers of
mail-jewish will recall, there is also an Ashkenaz mysticism which does
not seem to come from the Zohar.  If Dr. Katz takes the time to read
such passages (to find them, just type "sod" in a search program as I
did) I think he will come around to my point of view, that the word
"sod" refers to mysticism, not some doctrine about the post-Mosaic
authorship of the Torah that the IE for political reasons did not want
to reveal.

As for the relation between IE and Hazal on Torah commentary, more of this
some other time;


From: Ruth Sternglantz <hiraeth613@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 08:46:31 -0500
Subject: Internet Ban

While there may be an attempt to construct non-compliance with the
internet ban as parallel to the television ban (e.g., the tv in the
parents' bedroom that they only use to watch the news), internet access
is clearly a different creature than television. Most of us do not have
televisions in our offices at work, nor is the television a tool that we
use in our work. But many of us do spend our entire working day online
in one capacity or another. Banning all internet use at home is, I
think, more similar to a ban on telephone use (because the phone might
be used to call an inappropriate chat line) than a ban on television. I
do realize that major factors in internet bans are the visual aspect of
the internet (parallel to television) and the general dangers to all
children that lurk online and that have been well documented, and I
think there's a difference between banning child access to the internet
and banning the internet from the home.


From: Avi Lazerson <avi@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 09:23:03 +0200
Subject: The Mystical Understanding of Chanukah

In commemorating Chanukah, we recall the deeds of the ancient Greeks who
entered the Holy Temple and defiled the oils which were used in lighting
the menorah. The Hasmonean fighters rebelled and drove the Greeks
out. When they came into the Temple and searched for pure oil with the
seal of the High Priest, all they found was just one vial amongst the
many defiled ones. This single vial of oil burnt in the menorah and
illuminated the sanctuary for eight days! This was the miracle of

In mystical thought, oil is symbolic of chochmah, the highest aspect of
the intellect from which inspirational thought is derived. The Talmud
mentions that in a certain area in Israel, Tekoa, where the use of olive
oil had become common, chochmah had also become common. Just as chochmah
is related to the highest level in the intellect, inspired thinking, it
is also related to the fear of G-d as it is written in Psalms 111, "the
beginning of chochmah is the fear of G-d."

The mystics understand that the intellect is divided into three
divisions, chochmah, binah and daat. Binah is the aspect of the thinking
process in which we understand by comparison and analyses. Daat is the
part of the intellect which connects his abstract thought to the reality
of emotions and action.

An example of binah is a student who studies his chemistry text book and
through careful consideration of the material can understand the subject
matter. Another example is by comparing two given physical phenomena in
order to arrive at a common understanding of them such as studying the
effect of gravity on various objects to understand gravity. Chochmah, on
the other hand, is inspiration which brings to thought. Chochmah is like
a teacher who gives a lesson; whereas binah is like a student who must
digest and understand what has been taught. Chochmah is also compared to
seeing, whereas binah is considered hearing; seeing does not necessarily
entail understanding even though it cannot be doubted, whereas hearing
implies understanding.

The Greeks were the world's great thinkers. They gave the world
Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, and many more. They boasted of
various impressive schools of philosophy, art, and literature. The
Greeks were a light unto the rest of the world and their ideas spread to
many lands. Much of today's western thought is based upon their Greek

The Greeks believed in utilizing the mind to its fullest and they
exalted the greatness of the human intellect. They admired great
thinkers and disdained those who clung to superstitions. Although they
believed in the existence of good and evil, and that man should live
according to what was good they defined them by the human intellect.

They defined intellectual thought as binah. They accepted chochmah, but
only insofar as it could be verified through intellectual means. In
other words, they utilized binah to verify chochmah.

The Jewish belief is that the concept of good and evil were not humanly
defined, but they are defined by G-d in the holy Torah. To us, chochmah
is the highest gift, a divine present from G-d. We must use our
understanding to fathom the divine dictates of the Torah and thereby
reach an understanding of the divine. But it is merely a human's
understanding of the infinite wisdom of G-d and not the essential actual
understanding of G-d's rationale. To the Jew, binah is subservient to

Although to some degree the Greeks envied the Jewish mind, they rejected
the subjugation of our thinking to what they viewed as dogma. To the
Greeks, the understanding mind (binah) was the highest form of human
endeavor and was praiseworthy. In their eyes, our suppression of our
minds (binah) in view of the chochmah (inspiration) of the Torah was a
derision of our human faculties.

Therefore their profaning the holy oil in the Temple is mystically
understood as an attempt to quell the Jewish subjugation of the mind to
a source which is above the mind, chochmah of the Torah. Yet although
they tried to profane the oil, the source of our chochmah, G-d Himself,
caused them to miss one small vial of oil.

When the Maccabees found this lone vial, representing the infinite
chochmah of the Torah they ignored the defiled vials of oil
(representing the wisdom of the Greeks). They used this pure oil to
light the menorah. The Menorah itself represents daat the connection
between the intellect and the actualization of the self. In this manner
they expressed their desires to return to G-d and His holy Torah. G-d in
turn showed his satisfaction with their actions by allowing a miracle to
occur.  In place of burning for one night, the oil lasted for eight

The number eight in mystical thought is significant. Since the world was
created in seven days, seven is synonymous with nature and all that is
worldly. The position of the Greeks was to give esteem to all
achievements that were based on man's worldly intellect. The eighth day
represents one above seven, one above nature - the divine, the infinite,
and the G-dly. The miracle of Chanukah is eight days reflecting G-d's
favor upon our pure actions.

The menorah in the Temple had only seven branches, unlike our Chanukah
menorahs which have eight. The seven branched menorah burnt and
illuminated the Temple for eight days. This means that the seven
branched menorah, symbolizing the seven days of creation, nature and
worldliness, was elevated by oil which should have burnt only one
day. The eight days represents the aspect of the divine, the aspect of
above nature - but it is in the seven branched menorah. This is the
divine light illuminating the mundane world.

Today when we light an eight branched menorah, we must ignite our divine
spark. We must reach to the level above nature. When we kindle our eight
branched menorah for eight days, we are reaching up to G-d to relight
our holy spark.

May we, like our brave ancestors, fulfill our aspirations and achieve a
radiance of the G-dly here in our world.

Avi Lazerson, staff writer for the Jewish Magazine,


From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2005 09:37:48 -0500
Subject: Where do your children go to school?

I am not going to take a position on the Internet ban, pro or con.  But,
I must say I find it fascinating that the guarantors of the ban are the
children.  Presumably, the ban makes two assumptions (neither of which I
find surprising), The people in Lakewood care enough about the education
of their children to the extent that they will modify personal behavior
to ensure it.  And second, the only form of education that would be
considered is Orthodox Jewish education.

There is one other possibility that needs consideration. There was an
assertion made in a study I recently read ("What we know about Jewish
Education" Stuart Kelman)) that Orthodox parents sending their children
to Orthodox schools (and I'll add Orthodox schools that represent the
parent's Hashkafa) is more about the parents and confirming their
beliefs (I'll add the possibility of confirming their status in the
community as well) than the education of their children.  In this model,
parents will concede their Internet to ensure that THEY confirm their
religiosity and their place in the community (if we accept my
assertion).  It is interesting that Internet use, and the lack thereof,
does not follow a similar structure (i.e. that community members reject
the Internet as a confirmation of their beliefs nor does Internet use
apparently threaten community status).  This would make a fascinating
dissertation topic, IMHO.  As I am nowhere near the Lakewood area, I'll
have to stick to vouchers in the Orthodox community.

Following up on Chaim's posting

Where do your children go to school?
Where do you daven?
Where do you buy your meat?
Do you keep Chalav Yisroel?

All seem to carry with them a strong dose of social conformance (and
perhaps stigma.)

I know of frum (in the very positive sense) parents who in addressing
the very special needs of a very special child have done what is best
for that child by sending him/her to a school that would, in the eye of
the casual beholder, be (glatt) trief.

I imagine also that there are parents who sacrifice the needs of their
child by sending him/her to the socially acceptable school regardless of


Carl Singer


End of Volume 50 Issue 22