Volume 50 Number 42
                    Produced: Mon Dec  5  5:46:08 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Kohein Marrying Convert - wouldn't be the first time
         [Mechy Frankel]
Mem-Chet-Lamed (3)
         [Ben Katz, Yehoshua Steinberg, Russell J Hendel]
         [Ben Katz]
Skipping Tachanun
         [Martin Stern]


From: Mechy Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Sat, 03 Dec 2005 18:55:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Kohein Marrying Convert - wouldn't be the first time

Since the conversation has moved on from a suggestion there might a
hetteir lurking somewhere permitting a giyores less than three years age
to a kohein - appropriately shot down by R. Teitz's citation of SA EH
6:8, though please note my suggestion in last paragraph- to a discussion
of the status parameters of next generation offspring, I thought the
chevra might be amused?/astounded? to learn there is at least one
recorded instance of marriage of an adult giyores to a kohein under full
orthodox auspices. And no, this is not a trick question and answer.

The marriage was conducted with the explicit hetteir of R. Yehuda Leib
Zirelson, a talmid chokhom of note, chief rabbi of Kishiniev, a
m'chabeir of sh'ailos and t'shuvos, and a founding father of Agudas
Yisroel who generally presided over the early Agudah conferences and
also presided over the 1908 St Petersburg kenes of Russian rabbonim
which included many of the choshuva rabbonim of the land.  i.e in short,
a man of unimpeachable frummie, scholarly, and rabbinical leadership
credentials.  The circumstances were such that R. Zirelson considered it
a hora'as sho'oh - the kalloh had converted some years previously
l'sheim shomayim with the then acquiescence of her very prominent
gentile family, and any suggestion she was not worthy of marrying this
kohein - because of a legal finding that would equate her to a
prostitute, no less - would have outraged the gentile populace and
endangered jews. R. Zirelson explicitly emphasized in his published
t'shuvoh that no precedential conclusions might be drawn from this one
time act. Of course, one might still ask - but still..? a critical
factor was R.  Zirelson's posiiton (and he was not alone in this) that
the prohibition of a kohein to a giyores was "only" d'rabbonon if the
giyores was a virgin, which prohibition could be set aside in pressing
circumstances such as these.

Now, we should not imagine that R. Zirelson's p'saq escaped unscathed by
his contemporaries.  M'taheir es hashsheretz b'150 t'amim was one of the
kinder rejoinders by one rabbinical colleague, addressed to one of
R. Zirelson's rabbinic supporters , but nevertheless, there you have it.
Whatever one's intellectual opinion of this particular p'saq (and who
amongst us is equal to a halakhic debate with a talmid chokhom of
R. Zirelson's unquestioned stature) it does make one yearn for an era
when independent rabbonim talmidei chakhomim - who lead communities
rather than academies - had the ometz hal'lev, intellectual
independence, and general backbone to pasqen.

And as long as we're on the subject of giyur in general it is perhaps
appropriate to note the unceasing trend towards more and more
stringency, but also worth reminding ourselves t'was not always thus. In
particular, the conversion of non-jewish spouses whose commitment to
mitzvoh observance was not in much evidence, was nevertheless considered
a mitzvoh by important rabbonim in the past (including the Dor Shi'v'ie,
grand grandfather of one of our list members).  not sure whether any
such perspectives still current - doubtless R. Teitz has more insight
into current rabbinical practice.

Finally, a note - or rather amplification - on the three year old
giyores l'kohein, which R. Teitz reminds us is a simple prohibition
cited in SA.  As someone else sensitively noted, why specifically make a
point of prohibiting this rather odd case, unless there was in fact a
contrary contemporary opinion in circulation.  While I have no specific
information on other conemporary opinions in this matter, we should note
the g'moroh , bavli qidushin 78a, records r. shimon b. yochai's opinion
that such a three year old is permitted.  This is rejected by the
rabbonon, and r. shimom b.  yochai - as usual in any of his halakhic
disputes - loses, and this is the consensus opinion apparently codified
in SA.  (As an aside, one wonders at those who look to the Zohar as a
source of behavior and who also believe r.  shimon b. yochai was its
author.  He never won any halakhic fights back when, so why should his
opinions become any more authoritative after thirteen centuries on
ice?). However the yerushalmi qidushin 46a records a case where a kohein
did in fact marry a less than three year old giyores and it is clear
that here even rabbonon (possibly only post facto - that wasn't
completely clear to me from the text) agreed to the family's kashrus.
So my suggestion is there may have some ongoing, surviving, parallel
tradition of hetteir, at least post facto and perhaps under the
(majority halakhic) horizon (e.g. like no succoh on sh'mini atzeres),
right through the time of the SA.  A useful source of information on
this topic is an article by Samet in the Sefer hay'yovel for
R. Mordecahi Breuer.

Mechy Frankel                         W: (703) 4126-3252
<michael.frankel@...>             H: (301) 593-3949


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2005 11:12:54 -0600
Subject: Re: Mem-Chet-Lamed

>From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
>Recent postings have stated that the root Mem-Chet-Lamed is not a
>Biblical root and that eg it is not mentioned by Rishonim (as a Biblical
>root) and not listed in Mendelkorn.
>This is not true. You have to know how to read Mendelkorn. And you have
>to know how to use Rashi as a grammatical source. Let us begin with

   Dr. Hendell's reasoning is circular.  Rashi (and my friend Jed
Abraham in his Tora UMada article) wished to argue that Machlat was
called Machlat because she was forgiving.  But if the root machal never
appears in the Bible, and only means forgiving in Rabbbinic literature,
it is hard to make that argument.  Hence Jed found a few contemporaneous
citations and put them in his footnote.  I know Dr. Hendell will get
upset by this comment, but Chazal and Rashi in general were not as
sensitive as we are to anachronisms, be they historical or linguistic.
It is only Ibn Ezra and Rashbam (Dr. Hendell's nemesis) who routinely
address these glaring issues in their Biblical commentaries.  (I am not
talking about the obvious ones here - such as how could Moshe write of
his own death - but the more subltle ones, as in "vayirdof ad Dan" in
Gen. 14 or the famous "ki lannavi hayom yikareh lefanim haroah" in I

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: Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 11:58:38 -0500
Subject: Mem-Chet-Lamed

From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Subject: Mem-Chet-Lamed

>Recent postings have stated that the root Mem-Chet-Lamed is not a
>Biblical root and that eg it is not mentioned by Rishonim (as a Biblical
>root) and not listed in Mendelkorn.

>This is not true. You have to know how to read Mendelkorn. ANd you have
>to know how to use Rashi as a grammatical source. Let us begin with

The example in question happens to be a Rabbinical "root":
mem-chet-lamed, but the issue of "disappearing" root letters occurs
irrespective of whether their origins are in the Tanach or Chazal.

Most observant Hebrew readers will notice intuitively at one point or
another that there are certain letters, even when they appear to be an
integral part of the root, will sometimes appear and sometimes
disappear.  This phenomenon is what Rashi calls a "yesod nofel"
(Ex. 18:8, Lev.  26:36, Is. 11:8, Jer. 43:9, Ps. 38:3, Ps. 58:9). Other
terms are: "ne'elemes" (Radak I Sam. 28;24), "eino ikar" (Rashbam
Ex. 21:10), "eino yesod" (Menachem p. 4). There are many other names for
this phenomenon, and many theories about why it exists, but IMHO it all
points to underlying roots beneath the trilteral roots which contain a
kernel of meaning shared by the three-letter roots derived from the
essential two radicals (sometimes just one). The most common extraneous
letters are heh-aleph-mem-nun-tav-yud-vav ("he-emantiv"), but there are
examples of many other letters as well (Menachem, for instance, adds
four more, yielding: shin-mem-lamed-aleph-chaf-tav-vav-bet-yud-nun-heh
"she-melachto bina").

Modern Hebrew grammarians have chosen for the most part to ignore this
phenomenon and insist that every word has a three-letter root, basing
themselves on Ibn-Hayyujj. This tends to make things nice and neat, and
fits well with other Semitic languages, but it unfortunately the popular
view is a gross oversimplification of what the triliteralists
intended. I recall in 3rd grade being taught that 4 divided by 0 equals
zero. When I thought about it, it didn't make sense, but I couldn't
quite express why at that age. Years later we were finally taught the
truth, because the teachers felt we were better able to assimilate
concepts like infinity.  But at the time, the theory was that it was
best not to overload children with unnecessary information.

In arithmetic, this situation is usually corrected, because there's a
"real-life" use to the skill, and childish ideas won't do when it comes
to SATs and computer science. But Hebrew? Look, worst comes to worst
look in the English translation. Certainly no one needs to be burderned
with outmoded theories that went away in the tenth century.

The problem is the traditional commentators didn't go away, so when we
come to a commentary that bases itself on "supeceded" theories, we
generally dismiss the commentary. See e.g. Rashi on Is. 9:17, where he
says that "navuch" and "avach" are actually derived from one root:
bet-chaf. One would think that the words of the great Rashi would carry
some weight, but think again. I was astounded to see in "Heichal Rashi"
(Vol. 3, p. 23) that his commentary is dismissed as "deresh drash!"
Forgive me, but when Rashi is telling us drash, he makes it pretty
clear, and never does he do so in a grammatical exposition.

But to accept the fact that there may be more to the Holy Tongue than we
were taught in third grade understandably makes some people nervous. It
means that they may have to rethink certain conceptions and expend some
effort to really know what the Torah's intention is. Admittedly, it's
much easier to dismiss it and get back to Monday Night Football.

There is a world of depth hidden in the language which teaches and opens
up new vistas of understanding. Chazal help us to see this with their
pithy "Al tikrei" drashos. But we've got to open our eyes to see what's
there: "Open your mouth wide and I shall fill it" (Ps. 81:11).

Yehoshua Steinberg <ysteinberg@...>

From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sat, 3 Dec 2005 19:49:46 -0500
Subject: RE: Mem-Chet-Lamed

Joshua, responded to my claim that Mem-CHet-Lamed is a Biblical root by
observing that Machalath is ONLY a name and it is ONLY a midrash that
sees MECHILAH, FORGIVENESS, as connected with it. MECHILAH itself is a
Rabbinic root.

Very subtle!

Joshua misses my whole point. What he says IS true according to
Mendelkorn and possibly some Rishonim. But my logic is as follows: SINCE
Rashi cited this Midrash, apparently, HE(RASHI) believes that THIS name
(not necessarily all) is INTENDED by the Biblical text to have meaning.
Rashi only cited this midrash BECAUSE he believes it reflective of the
texts simple meaning.  In other words, Rashi does believe that
MemChetLamed is a Biblical root and this word, MACHALATH is (possibly)
its only occurrence. The Rabbinic usage was therefore DERIVED from the
Biblical usage.

Let me try and make this plausible. Machalath's real name was apparently
BASMATH. Let us suppose (as happens frequently) that after his marriage
Esauv calmed down. He stopped killing and hunting married women. He
changed. We can easily see people nicknaming her FORGIVER since she
caused his prior sins to be forgiven. The Bible then records this event
by giving her a second nickname, MACHALATH, FORGIVER, and let us make
the (obvious) inference.

After reading the above argument you can understand why I believe that
Rashi believes that MemChetLamed is Biblical.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2005 10:38:12 -0600
Subject: Re: RASHBAM

      From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>

      A famous line in a jewish musical states "If I bend back that far
      I break." I have recently defended Ibn Ezra. I also spend much
      time defending Rashi and have written articles defending Rambam.
      With this background I must attack RASHBAM on 3 grounds: a) He was
      INTELLECTUALLY wrong in assertng that the simple meaning of the
      text is EVER different from what Chazal (our Talmudic sages) said
      the text meant; b) he was MORALLY wrong (that is, he violated
      numerous Biblical prohibitions, listed below) to assert this (that
      is, what he did is not a point of view but wrong) and c) he
      seriously hurt Judaism and Jewish scholarship.

I am astounded by Dr. Hendel's comments re Rashbam above.  First of all,
I don't think Dr. Hendel proved his point about Rashbam violating many
Biblical prohibitions, let alone one.  Second, just because Dr.  Hendell
doesn't like the Rashbam's approach doesn't mean that no one does.  I am
sure many others have responded to this already, as I am a few days
behind in my MJ's.  I won't even get into the weight of the tradition
argument in preserving Rashbam, despite his iconoclastic views, and of
the assault on the memory of a Tosafist in this manner.  I personally
often enjoy Rashbam's comments better than those of his illustrious

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: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2005 13:45:22 +0000
Subject: Skipping Tachanun

on 2/12/05 9:59 am, Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...> wrote:
> Martin Stern states that he "cannot understand this aversion to
> tachanun." The answer is quite simple: Not all of us are on the level of
> kedusha needed to appreciate every one of our tefillos- if we were, we
> would likely not need a set text of a siddur.

It is all a matter of priorities - if davenning is important enough to
oneself then one should plan one's day around it as far as possible, not
cut it to suit other things.

> More to the point, most of us do not have unlimited time in the
> mornings to spend on tefillah.

Apart from midwinter the answer is to get up earlier to allow more time -
Ashreinu sheanakhnu mashkimim ..."

Martin Stern


End of Volume 50 Issue 42