Volume 50 Number 62
                    Produced: Fri Dec 16  6:20:12 EST 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Death Penalty (5)
         [David Charlap, Mordechai, Frank Silbermann, Hillel (Sabba)
Markowitz, Ari Trachtenberg]
Father and Mother as Called by Children
         [Mike Gerver]
The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions
         [Janice Gelb]
         [Mike Gerver]


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 10:05:40 -0500
Subject: Re: Death Penalty

Ari Trachtenberg wrote:
> The recent execution of Stanley Williams brings up some interesting 
> halachic questions.  May a Jew serve in a [secular] jury (or 
> prosecution) where the death penalty is an option?  How about if the 
> defendant is a Jew?
> It would seem that this would center on whether a court's decision is
> halachically considered murder if not supported by a bet din.  I'd
> be interested to hear what people know of this issue.

I don't know of any actual rulings here, but here's my gut feeling:

With a non-Jewish defendant, it depends on the charge.  The noachide
commandments require the secular world to establish courts for enforcing
the other 6 commandments - and they specify the death penalty for
violation.  As such, the court has a right to exist and hear capital
cases when the charge is a violation of a noachide commandment (which in
the US, means murder, because the others are not capital crimes under
secular law.)

If the court has a right to exist and hand down a death sentence, then I
see no reason why a Jew shouldn't be allowed to serve that court in any
capacity (judge, lawyer, juror, etc.)

If the defendant is Jewish, that's much more problematic.  IIRC, halacha
doesn't allow a Jew to be tried (let alone executed) by a non-Jewish
court.  Clearly, we have to make exceptions to this rule when living in
a non-Jewish nation, but I wonder how far those exceptions can go.

-- David

From: Mordechai <mordechai@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 18:42:30 -0500
Subject: Death Penalty

I don't see why the death penalty would have anything to do with this.
The question is if the gentile court system is legitimate at all.  Can a
Jew participate in the general court system.

Let's look to the 7 laws on Noach.  The last one is the obligation for
gentiles to set up courts.  The answer is yes.  The next question is
Jews participating in a legitimate court system set up by gentiles.  We
have the concept of the law of the land is the law.  I've never heard of
any Rabbi suggest we avoid the criminal court system.  No one says I've
been robbed call the Beis Din.  We call the police hope they arrest the
crook and put him in jail. That means a trial with a prosecutor, a
defense lawyer and a jury.  I can't see why this there would be a
problem with any Jew being part of this system.

I think a bigger problem is the civil court system.  A Jew is prohibited
from bringing a case to the secular court system for civil issue.  If I
have a dispute over money with ploni, I can't sue in court I have to go
to Beis Din.  So the question here is can a Jew participate as a lawyer,
judge or juror in a civil case where a Jew is involved in violation of
halacha.  That answer I am not sure about.

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 08:41:24 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Death Penalty

I have heard that a king may set aside the Bet Din's cautionary
procedures during a time of great lawlessness.  I have also heard that a
king may kill or have killed whomsoever he pleases.  I presume that
halacha treats a secular government as equivalent to a gentile king
(otherwise, collection of taxes would be robbery).

Whatever halacha says about a Jew becoming a gentile king's advisor,
that ought to apply to jury duty.

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 11:07:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Death Penalty

This is from memory of a shiur that I attended a while ago.

Note that hese questions apply to all secular court cases, not just
capitol cases.

As far as a nonJew is involved, the question is that the nonJew is
subject to the sheva mitzvos Bnai Noach, which mandates setting up a
court system.  Thus, a Jew might be able to take part in a trial because
of dina d'malchusah dina (the law of the land is the law).

With a Jew, tere are a number of questions which must be answered first,
among which would be is the Jew involved in the case considered a moser.
If it is a civil case between two Jews, have the two parties first
attempted to settle the suit via bais din?  If it is between a Jew and a
nonJew, would the secular court be the proper place to go since the
nonJew is under the primary jurisdiction of the secular court?  Has the
Jew in that case, attempted to arbitrate the matter through bais din
(and is he required to at least make the attempt)?  Has the Jew in that
case, checked with bais din to see if he is halachically in the right in
the case as well as according to secular law?

All of these questions could change the circumstance as to whether a Jew
can serve on the Jury or be a witness in such a case.  Then again,
perhaps it is a matter of din d'malchusa dina that would require a Jew
to serve as a witness or on the jury in any event.

There are a number of questions that need to be asked about a criminal
case.  Serving on the jury may be needed to ensure that a fellow Jew
gets an honest and fair trial.  Serving as a witness may involve the
concept of chillul Hashem as well as that of moser.  Is the court an
impartial one which would bring the case in any event (as in the United
States for example) or is it a phony trial designed to get a
predetermined result (as has been the case many times in our history)?

The questions are not necessarily simple.  Indeed it may be a chillul
Hashem to serve in the case of a nonJew but refuse to serve in the case
of a Jew.  I think that each case should be brought to a Rav who is
expert in these matters as well as secular law (and there are such

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz | Said the fox to the fish, "Join me ashore"
<Sabba.Hillel@...> | The fish are the Jews, Torah is our water

From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 14:21:26 -0500
Subject: Re: Death Penalty

Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz wrote on 12/15/2005 02:07 PM:
 > The questions are not necessarily simple.  Indeed it may be a chillul
 > Hashem to serve in the case of a nonJew but refuse to serve in the case
 > of a Jew.  I think that each case should be brought to a Rav who is
 > expert in these matters as well as secular law (and there are such
 > rabbis).

I agree that the matter is a complicated one ... but I am still
interested in any specific situations and instances you might know.
This is not a practical matter for me at the moment, so it is not
appropriate to consult a rabbi.

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 18:27:35 EST
Subject: Father and Mother as Called by Children

Ira Jacobson writes, in v50n58,

      That reminds me that my daughter has a friend who called her
      (paternal) grandparents Granny and Zeide.  That's a hard one to

When my father was a child, he called his paternal grandmother "Bubby"
and his maternal grandmother "Gram." His grandfathers both died before
he was born.

Deborah Wenger writes, in v50n58

      You make an interesting point about Abba and Mommy. I've seen lots
      of examples of this combination (or the Yiddish/English as noted
      above), but very few the other way, i.e., Daddy/Ema. Any ideas
      about that?

In my family, our kids call us Daddy and Imma. Originally we were Daddy
and Mommy, but when our oldest daughter was about 7, she started calling
my wife "Imma," I think because that's what her friends called their
mothers. And our younger kids followed her lead. But they never called
me "Abba" for some reason. Perhaps because my wife always spoke Hebrew
to our kids, and I always spoke English to them.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 16:23:41 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: The Term "homophobia" and Some Questions

Frank Silbermann <fs@...> wrote:

> To understand why the attitude against homosexual behavior remains
> harsh, we must review exactly how we developed more lenient attitudes
> towards those other violations.
> During the 19th century so many Jews assimilated that we now liken their
> offspring to someone who was kidnapped as an infant and raised by
> idolators.  When they violate the Torah, we consider them as not being
> completely responsible for their actions.  (Some extend this idea even
> to Jews who were raised religiously, arguing that even nominally
> religious communities have been affected.)
> The alien ideologies that caused so much assimilation over last two
> centuries neither promoted nor defended homosexuality, so the "captured
> as infants" argument we use to justify tolerance for nonobservant Jews
> did not apply to homosexual behavior.
> Now that we understand why the leniency often show for certain
> violations was not applied to homosexuality, we see that there is no
> basis for assuming an irrational fear or averion on the part of those
> who hold the traditional negative attitude -- and, therefore, no
> justification use of the term "homophibia".
> The very recent incorporation of a "gay rights movement" within the
> secular world suggests that the "captured by infants" argument might one
> day be extended to this sin, but I don't know whether any influential
> rabbis have made this argument.

This argument does not hold up for me. You are speaking from the point
of view of attitudes toward non-observant Jews not holding up when it
comes to homosexuality. I believe that largely when discussing this
subject, we have been talking about excessive intolerance towards
homosexual behavior as opposed to other sins not only in the larger
world but also within Orthodoxy towards other Orthodox Jews, where none
of the above applies. The fact remains that other lapses in observance,
whether by observant or non- observant Jews, are not discussed or
condemned with nearly the vigor and vehemence that homosexual behavior

-- Janice


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2005 18:55:40 EST
Subject: Tides

Hillel Markowitz writes, in v50n59,
> From: Irwin Weiss <irwin@...>
>> Shmuel Himelstein, in vol 50 #52, writes about a tour guide giving
>> wrong information on a tour.  I suspect that this is not so uncommon
>> on all tours of whatever nature.  We were on a tour once in Canada and
>> the guide commented that the water level in some lake was very high
>> because it was "New Moon".  Well, I don't know the science of why a
>> new moon would make the water level high or low, or not effect it, but
>> I did know that Rosh Chodesh was 10 days earlier.

> Interestingly enough, the tide was just after the low point and
> increasing.

> The tide is highest at the new moon (rosh chodesh) because the moon
> and the sun are on the same side of the earth pulling the water.  The
> full moon (the 15th of the month) is higher because the sun and the
> moon on opposite sides pull the solid mass of the Earthe away from the
> water on the opposite side.  Thus halfway in between would be the low
> points of the tide.

There seems to be some confusion here. Spring tides are the "highest
tides" in the sense that there is the greatest difference between high
tide and low tide on those days (full moon or new moon), while neap
tides are the "lowest tides" in the sense that there is the smallest
difference between high tide and low tide on those days (first or last
quarter moon). But whether the tide is actually high or low depends on
the time of day.

In any case, the whole explanation of the tour guide is nonsense, since
Irwin says it was a lake. You only get tides in the ocean, or in a body
of water that is close enough to the ocean that water from the ocean can
flow into it or out of it, like a bay or estuary. In an isolated lake,
the moon and sun do not produce tides, because there is no place for the
water to go, or come from.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


End of Volume 50 Issue 62