Volume 51 Number 17
                    Produced: Sun Feb  5 19:14:26 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Advice of Yose ben Yochanan Ish Yerushalayim
         [Samuel Ehrenfeld]
Eating meat during shloshim
         [Perets Mett]
Excessive talking to women (or men) by women (or men)
         [Mark Steiner]
Talking to Women
         [Samuel Ehrenfeld]
Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah
         [Samuel Ehrenfeld]
Women mohelot
         [David Charlap]
Yiddish in ritual
         [Shmuel Himelstein]


From: Samuel Ehrenfeld <samfeld@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 12:37:11 -0500
Subject: Advice of Yose ben Yochanan Ish Yerushalayim

I decided to try to do a little research myself to determine whether it
is actually halacha to minimize chatting between the sexes.  The Ain
Mishpat Ner Mitzvah on the Mishna in Avos provides references to (1)
Rambam hilchos dayos perek 5 halacha 4, and (2) S.A. Even HaEzer siman
25 se'if 2.

The Rambam halacha discusses how a man should behave with his wife and
provides numerous guidelines.  Among the guidelines are the following

  (1) "ve'lo yenabel es piv be'divrei havai; va'afilu beino le'veinah"
[I think this means generally that a husband should not chat too much
with anyone and with his wife too, but I welcome more authoritative
interpretations]; (2) "amru chachamim afilu sichah kalah she'bein adam
le'ishto asid litein alehah es hadin" [the wise men said that a man will
eventually be judged even on lighthearted chatting with his wife]; and
(3) "yesaper veyisachek me'at imah" [he should speak [yesaper might
actually mean something else; more on this idea later] and laugh [or
maybe play?]  with her a little [i.e. not too much?].

The S.A. in the se'if cited repeats the guidelines of the Rambam that I
designated as (1) and (2) above, but instead of guideline (3) he wrote
"ve'al yesaper imah be'shaas tashmish, ve'lo kodem lochen" [and he
should not speak with her during or before intercourse].

The rest of the Rambam's halacha and the S.A.'s se'if [I won't quote the
details here] seem focused on sexual relations between the couple, and
the tone seems to be advice (albeit strong advice) on a proper lifestyle
between a husband and wife and not as halacha.  Neither uses the words
"asur" [prohibited] or "chayav" [required] at all.

Can anyone provide any authoritative guidance as to whether this subect
is halacha or advice?

On another point, with respect to the meaning of "sipur" as used by
Rambam above: I had presumed that the plain meaning is conversation
(i.e. between husband and wife), but I am not so sure about it.  I
wonder if it may be a euphemism for sexual activity.  For example, one
of Rambam's other guidelines is that a man should not do "sipur"
(whatever it means) with his wife in the beginning of the night when he
is too full (i.e. of food) or at the end of the night when he is hungry.
This seems to be based at least in part on a quote from the wife of
R. Eliezer in Nedarim 20b, where she said that the beauty of her
children was because her husband only did "sipur" with her [in the
middle of the night and] not at the beginning or at the end of the
night.  Significantly, Rashi interprets that instance of sipur as sexual

Interestingly, R. Eliezer is quoted in Berachos 3a as saying that the
third watch of the night is when "isha mesaperes im baalah" [a wife does
"sipur" with her husband].  Rashi interprets this phrase, but in this
spot he also uses the term "sipur" to describe what the couple is doing.
Artscroll clearly interprets "sipur" as speech, quoting Rashi but I am
not convinced that that's what Rashi meant.  (Russell, do you have any
thoughts on this ambiguity in Rashi?)

(Artscroll also referred me to the Maharsha, which says that the whole
phrase is symbolic: "Isha" refers to K'lal Yisrael, "Baalah" refers to
Hashem, and "sipur" means prayer; so the whole phrase means the last
watch of the night is when the Jews begin to awaken to pray.)

Any thoughts on this?



From: Perets Mett <p.mett@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 16:31:38 +0000
Subject: Re: Eating meat during shloshim

In my previous posting I  wrote inadvertently

>The rule is that if Yom Tov falls during the shloshim (including the
>case when the seventh day of shiva is erev yom tov) then the shiva
>automatically comes to an end with the onset of yomtov.

Martin Stern has kindly pointed out my typo; I should have written

 ...the shloshim automatically comes to an end with the onset of yomtov



From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Sun, 5 Feb 2006 09:36:45 +0200
Subject: Excessive talking to women (or men) by women (or men)

The discussion of the Mishnah in Avot about al tarbeh siha 'im haisha,
which unfortunately has led to maligning whole groups of Jews (some are
accused of doing averot every day--and who doesn't do averot every
day--and others are accused of thinking that only they are kosher, an
accusation which in my opinion is much worse than the first one), has
avoided the analysis of the Mishnah itself.

The term siha, as used in Hazal, has the connotation of idle or useless
talk (as R. S. R. Hirsch points out correctly).  Often it has a sexual
connotation (a man is not supposed to have relations with his wife
without "siha" to make sure that the relations are really consensual and
out of love.  It is interesting, by the way, that a number of ancient
manuscripts have the text "al tarbeh siha im ha'isha KESHEHI NIDAH."
However, most of the rishonim do not seem to have this girsa (version),
and I will not use it in what follows.

        The same Tractate (Avot 6, actually these are braytot, but for
the present purpose the distinction doesn't matter), commands everyone
who wants to wear the crown of Torah to restrict his (or her) "siha" as
such: to men or women.  On the other hand, the "siha" of the great
Tannaim (i.e. their light remarks) had always a didactic purpose, as in
the Mishnah in Sukkah, where Rabban Gamaliel joked that his servant must
be a talmid hakham since he is sleeping under the bed in the sukkah, to
teach a halakha.  I believe that this rule could profitably be followed
by everyone on this list.  In general, we can say that "siha" is any
"dibbur" which comes out of our mouth without thinking first of its
impact: on ourselves, and on our fellow humans.  Generally speaking, it
takes more thinking to be brief than to expatiate; hence "al

We need not make up interpretations of the Mishnah of al tarbeh, since
Hazal themselves interpreted it for us:

"What does 'al tarbeh siha 'im ha'isha mean?  When a man enters the bet
midrash and doesn't get respect (kavod) or quarreled with his friend,
let him not go and tell his wife: "I quarreled with my friend about
such-and-such, he said such-and-such to me, and I said such-and-such to
him.  Because in that way, he demeans himself AND DEMEANS HIS WIFE and
demeans his friend." (Avot derabbi Nathan, Nusha A, Chapter 7)

The conversation in question is demeaning to his wife, because of the
unspoken assumption that she is on the same low spiritual level as he
is, and should join in his vendetta.  The pshat poshut, according to
Hazal themselves, is that one should not say to his wife, or anybody,
anything which demeans their intelligence, or their spiritual


From: Samuel Ehrenfeld <samfeld@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 12:36:41 -0500
Subject: Talking to Women

My use of the term "Talking to Women" in the subject line is only
because I am posting in response to Daniel Wells's post in Number 11 of
this volume.

Daniel, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt (as advised by
Yehoshua ben Perachya in Pirkei Avos) and presume that you had written
your post before reading mine regarding the advice of Yose ben Yochanan
Ish Yerushalayim in No. 5 of this volume.

Having said that, while I agree with part of your message, especially
regarding the difficulty in determining the meaning of "excessively," I
take issue with the last part of your post.  You wrote: " 'al tarbeh
sichah im ha-Isha' . . . . also applies to women : that engaging men in
unnecessary conversation, they are also party to the aveira of the man."

How did you determine that unnecessary conversation between men and
women is an "aveira"?  Did you mean this literally?  Is it brought down
in the Rambam or Shulchan Aruch (or elsewhere) as halacha?  Please
provide citations.

If by using the term "aveira" you meant it colloquially and not
literally please let us know.

Also, you state quite authoritatively that ". . . in the Mishna it means
plain and simple do not talk to the opposite gender any more than is
absolutely necessary, even to the extent of being uncivil . . . ." [I
took the liberty of making two revisions of typos rather than inserting
"sic" in your quote - I hope you don't mind :) ] How did you arrive at
this clear interpretation?  Is it the plain meaning of the text?  Can
you cite authority for this declaration?

As I alluded to in my previous post in No. 5, this is a touchy subject.
Again, please choose your words with care.



From: Samuel Ehrenfeld <samfeld@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 12:41:45 -0500
Subject: Wearing Jackets to Prayer/Clothing to Tefillah

Chana, in number 9 you wrote regarding Yosef dressing up for his meeting with 

"I think that this is not in fact a case of an ordinary person asking for
mercy.  It was rather the reverse, a case where the Pharoah was asking
for help (in interpreting his dream).  It is humiliating enough that a
king needs to ask for help from an ordinary person, but clearly the
humbler the person, the more humiliating it is.  So this particular case
would seem to be one where it was indeed imperative, for the king's
honour, for Yosef to dress up in all finery and look the part of one
important enough to advise the king (I agree that the language of the
Seforno seems to go wider than this, but I think it needs to be read in
context - which is in connection with his advisors and other members of
his court)."

Your idea that Yosef dressed up when he went to Pharaoh because Pharaoh
needed him is an interesting hypothesis.  Do you have a source for this?
I personally doubt that Yosef really felt that way when he was dragged
out of prison to come before the ruthless murdering dictator of the
land, or if he felt more like a servant preparing to plead his case.



From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 00:30:07 -0500
Subject: Re: Women mohelot

Daniel Nachman wrote:
> Here's an interesting article on women becoming mohels (under
> Conservative and Reform auspices).
>       http://tinyurl.com/cc7cs
> The author writes:
>       [...] Yet, unlike rabbis and cantors, there is no halachic
>       prohibition against female mohalot. Every Orthodox authority
>       consulted for this story agreed on that point, though most asked
>       not to be quoted. Jewish law states only that if a Jewish male is
>       present, it's preferable that he do the brit milah. [...]

I'm not surprised.  Moshe's wife circumcised her son when her husband
refused to.

If a bris is kosher when the mother does it, then it seems logical that
some other woman could act as an agent of the mother (or possibly even
of the father.)

-- David


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Feb 2006 07:02:41 +0200
Subject: Yiddish in ritual

In the Birkat Hamazon, many people begin with the Yiddish: "Robosay mir
veln benchn." (Heb: "Rabotai nevarech"). It occurred to me that that is
the only place that I know of Yiddish in the ritual.

Does anyone know of any other places where Yiddish is used as a norm,
becides a few Techinos (Gott foon Avrohom ...)?

Shmuel Himelstein


End of Volume 51 Issue 17