Volume 51 Number 23
                    Produced: Sun Feb 12 11:19:29 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Idolators and Hindus (2)
         [P.V. Viswanath, Frank Silbermann]
A note on `Edot Hamizrah
         [Mark Steiner]
Perfect Mis-understandings - Standing for Torah Readings
         [Rabbi Rich Wolpoe]
Yiddish, Aramaic, and other Vernaculars
         [Mark Steiner]
Yiddish in Ritual
         [Gershon Dubin]


From: P.V. Viswanath <pviswanath@...>
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2006 13:05:39 -0500
Subject: Idolators and Hindus

> Russell J Hendel writes:

> Rambam (one Rishon) clearly denies this in his laws of idolatry. The
> Rambam definition of idolatry is clear and is exactly what PV
> IDOLATRY and Biblically prohibited.

I am not arguing that Jews are allowed to have a physical representation
of God; the question is, is this extended to bnei noyekh?  If so, there
should be no question that Christianity is avode zore, since they have
statues of Jews galore.  Even those who believe that Christianity is
avode zore, base their opinions on the nature of the Godhead in
Christianity, not on the fact that they use idols.  In any case, I don't
think that this is the standard accepted opinion.

There are commentators who explain Bnei Israel's actions with the kheyt
ha-eygel as not really avode zore, i.e. they were not really replacing
Hashem with another god, but they were using the calf as a
representation of Hashem.  As R. Menachem Liebtag says: "In other words,
in Bnei Yisrael's eyes, the EGEL is not a REPLACEMENT for God, rather a
REPRESENTATION of His Presence!"  This explains, to some extent, what
seems otherwise inconceivable -- that so soon after getting the Torah,
the Jews would be rejecting Hashem by taking on a different god; the
answer is that they weren't.

R. Liebtag says further:
32:7-8 / God's first statement:
"And GOD SPOKE TO MOSHE: Hurry down, for your people have acted basely
["ki shi'chet amcha"]... they have turned astray from the way that I
commanded them [see 20:20!] - they made an "egel masecha" [a
representation of Me]...

God's first statement describes the act that began with good intentions
but was nonetheless forbidden [see Shmot 20:20 -"lo ta'asun iti e-lohei
kesef..." ]. Although this sin requires rebuke and forgiveness (see
32:30), it was not severe enough to warrant the destruction of the
entire Nation.

Shmot 20:20 is not the same as "you may not have other gods besides me."
While the second is a commandment for bnei noyekh, the first isn't.


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 06:59:16 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Idolators and Hindus

Russell J Hendel V51 N22:
> P.V. Viswanath comments that to equate Hindus with idolaters depends "on
> what the statutes symbolize--how they are used."
> Rambam (one Rishon) clearly denies this in his laws of idolatry. The
> Rambam definition of idolatry is clear and is exactly what PV Viswanath
> Biblically prohibited.

This would require me to destroy my _Far_Side_ cartoon book.

Though it is generally said, "We do not posken by the Rambam"; in
particular Askenazim do not accept his definition of idolatray -- at
least as far as it pertains to gentiles).

Russell's description of the Golden Calf worship may be dismissed by
pointing out that the standards are stricter for Jews.

Frank Silbermann	Memphis, Tennessee


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 15:34:54 +0200
Subject: A note on `Edot Hamizrah

I noted that Jews from Islamic countries do not like being called
Sefaradim, but prefer "mizrahi", accented on the last syllable.  I
should have added that even this is somewhat Eurocentric, since North
African Jews are called "ma`arav" (=Magreb), or "Western," Jews in
contrast to Syrian, Iraqi, etc.

If I'm on the topic of political correctness, Yemenite Jews are even
angrier when called "Sefaradim", since they have no connection
whatsoever to Sefarad, and are like Ashkenazi Jews in many ways,
including the kometz and the payes (though they have no recent
connection to Ashkenaz either).


From: <rabbirichwolpoe@...> (Rabbi Rich Wolpoe)
Date: Sat, 11 Feb 2006 22:41:29 -0500
Subject: Perfect Mis-understandings - Standing for Torah Readings

Should one stand for the reading of the 10 Commandments?

Thre are varying customs.  Conventional wisdom states that:
A)  if one stands for the 10 commandments 
B) one is making one part of the Torah holier then another
and therefore
C) one should then ALWAYS stand when the Torah is read in order NOT to 
discriminate between perceived greater verse and perceived lesser 

Note: that historically, Christians valued the 10 commandments MORE than
the rest of Torah so that by standing or making any stament suggesting B
would be tantamount to a heresy...

Let me attack point B as being the reason - the raison d'etre of why
standing is done for the 10 commandments.

The REAL reason has to do with Divine Revelation.  The parallel is
standing for the Song of the Sea {Shirat Hayam}.  There is also an
obscure custom to stand for Ezekiel's Divine Chariot Haftara on Shavuot
{i.e the Ma'aseh Merkava}.

Furthemore, in the Haggadah of Passover we are reminded that we say
"dayeinu" just for "Drawing near to Mt. Sinai?"  WHY? Isn't the giving
of the Torah the ENTIRE point of Mt. Sinai?  Apparently NOT!  Rather
there was an aspect of Divine revelvation.  Note that both the Haftara
above of Shavuot as well as the haftara of Yitro from Isaiah mention
ONLY revelation and make NO mention or allusion to the giving of Torah
or to the 613 commandmentsl.

Ergo the central point of standing during the reading of the 10
commandments is to honor the Divine Presence {i.e. the Shechina} and is
NOT a funtion of making the words or text of the 10 commandments
"Holier" or more authoritative.  E.G. you would NOT stand for the 10
commandments when recited privately.

So let us restate the syllogism above:
A)  if one stands for the 10 commandments
B) one is honirng or Honring the memory of the Diviine Revelation
and therefore
C) one also stands at the Song of the Sea but one is in NO WAY making a 
value statmen tabout any particular verse in the Torah.

Kol Tuv


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 20:48:42 +0200
Subject: Yiddish, Aramaic, and other Vernaculars

Ben Katz' point about "raboysay mir veln benshn" as being equivalent to
Aram. "hav lan venivrkh" is well taken. Halakhically, both formulas have
the effect of "ending the meal" so that all berakhot that were recited
before no longer apply.  I would have agreed with Dr. Katz also about
the Aramaic language not being holy, but one of my good friends pointed
out to me that the Ramo in Orah Hayyim 527:12 (citing Maharil, an
earlier source) refers to Aramaic as leshon hakodesh.  The reference is
to 'eruv tavshilin, where after the berakha one recites an Aramaic
formula, and the Ramo states that he who doesn't know "leshon hakodesh"
should say it in a language he understands.  I would assume that he
means Yiddish, and there is no doubt that early Ashkenazic siddurim
include translations into that language, or the Western dialect thereof.
In that case, we have another possible use of Yiddish in halakhic

I also feel that any vernacular in use by Jews for 1,000 years, such as
Ladino, Aramaic, or Yiddish should be regarded as having been sanctified
by the Jewish people.  This flows from the Jewish attitude to minhagim
in general--they are practices sanctified by the Jewish people.  Note,
finally, that Aramaic is the language of Jewish mysticism/kabbalah in
every country of the Diaspora.

We could well ask: in what sense is Hebrew itself "holy"?  According to
fascinating lectures of Prof. B. Septimus which I once had the privilege
of attending, this is a highly disputed matter among the rishonim, and
there is an entire spectrum of opinion from "right" (the kabbalists) to
"left," the left wing position occupied by the Rambam, who notoriously
held (and was castigated by Ramban for holding) that Hebrew is holy in
that it refers to sexual matters only indirectly and has no words for
the genitals.  Otherwise, the Rambam held that all languages are purely

In that seminar I made the following suggestion, and my brother has
pointed out to me that others had thought of this before me: since the
term "kodesh" is used by Hazal as an euphemism for the Almighty,
(compare kudsha, not kadisha, brikh hu in Aram., which is the same as
haKOdesh barukh hu [sic, and please, I mean no disrespect by this word]
in rabbinic Hebrew, an expression which occurs many times in the Vatican
codex of Torat Kohanim, perhaps the earliest complete rabbinic
manuscript in the world.  Kodesh here presumably means the Temple or
Temple Mount (yishlah ezrekha meqodesh; umitziyon yis`adekha), and both
of these, like other aspects of the Temple Service, are used by Hazal as
euphemisms for Hashem.  Hence, leshon haqodesh means: the language of

Here are some more remarks on vernaculars and on Yiddish: First of all,
in general, Mizrahi Jews do not like to be called "Sephardim." Their
siddur is called the siddur of "edot hamizrah." Second, Yiddish
expressions penetrated the world of North African Jewry; for example,
yohrtsayt, for which there is no one word Hebrew expression. (This was
discussed not along ago on mail-jewish: Hazal use "yom shemet bo

More to the point is the problem of translation from the traditional
vernaculars to modern languages like Israeli Hebrew, or U. S. English.
Yiddish, for example, developed a technical vocabulary for "lernen"
(which itself is a notoriously hard word to translate into English--it
doesn't exactly mean either "study" or "learn," which is why some
contemporary sociologists simply throw up their hands and use the
Yiddish word itself).  Talmudic Aramaic itself has, of course, older
terms used in "lernen," such as "havah amina" and scores of others. Some
of the Yiddish expressions are translations from Aram., but some are
not. It is not easy to find equivalents in Standard English for these
expressions, which is one reason for the growth of the dialect known as
"Yeshivish" in the U. S. yeshiva world today.

The Hebraization of Jewish culture by Zionism in Israel led to the
attempt to Hebraize vernacular texts. For example, in the Poel Hamizrahi
kibbutz movement, the aramaic ketuba was replaced by a Hebrew version
which is what is read(though it is possible that they are required to
have a standard Aram. ketuba also because of Israeli law). However, the
translation is seriously flawed, as they end it off "bekli shekasher
la`asot bo kinyan" (translating mana dekhasher lemiqnaya beh) and the
Hebrew is ambiguous between a keli which is used to acquire something,
and a keli which is used to transfer something. This is actually a
dispute in the gemara Bava Metzia, and the gemara (47a) says explicitly
that the reason we use the Aramaic verb "lemiqnaya" (to acquire) is to
make the point that the keli must be that of the bride (or her agent,
the rav), who is acquiring rights. This ketuba, then, contradicts an
explicit ruling of the Talmud, and I would suspect that it is invalid.
We have the same problem in translating Hebrew into vernaculars.
R. Akiva Eger took up the cudgels for Hebrew against the Reform movement
by saying, among other things, that although in theory one can recite
the shema` in any language, in practice, it is very difficult to come up
with an accurate translation.  (The Artscroll siddur bends over
backwards to translate "hashem ehad" in a way which accomodates as many
perushim as possible.  I doubt you could fulfill your obligation by
reciting the shema` from the Artscroll siddur.)

The expression "haverai" (comrades?) instead of "rabbotai" may reflect
the religious kibbutz movement, part of the kibbutz movement in general,
where there was supposed to be Socialist "equality" and nobody is a
"master." In the Israeli Benai Akiva movement, I recall they used to say
"haverim nevarekh" which certainly has the connotation of "comrades."
This is, of course, a speculation which would not apply to the United


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 2006 19:52:00 GMT
Subject: Yiddish in Ritual

From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>

> Raboysay mir veln benshn MAY be actually of lesser halakhic status
> than "Got fun Avrohom" because it not strictly part of what is called
> "birkat hazimmun" but a pre-zimmun.  Birkat hazimmun is held by some
> to be a Biblical requirement on a level of birkat hamazon itself.  At
> any rate "raboysay" may be said in Yiddish to make this distinction.
> It is possible however that "raboysay" is intended as Yiddish version
> of the zimmun itself.  This needs further investigation.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky said that rabosay mir veln bentchn is a call to
zimun, or pre-zimun as you say.  He held that it is not properly
replaced by rabosay nevarech, which could be a pre-zimun or simply a
prediction of one's coming action (i.e. future rather than tzivui)



End of Volume 51 Issue 23