Volume 51 Number 54
                    Produced: Thu Mar  9  6:09:21 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Faith and Heresy by Rabbi Reuven Agushewitz
         [Mark Steiner]
Jewish Calendar
         [Abe Brot]
         [Stokar Saul]
Reading Aloud Of The Ten Sons Of Haman
         [Alex Heppenheimer]
Valentine's Day and New Year's Day (2)
         [Orrin Tilevitz, Avi Feldblum]
women's Megilla reading Purim morning  at Drisha
         [Freda B Birnbaum]


From: Mark Steiner <marksa@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 13:44:02 +0200
Subject: Faith and Heresy by Rabbi Reuven Agushewitz

Because of recent personal issues, I have not been checking my email, so
I don't know if this list is aware of the recent publication, by Yeshiva
University Press, of my translation of what is perhaps the only original
philosophical work ever written in Yiddish (of course there is a huge
Yiddish literature about other philosophers, such as Marx).  The author,
a Lithuanian "iluy" from the yeshiva world, emigrated to the United
States in 1929.  Supporting himself by giving lessons in gemore to
children, not having a family himself, he spent long hours in his niche
at the New York Public Library, pondering philosophical issues.  Usually
autodidacts in philosophy produce nothing of value; in this case, the
results have been praised by one of the most prominent philosophers in
the English speaking world, Harry Frankfurt of Princeton, as well as
Professor David Shatz (philosophy, YU).

Before his untimely death in 1953, Agushewitz published three
philosophical works in Yiddish: "Ancient Greek Philosophy"; "Principles
[of Philosophy]"; "Faith and Heresy," the current work.  The book is a
sustained attack on the influential philosophy of materalism, ancient and
modern.  It contains discussions and criticisms of a startling number of
philosophers, including Democritus, Herakleitos, Plato, Descartes, Kant,
Hobbes, Russell, Cantor [!], Zeno, Bergson, Buechner, and, of course
Spinoza.  It contains a discussion of Free Will, which is one of the most
interesting ever written in any language.  (This chapter was published in
the Torah U-madda Journal, and is accessible through the website
www.yu.edu.  The Spinoza chapter was published in an international
Spinoza journal.)

I am the translator, and have no financial interest in sales of this
book, but it is intended as a memorial to Rabbi Agushewitz, a figure
unjustly forgotten by lovers of Yiddish literature, by philosophers, and
religious thinkers.  In that sense, I have an interest that this goal be

Members of this list will be inspired by the role model of a man who
could publish such a work without spending a day in any University (he
couldn't afford to go to the Sorbonne), yet left, novellae on three
quarters of the Talmud, written in the margins of the volumes.  Only
those on Bava Kamma have been published (under the name "Biur Reuven")
with approbations by R. Aharon Kotler and R. J. B. Soloveitchik.

I have heard from those who knew him about his very high level of
morality and social consciousness (before returning to Judaism and the
yeshiva world, he apparently was a socialist activist, and never forgot
the message of social equality), about his great efforts to free agunot
after World War II.


From: Abe Brot <abrot@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 07:54:14 -0500
Subject: Jewish Calendar

There seems to be some confusion between our present Jewish Calendar,
the determination of Rosh-Hodesh by means of viewing the new moon and
the Sanhedrin's calculations as to when the moon should be visible.

The determination of the new month by testimony of witnesses who saw the
new crescent was the original basis of our calendar. The new crescent
would first be visible only for a short period of time after sunset
approximately 1 or 2 nights after the molad. The witnesses would then
travel to Yerushalaim, present their testimony to the Sanhedrin the next
morning, who would declare the new month. As such, Rosh-Hodesh would
generally be declared 1 to 3 days after the molad.

The Sanhedrin had a mathematical method to calculate when the new
crescent would be first visible, so they would be able to verify the
credibility of the witnesses. (The Rambam has developed a similar
calculation in his chapters on Kiddush-Ha'Hodesh.)

After the disbandment of the Sanhedrin, our present calendar was
developed to replace the method of visual sightings. The present
calendar makes no effort to simulate the previous method of moon
sightings. The present calendar places the first day of Rosh-Hashana
very near the molad of Tishrei (without considering the four dechiot)
and then lets the remaining months fall as they will. In practice, this
means that the first night of each month generally precedes the first
sighting of the new crescent by one or two nights. This means that if
the Sanhedrin was re-established (may it be in our time), and we
returned to the system of crescent sightings, Rosh-Hodesh would
generally be 1 to 2 nights later than indicated by our present calendar.

Israel has a "New Moon Society", headed by Dr. Roy Hoffman, which
performs sightings of the new crescent every month from different
locations, and reports their findings to Dr. Hoffman.

Abe Brot


From: Stokar Saul <dp22414@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 08:32:14 +0200
Subject: Mispronounciations

A number of correspondents have commented on the correct way to accent
the words "hatzlichah" and "hoshiah" in Psalsm 118,25 (read as part of
Hallel). The correct accents for these words have been established
unequivocally 30 years ago by Rav Dr. Mordechai Breuer. In this book
"The Aleppo Codex and the Accepted Text of the Bible" (Mosad Harav Kook,
Jerusalem, 1976), Rav Breuer says that all extent manuscripts from the
Masoritic era (e.g. Aleppo, Cairo, Sasoon, etc), as well as the first
printed edition of Miqra'ot Gedolot (Venice 1525) accent both words on
the ultimate (i.e. last) syllable (seen via the cantillation). In
addition, the word "na" in both verses has a dagesh forte (These degshim
are unique, since they violates the rule "ati merachok").  According to
Rav Breuer, the error of moving the accent in "hoshiah: to the
penultimate syllable was made by Minhat Shai (R. Jedidiah Norzi) who
misunderstood a gloss of the Masorah on this verse. The gloss on
"hatzlichah" states "2, one penultimate (Nehemiah 1,11)" i.e. there are
two instances of the word "hatzlichah" in the Bible, one here in Psalms
(accented on ultimate syllable, as seen from the cantillation) and the
other in Nehmiah 1, where the accent in on the penultimate syllable.
Minhat Shai understood the silence of the Masora with respect to the
word "hoshiah" as indicating that it has its usual, penultimate, accent.
However, Rav Bruer says that this interpretation of R. Norzi is
incorrect. As shown by all the extent manuscripts, the accent on
"hoshiah" is also on the ultimate syllable. The Masorah was merely
quoting the book "Achlah VeAchlah" which contains a list of all the
pairs of words, one of which has the accent of the ultimate syllable and
the second of which has the accent on the penultimate
syllable. "hatzlichah" is just such a word, with just two appearances in
the Bible. "hoshiah" could not appear in this list since it appears
hundreds of times in the Bible. Thus, concludes Rav Breuer, Minhat
Shai's conclusion from the silence of the Masorah gloss is incorrect and
the correct accentation is to accent the ultimate syllable on both words
(and with a dgesh forte in the following word "na" in both cases).

Since Parshat Zachor and Purim are imminent, I would suggest that those
of you who repeat the word (or verse) "zachor" in Parshat Zachor or the
two allegedly "contested" phrases in Megillat Esther should read Rav
Breuer's Megadim article (in Hebrew) "Miqraot Sheayn Lahem Hechreya"
found on the web at: http://www.herzog.ac.il/main/megadim/10breuer.html

Saul Stokar


From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 08:47:49 -0800 (PST)
Subject: RE: Reading Aloud Of The Ten Sons Of Haman

In MJ 51:50, Russell Hendel wrote:

> There is an 'obscure' obligation to read the 10 names of haman in one
> breath.

The source for it is the Gemara, Megillah 16b, and it's codified in
Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 690:15). What exactly makes this an
"obscure" obligation? (While it's true that Rema there writes that the
Megillah reading is valid even if that's not done, he agrees that it's
preferable to do so.)


> I personally believe that the "real" reason the congregation says the
> 10 names is because they probably didnt fulfill their obligation thru
> someone who botches them up.

This personal belief, however, contradicts another explicit halachah
(690:4) that one doesn't fulfill their obligation by reading from an
invalid (e.g., printed) Megillah, and that therefore one who has such a
Megillah should listen quietly.  Based on R' Teitz's citation from the
Rogatchover Gaon in 51:45, it emerges pretty much the opposite of what
Russell is saying: the listeners say the names not because of concern
that they didn't hear them correctly - on the contrary, the presumption
seems to be that they did - but because in doing so they haven't
fulfilled the requirement (again, not an "obscure" one) to say them
(themselves) in one breath.

On a more general note, it seems to me that it's appropriate, in
discussing halachos and Jewish customs, to be careful about saying that
one knows "the 'real' reason" for them (as opposed to "another possible
reason," which of course is legitimate).  This is especially so when
that involves summarily dismissing the reasons advanced by great
halachic authorities, who surely knew the sources, and could use logical
inferences, at least as well as we do. (See also MJ 32:40.)

Kol tuv and a freilichen Purim,


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 10:02:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Valentine's Day and New Year's Day

Eitan Fiorino starts his most recent post with: 

> Orrin's position is that wishing a "happy and healthy new year" to
> someone January 1 is assur.

and uses that as a straw man to show how awful and immoral my position
is.  In the process, he misstates or distorts nearly everything else I
wrote.  In fact, I didn't say it or think it, in fact said quite the
opposite, and also in fact routinely wish people a happy and healthy new
year - but, to the extent that I am being more than polite, with the
sole intent that they should be happy and healthy.  Eitan is correct,
though, that I do not think one may attend a secular New Year's Eve
party for the reasons I gave, and I defy him to point to a single
halachic authority who says that one may; Rav Moshe's responsum, as I
pointed out, does not.  (I do not believe, incidentally, that it is "the
worst form of avoda zara", a distinction that I guess must be relegated
to Valentine's Day, even though I have not the foggiest idea why it, in
the way it is observed now, is avoda zara at all, and in fact will
likely continue to observe it myself no matter what Rabbi Rabinovitch
says.  But I also think the attempt to show the absurdity of Rabbi
Rabinovitch's position by comparing Valentine's Day to Molech Day is
misplaced because the latter involves not only avoda zara but also
murder. A better example might be bowing down in a Hindu shrine - but
wait; Hinduism might be monotheistic; I am so confused.)

Bernie Raab makes a valid point that we have assimilated worthwhile
pieces of non-Jewish culture.  But he also is building a straw man; my
argument is that celebrating New Year's Day is inconsistent with Jewish
tradition, not merely that it is absent from Jewish tradition. The
latter is a necessary condition to the conclusion that it is forbidden,
and thus the starting point to which I tried unsuccessfully to get Eitan
to concede-- but that condition is not sufficient, and in none of the
examples he cites are both conditions met. Bernie is also wrong about
the scope of chukot hagoyim; the Sefer Hachinuch I cited, quoting the
Rambam, states that it includes attending "tetraot vekarkasiyot", and
while we can debate just how far this goes, it is clear that the
prohibition extends beyond religious acts.

But instead of prolonging this discussion, which has the
hallmark "sorry" of being about to turn pretty nasty, I suggest that we
agree that Eitan (and Janice) and, I suppose, Bernie will continue to
attend New Year's Eve parties, and I shall continue to do what I always
do on that night, i.e., go to sleep when the fireworks die down.

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 10:02:59 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Valentine's Day and New Year's Day

Orrin, I carefully reread the full thread, and I must say that I
disagree with your characterization of Eitan's reply. I see nothing in
Eitan's post that indicates that your position is awful or immoral. He
is saying that he finds your posting, where you argue by stating that he
needs to concede to your logical arguements or there is nothing to
discuss, not compelling and therefore by your standard there is nothing
to discuss. I do not see that he has either mis-stated or distorted what
you wrote.

As to whether you stated that it is forbidden to say "Happy New Year",
this would likely be a matter of interpretation. What you stated was:

> I think, given the items above that you will have to concede that I
> have made an airtight case that observing January 1 - whether it's
> with seriously wishing 'happy new year', with noisemakers, or with
> alcohol - is inconsistent with Jewish tradition.

Based on that statement at the end of your posting, I do not see that
Eitan has distorted anything. I will also say that I also do not find
your arguement logically compelling either. However, as you say, since I
do not concede all of your points, there is no reason to continue the

Avi Feldblum


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 11:23:45 -0500 (EST)
Subject: women's Megilla reading Purim morning  at Drisha

Their women's davening at Purim is always outstanding: [selected from
some recent announcements]

>From: Judith Tenzer <jtenzer@...>

Women's Tefillah at 9:00 a.m.;    Women's Megillah Reading at 10:00 a.m.

Women of all ages are invited to participate in inspiring tefillah 
followed by women's megillah reading on Purim, Tuesday, March 14 at Drisha 
Institute, 37 West 65th Street, 5th floor.

email: <jtenzer@...>
web: http://www.drisha.org


End of Volume 51 Issue 54