Volume 51 Number 60
                    Produced: Mon Mar 13 21:24:11 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Halachic Diversity
Lost Sock Gemach
         [Carl A. Singer]
OnlyTzaras.com Season 2!
Religious and secular education
         [Jay F Shachter]
Simply following halacha
         [Carl A. Singer]
Wine in Talmudic times (3)
         [Martin Stern, Ira L. Jacobson, Robert Israel]


From: Mordechai <mordechai@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 21:05:57 -0500
Subject: Halachic Diversity

>I do not agree with his final paragraph. Since SBA 
>brought the quote from the Kitzur and refered to the person in the
>original posting as "simply following halacha", I think it is fair to
>say that there is at least a group of people who hold by a psak that
>today a person who is a mechallel shabbat is not counted for a
>minyan. Such a person may well know that there are other Jews who hold
>by a psak that you may count a non-shabbat observer to a minyan. However
>he does not hold by that psak. So if he goes into the room, according to
>his psak, there is no minyan and the recitation of any davar
>she'bekedusha is invalid. On the other hand, the rest of the people in
>the room are of the opinion that his psak is incorrect, and if he stays
>out of the room, they are prevented from making a minyan, and there is a
>significant probability of insult to the non-shabbat observant
>person. Anonymous' question was what is the proper course of action
>under those circumstances. I do not think that argueing that the psak of
>the "10th" is wrong is a meaningful response to the question.

I'm not questioning the behavior of the 10th.  Certainly the problem
with informal minyanin is that there is no halachic authority to make
this type of decision for the Klal.  (If this were in a shul with a Rav
and he ruled that a non Shomer Shabbos person counts in the minyan there
would be no heter for an individual to seperate himself from the
congregation because he held that the person should not count in the
minyan) Indeed this brings up an interesting side issue, should regular
minyanin not associated with a shul have a rav to posken halachic issues
where the members may have different traditions?

My problem is with the way SBA wrote his statement.  The way I read his
statement (and he may not have meant it this way) is that he was stating
that the only halachic opinion on this issue was that a non shomer
shabbat person could not count in a minyan and that the person was only
following the halacha that there was no minyan until 10 shomer shabbat
people were there at the minyan.

A better way to write such a statement would be to state that the person
who left the room was simply following the halachic opinion that you
needed 10 people who were shomer shabbat to count in a minyan, and that
people who held differently should not criticise him for following an
alternate halachic opinion.

A large part of this issue goes to a fundamental problem in the Torah
world of how we react to people who hold differently than us on halachic
issues within the Torah world.  Typically everyone to my right is an
extremist and everyone to my left is not Orthodox.



From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 08:01:16 -0500
Subject: Lost Sock Gemach

> Well, she disclosed, there is actually a creature who lives in washing
> machine and always eats only one of every pair of socks.
>So, she said, women should know it isn't their fault at all!!
>Shoshana L. Boublil

The same applies to old husbands who may try to help out at home by
doing the wash -- I've trained that creature to fetch and roll-over, but
it still eats socks.



From: OnlyTzaras.com <onlytzaras@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 20:59:52 -0500
Subject: OnlyTzaras.com Season 2!

We thought that you might like to know that a whole new season of
OnlyTzaras.com is now online! Happy Adar!
The OnlyTzaras.com Developement Team


From: Jay F Shachter <jay@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 12:15:16 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Religious and secular education

In mail.jewish v51n58, someone wrote the following:
> Actually, the reason wine was diluted so much is because the wine in
> those days was so strong that drinking it full-strength was impossible.

If the author of the above statement is using "strong" in its common
sense of "having a high alcohol content", as I believe he is, then he is
promulgating a myth.

Alcohol production is an organic process, requiring live micro-
organisms.  These organisms die in alcohol concentrations higher than 12
- 13 percent.  Therefore, they cannot create wine stronger than 12 or 13
percent alcohol.  Allowing wine to evaporate decreases the alcohol
concentration of the remaining liquid, as more alcohol will evaporate
than water; the only way to create alcoholic beverages stronger than 12
or 13 percent alcohol is with distillation technology.  Distillation
technology did not exist in Talmudic times.  Therefore, the "wine in
those days" was no stronger than the wine in our days, regardless of
what the author of the above statement may have been taught in school.

The above quote may serve as an object lesson of the dangers of allowing
your children to learn Talmud from teachers who know nothing of the
world.  The Talmud assumes, in its readership, a certain level of
knowledge of the world and its workings.  Once we have that knowledge,
then the Talmud will help us use it properly, but it will not impart the
requisite knowledge to those who come to it.  For that we must go to the

The problem, which is so clearly revealed in the above quote, can be
traced to the conceptual distinction between "religious" education and
"secular" education.  Once such a distinction exists as a concept, it is
possible to believe that the latter should be minimized so that the
former can be maximized.  The attempt to put this belief into practice
inevitably leads to a scholarly class of ignoramuses, and to the
perversion of Torah, as the Talmud itself teaches us.  If you raise your
son in a cave, and teach him nothing but Torah, he is apt to grow up to
be a professional informer, making his living by handing over petty
Jewish criminals to be crucified by the Roman government.  This is a
perversion of Torah, and an abomination, but it is what happens, when
you raise your son in a cave.

For most of our history, when the Jewish community practiced the halakha
that requires Torah scholars to make their living from something other
than the Torah, we were protected against the growth of a scholarly
class of ignoramuses, like the schoolteacher who thinks that it was
possible in Talmudic times to produce wine that was much stronger than
the wine we have today, and the resulting perversions of Torah that
inevitably follow.  Earning your own living in an honest manner requires
some knowledge of the world and its workings, and, even more important,
it requires you to associate with other people who possess other
knowledge of the world and its workings.  In recent times, however, it
has become respectable to make your living as a shnorrer, and entire
collections of such shnorrers have sprung up in city after city, into
which are collected men who devote themselves entirely to "religious"
study, and whose understanding can be expected to be as uninformed by
"secular" knowledge as that of the man quoted above.

Jay F. ("Yaakov") Shachter
Chicago IL  60645-4111


From: Carl A. Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 06:58:48 -0500
Subject: Simply following halacha

"Simply following halacha" -- has serious halachic and social
connotations in a group setting.

"Simply following halacha" is really "Simply following halacha AS I

In a group setting (such as davening) -- especially, when not in a shul
that may have established minhagim and a Morah D'asrah at hand -- this
leads to the manifest differences.  The example of counting someone for
a minyan, being only one.  Consider also any out loud variants in the

This past week I attended a shiva minyan at my neighbor's home (which is
also the Chabad Shteibel.)  I don't daven Nusach Ari and am not about to
start -- but I didn't daven my nusach so loud as to be heard by others.
I've been in situations (established shuls, minyanim) where people have
not acted in a similar manner.

Carl Singer


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 12:59:11 +0000
Subject: Re: Wine in Talmudic times

On Fri, 10 Mar 2006 00:56:12 -0500 Asher Grossman <asherg@...>
> Martin Stern wrote in 51/52:
>>  The custom was to dilute all wine, at least 3 parts water to 1 part
>>  wine (Shabb.122a) so it cannot have had more than about 3% alcohol.
> Actually, the reason wine was diluted so much is because the wine in
> those days was so strong that drinking it full-strength was impossible

I am aware of this hypothesis but find it extremely difficult to
believe since yeasts nowadays cannot tolerate alcohol concentrations
above 15% at most and so do not produce such strong wines. Perhaps the
Talmudic yeasts were on a higher spiritual plane and could produce wines
with an alcohol content of at least four times distilled single malt
of 95%!

Martin Stern

From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 17:33:16 +0200
Subject: Re: Wine in Talmudic times

R' Asher Grossman, stated in mail-Jewish Vol. 51 #58 Digest:

      Actually, the reason wine was diluted so much is because the wine
      in those days was so strong that drinking it full-strength was

This is a widespread belief, but I think it is not likely.

The strongest wine that theoretically can be produced is something like
14 or 15 percent alcohol.  "Fortified wine"--that is, wine with
artificially added alcohol--can have up to 22 percent alcohol.  It is
not likely that the wine of the gemara was either fortified or

(The yeasts needed for fermentation die when alcohol concentration
exceeds 16 or 18 percent.)

The wine I drink for qiddush is about 12 percent alcohol.  The
difference between this and the theoretical maximum is not significant,
and if I were to dilute the strongest possible wine with three parts of
water, I'd get down to the single digits.  As originally implied here.

IRA L. JACOBSON         

From: Robert Israel <israel@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2006 10:20:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Wine in Talmudic times

The undiluted wine could not have been more than about 15 or 16%
alcohol, because by that point the alcohol kills the yeast.
Distillation was not invented until about 700 CE.

Diluting wine with water was the general custom among the ancient Greeks
and Romans.  Drinking undiluted wine was considered to be the practice
of barbarians.

Robert Israel                                <israel@...>
Department of Mathematics        http://www.math.ubc.ca/~israel 
University of British Columbia            Vancouver, BC, Canada


End of Volume 51 Issue 60