Volume 51 Number 67
                    Produced: Fri Mar 17  6:07:43 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Jewish vs. non-Jewish calendars
         [Mike Gerver]
Just How Jewish?
         [Martin Stern]
         [Martin Stern]
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz]
Wine in Talmudic Times (4)
         [Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz, Michael Poppers, Art Werschulz, Alex


From: <MJGerver@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 18:58:36 EST
Subject: Jewish vs. non-Jewish calendars

Andy Goldfinger writes, in v51n62,

      Anyway, the point of all this is that I asked [Robert] Newton
      about the Jewish calendar, and he said it was the most accurate
      calendar he knew of.  He claimed that the "Hebrews" could not have
      gotten the length of the synodic month as accurately as they did
      from information in the surrounding culture, since it was not
      known to this accuracy.  When I asked him how they got this
      figure, he said (literally): "they were lucky."

If he referred to "Hebrews" rather than "Jews," I suspect he thought
that the value for the synodic month used in the present Jewish calendar
(the same value as calculated by Ptolemy) was used as far back as First
Temple times, in which case the Jews could not have gotten it from
Ptolemy.  Since Newton is an expert on the history of the calendar, I
would be very interested to know what evidence he has for that. Simply
the fact that it was a mitzvah, going back to Moshe Rabbeinu, to make
calculations of the molad is not in itself evidence that they used this
particular value for the synodic month in making the calculations, or
any value that was nearly as accurate.

Of course, it is quite possible that Jews did know the length of the
synodic month to this accuracy before Ptolemy calculated it. If so, they
could have figured it out the same way that Ptolemy did, by using lunar
eclipse data extending over hundreds of years. They could have taken
Babylonian data (maybe older data than that used by Ptolemy), or they
could have made their own observations of lunar eclipses. All this would
be very interesting, but I would like to know what evidence there is for
it, if any.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2006 09:46:39 +0000
Subject: Re: Just How Jewish?

On Tue, 14 Mar 2006 12:54:24 +0200 Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>

> Martin Stern has published a letter in the Jerusalem Post on March 13
> in which he writes about denunciations of Neturei Karta in responses
> to an op-ed by Michael Freund.  He considers them completely out of
> proportion to the significance of the Neturei Karta.

Unfortunately certain parts of my original letter were removed by the
editor which changed the tone somewhat. This is how I originally wrote
it, the excised parts being in brackets:

Michael Freund's article, Neturei Karta sect pays visit to Iran (9 Mar),
has {so far (12 Mar. 6 a.m. GMT) received 200 responses on Talkback on
the Internet, mostly hostile to this miniscule fringe group} [edited to
'garnered hundreds of "Talkback" responses on the Post's Web site,'] far
greater than any other article [Editor's insert: 'on the Web site at the
time', to which I might comment: I can't remember any article ever
getting even half that number of responses]

{While I abhor their giving public support to a bunch of murderers like
Hamas whose name, after all, means 'violence' and is used to describe
the state of affairs leading up to the Flood (Gen. 6.11,13),} the
vehemence of some of these denunciations is completely out of proportion
to the group's significance.

This is especially so when compared to the reaction to the left-wing
intellectual fellow-travellers who make such a fuss over the alleged
violations of the Palestinians' 'human rights', {presumably including
the freedom to move explosive devices without being stopped and
'harassed' by the security forces}. These groups with their constant
harping on 'the illegal occupation', 'the apartheid wall' and other
similar propaganda slogans are a far more serious threat to Israel than
the Neturei Karta.

Both may be anti-Zionist but the leftists oppose Zionism because it is
too Jewish, the Neturei Karta because it is not Jewish enough. {Is this
the reason why the latter are so violently opposed?}

> Now, while this forum is devoted to Halachic issues, I think it does
> have room for discussing just how Jewish does Israel have to be so that
> the Neturei Karta will not have to travel to Durban or Iran to protest
> its 'lack of Jewishness' or, more to the point, has Martin erred by
> perhaps misinterpreting Neturei Karta dogma which, I would suggest,
> discounts and negates any state of Israel - Jewish more or less - before
> the arrival of a Messiah and has nothing to do with quantitative or
> qualitative "Jewishness".  As to which is worse, Left-wing antiZionism
> or Neturei Karta antiZionism, I will leave for another discussion
> although the "Jewish" element cannot be disregarded.

I would agree with Yisrael that the Neturei Karta would not be satisfied
with any pre-Messianic Jewish state. However they are such an
insignificant group that it is not worth giving them any
publicity. Their influence on the non-Jewish world is negligible, unlike
the leftist anti-Zionists, yet the latter do not arouse anything like as
much hostility. My last (excised) question was suggesting the reason for

The editor's changes might have suggested that I sympathise with their
actions in associating with genocidal groups like Hamas and the
President of Iran, which I do not, though I can understand their
theological position which does, whether we like it or not, have a basis
in Talmudic sources.

Martin Stern


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2006 09:51:21 +0000
Subject: Kitzur

On Thu, 16 Mar 2006 11:00:35 -0800 (PST) Nathan Lamm <nelamm18@...>

> Indeed, the authors of certain works, no matter how great, have been
> criticized for certain slight missteps: R' Ganzfried or the Alter
> Rebbe, for example, are cited for calling their books "Shulchan Aruch"
> or variants

The popularity of producing derivative works with the name prefixed with
"Kitzur" is said to be the reason R. Avraham Danzig called his digest of
halachah "Chayyei Adam" something nobody would wish to shorten!

Martin Stern


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <Sabba.Hillel@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 19:15:15 -0500
Subject: Re: Molech

> From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
>>Melachim 2, chapter 23:
>>	...
>>	10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the son
>>	   of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter
>>	   to pass through the fire to Molech.
>>	...
> David Charlap <shamino@...> V51 N59:
>>If I remember my Rashi from high school, it mentions that parents would
>>burn children to Baal, but "merely" pass them through fire to Molech.

Ramban says that the children were burned to death.  A number of
historeans (this is from memory so may not be accurate) have said that
the actual procedure varied over time.  Somtimes they would be killed
and sometimes the procedure would be more "symbolic".  It apparently
depended on how "fundamentalist" the society became (consider the

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


From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 06:14:03 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Wine in Talmudic Times

> From: Leah S. Gordon <leah@...>
> Granted that the Talmudic/Roman era wine was not super-alcoholic, as
> people have explained.

> But then what was it that was so concentrated about it (lots of grape
> chunks?  impurities?  something else?) that necessitated dilution,
> which I've heard not only from Talmudic sources but also in Roman
> history according to what we learned in Latin class?

I have seen references (from nonJewish sources - see for example Homer)
that wine in those times was normally extremely syrupy and required
watering in order to become a liquid that could be drunk.  Consider the
jokes about "standing a spoon upright" in "Mogen David extra heavy" that
modern writers have come up with.

The extremely watery wines that we have nowadays (no matter what the
alcoholic content) are a modern phenomenon.

For example - this would probably apply to Talmudic times as well.

Our knowledge of Romans' dieting habits comes from literary references,
archeological evidence, and paintings.  The only true literary source
ever devoted to Roman food was a cookbook attributed to Apicus.

Romans loved wine, but they drank it watered down, spiced, and heated.
Undiluted wine was considered to be barbaric, and wine concentrate
diluted with water was also common.

Pasca was probably popular among the lower classes.  It was a drink made
from watering down acetum, low quality wine similar to vinegar.  Beer
and mead were most commonly drunk in the northern provinces.  Milk,
typically from sheep or goats, was considered to be barbaric and was
therefore reserved for making cheese or medicines.


Athenaeus, in his Banquet of the Philosophers (X.426) makes it clear
that Greek custom was to mix three parts of water with one of wine^ืin
social shorthand, a "Triton"^ืand it looks likely that Roman wine
connoisseurs generally went along with that ratio. But one of Plutarch's
guests, Aristion, argued humorously in favor of a three-to-two mix,
claiming that it would be in perfect harmony with the fifth concord of a
lyre, to the tune of which so much drunken Bacchic revelry took place.

Three-to-one, three-to-two, whatever the mix, the furnishing of the
banquet table with a range of beakers, jugs, ladles, and so on, inspired
some of the finest of precious metal craftmanship of the Roman
era. Doubtless there were socially aspiring merchants and minor State
officials who contrived similarly structured dinners. To them we may
attribute ownership of some equally well-crafted wine paraphenalia in

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

From: <MPoppers@...> (Michael Poppers)
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2006 21:51:25 -0500
Subject: Wine in Talmudic Times

My apologies if, because I haven't been paying attention, I repeat what
someone else already posted, but I see a lot of listmembers considering
the "strength" of unmixed Talmudic wine in terms of alcoholic content --
I thought, based on how the shoresh mem-zayin-gimel is used in other
Talmudic contexts, that the "strength" related to the unmixed syrup's
opaqueness, which one can think of as thickness and perhaps therefore as
strong as solids which are opaque. For example, see BT Yuma 35b's
"k'chamra b'mazga" (the translucence of even thick glass -- see RaShY ad
loc). Accordingly, one adds water to wine (RAM, did you say three parts
to one -- I thought it was two parts to one) until the mixture is
sufficiently translucent to be drinkable. Mem-zayin-gimel, if I recall
correctly, is also used by CHaZaL to indicate human disposition (one's
personal "weather," if you will, which is why modern Hebrew speaks of
"mezeg haw-avir") -- if you understand the shoresh in terms of clarity
or cloudiness/opaqueness, this makes sense, but if you understand it in
terms of alcoholic dilution, such a meaning is more dachuq/forced. Kain
nir'eh LAD/just my tuppence ;-).

All the best from
--Michael Poppers via RIM pager

From: Art Werschulz <agw@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 09:28:18 -0500
Subject: Wine in Talmudic Times

Leah S. Gordon <leah@...> wrote:
> Granted that the Talmudic/Roman era wine was not super-alcoholic, as
> people have explained.
> But then what was it that was so concentrated about it (lots of grape
> chunks?  impurities?  something else?) that necessitated dilution, which
> I've heard not only from Talmudic sources but also in Roman history
> according to what we learned in Latin class?

Not to mention Homer's Odyssey, in which Odysseus gave the Cyclops
undiluted wine to render him unconscious.

Art Werschulz (8-{)}   "Metaphors be with you."  -- bumper sticker
GCS/M (GAT): d? -p+ c++ l u+(-) e--- m* s n+ h f g+ w+ t++ r- y? 
Internet: agw STRUDEL cs.columbia.edu
ATTnet:   Columbia U. (212) 939-7060, Fordham U. (212) 636-6325

From: Alex Heppenheimer <aheppenh@...>
Date: Thu, 16 Mar 2006 08:04:02 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Wine in Talmudic Times

Several posters in MJ 51:64 commented that the "strength" of
Talmudic-era wine (which required dilution to make it drinkable) may not
have been a matter of alcoholic content, but of taste, purity, or the

And indeed, from various references in the Gemara (Bava Metzia 40a-b,
Avodah Zarah 33a and 74b), it comes out that it was common to line the
winepresses and the barrels with pitch, which presumably imparted a
strong taste to the wine. (I've seen it compared to Greek retsina; does
anyone on the list know whether it's common practice to dilute that?)

Kol tuv,


End of Volume 51 Issue 67