Volume 53 Number 04
                    Produced: Mon Nov  6  6:19:40 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Attending a non-Orthodox shiva minyan
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
collecting candy on Halloween
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
Drishah classes on Family Purity Laws
         [Ari Trachtenberg]
Fish in Noah's Ark (2)
         [Ben Katz, Daniel Geretz]
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
The new "will your grandchildren..."
         [Ken Bloom]
Rav Ovadya Yosef on mixed seating at weddings
         [Saul Davis]
Wedding Bands
windup LED flashlights and Rabbi Karelitz
         [David Riceman]


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2006 15:07:33 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Attending a non-Orthodox shiva minyan

To recount Anonymous's essential question - which some of those who
responded seem to be avoiding - he was asked to "help make a minyan" at
a shiva; the "minyan" turned out to be 5 men and 7 women, although maybe
more men might be on the way; and he asked what to do.  By now the
question is academic - shiva is over--, but the answer strikes me as
very simple, although Anonymous's position, particularly given his
wife's attitude, was not enviable.  The women in full regalia are the
least of the problem, whether or not they are permitted to be so dressed
- and the halacha, whatever Rashi's daughters supposedly did, is that
women today may not wear tefillin.  (In the late 1970s, a woman so
dressed attended the JTS morning minyan.  Professor Lieberman, a"h, was
quite unhappy about it, but couldn't stop her, and I believe that
another Orthodox rabbi who used to attend did not leave on her account.)

Conservative Judaism so far officially considers itself bound by halacha
(although voices in the Conservative movement have questioned even this
stance), but only as it defines it.  Some Conservative "halachic"
positions are opinions in normative halacha, although perhaps not
generally accepted - e.g., the kashrut of cheese from "nonkosher"
rennet.  Others have no basis at all in normative halacha.  There is no
valid halachic position, even a minority position, even - AFIK - a hava
amina, which would permit a woman to be counted in a minyan required for
public prayer.  This is true even if, in extremis, fewer than 10 men
might constitute such a minyan, and even though there exists a minority
position permitting a - one - woman to be counted in a minyan for
bentshing.  There is also, AFIK, no halachic position, even a minority
one, permitting men and women to sit together in public prayer, even
though, as Freda Birnbaum pointed out, a mechitza is not technically
required in a place which is not kavua (fixed) for prayer (athough I
wonder if a shiva minyan, where people are davening every day for a
week, could be considered not kavua.)  Anonymous was asked to help make
such a minyan; i.e., the person who asked him intended that public
prayer, including kaddish, and the repetition of the amida, be said in a
"minyan" which was not a minyan, undoubtedly in a mixed-seating
environment (although, again as Freda points out, Anonymous didn't say),
where under normative halacha these things may not be said.

So Anonymous was being asked to participate in, and help facilitate, a
forbidden act - if nothing else, chazarat hashatz where there is no
minyan would presumably entail berachot levatala.  I see no difference
between this and being asked to participate as a witness in a wedding
ceremony where the other witness was a female, or where a kohen was
marrying a divorcee - both forbidden in normative halacha but permitted
by Conservative doctrine.  It turned out that Anonymous was not even
needed, by Conservative rules - there was a "minyan" without him, but I
don't think that makes any difference here because of (a) the
(presumably) mixed seating and (b) marit ayin; others might think he is
helping to make such a minyan.  That a minyan of men might be on the way
makes no difference because the forbidden acts were going to take place
anyway. If I had been in Anonymous's position I would have had to get to
work early all week or gotten myself called out of town.


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2006 13:28:31 -0800 (PST)
Subject: collecting candy on Halloween

Rabbi Broyde asserts that " one is hard pressed to find a religion in
the United States that recognize Halloween as a religious holiday."
That may be literally true.  However, a gentile acquaintance told me
that in New Orleans, where she is from, All Saints Day, the day after
Halloween, is observed by visiting and cleaning up one's ancestors'
graves.  To me, that seems to be a religious activity, Christian or
otherwise.  Rabbi Broyde's case may be stronger than the one he makes.


From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2006 09:50:02 -0500
Subject: Re: Drishah classes on Family Purity Laws

I believe Russell J Hendel wrote:

>> Furthermore I dont want to hear a speech from anybody about modesty.
>> When over 50% of women do not observe these laws the only breach of
>> modesty is to be silent on the issue.

1.  Is there any hard data on this 50% value ... it seems like quite a
bold condemnation of a large fraction of our society!

2.  If over 50% of women do not observe what we consider to be modest
attire, wouldn't this change the definition of modest attire.  In other
words, isn't the definition of modesty dependent at some level on the
surrounding culture?

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University
http://people.bu.edu/trachten                    mailto:<trachten@...>


From: Ben Katz <bkatz@...>
Date: Thu, 02 Nov 2006 10:22:25 -0600
Subject: Re: Fish in Noah's Ark

>From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
>As I have always understood the story from simple "p'shat", the deluge
>was a punishment and the direct result of immoral sexual behavior.
>If this is the case, fish would be exempt, since fish (in general) don't
>have sex in a way that could be improper- they discharge the eggs and
>sperm into the water, and the "parents" never even meet. This makes all
>the sexual violations irrelevant to that species. (Most of them, anyway)
>It also gives me a chance to point out that this is perhaps the only
>biblical source that shows a direct corrolation between sin, punishment,
>and the proper repentance and way of avoiding future sin.
>The Torah itself says "Ki hishchis", that the reason for the fllod was
>immorality, it also gives the punishment as the flood, and most
>important, after the flood the ONLY change in human behavior duly noted
>therein is the new permission for mankind to eat meat.  Ergo,
>carnivorous behavior for man creates a barrier to interspecies

         I find this "Ergo" and what follows [below] completely
fallacious.  Most see the eating of meat after the Flood as a
condescension to man's frailty and sinfulness, which God is (kavyachol)
coming to terms with; note how God makes almost the exact same
declaration before and after the flood - ki lev ha-adam ra minurav.  Rav
Kook was a vegetarian and (while not one myself) it can be seen as the
ideal state of man in gan eden to which we should aspire.

>Thus, while individual vegetarianism is not "wrong", it would be wrong
>to promote it as an ideal, something everyone should follow.

Ben Z. Katz, M.D.
Children's Memorial Hospital, Division of Infectious Diseases
2300 Children's Plaza, Box # 20, Chicago, IL 60614
e-mail: <bkatz@...>

From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 11:00:17 -0500
Subject: Re: Fish in Noah's Ark

I am at work so this is off the top of my head, cannot look to see
whether there is any support for this idea in any of the classical

Andy Goldfinger and Alan Rubin both bring up the subject of fresh water
fish.  IIRC, the salinity of seawater affects its density, and also,
water at different temperatures tends to stratify, so maybe there is
less of an issue with thorough mixing, as Alan Rubin suggests.

Also, the pasuk says "nivk'u kol maayanot t'hom rabbah, va'arubot
hashamayim niftachu." (All the great deep wells were broken up, and the
windows of the heavens opened.)  Maybe this idea of water coming from
underneath and from above at the same time can lend support to the idea
of separate strata for fresh water and salt water fish.  Or maybe the
water from underneath was super-concentrated in salinity, and cancelled
out the effects of the water from above, so the salt water fish stayed
in the ocean, and the fresh water fish stayed in lakes (which are
shallower and maybe were not affected by the "great deep wells"?)

OTOH, this avenue of inquiry raises a whole other set of problems -
water pressure problems, for example.  Also, I seem to recollect a
midrash about (at least) the underground water being boiling hot, so
there is also the issue of thermal pollution.  And where did all of that
"spare" water come from and go to afterwards, anyhow? (anyone familiar
with L. A. Frank at the University of Iowa and his "icy comet" theory?)

I guess that since Hashem was able to deal with all of the "engineering"
necessary to perform a great miracle of bringing the flood, I am sure
that he was also able to figure out what to do with the fish.


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2006 18:58:40 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Mashgichot

Shaya Goldmeir writes to answer why the major kashrus supervisory
organizations employ no women:

> Kollel guys, or guys in general, always get preference in our
> communities.  That's what happens.  Why, for various reasons, one of
> which is Tznius.  While ALL the staff is not male, many are and the
> tight quarters of many kitchens has lead to many people requesting male
> mashgichim.  . . .  Serrara is the other reason some prefer men over
> women as a mashgiach.  Whether it actually applies is a different
> discussion, as alot of men hide behind that psak, whether it applies or
> not.  Look, I'm all for women being mashgichot.  My reply was an answer
> as to why more women are not.  I have asked people within the hashgacha
> organization, and they responded with these answers.

So they don't employ mashgichot, not because it's halachically forbidden
but because they don't want to.  I wonder if a woman has ever applied to
one of the major organization and been turned down because she's a
woman.  American law generally forbids "gender-based" discrimination.
While in America religious law generally trumps secular law, that
doesn't seem to be relevant here.  Quite aside from potential civil
liability, are these organizations violating dina demalchusa dina
a(secular law is binding as if it were halacha)?


From: Ken Bloom <kbloom@...>
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 08:49:58 -0600
Subject: Re: The new "will your grandchildren..."

Shimon Lebowitz <shimonl@...> wrote:

> A friend just sent me a link to the revised (using data from NJPS
> 2000) version of "Will Your Grandchildren be Jews?"  by Gordon and
> Horowitz.
> It is available at:
> http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/WillYourGrandchildrenBeJews.htm
> The original version, from ten years ago, can be seen at:
> http://www.613.org/study.html
> It has probably been available for years and discussed to death, but
> I just saw it, and what can I say... it doesn't look good. :-(

Average Children Per Family:
Orthodox 6.4
Modern Orthodox 3.23

What are the two groups doing differently that causes such different 



From: Saul Davis <saul.davis@...>
Date: Sat, 4 Nov 2006 18:31:28 +0200
Subject: Rav Ovadya Yosef on mixed seating at weddings

Shmuel Himelstein wrote:
> "According to the Israeli press, ... Rav Ovadya ... ".

Please, never, ever believe what the Israeli media says about Rav
Ovadaya Yosef. They have more than a tendency to exaggerate,
sensationalize and generally get things wrong. You must get a proper
source. The best is the books written by Rav Ovadaya - Yehave Daath
etc. - and not the populistic public appearances.

Saul Davis


From: <spooch81@...>
Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2006 00:27:54 -0500
Subject: Wedding Bands

 Is there any basis in halacha for a man to receive a wedding band under
the chuppah? I think I remember reading about this topic in the Igros
Moshe but not sure where.


From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 08:47:11 -0500
Subject: windup LED flashlights and Rabbi Karelitz

I happen to be the proud posessor of an LED flashlight which can be
recharged by winding rather than by changing batteries.  I was wondering
what Rabbi Karelitz (the author of Sefer Hazon Ish) would have said
about winding it on Shabbat.  If I understand his position correctly it
is that opening a circuit is soter [razing] and closing a circuit is
boneh [constructing] and that's why either is prohibited on Shabbat.
But winding the flashlight neither opens nor closes the circuit; it
justs produces current by revolving a magnet around a wire.  Would he
have prohibited it, and if so, why?

David Riceman 


End of Volume 53 Issue 4