Volume 53 Number 37
                    Produced: Mon Dec 25 17:57:01 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Davening with a Minyan in Boro Park or elsewhere
Eating or Not Eating Meat
         [David Riceman]
Environmentalism (3)
         [Orrin Tilevitz, Mark Goldin, Michael Gerver]
"Healing crystals" in Halacha
Using the power of the purse (2)
         [Shayna Kravetz, Avi Feldblum]


From: <Smwise3@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2006 09:36:17 EST
Subject: Re: Davening with a Minyan in Boro Park or elsewhere

      I think S. Wise may have mistakenly left off a few key words from
      the bottom line of his post about minyanim at unusual times in
      Boro Park.  I think what he meant to say was "The bottom line:
      There is almost no excuse not to daven with a minyan, during the
      week or on SHabbos, IF YOU LIVE IN BORO PARK."

      Sammy Groner

I stand partly corrected. If you live within a driving distance, I would
say there is no excuse. Which leads me to people who for their own
personal reasons daven in place (say, in the street), even if they could
make it to a minyan with a little effort. My own standard is, if there
is a reachable minyan, I'll do my best to be there.



From: David Riceman <driceman@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2006 09:31:20 -0500
Subject: Re: Eating or Not Eating Meat

> From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>

> (1) Yefas Toar is probably already forbidden rabbinically,

Is there a source for this? It seems unlikely to me.

> (2) Yefas toar is not something that our holy prophets and rabbis
>  of ancient times made a practice of doing, nor is it something
>  that our ultra-Orthodox communities do today.

The midrash says that King David did it.

In an utterly charming paragraph he then wrote:

> What I find most obnoxious about the no-right-to-eat-meat crowd is
> their implication that various hippies and granola nuts are in some
> way morally superior to our Tzadikkim.  That is an untenable position,
> and it requires that we reject the idea that meat-eating is immoral.

This is such a wonderful argument that I think Mr. Silberman needs to
apply it more widely.  Consider, for example, Jewish education.  A
hundred years ago most girls didn't even learn to read Hebrew, most boys
learned only enough to read Humash and Siddur, and only the wealthy, the
unusually gifted, or the sons of Rabbis got more advanced education.

Surely all of those short haired cornflake addicts who insist on
universal Jewish education through high school and beyond are implying
that we today are morally superior to the revered tzaddikim of earlier
generations, who were willing to restrict Jewish education to the
favored few.  This is equally untenable.

With a little ingenuity Mr. Silberman can also apply it to leniencies.
At first glance one might think that, just as by being stricter than our
ancestors we are insulting them, by being more lenient than our
ancestors we are honoring them by acknowledging that we can never ascend
to their great achievements.  Yet, a little thought will reveal that we
will then be more strict about the mitzva of honoring parents and
teachers than they were, again leading to the untenable possibility that
we are insulting them.

Food for thought.

David Riceman 


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2006 08:34:36 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Environmentalism

In response to a request for teshuvot on global warming, Hillel (Saba)
Markowitz writes:

> In light of the google search results on "global warming fraud" as shown
> in http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=global+warming+fraud as well as
> the idiocy shown by such proponents of global warming such as Al "I
> invented the Internet" Gore, I do not think that such teshuvot are to be
> expected.

He goes on to say that all of the "prowarming" sites on the first page
of search results are ads, and to list things that "legitimate
scientists" would have to demonstrate before such a psak would be
warranted, including a method of solving the problem.

Hillel is to be commended for demonstrating the fallacy of using a
single Google search for scientific research.  I did the following
search: Cancer + smoking + fraud

All of the websites I came up with take the position, based on
"scientific" evidence, that there is no harm in moderate smoking, that
the ban on smoking in public places is indefensible, and/or that the
government has no business regulating smoking.  The overwhelming
scientific evidence that smoking, in any amount, increases cancer risk
quite aside (and there is at least one list member who disagrees), the
existence of these views has not stopped several teshuvot from banning
smoking, even if that is not the universal opinion of poskim.  Yes,
there are some reputable scientists who believe recent warming trends
are simply part of natural climactic cycles.  (I can think in particular
of one meteorologist at Accuweather.) But I believe they are in a small
minority.  One might want to read the article at
http://www.harvardmagazine.com/on-line/050692.html, which talks about a
potential way of solving, not the problem itself, but the global
increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration which, according to
the article, is the root of the problem, and to which I am not sure the
naysayers have an answer.  It is not clear to me what a teshuva would
add to the discussion - perhaps that Jews should buy smaller cars? - But
I hardly think that, given the current scientific consensus and
notwithstanding contrary views, such a teshuva would be unwarranted.

From: Mark Goldin <goldinfamily@...>
Date: Thu, 21 Dec 2006 23:36:46 -0800
Subject: Environmentalism

From: Hillel (Sabba) Markowitz <sabba.hillel@...>
>>From: o7532 <o7532@...>
>> In light of E.O. Wilson's, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on
>> Earth, are there any tshuvot on global warming.  Is this the ultimate
>> in ba'al taschit making environmentalism not simply take it or leave
>> it.  Or, is there some messianic take that has that these sort of
>> things, like the earth moving towards ceasing to be inhabitable or
>> towards species extinctions, beyond our purview.

>In light of the google search results on "global warming fraud" as
>shown in http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=global+warming+fraud as
>well as the idiocy shown by such proponents of global warming such as
>Al "I invented the Internet" Gore, I do not think that such teshuvot
>are to be expected.  Only if legitimate scientists proved that a)
>global warming was occuring and it is not part of the natural cycle
>(which it may be as the sun may be in a warming cycle) b) it is caused
>by human actions c) it can be stopped by human actions that are
>possible today without destroying the world economy d) it is
>deleterious to human health and life (ask a farmer in Iceland if he
>would object to conditions returning to the one's under which the
>Vikings colonized the island) then and only then would one be able to
>hope for a psak from a posek hador such as Rav Elyashuv or Rav Chaim
>Kanievsky (or even Rav Dovid Feinstein in the U.S.)

E.O. Wilson himself is a legitimate scientist as professor of biology at
Harvard! Despite what this Google search might show (and you can find
a Google search to substantiate anything) thousands of legitimate
scientists are predicting dire consequences if global warming is not
reversed. And I found Gore's movie very compelling.

The only dissent you will find is politically motivated, polluter-funded
or wishful thinking.

E.O. Wilson puts it very well. "Eight years later people are still
presenting in public flawed paradigms (perhaps deliberately) to excuse
their gluttonous behaviour which is crushing the planetary life-support

A scientist I admire is Jared Diamond, author of "Guns, Germs & Steel"
and "Collapse", and professor of Geography at UCLA.

Instead of reading trash websites like the ones retrieved by this
search, try reading reputable magazines like Newsweek and Time. And
hasn't the government of every major country but our own endorsed the
science? Nearly half the states in the US have taken matters into their
own hands out of frustration with the federal government.

It would be really wonderful to see Orthodox Jewry at the forefront of
the conservation movement but most Orthodox reactions to global warming
are stereotyped, knee-jerk conservative. Why is that  I have my own
theories but I would like to hear others.

Mark Goldin
Los Angeles
Orthodox, conservationist, and proud of it.

From: Michael Gerver <mjgerver@...>
Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 02:38:44 +0200
Subject: Environmentalism

Hillel Markowitz writes, in v53n29,

      Only if legitimate scientists proved that
      a) global warming was occuring and it is not part of the
      natural cycle (which it may be as the sun may be in a warming
      b) it is caused by human actions
      c) it can be stopped by human actions that are possible today
      without destroying the world economy
      d) it is deleterious to human health and life (ask a farmer in
      Iceland if he would object to conditions returning to the one's
      under which the Vikings colonized the island)
      then and only then would one be able to hope for a psak from a
      posek hador such as Rav Elyashuv or Rav Chaim Kanievsky (or even
      Rav Dovid Feinstein in the U.S.)

While it is true that some advocates of taking action to reduce global
warming make unjustified claims about the certainty of the science, I
believe that taking some action can be justified even if the science is
not completely nailed down. The reason is that there may very well be a
positive feedback cycle which, once a critical amount of global warming
takes place, drives the warming much further. At that point, the warming
would not reverse, even if the direct production of carbon dioxide by
human technology were to return to pre-industrial levels. Evidence for
one such positive feedback cycle, which I came across recently on the
U.C.Berkeley alumni website, is described at

Given this possibility, I think it would be prudent to at least take
some measures to reduce production of carbon dioxide, or to increase the
removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (e.g. by planting trees),
that can be done with little or no harm to the world's economy.

As for the possibility that global warming would improve conditions for
some people, for example in Iceland, this is not at all clear. The
warming would not be uniform everywhere, but would change climate
patterns in complicated and possibly unpredictable ways. Again, given
the possibility that it will be disastrous for many people, it would
seem prudent to try to forestall such climate change, at least by taking
inexpensive measures, until the science is better understood, and it is
possible to make more a reliable prediction of what will happen, and who
will benefit and who will be hurt.

Is THIS something that we can expect a psak on?

By the way, I do not see why Hillel's point (b), and the second part of
point (a) (not part of the natural cycle) would matter, if the first
part of point (a) and points (c) and (d) are true.

Mike Gerver
Raanana, Israel


From: <rachel@...> (Rachel)
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2006 11:43:34 -0500
Subject: "Healing crystals" in Halacha

Hi there,

Does anyone know of any sources (or even just 2nd hand information so I
have somewhere to start) on the acceptability of using crystals for
"healing" and meditation in halacha?  I figure that at the very least
there has to be something related to the stones on the Choshen.

I know the idea can not be completely taboo as the Even Tekuma (a ruby
worn to prevent a miscarriage) is brought down by Rabeinu Bachaya as
something he knows about and recommends.

Any help would be great appreciated.

Thanks so much,


From: Shayna Kravetz <skravetz@...>
Date: Fri, 22 Dec 2006 12:50:31 -0500
Subject: Re: Using the power of the purse

After Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...> wrote:
>> One suggestion -power of the purse is one (the next meshulach ask
>> about the response of his organization ...)

SBA <sba@...> replied:
>GREAT idea!
>Take it out on some poor Jew - nebach shlepping himself door-to-door
>trying to make a few dollars to feed and clothe his family.

In fairness to the first poster, he obviously assumes that the meshulach
is asking for funds NOT 'to feed and clothe his family', as SBA
suggests, but for some larger organization.  In that case, I agree
completely with Meir Shinnar's position and recommend it as a practical
step.  It is one example of the old activist principle: "Think globally,
act locally."  That $5 you give at the door to the XY Yeshiva's
meshulach goes to support its propagation of ideas within the Jewish
world that you may be seriously opposed to.  So, yes, ask the meshulach
about the organization's response to public issues such as learning for
women, the role of secular education, violence inside the Jewish home,
etc.  Ask whether any of the matmidim seated around their beis midrash's
table are refusing to give a get. And, if the answers mean you can't
donate money to this organization, ask the meshulach to pass on your
position to those who sent him.  Put your money where your mouth is.

Kol tuv and Chag urim Sameach,
Shayna in Toronto

From: Avi Feldblum <feldblum@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2006 
Subject: Re: Using the power of the purse

Shayna and others,

In fairness, to SBA, I do not think he misunderstood what the meshulach
was collecting for. The point, at least as I understood SBA, had to do
with the economics of the meshulach system. When a meshulach comes to
your house collecting for organization "ABC", a significant portion of
what he collects is what he keeps as his "salary" for being a
meshulach. I'm not close enough to the system to have a reasonable guess
as to what the percentage of the take is his keep. If anyone on the list
knows and is willing to say, I would be interested to know.

Given that statement, I still agree with Shayna and Meir on the topic at
hand. I think it is valuable to know what positions organizations have
taken on various critical issues, and use that information in making our
tzedaka priorities. If we do so, it is important to find a way to make
sure that the institutions get the message we may be trying to send.

I would also comment that we should be careful how we implement
this. There may be various organizations that hold positions on issues
that I do not agree with, but when I look at what they do overall, I
think it worthwhile to support them. I think if I only gave donations to
organizations that agreed with me on every topic I can think of, I would
probably not give tzedakah at all. On the other hand, I agree that I do
not want to support organizations that take positions that I feel very
strongly are not valid at all. I would be interested in knowing whether
messages of "I choose not to contribute because the organization does /
does not do abc" given to a meshulach will get back to the
organization. If anyone has contacts into this community and could get
the answer back here, I think that would be of general interest.



End of Volume 53 Issue 37