Volume 54 Number 31
                    Produced: Sun Mar 18  9:12:28 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Ahot Ishto
         [Dr. Jeffrey R. Woolf]
Am I growing shorter?
         [Carl Singer]
Conservative Responsa
         [Orrin Tilevitz]
Long Aliya
         [Menashe Elyashiv]
R' Steinsaltz controversy
         [Israel Caspi]
Reading from a Chumosh
         [Michael Frankel]
Torah Centered Judaism
         [Daniel Geretz]
Zecher /  Zeicher


From: Dr. Jeffrey R. Woolf <woolfj@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 13:40:33 +0200
Subject: Ahot Ishto

The other day I was told that there's a Gemora (ostensibly in Qiddushin)
that says (or implies) that special meit accrues to a person who marries
his deceased wife's sister. I looked and couldn't find such a source.

Has anyone heard of this?

Thanks in advance from an iced in Gush Etzion.
Shabbat Shalom,

Jeffrey Woolf
Website: http://myobiterdicta.blogspot.com


From: Carl Singer <casinger@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 10:25:29 -0400
Subject: Am I growing shorter?

This occurred just before Purim, but I thought I'd wait so it wouldn't
be considered a Purim Schpiel.

The Tzitzis (techncally known as "strings") on my vochadik tallis had
gotten a bit worn so I replaced them.  After doing so, I noticed that
they were now dragging onto the floor.  I had purchased a "normal" set
of strings (there were no long / short or mehadrin alternatives.) and
now I find that they are several inches longer than the ones they
replaced and the one's on my Shabbos tallis.

Is this just a manufacturing / purchasing fluke -- or have "standards"
changed?  Why?



From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 09:54:48 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Conservative Responsa

Janice Gelb questions my assertion that the RA Law Committee may
"override, not merely reinterpret, rabbinic or toraitic halacha", asking

> isn't reinterpreting halacha and coming out with a different
> interpretation the same as overriding the original halacha?
> Conservative Judaism's ideology includes the belief that current
> decisors on the Law Committee have the same right and duty to examine
> halacha and make halachic decisions that rabbis throughout the history
> of Judaism have exercised.

Post-Sanhedrin, rabbis have not had the authority to nullify - i.e., to
say "we reject"-- a rabbinic ordinance (i.e., one from the Talmud), and
they've never had the authority to nullify a toraitic ordinance.
Conservative doctrine gives its halachic decisors the right to do both.
This sort of nullification is the basis of such responsa as that one may
drive to shul on Shabbat.

Guido Elbogen writes:

> If a sefer Torah is written by a goy or an acknowledged heretic, the
> halacha requires it to be burned  . . . .

The issue here was not sifrei torah but Conservative responsa.  It is
quite ok to learn Torah from an apikores, see the episode in the Gemara
involving Acher, and AFIK no halacha requires books written by goyim or
wayward Jews to be destroyed, by burning or otherwise.  In any event,
while ordinarily one can objectively determine whether a person is a
goy, in the case of a heretic, the question is "acknowledged" by whom?
Certainly, as discussed previously on this list, haredi rabbis view as
heretics certainly people whom most of us on this list do not.

> I doubt the accuracy of "Steinsaltz gemaras were turning up in garbage
> cans in Bnai Brak" . . .From memories of the incident, the majority of
> the Steinsaltz gemaras landed up in genizot to be later buried in a
> Jewish cemetary [sic] with other sofek kedusha items.

Let me revise a point I made in my prior posting: unless there is a
technical distinction I'm missing, I question the mindset of one who
would view a Steinsaltz gemara as any more "sofek kedusha" than a Vilna

> Rav Steinsaltz' gemaras were to the BTs what todays Art Scrolls are.

I think that is wrong.  Art Scroll's goal is to bring Torah to the
people.  That's perfectly ok on one level, but Artscroll is intended to
be a self-contained bubble for BTs and other less-learned folk who will
always remain so. (That said, I know one learned guy who uses Artscroll
gemaras to tell him pshat so he can concentrate on figuring out rishonim
on his own.)  I think Rav Steinsalz's Hebrew gemaras aim to bring people
to the Torah; one is intended to graduate from them to the real thing.
That they are in Hebrew, not English, only reinforces this.  BTW, they
are still coming out; "were" is incorrect.

> However a closer reading of some of the commentaries of Rav Steinsaltz
> portrays ideas that conflicted with traditional interpretations
> leading to his ousting as an accepted Gadol BeTorah amongst the
> haredim.

AFIK, Rav Steinsaltz (who, IMHO, is one of the Torah and intellectual
giants of the last several centuries) was never an "accepted Gadol
BeTorah amongst the haredim", and that has no bearing on whether he is
in fact a "Gadol BeTorah"; I decline to concede to haredim the monopoly
on making that determination.


From: Menashe Elyashiv <elyashm@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 09:13:57 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Long Aliya

We understand the long Levi aliya in Ki Tisa.  But why is Levi so long
in Vyakel-Pekudei? (from shelisi to shishi in non combinded parasha)


From: Israel Caspi <icaspi@...>
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 09:44:10 -0500
Subject: R' Steinsaltz controversy

On Thu, 15 Mar 2007,Shayna Kravetz <skravetz@...> refers to the note in
the Village Idiot's blog" quoted in a previous posting by Jonathan
Baker, to the effect that: 

> The three books mentioned in the original ban, placed by R. Elazar
> Menachem Mann Schach, [et al] ^ were ^ all by R. Adin Steinsaltz.
> According to the report in Yated Ne'eman (August 18, 1989), "In these
> books, condemned by the BaDaZ, the objections were not to isolated
> sentences but to the whole tenor of the works.

And quotes Jonathan Baker's <jjbaker@...> comment: 

> What really got people to ban him was his book "Biblical Images",
> which portrays some of Our Foreparents in less than stellar terms.
> Despite the Torah's own descriptions of the failings of the Avot,
> there is a school of thought saying that for us to say such things is
> Just Plain Wrong.

And writes: 

> This is depressing news.  I have recommended R. Steinsaltz's
> "Essential Talmud" to literally hundreds of people.  It is an
> absolutely terrific book.

I would like to suggest - instead of Jonathan's explanation, or perhaps
in addition to it - that he reason for the ban the reason for the ban
was the long-standing discords between Rav Schach (with whose ideas and
teachings I find I agree with far more often than I disagree) and the
Chabad movement (R. Steinsaltz is, after all, a well known Chabadnik
whose name was mentioned as a possible successor to last Rebbe.

What I find to be depressing is that even a great Talmid Chacham like
Rav Schach could react in such a petty manner and ban books such as
those written by R. Steinsaltz which are indeed "absolutely terrific."

--Israel Caspi


From: Michael Frankel <michaeljfrankel@...>
Date: Thu, 15 Mar 2007 22:26:07 -0400
Subject: Reading from a Chumosh

<From: Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...>
> .. Its important to realize that kedusha is not just the words,
> otherwise we could dispense with the purchase of expensive sifrei
> Torah and use Chumoshim instead.The kedusha comes from the fact that
> the sofer wrote the sefer 'Lishmah'..

Well, no.  had we no requirement for a sofer with proper kavonoh, q'rias
hattorah from a chumosh would still be osur as it lacks the multitude
technical requirements for a kosher seifer (q'laf, d'yo, etc.), which we
require these days.  en passant, it's hard to find a clearer precedent
for the "they could, but we couldn't" school of halachic evolution which
has seemingly been embraced by some in the charedi world, since most of
the early rishonim in france (including rashi) and all the s'faradim
(rif, ri mi'gas, rambam, the gaonim too) were perfectly happy to permit
reading from a chumosh, with a b'rokhoh to boot, if a real seifer torah
wasn't at hand. But that changed. Of course, there's no particular
reason, other than an interest in social anthropology of religious
groups, to pay any attention to some of its recent applications, unless
you're a card carrying adherent of the particular promulgating rebbes.

Mechy Frankel


From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2007 13:50:01 -0500
Subject: Torah Centered Judaism

Bernie Raab says:

> So let us not kid ourselves or allow the right-wing o oppress us
> over the concept of open orthodoxy. The door is open; they like
> to pretend it's closed.

And Harlan Braude says:

> Pardon me if this sounds grandiose, but this is basically a discussion
> of what, after all is said and done, is "true"?

I feel very strongly that in order to be able to discuss this issue, we need
to be able to find some sort of common ground.  I also feel that it is
possible to find that common ground, and when the phrase "shivim panim
latorah" (there are [at least] seventy facets to the Torah) is used, it is a
tacit acknowledgement that different people may come at the Torah from
totally different viewpoints and arrive at totally different conclusions,
yet one can always find common ground to discover that the two sides are
actually facets of the same Torah truth and the two sides are actually
different statements of the same side.

B'avonoteinu harabim (due to our many sins) we are sometimes unable to
accord our opponents the respect that each and every one of them deserve.
In other words, we must be "dan kol haadam lekaf zechut" (give every person
the benefit of the doubt.)  This means that wherever we stand on the
spectrum as Jews (and I am not going to digress into theological or semantic
debates about meaningless labels), we need to make the baseline assumption
that all Jews operate "l'shem shamayim" (for the sake of heaven) until we
are certain that this assumption is false.  Usually, we only assume that
*we* are operating "l'shem shamayim" and our opponents are not.  We need to
assume that they are, as well.  Even Neturei Karta.  Even Yeshivat Chovevei
Torah.  Even musmachim of HUC.

Since "shivim panim latorah," we do not need to adopt or even agree with our
opponents.  However, having the common ground of all Jews operating "l'shem
shamayim" (and this means on the part of *both* sides) means that we can
have respectful, meaningful discussions about important issues, and walk
away still vehemently disagreeing, yet all having learned from the

Please don't mistake what I said as saying that "we" (and I guess since
there may be NK readers, "we" may be somewhat presumptive and incorrect)
ought to *unilaterally* engage Neturei Karta in this manner.  However, as
long as "they" can publicly acknowledge that although they vehemently
disagree with us, that "we" operate "l'shem shamayim", we can engage in a
meaningful discussion about the issues.  However, if we cannot agree that
both camps are on the same, Torah, side, then there is nothing to discuss.
I don't know where NK stand on this fundamental issue, so I cannot say one
way or the other whether there is anything more to discuss.

Going back to Harlan's statement, I suggest that there is one absolute
truth, and that is Torah.  Like the blind men and the elephant, we all have
different perspectives of Torah, and thus, we disagree about what is true.
All of us, being human, cannot comprehend that what we see as irreconcilable
differences are actually restatements of that same, fundamental Torah truth.

Danny Geretz


From: Anonymous
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2007 08:16:15
Subject: Zecher /  Zeicher

I believe that we need to also put this into a synagogue (communal) setting.

Generically, if the long standing minhag of a shul is to do A or to use
pronunciation A -- and A is k'halacha -- by what, if any, mechanism does
/ can / may this shul change to B or A' (A-prime, a variant of A.)  B
and A' are both also k'halacha, apparently.

Here's are two specific examples:  

A congregation has layned "Hee" (long e) consistently throughout the
layning.  A new ba'al koreh is hired and he pronounced "heh" (short e?)
in many instances -- claiming that this is a better or more proper

The congregation uses Art Scroll and in brochas it's shelo assani goy.
A ba'al tefillah uses his own siddur (or even when using Art Scroll)
says shelo assani nachri.

Again, my focus isn't on which alternative is "better" but the dynamics
of stability / tradition / change in a synagogue setting.


End of Volume 54 Issue 31